May 8, 2017

Of godfathers and judicial pronouncement

By  Efosa Ugiagbe

THE qualification of the April 14 judgment of the Edo Governorship Election Tribunal, by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of Edo State and sponsor of the APC governorship candidate Godwin Obaseki, as a “Mama Akara” Judgment has created a buzz as to what he advertently or inadvertently implied. While his supporters and party members have been gloating over the strange description by the former governor, the petitioners and their supporters have not shied away from claiming that it is a subconscious admission of the underhand manner in which the judgment was influenced in favour of the respondents.

Strictly looking at the statement from the viewpoint of textual analysis, the term Mama Akara Judgment may on the one hand,  simply imply Comrade Oshiomhole’s appreciation of the sense of pleasure the judgment gave him. On the other, from the  socio-analytical perspective the term may be said to imply the simple or unsophisticated nature of the judgment. And thirdly, considered from the psychoanalytical point of view, which seems to be the most popular so far, especially given the involvement of the Oshiomhole persona, it may be and has been said to be a betrayal of emotion which points to the deficiency of the  judgment in question, and highlighting the possibility of a conspiracy which impacted on ethical standard.

For political historians, whether right or wrong, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Comrade Oshiomhole has been strangely influential in matters of political litigation since he came on the scene in 2007 as a governorship candidate of Action Congress, AC. Beginning with the 2007 Governorship Election which he lost at the polls and won at the Tribunal and the Appeal Court, we see a trend of unusual twists in favour of Adams Oshiomhole. Despite being the ruling party at the national and state levels in 2008, and the national leader of the party who was very close to the then President Umaru Yar’adua, Chief Tony Anenih, coming from Edo State, Comrade  Oshiomhole defeated the People’s  Democratic Party, PDP, in court to become governor. The facts of the case then were such that the Tribunal and the Appeal Court could have ordered a rerun of the disputed election and they would have been in order, particularly given the Nigerian factor. Surprisingly, the courts went for the jugular of Senator Osunbor and his ruling party. Oshiomhole did the unimaginable, so it seemed.

Three years later, however, in a seeming conscience stirred confession, Comrade Oshiomhole admitted that President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, the president then, even though he was a leader of the PDP, was a major sponsor of his governorship ambition at the polls and through litigation. This open confession was captured in the Punch Newspaper report of Wednesday, 14 December, 2011 written by Olalekan Adetayo, titled: Yar’adua sponsored my campaign, legal battle – Oshiomhole. Perhaps, it was this high profile assurance of success that emboldened the AC as the APC was then known, to prepare for celebration with customised clothing, food and drinks, prior to the final judgment at the Court of Appeal on November 11, 2008.

In 2012, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also surmounted another high hurdle in his quest to stay on course in the governorship of Edo State, having won the 2012 election in which he defeated General Charles Airhiavbere of the PDP. This time, the contention  was about a primary six school leaving certificate which Oshiomhole claimed he had but could not present. It was a grievous matter which could have cost Oshiomhole his position if the courts had found him guilty as charged. But after some time of the usual arguments in court, the case was struck out. Oshiomhole escaped without being asked to justify his claim. Once again, in addition to the team of Senior Advocates who were to make sure that technicalities are properly advanced to keep the certificate mysterious, Oshiomhole is said to have got help from his northern friends, including a world renowned business man and traditional ruler. The resolution of that case could also qualify as “Mama Akara” Judgment.

Perhaps, with experience in the ways of our courts and having cultivated enormous goodwill by virtue of his privileged office, Comrade  Oshiomhole, then governor, is reported to have boasted that he awaits Ize-Iyamu and the PDP in court, Obaseki having been declared winner of the September 28 Governorship Election which should have held on September 10.  Unlike the scenarios of 2007 and 2012, Oshiomhole this time around is  playing the role of  the godfather. And just like Late President Yar’adua, as confessed by Oshiomhole, Oshiomhole’s assistance to Obaseki during the campaign and in court as he promised has been very evident.

The first phase of the trial – the Tribunal – has been fought and won by Adams Oshiomhole, if you like. According to him, the judgment was in a Mama Akara fashion, whatever that may mean. Reducing the expression to a metaphor, one could say that perhaps for Oshiomhole, Obaseki and the APC, experience so far, with the Tribunal judgment, has been like approaching a simpleton by the road side to get your early morning breakfast delicacy – akara – with generous “jara” for a favourite customer.

The petitioners have indicated their determination to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion. Thus, they have filed an appeal of the Tribunal judgment at the Appeal Court. The question is: will the superior court be delivering a Mama Akara judgment, the like that obviously satisfies the appetite of a boastful former governor? It is expected to be better than the Tribunal’s Mama Akara ruling where we have learned that accreditation of voters before an election is a discretional exercise and that over-voting implies that the votes cast in a polling unit are more than the number of the voters on the register, instead of the number of persons who actually turned out to vote.

Having tasted akara, which many would agree has not whetted the appetite of Edo people, it is left to see what manner of meal the Appeal Court will serve. Meanwhile, the judiciary should be admonished, however, that under no circumstance must they receive or be seen as receiving payment in cash or in kind for justice already paid for by the Constitution of the Country and the Electoral Act.