One good quality that is worth admiring and highlighting in the popular conduct of Nigerians away from the peak of elitism is resilience and doggedness. Atiku Abubakar is a leading Nigerian elite. His resilience and doggedness it was that almost plunged the nation into unspeakable chaos in the aftermath of the April 2007 Presidential election. The reciprocal avalanche of presidential dressing-downs that trailed the fallout between President and Vice President owed in its core, to the resilience and doggedness of Atiku Abubakar in resisting the sweeping assault of his erstwhile boss aiming at perdition. They seemed irreconcilable. Both parties were chastised depending on which crowd stood at which side of the unholy divide. Today, the gap has narrowed. Today it is Atiku Abubakar, who is surprisingly warning Nigerians to desist from politicizing Olusegun Obasanjo's private problems.
Away from the block of the ruling elites are indeed, popular Nigerians, who are steadfast, resilient and dogged in double intensity. When they back up a cause, they know no turning back. Flexibility and withdrawal in the face of a retreat by the leading elite of an idealist cause is slower with the Nigerian sub-elites. They often profess the underlying ideological coherence of a cause better that the initiators and perpetrators of such cause would ever dream of realizing. They would risk their neck with careless abandon and random talks of different shapes and colors mostly in defense of a cause they indeed, know very little about. Its always about knowing it all and better than thou.
No issue best exemplifies this than the judgment passed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on October 2007, on the case of Amaechi versus the Peoples Democratic Party. It should be recalled that the present Governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi, who did not participate in the Gubernatorial election of that state was ordered by the Supreme Court to take over the office of Governor from the elected Governor Celestine Omehia. Rotimi Amaechi had initiated litigation in the aftermath of his replacement as gubernatorial candidate by his own party following allegedly botched corruption investigations by the anti-graft commission. It was a judgment that sparked off a storm of indignation. Anti-establishmentarians who detested the manner of his replacement as gubernatorial candidate hailed and applauded the judgment of the Supreme Court as the last stop of hope and redemption for the common and oppressed. But it did not go down well with the other side of the divide. Supporters of the party and party machinery (the establishmentarians) decried and condemned the Supreme Court and its judgment and so did another party that sought strict judiciousness devoid of judicial activism.
In this unfurled the crust of the entire debate. It was party time for lawyers and hobby jurisprudents. In several forums, illiteracy in jurisprudence was ridiculed and declared as a recipe for ignorance bearing the consequence of automatic disqualification from partaking in debates among learned minds. It was en vogue to quote abracadabra and hocus pocus from the basic laws of jurisprudence and thermodynamics. Some authors were criticized for advancing arguments without quoting any section of any constitutional, juristic or romantic fidibus. It was fun being a lawyer or a student of law.
Somehow though, some stubborn minds dared a political and basic logical analysis and concluded that the judgment was flawed. The judgment was perceived as flawed basically because it was tantamount to the invocation of judicial sorcery to declare someone the winner of an election that was unjustly denied the right to contest. It was contended that the Supreme Court does not owe a duty to play political Robin Hood in righting a political wrong. The Supreme Court was not vested with the duty of imposing what ought to prevail but was to decide on what has prevailed as the reality of the time.
By declaring Rotimi Amaechi Governor through the backdoor, the Supreme Court no doubt righted the wrong and injustice meted on the gentleman by the unwitting machinery of the PDP. Given the assumption that the charges of corruption against the Governor were cooked up, this backdoor reinstatement can be comprehensibly characterized as gratifying and inspiring. But it was by no means, legal. Even more illegal though was the replacement of Amaechi not by the runner-up or any other contestant in the party's primaries, but by a Celestine Amaechi, who did not contest the primaries in the first place. This was a perfect recipe for understanding the scale of public jubilation at the Supreme Court's illegal judgment that completed a chain of unfortunate and disastrous precedents.
Now, when our self-styled experts in law and the science of legal analysis took center stage, stories of different facets emerged. Every analysis was a frantic attempt at reading tealeaves in an attempt to understand the psyche or the omission of the Supreme Court. Self-styled legal experts who sought to offer strictly legal analyses, expressed opinions the typical Nigerian way. They risked their neck with careless abandon and random talks of different shapes and colors mostly in defense of a cause they indeed, knew very little about. It was always about knowing it all and better than thou.
They advanced a prominent theory of equity and justice. They opined that the Supreme Court was â€“ in this case â€“ not focused on justice but the establishment of some social or legal equilibrium that was more or less a logical equivalent of justice. In fact whoever understood this would have deserved a Nobel Prize for puzzles and cryptic disentanglement. But when the Supreme Court finally spoke out, there was no trace of equity, justice or equilibrium. It was simple. The Supreme Court simply decided on the case that was brought before it namely to determine who the candidate of the PDP for the gubernatorial election was. It was a case between the PDP and Governor Amaechi and not between Amaechi and Governor Omehia.
"Legal experts" further opined that the Supreme Court did not have the right to declare an electoral re-run, as this would have been the prerogative of the electoral tribunal or the appeal court. Besides, they argued, the Supreme Court was not prayed to order a re-run. When the Supreme Court spoke out though, no one talked of rights and all that jazz. The Supreme Court simply declined ordering a re-run because it would "be setting a dangerous precedence". While this nonsensical argument may be criticized and exposed for the flaws that it contains, the Supreme Court clearly showed its diametrically opposed position to those of our "learned" sub-elites, who claimed to know it better that the Supreme Court itself.
It was indeed, a highly intriguing and captivating state of affairs presented by the arguments of the Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court clearly emphasizes that it ruled on a case between Amaechi and his party the PDP and had to decide who the rightful candidate was, it followed the logic that only parties win elections and not individual candidates. Once again, no mention was made of equity, justice or equilibrium and all that jazz. Experts of political studies who have been taught all their life that parties win elections in the parliamentary system of government while candidates are more in the forefront in the Presidential system simply had to call off their bluff. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has simply rewritten age-long laws and axioms in the science of politics without much ado.
It was this argument that finally made the Supreme Court order the swearing in of Rotimi Amaechi as governor in Rivers State. A motion, which he did not file for and an election that he did not contest! The legal Robin Hood simply decreed that Amaechi was unfairly treated and was therefore the rightful candidate, who indeed, won the election (not "who would have won the election").
It is also a mystery understanding the "dangerous precedence" the Supreme Court would be setting by declaring a complete re-run of that election that was flawed right from the primaries. Just what "dangerous precedence" is more dangerous than awarding governorship through the backdoor?
It may be complex but it is compelling to ask precisely when Governor Rotimi Amaechi filed the case in question. Issues of this nature in a country like Germany would have been subjected to accelerated hearings and judgment. In fact the courts would ensure that judgment is passed at the highest instance of the judiciary before the governorship election to forestall the risk of dismissing the case if it is eventually overtaken by events. Such a scenario of events overtaking the case would then be leaving Governor Amaechi no other option but to sue for damages after having the court ascertain that he was wrongly cheated out of contesting the elections.
In fact, failure to fast track proceedings before the gubernatorial elections is the greatest blunder in the judicial system that should be addressed as a matter of priority. The amateur attempt to cover up for this serious omission by awarding governorship at the expense of every other compensatory option is another weakness smelling of questionable competence on the part of our Supreme Court judges. If, indeed, the case was filed after the gubernatorial elections, no doubt, every functional legal system in the world would have denied the courts the right to accept the case for executive judgment. In the end, a declaratory judgment for the purpose of ascertaining the status quo preliminary to civil suits in pursuit of compensation would have been the ultimate solution. Germany at least, operates a system in which a scenario of this sort would have been highly likely.
Hardly anyone would have been in doubt that several interests would have been best served subjecting PDP to the payment of compensation through its very nose. The prevailing judicial jungle justice of simply awarding governorship that was not requested for (merely for the avoidance of futility in judgment) is the worst punishment the entire democratic system could have suffered. PDP and its unwitting machinery have ultimately suffered nothing. If anything, our pseudo-intellectual sub-elites in the corridors of legal analysis have been brutally put in their deserving seats.