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Man of timber and calibre

By Donu Kogbara

ADOKE BELLO, SAN, has really impressed me. He was appointed to the lofty post of Attorney-General by a PDP President and is a leading light of this PDP administration.But instead of allowing his membership of an elite ruling group, and the privileges that go with it, to blind him (as so many others in his position  would have), he has courageously insisted on challenging  five of his senior “colleagues” – PDP Governors (of Adamawa, Kogi, Cross River, Bayelsa and Sokoto), who are trying to achieve tenure elongation through the back door.

These Governors’ 2007 elections were nullified by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they were fraudulent. And, having won their re-runs in 2008, the Governors went to court (last September) to request that their tenures be dated from 2008 not 2007.  In other words, they were angling for five-year terms.

This story goes back to the 1999 Constitution, which did not anticipate a clearly unfair  situation whereby if the same Governor won a re-run that had been necessitated by his original election being declared flawed, any time he had already enjoyed in office could be completely disregarded and his “real” term could then be deemed to have started on the date of his re-run victory.

Even though a constitutional amendment, which was assented to by the Head of State in January this year, remedied this longstanding defect, the above Governors (Idris, Imoke, Wamakko, Sylva and Nyako) persisted with their attempts to take advantage of a legal lacuna that no longer existed.

And, amazingly and disgracefully in my opinion, Justice Adamu Bello of Abuja’s Federal High Court 4, ruled in their favour on February 23.

His reasons?
According to Barrister Lorenzo Omo-Aligbe, who is representing the Attorney-General in this matter and was in the process of appealing this judgement when I spoke to him, Justice Bello took the view that because the January 2011 amendment had not come into effect when the Governors filed their suits in 2010, the new law could not legitimately be applied to them retroactively.

Omo-Aligbe’s counter-argument is that it is unjust to overlook the year that Idris & Co spent in power before their re-runs. As he quite rightly points out:

“It is like saying that spirits, not flesh-and-blood Governors, sat in those seats between 2007 and 2008…and that we should totally ignore the fact that they earned salaries, collected allowances, passed bills and awarded contracts…

“…It is against public policy and against the spirit and letter of the Constitution for any of the five Governors to seek to have one single extra day outside the constitutionally allowed tenure of four years. If we let them get away with it, we will be creating little Mubaraks and Gaddafis and will encourage others to engineer re-runs in order to perpetuate themselves in office indefinitely”.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

I hear that many PDP stalwarts are backing the Governors and that the Honourable Attorney-General has very friendly relationships with some of them and I applaud him for resisting the temptation to be cronyistic and partisan, for being a principled, independent-minded man of timber and calibre, for standing up for intellectual honesty and for recognising the importance of posterity.

I would also like to heartily congratulate Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Asaba who, earlier on this week, prevented the Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, from pulling a similar stunt and told him to forget about hoping for a seven-year term and quit dodging this year’s election.

Imagine someone whose 2007 election was annulled only after he had gloried in juicy gubernatorial perks for over three years having the audacity to tell us that the three years don’t count AT ALL and that because he (allegedly!) won his re-run in January 2011, he should be allowed to relax in the job until 2015!

Instead of hustling for additional time to which they are not entitled, either legally or on a basic moral level, these guys should be thanking their God that they were permitted to participate in re-runs in the first place.

In some countries, a proven rigger would have been barred from any further political involvement and might even have been sent to jail for stealing votes.

Northern oil?

ACCORDING to Professor Anthony Azubuike Elueze, President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, there is a “strong possibility” that there are substantial crude oil deposits in the Bida region of Niger State.

I nearly threw a party when I heard this news! As far as I’m concerned, any economic development that enables the North to become self-sufficient and to contribute more to the national kitty will be extremely welcome.

Northern eyes are perpetually fixed on the oil that flows from my ancestral lands and creeks; and I’m tired of being told that the oil “belongs to everyone” and that I have no right to feel that the Niger Delta Development Commission should only financially empower impoverished indigenes of oil-producing areas.

If Northerners eventually acquire their own source of petrodollars, I will be very happy for them and will watch with interest to find out whether they will be as generous and willing to share as they have always expected us to be.

25 years? – No chance!
LAST week, I published an item that had been sent to me by a Vanguard reader. It listed the ages of various African and First World leaders and claimed that Africa is 25 years behind the First World, developmentally, because the average African leader is 25 years older than the average First World leader.

Friends who saw this item were very amused, but insisted that it was grossly inaccurate to say that we are only 25 years behind the First World. And they are, on reflection, totally right. Two hundred years would be closer to the mark!

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