By Patrick Dele Cole
SO the judiciary now rules that the party cannot offer candidates for the election because some members claim that certain arcane rules of the party had not been obeyed: thus disenfranchising millions of that party`s political persuasion and worse still gifting the post of president or governor or senator to a totally unrepresentational minority.
Nigeria now has governors, senators, legislators or even president who do not represent the people.
Suppose for the sake of argument another case comes before the court charging that the selection process of this newly gifted beneficiary president, governor and senator was itself flawed and the court has to pronounce on that and does so. There will be no governor no members of the legislature in Abuja or at the states.
What is the cost of disenfranchising Nigerians based on technicalities, e.g. the governor did not have a school leaving certificate which was one of the prerequisite conditions; or that the political parties had not conducted proper primaries?
Why should the courts not order fresh primaries (I know the old adage that courts do not award judgement or reliefs not asked for).
In the 1999 elections – one of the provisions for candidacy was that a candidate must win his ward and local government constituency.
OBJ had not but he had gone on to the convention in Jos and thoroughly beat Chief Alex Ekwueme.
Two nights later Chief Ekueme brought a petition pointing out OBJ`s incapacity at ward and local government. OBJ had, however, also won the Ogun State primaries; and now had won the election at the national convention as the flag bearer. Ekwueme, going by the PDP constitution ought to be declared winner because OBJ by his ward and local government level performance was clearly incapacitated.
The problem seemed to me to be a no brainer. If OBJ could carry a national mandate why should a village mandate top a national mandate? But had Chief Ekwueme gone to court, he may well have become president (thereby ironically solving one of the main dangers to Nigeria of not having an Igbo man as president).
But would that judgement be fair? President Nixon had once asserted that he did not want liberal interpretations of the US constitution and would only appoint what he called strict constructionists.
The US was saved by his crookedness – but the point still remained. In a similar situation in the US during the election between Al Gore and the president G W Bush – the election would have turned on the legal interpretations on how well the voting machine worked.
Whether it punched hole on the voting card, the case had started in the state court in Florida, then to the appeals court and to the Florida Supreme Court; another series of cases had started in the federal court in Florida which also had an appeal court system.
After all these courts the case would have been passed up to the Supreme Court of the United States which would then decide on who won the election.
The Supreme Court was agitated by the spectacle that while these cases traversed the judicial system, it might take three years before the case got to the Supreme Court.
During the period the United States would have no President. That was unacceptable. The Supreme Court transferred the case and declared G. W. Bush the winner.
To those who wish to belittle the judiciary, I hope the lesson is clear and needs no further elaboration. A few weeks ago it dawned on Nigeria that smuggling was now endemic at our borders. I would imagine that it is not a difficult task to find out who the smugglers are and who their aides were.
Several years ago, I went to the port in Cotonou and there was no doubt who the smugglers were, which goods were destined for Nigeria and how it would get there.
I also saw the textile destined for Nigeria when at that time we had about 12 fully functioning textile mills (smuggling killed the mills and the border authorities know this).
At that time also, smuggling of cigarettes competed with the Nigerian Tobacco Company, especially Rothmans and Benson & Hedges
The smuggling killed the company. The action of government on the case of the recent smuggling would have been laughable if it was not so disastrous to our economy.
Closing the border can never by any stretch of the imagination stop smuggling. To have done so would be the old tactics of deflection, thus avoiding the real problem: ie, getting those mandated to stop smuggling – customs, immigration, SSS, DSS, other security agencies to do their jobs and uphold the law.