THE scandal in whatever transpired between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, is as much in what was reported as in the silence that has greeted the revelation.
Ms Sanders in a cable to Washington said Bankole told her during a two-hour meeting on 5 May 2009, that he had proof that federal government bribed justices of the Supreme Court for a favourable judgement in the election petition against then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
According to Wikileaks, which is in trouble for embarrassments it is causing with leaking of diplomatic cables, Sanders’ report to the State Department stated, “Bankole claimed that he had proof that most of the judges had lined their pockets throughout the entire process of rerunning state elections, including the Supreme Court decision on President Yar’Adua’s case in November 2008.”
Details the cable gave included the name of a minister who Bankole named as the one who handed the justices the money and a former governor who reportedly provided the money.
The US government did not deny the cable, but Bankole contests its content. He claimed to have been misquoted and that his meeting with Sanders lasted 20 minutes, though he gave no details of what they discussed.
Wikileaks as it has been doing in other countries seemed to have kept the material until it was relevant to events in Nigeria. One of the raging issues in Nigeria is allegation against judges and justices in election petitions.
During riots that brought down regimes in North Africa, Wikileaks posted allegations of corruptions against the leaders of those countries and their families. Those postings were among factors that fuelled those crises.
The Supreme Court decision validating Yar’Adua’s election was the most controversial since the 1979 verdict in which the Supreme Court ruled that two-third of 19 States was 12 and two-third, a verdict that gave the presidency to Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari over Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo whose lawyers contended that two-third of 19 States should be 13.
Four justices – Legbo Kutigi, then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloysius Katsina-Alu, his successor, Niki Tobi, now retired, and Dahiru Musdapher, currently next in hierarchy at the Supreme Court – voted in favour of Yar’Adua. Justices George Oguntade, Maryam Mukthar and Samuel Onnoghen, in a minority judgment, said the election did not comply substantially with the law.
We are only weeks away from another election, yet this matter demands appropriate resolution. It is not enough for Bankole to deny these allegations, which bear gave implications for our electoral processes. More should be done.
There are no indications that Sanders had any animosities against Bankole that would have motivated this type of communication. She knows the implications of a false report and that the State Department can detect a false report. Why then would she file a false report?
A panel of enquiry can unveil the truth about this transaction and suggest how our officials relate with diplomats. It is important.