By Donu Kogbara
THE Supreme Court re-cently decreed that Chief Nyesom Wike, the PDP Governor of Rivers State, should not be ejected from his seat, despite allegations that he masterminded widespread violence and rigged the 2015 governorship election.
The judges’ decision is, we are told, final; but Dr Dakuku Peterside, the disappointed APC candidate – for whom I campaigned for last year – has publicly criticised the judges for not calling for a re-run. His supporters regard him as courageous for daring to challenge the legal establishment. His opponents disagree.
I personally witnessed some of the electoral irregularities and PDP-sponsored violence that Dr Peterside complained about when he presented his case.
For example, I visited a village in the Tai segment of my native Ogoniland with a White male British journalist on the day of the Presidential election. When we got there, we saw a pool of blood outside the APC leader’s house and were informed that an APC agent had been murdered by PDP thugs just before we arrived.
The APC leader invited us to see the corpse, which he had moved to the back of his compound, so the deceased victim could be afforded some dignity and protected from the eyes of gawping onlookers until his family came to take him away.
I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing a dead body, so I sat on the verandah while my British colleague followed the APC leader to the place where the corpse lay.
When my colleague emerged, his face was ashen and he was shaking his head. And he later showed me gory pictures that he had taken of the APC agent’s corpse.
And, by the way, when we were leaving the village, a crowd of weapon-brandishing PDP supporters who had seen us visiting the APC leader and regarded us as hostile witnesses to their crime surrounded our car and threatened us. It was so scary. Fortunately, our clever driver somehow succeeded in persuading them to let us go.
Some PDP folks have told me that similar outrages were committed by APC people in other parts of the state. But I didn’t witness any APC-sponsored outrages; and even if both sides were guilty of murder and mayhem, the elections in Rivers were extremely messy on various levels; and, given that the Supreme Court was made aware of this fact, I’m very surprised that they decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court judgement, I was sorely tempted to make a huge fuss based on my belief that the Rivers guber election had been so blatantly and badly messed up that a re-run was necessary. But I got over this belligerent frame of mind after a period of reflection for two reasons:
Firstly, because making a fuss would have been an exercise in futility, given that the Supreme Court has the Last Word in real terms. Secondly, because I prefer peace to war at the end of the day; and making a fuss will prolong toxic tension.
My home state has been embroiled in poisonous and destructive political conflicts for too long. And, having spoken to MANY Rivers people who are not actively involved in APC or PDP matters, I think I can safely say that almost everyone, except a minority of jousting protagonists, is sick of the never-ending strife.
I asked Vanguard readers to share their opinions about this controversy:-
08034661800 Dr Edeme
That Supreme Court ruling is against natural justice. In the run up to the election entire families were wiped out. Where is justice for those killed? How would those judges feel if it were their relations that were killed? If you cannot go out to vote for fear of being killed, then where are your democratic rights?
08068337894 Feyisetan Akeeb Kareem
The Supreme Court messed up. There is no moral justification for their decision to rule in Wike’s favour because there was no credible election in Rivers State.
08068232727 Yinka Ogunjobi
Dear Donu, no lesson has been taught from what the Supreme Court handed to the two gentlemen. That’s to say the card readers are of no use for future elections? Killing and snatching of ballot boxes should continue unabated? The Body of Benchers should re-visit the case for our democracy to grow and to prevent the legalisation of electoral offences such as violence and rigging in future.
From Ifeka Okonkwo (email@example.com), a regular respondent:
Donu, Nigerian politicians never fail to surprise me with their antics! If judges do not favour them at the Appeal Court, for example, they condemn them. If the judgements are later reversed at the Supreme Court, they turn round to praise judges, forgetting that they have previously cast aspersions on the judiciary.
Peterside and Wike behaved true to type by condemning and hailing the Supreme Court judges for the judgement they delivered for and against each of them!
Our politicians should grow up and stop abusing judges whenever their cases fail.
Having said this, our judges should endeavour to be above board by delivering sound judgments without fear or favour, to deter litigants from abusing them!
08141800696 Zakariya Komn
Peterside’s Oga (Rotimi Amaechi) was once the beneficiary of the same Supreme Court and he should stop condemning the judgement. He should join hands with Governor Wike and rebuild Rivers State.
08037078751 Festus Ododo
Donu, I know you might not publish this comment because you are an APC sympathiser, but I will still say it. I used to want Peterside to win the election simply because Wike is from the same Ikwerre ethnic group as Amaechi, who was the Governor of Rivers State for eight years until 2015; and I felt that another ethnic group should be given a chance. But Peterside’s comments make him seem desperate for power. Please tell him that power comes from God and he should learn to respect the law and if he is not careful he could be charged for libel.
Wike and Peterside are politicians taunting each other at the slightest opportunity to the discomfort of watchers… Personally I am tired of negative comments. Efforts should now concentrate on good governance
08033642438 Ozonma Chike Bosah
Peterside should shut up, graciously accept the irreversible verdict and move on. Nobody robbed him. APC was thoroughly trounced at all levels in Rivers State. Our politicians should be sportsmen and imbibe the spirit of Goodluck Jonathan. If our judiciary is pulled down, especially by past beneficiaries, this country is finished.