If You Can Steal It, You Can Keep It


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If You Can Steal It, You Can Keep It




Pini Jason




culled from VANGUARD, November 10, 2006


There is no need pretending any more. Nigeria is being reduced to a country of anything goes. The last seven years has been remarkable for the double standards and hypocrisy at the top of the leadership. Unethical conduct is permissible at the top, while the masses get sermons on accountability and transparency. If you believe the pontifications of those who have captured the state, you have your self to blame. Gangsters are having the upper hand in our land. Unless you are Atiku Abubakar or identified with his camp, you can do no wrong! Other electoral malfeasances apart, the unconstitutional impeachments of Gov Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State last January and Peter Obi of Anambra on Thursday 2 November and the subsisting desperation to do same in Plateau state have more eloquently demonstrated that to exercise peoples mandate in Obasanjo.


Nigeria it is no longer necessary to win a credible election. It is now a matter of happenstance, providence and might. The law that is operative now is: if you can steal, just steal. Chances are that you can keep what you stole, aided by federal might! These days, the end justifies the means. That is my understanding of the position of the federal government as stated on Sunday 5 November 2006 in a press conference addressed by the federal Attorney General and Minister of justice, Mr. Bayo Ojo.


On Wednesday 1 November 2006, the Appeal Court in Ibadan gave what well meaning Nigerians hailed as a landmark judgment in which it ruled that the entire processes of the impeachment of Gov Ladoja were unconstitutional and his removal from office null and void. In order words, there was no impeachment ab initio. Mr. Alao-Akala, the beneficiary of that unconstitutionality, was a mere impostor as Governor. I am not a lawyer. But I do not know that Chief Bode George, the PDP Vice chairman, is a lawyer. If he can lecture us on what is a declaratory verdict, permit me to say that bad politics has reduced our constitution to akara wrapper.


The tragedy of our time is that it does not take a lawyer to predict a matter on which the federal government is likely to ignore the courts! Based on the ruling of the Appeal Court, Gov Ladoja security details were restored on Sunday 5 November. Gov Ladoja was looking forward to resuming his interrupted governance, when the Attorney General called a press conference to say that, although an appeal simplicity does not operate as a stay of execution, where a party has exercised his right of appeal and also filed an application for stay of execution or injunction pending the determination of the appeal, the successful party ought to refrain from enforcing the judgment until the pending appeal has been determined.. In other words, Alao-Akala must continue to enjoy the fruit of unconstitutionality, while the bona fide Governor, Rasheed Ladoja, who in the first place appeared marked for removal by the PDP leadership, remains removed. On the Anambra illegality, the federal attorney general said. Having been sworn in as the governor following the impeachment of Obi, to the best of my knowledge, she (Mrs. Virginia Etiaba) is the governor.


This is the kind of position that makes you realize that, indeed, the law is an ass! It is like what goes on when a magistrate is determined to deal with you. He or she knows that his or her court has no jurisdiction over the case, the magistrate still goes ahead to not only try the case but to impose a punishment way above his or her competence and asks you to appeal, knowing that before the appeal is heard you would at least have spent a day or two in prison!


It happens everyday. Mr. Bayo Ojo press conference raised many questions. First in what capacity was he speaking? Did he speak as a lawyer to Alao-Akala’s camp or what? Is the federal Attorney General the Attorney General for every state in the federation? Where is the Attorney General of Oyo state on this matter? Is the federal Attorney General serving the law or the wish of the Adedibu camp? If Mr. Ojo were still the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, would he have taken the same position? Was it not clear that when the Inspector General of Police on Thursday 2 November claimed preemptively that the Supreme Court had handed him an order of stay of execution when there was none and there was no appeal yet, that the federal government was not going to obey the order of the Appeal Court? Ladojaâ ™s security details were restored just to create the impression that the federal government intended to obey the Court ruling. It never intended to! Isnâ ™t it the same police that were used against Ladoja during his unlawful impeachment?


Granted that there was indeed an appeal, is it the place of the Attorney General to order a stay of execution or that of the Supreme Court? Is it always that case that an application for a stay of execution or injunction is automatically granted by the court? If, as the AG said, an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution, what then was the AG saying? I want to be educated as a layman. Why was the AG enthusiastic to decree his position now? Where was he when all these serial unconstitutional impeachments were being carried out in Oyo, Ekiti, Plateau and Anambra states? It seems to me that the AG was giving an extra-judicial and extra-legal injunction by his pronouncement.


It seems to me that he also usurped the powers and authority of the Supreme Court. As a member of the Executive, to have so pronounced amounted to an interference with the job of the judiciary and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. There is nothing I know, except the prevailing impunity that empowers him to rise in gallant defence of the unconstitutionality in Oyo and Anambra, and by extension the brewing illegality in Plateau state. If the intension of the AG was to avert chaos in Oyo state, why was it difficult to bring those who have broken the law to book? Is an illegal removal of a Governor from office not treason? What the AG has done is to show a clear disinclination and incapacity to defend the constitution. Which is not very surprising, if we recall the controversy that attended his taking of cabinet office vis-a-vis the constitution of the NBA! Therefore, although I am appalled, I am not surprised.


Shouldn’t it be Alao-Akala, the beneficiary of an unconstitutional impeachment who ought to wait for the Supreme Court to pronounce whether the procedure of removing Gov Ladoja and Akala becoming Governor was constitutional? By asking Ladoja to wait for the Supreme Court, did the AG and the federal government mean that there could be anything conceivably constitutional in the procedure for removing Ladoja and Obi? It is unfortunate that while the federal government has been posturing about fighting corruption and financial graft, it has been busy unabashedly engaging in political graft! This administration popularised due process. But everything points to the fact that the federal government is uncomfortable with observing due process. The operative laws now are not what the rulebooks say but whatever meets the whims and caprices of the President and his men. It is confusing to people, what the federal government really intends to achieve by using the police to enforce illegalities, while it preaches transparency and due process.


On the unconstitutional impeachment of Gov Peter Obi of Anambra which was done at 5.30 am by a faction of the House of Assembly from their Asaba hideout, does the AG mean that all that matters nowadays in becoming governor is to be sworn in? If a band of armed robbers abducts a governor and swears in someone, that person becomes governor? When I read Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s reason for tergiversating, I wondered what had happened to those Ojukwu recently referred to as rascals?


When did the actions of rascals become constitutional? The only regret I have is that Gov Peter Obi, who comes from a family of priests and nuns, should have known that you don’t govern a state like Anambra with Holy water. You need acid, so to speak! Evil is stalking the land. I see this country being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. I see the country precipitously going to the dogs. I can see this country rolling down hill. I have seen these signs before. And I am old enough to recall that it has never paid this country. This too will not pay good dividends to anybody. We shall all be losers.


The Presidency Denies Andygate


When on Monday 6 November, the Sun newspaper carried the very damaging disclosures on the President’s Special Assistant, Mr. Nnamdi Emmanuel Uba, I told somebody not to worry, that the presidency was going to brush it aside. And it did! This government is highly predictable about its attitude to matters of ethics in government. Scandal is scandal only when it concerns the Vice President or his friends. The presidency denied the grave allegation, which was an affidavit sworn to by Mr. Guy Gino, US Special Agent, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), alleging that the presidential aide in September 2003 imported US$170,000 into America on board the presidential jet without declaring it to ICE. Nigerians, am sure, want to understand the denial of the presidency. Is it that it did not happen? Or that the US agent was lying? Or that no agricultural equipment were bought with the money and shipped for Obasanjo farm? Or that the seized Mercedes Benz SL500 car did not belong to Andy Uba? Or that Ms Loretta Mabinton did not exist?


Okay, in Nigeria, to carry such huge cash on the presidential plane is probably no crime. But not to declare it to the US authorities is a crime. What really was the presidency denying? If this matter concerned Atiku Abubakar, would the presidency wave it off just like that? How is this less scandalous than the Jefferson sting, which the presidency tried to make a meal of? Not only is it very unacceptable for the presidency to treat Nigerians with this type of impunity, it does not do Andy Uba any good because here is a man who wants to be Governor of Anambra State. We deserve a little respect from Obasanjo and his men. This culture of impunity is getting unbearable!



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