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Minister Timipre Sylva must apologise to Judiciary

Tonnie Iredia

Timipre Sylva, Oil
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva

 

Two weeks ago, when I was leaving Nigeria on a working visit to 3 cities in Europe and America, I imagined I would miss much of the interesting political events unravelling in the country. I was not sure to accurately capture the developments in the crisis in my state between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor in office, Adams Oshiomhole. Thanks to technology, many of the things happening behind me were actually presented on a minute by minute basis to the entire world by citizen journalists of the social media. Unlike our days in broadcasting, anything qualifies as news these days, no ethics, no fear for libel and slander and no need for balance and objectivity or the old talk about investigative journalism where we were required to ascertain the truth of a story before reporting. Indeed, these days, not much is needed to become a reporter, just a small handset for picking a story and uploading to the world at large would do. So, I am as current as other Nigerians who went nowhere.

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Understandably, almost every story I got was about politics, the only surviving source of employment in Nigeria today. To start with, I now know how the ruling APC is settling its Edo crisis. The summary is that different factions have suspended all the leaders on both sides of the divide. Although the conflict is getting more complicated, governors elected on the platform of the party are quiet, leaving every talk to their Director General. The national body, on its part, has followed its traditional strategy in conflict resolution, by immediately endorsing the suspension of one side, amidst setting up a fact-finding panel to look into the same subject. With the benefit of hindsight particularly the instructive cases of Rivers and Zamfara, how it will all end is no doubt predictable.

 

The second story making the rounds concerned Kogi State where a female governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, had the secretariat of her party damaged by thugs. She was also reportedly prevented from participating in the peace accord signing ceremony by political parties involved in the governorship election in the state scheduled for yesterday. Painfully, the reports available this way, and perhaps also at home, did not as usual throw light on such wrongs particularly her forceful exclusion from an event attended by the topmost hierarchies of both INEC and police – the two bodies in charge of election and security respectively. For two days, I searched in vain for comments from women leaders, activists etc. who constantly demand affirmative action. The blatant violent behaviour featuring an attack on a woman was virtually ignored by them.

 

This led me into searching for happenings in Bayelsa, the other state billed for yesterday’s set of elections. On this, I ran into a report of an attack on a political rally at Okolomabiri in Nembe local government area of the state killing some innocent Nigerians. My effort at getting the number killed was futile because in line with our culture of inaccuracy, the conflicting versions were many. The dominant story was that of the federal party which was in disarray following first a disqualification of its deputy governorship candidate for inappropriate documentation. I really had to wonder how such basic issues scale through security clearance to become a cause of judicial action. As if that was not enough, another court nullified the party’s primary election and thus exposed the APC to the risk of not taking part in the state’s governorship election. This was not really a surprise because party primaries are forever rancorous and patently dishonest in Nigeria. But the interesting aspect of the subject was how the party and its lawyer reacted to the pronouncements by the court.

 

The lawyer looked overzealous but  transparently furious; threatening on television to proceed on appeal as if that was not the only simple and legal option available to him. His grouse was that the nullification of the party primary went beyond the issues before the trial judge. With the plaintiff in the case, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri also affirming that all he asked for was to be declared winner of the primary and not its nullification, I became interested in searching for the exact prayers of the parties in the case. I found just one interesting document, a 45-point affidavit by Lokpobiri. In it, he explained that a governorship primary election committee was constituted by the National Secretariat of the APC under the chairmanship of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State adding that the committee in compliance with the directive of the party successfully conducted the primary poll.

 

Lokpobiri however went ahead to assert that “instead of the Yobe State Governor to supervise collation and declaration of results in line with APC guidelines, one Senator Emmanuel Ocheja allegedly announced false results without any collation and made Lyon a purported winner of the September 4 primary election.” Based on this, the plaintiff among other things proceeded to beg the court “to hold that the APC, David Lyon and INEC who are the three respondents in the suit cannot breach the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act 2010 and the APC guidelines to make unlawful declaration and nomination of Lyon as the flag bearer of the party.” The trial judge, having satisfied herself that the appropriate procedure was not adhered to, ruled that there was no valid APC candidate for the governorship election.

 

I was really shocked by what I watched as a news item showing Timipre Sylva, the leader of the APC in Bayelsa state, reacting to the judgment. I couldn’t believe my ears that Sylva, a former state governor and currently a minister of the federal republic, could publicly refer to a high court judge as one of the bad eggs in the judiciary that must be flushed away. I searched other sources to confirm such criminal contempt and came across a post credited to a learned Senior Advocate, Ebun Adegboruwa, which stated that earlier in another radio programme, Sylva had allegedly described the judge as a harlot! Expectedly, Adegboruwa in the post called on the relevant authorities to proceed against the minister until he is able to purge himself of the brazen contempt. I couldn’t agree more because the attacks on the judiciary have become embarrassing. For his intemperate diction, Timipre Sylva must apologise to the judge, the judiciary and to all Nigerians

Politicians are not the only people in our country; therefore, we ought not to continue to discountenance their incessant attacks on the judiciary which they claim is the temple of  justice only when they win cases. Today, the assault was by an APC minister; in the past it was a PDP governor that sacked a court in session in Ekiti state, no one knows what they would do tomorrow. We accordingly deprecate their political rascality.

 

 

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