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Why the nation slept through the ‘Landmark judgement’

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By muyiwa  Adetiba

Several years ago, I was in a plane with two veteran journalists, Chief Eddy Aderinokun and Mr Olu Akaraogun. We were on our way to Yola to see Alhaji BamangaTukur. The late Akaraogun, one of the most versatile journalists of his generation, sat next to me. As usual, we were discussing politics and the state of the nation. I said something I thought was a brutal truth. Immediately, Mr Akaraogun reprimanded me. ‘You are too young for that line of thought. You have to earn your cynicism and that comes with age.’ This was shortly before the first coming of Buhari. Now, some 35 years later, I hope I have earned that cynicism including the right to express my thoughts however they may be perceived.

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The Tribunal on the last presidential election delivered its judgement a couple of weeks ago. It did not surprise many that the day came and went without a whimper from the generality of the people. The ‘earth did not shake’ to borrow a cliché that is often used in a more sexual context. If there was any tremor at all, it was felt largely by those who were going to be directly affected. The President confessed to a shiver and to some apprehension during the five hour judgement. To wonder why is to be cynical in a country where cynicism saves you from surprises and a preventable heart attack. And which, according to my late senior colleague, you must ‘grow’ to earn. And since the President sneezed, it must be a given that the entire presidency would have caught a cold. Again, it would be cynical to assume that at least one of them would have seen the judgement before it was ‘unanimously’ delivered. In any case, it is never over until it is truly over. It should also be a given that the upper hierarchy of the PDP, especially those who had invested time and energy, not to talk about colossal sums of money in the ‘Tribunal Project,’ would have felt some tremor however slight, on the day. It would have taken a miracle for them to have had the judgement in their favour. Were they expecting a miracle? Politicians are an incredibly optimistic lot. And devious to boot. Would it be cynical also, to assume they would have done everything in their power to ‘influence’ the judgement? Or that at least one of them probably knew the content of the judgement before it was delivered?

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For most of us and especially for me, it was to be another day. There would be legal fire power; there could be oratorical prowess; but the outcome was predictable and I wasn’t going to sit through it all. After all, the election was not any worse than the 2007 Presidential election that produced Yar’Adua and nothing happened at the Tribunal. Like a senior lawyer correctly observed, there has been no precedence where a sitting President was overturned at the Tribunal. It is not a sound legal or even moral argument. But that is what it is in Nigeria. I remember impetuously asking a Yoruba general and a member of the Supreme Military Council about his opinion after the Supreme Court delivered a 122/3 judgement in favour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979. His answer was ‘do you really think the Supreme Court would give the presidency to Chief Awolowo because Shagari didn’t win 13 States? Do you think the country can handle the fall out? I was fast earning my cynicism stripes. The fact that the Supreme Court immediately put out a caveat on the judgement spoke volumes. The first request that Justice Fatai Williams, the then Chief Justice of the Federation, a fine gentleman by the way, made before granting me an interview was that we would not discuss the 122/3 judgement. That also spoke volumes.

In the case between Atiku and Buhari, INEC which should be an impartial umpire, was also in the dock. Any judgement against INEC would have dented the veracity of the entire 2015 electoral process. I don’t think the country, meaning the political system, was ready for that. Hence, the judgement on INEC did not surprise me. It was bound to be a political judgement like many before it. As for the judgement against Atiku, I was neither surprised nor perturbed. I honestly do not see how giving it to Atiku, apart from creating political upheavals, would benefit me or the ideals I have had for this country. Atiku has been too long in the public space to spring any positive surprise. Very few of his past activities inspire. Very few have put State over self. And I believe at over seventy, it is a bit too late to teach an old dog a new trick. He is not, to quote his former boss, ‘the messiah we seek.’ As for the PDP, a Yoruba proverb says: ‘Whoever is going to give you something to wear, you must first look at what he is wearing.’ PDP has been clothed in corruption and incompetence for too long to offer anybody a desirable change of clothes. And APC, I must hasten to add, is not different from PDP in any material particular. And if that is being cynical, so be it.

It was reported that many of the lawyers literally slept through the five hour judgement. It was probably tedious and held no surprises for them. It should also be noted that the entire nation also figuratively slept through it all. It was either because the people were not expecting any significant change or that they were satisfied with what and who they have. I want to believe it was not the latter because we are not satisfied with what and who we have. We need a leadership that will inspire; we need appointments that will inspire; for all the negative stories around some Nigerians, one thing this country has in abundance is human capital. Why then do we keep recycling tired, conservative and archaic people? We have not seen the change that was promised.

It is very clear for example, that Artificial Intelligence is the next Industrial Revolution. Yet we still have leaders who don’t even know how to operate a basic laptop computer. We need leaders who will see the emigration of the young ones for what it is; a sign of a country that has failed its young. We need leaders who will envision us in the comity of advanced nations. We have lost too much ground. We need the urgency of NOW!

Forgive me if I do not seem perturbed about who won or lost at the Tribunal. For me, there is no redeeming feature coming from that department. We must look elsewhere if this country is going to realise its immense potential and 2023 is not too far away.


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