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Thoughts on the Judgment of the Supreme Court on Zamfara

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By Raymond Nkannebe Esq.

One struggles to find the right word to capture the chicanery that passes for internal democracy in Nigeria. The brand of politicians that appeared onto the political firmament with the return of democracy in 1999 with their inflated sense of importance and voracious taste for power worryingly turned the field of politics to one where anything goes riding roughshod on constitutionalism and getting away with it in many cases, save for occasional moments where an over-stretched judiciary rises up in defence of democracy as was seen in the landmark decision of the apex Court in the case of Amaechi v INEC (2009) 10 WRN 1 and even more recently the decision of the same Court in the case of Mato v Hermber (2017) LPELR-42765(SC) to name a few. In the particular case of Amaechi, eminent Professor of Law, Itse Sagay SAN, described the judgement of the court as a “groundbreaking one, spinning of and spurring many legal off-shoots, principles and precedents in Nigerian Electoral Law and practice and ushering in a more civilized and enlightened political culture”.

The power-by-all-means syndrome that afflicts our overrated political class unfortunately have come with great cost for internal democracy in Nigeria. And when one expects the situation to get better, it has arguably gotten worse. Nothing signposts this more, than the parallel congresses that characterized many state organs of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the build up to the recently held general elections. And without a doubt, Rivers, Imo and just recently Zamfara state are currently bearing the highest lump of the prostitution of the internal processes of the party.

It is against the backdrop of this therefore that the recent decision of the Supreme Court over the political crisis that rocked the APC in Abdulaziz Yari’s Zamfara is both instructive and commendable irrespective of how harsh it may be perceived in some quarters. By holding that the ruling APC did not conduct a valid primary election in the state with crude implications for the candidates purportedly elected under its platform at the recently concluded election, the apex Court has once again drummed home the message that Nigeria is a nation under laws to which political parties and politicians alike are bound.

In an article entitled “Towards a Political Hygiene in Intra-Party Politics” published last year few days to the flag-off of party primaries by INEC, I had underscored the recurrent problem of intra-party politics in Nigeria thus:

At the core of intra party disputes and disaffection on the part of members is the disrespect of the constitution of political parties by their hierarchy; non-compliance with laid down rules and regulations and the habitual compromise and impunity by so called godfathers with an inflated sense of their importance over the affairs of the party. One veritable feature of this ill democratic practice is the illegal substitution of persons who emerge victorious at state primaries for other persons under circumstances that leave a sour taste in the mouth. Indeed, in the numerous cases that have made their way to the court for determination by aggrieved party members, this thread is always to be seen. But while some of these aspirants get lucky by having the decision of the party reversed, many others are often not so lucky. Hence the ceaseless cross carpeting and other signs of protest that have become a feature of partisan politics in our chequered history”.

I had also admonished in that article that going into the primaries (irrespective of which method that has been adopted by the state caucuses of the individual party), the irreducible minimum conduct expected by those to spearhead the exercise irrespective of the political party in question, should be one that accords with the laid down provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 and the individual party’s constitution and INEC’S guidelines and regulations as anything short of these would not only be setting the democratic clock of the nation backward, but also a recipe for disaster in the individual party.

Apparently, these admonitions meant nothing to many politicians and their political party. To be sure, the circumstances that led to the non-holding of a valid party primaries in Zamfara state finds its root in the major albatross around the neck of party-politics in Nigeria namely, the parochial interest of one man to lord his will over others thus feeding the emotions that almost always give rise to renegade or splinter factions within the party. In Rivers State, Sen. Magnus Abe and transport minister Rotimi Amaechi represented these conflicting interests, while in Imo State, incumbent governor Rochas Okorocha and his adversary, Sen. Hope Uzodinma were very visible. In Delta, Enugu, Adamawa, Bauchi amongst other states, the ugly head of this monster was also visible with tell-tale consequences here and there.

But by no means is the ruling APC the only affected party here. Not at all. if the situation in the APC has gained more commentary in recent times, it is perhaps because it is the ruling party. Of course, the PDP era was also marked by the same crisis and until recently was lurked in a fratricidal leadership crisis until the same apex court came to the rescue.

In my referenced article above, I had written of the main opposition party thus: “At the commanding heights of the PDP rule, we saw the elevation of sharp practices in the internal affairs of a political party taken to a whole new dimension. This impunity which gained traction under the watch of former president Olusegun Obasanjo perhaps had its ugliest manifestation in Anambra, Imo and Rivers states to the utter embarrassment of the civilised world. Indeed one could say, without any fear of contradiction that intra-party corruption as we have it today, remains one of the ugliest legacies of the current opposition party PDP, who while it enjoyed its status as the ruling party within the space of 16 years, nearly institutionalized a culture of needless intra-party squabbles through sundry acts of subterfuge and injustice in deciding who gets what, when and how within the hierarchy of the party.”

Nor are the smaller political parties excepted. In the state chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Imo State for example, it is the complaints of alleged hijacking of the party by some quarters that necessitated the decamping of a former governor of the state to the Accord party to contest the gubernatorial election almost at the eve of the election. And at the national level of the party its leadership was until recently mired in serious crisis arising from the non-observance of party processes until same was resolved by the apex Court rightly or wrongly mid last year.

All of these scenarios unfortunately leave an ugly picture of intra-party politics in Nigeria- which needless to say remains the foundation of representational democracy. But an undisciplined political class must be disciplined one way or another. And this is what the judgement of the Supreme Court represents in Zamfara. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. It is in many respects a necessary hemlock down the throat of the state chapter of the ruling APC in Zamfara for daring to mortgage the divergent interests of the party hierarchy in the state to the whims and caprices of one man. Through and through, the judgment must be a hurtful reminder of how not to conduct intra-party affairs and the need for conforming to the minimum requirements of the law in party affairs.

But the greatest credit in all of these must go to the judiciary- that institution that continues to live up to its billing as the last hope of the common man; for rising courageously at opportune moments to defend our cherished democracy and instill discipline where impunity has become the rule of thumb.

 

Raymond Nkannebe is a legal practitioner and public interest analyst and writes from Lagos.

 

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DHQ Announces Arrest of Two More Suspects of Owo Church Massacre

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The Defence Headquarters on Thursday said two additional suspected terrorists linked with the Owo attack have been arrested.

The Chief of Defence Staff , General Lucky Irabor, had during a meeting with media executives and editors on Tuesday announced the arrest of some suspected terrorists including the mastermind of Owo attack.

The PUNCH reports that armed men stormed the St Francis Catholic Church, Owo on 5 June 2022 and killed no fewer than 40 worshippers.

However, in a statement on Thursday, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, said the duo of Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris were arrested at the Omialafara (Omulafa), Ose LGA in Ondo State during a joint operation with the DSS, Police .

The statement was titled , ‘Arrest of two additional suspected terrorists in connection with the Owo Catholic Church on June 5,2022.’

It read, “Recall that the Chief of Defence Staff during his parley with media executives and editors yesterday, Tuesday 9 August 2022, informed of the arrest of 4 terrorists among those who carried out the attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo on 5 June 2022.

“They were arrested through a combined operation by military and DSS personnel at Eika, Okehi LGA, Kogi State on 1 August 2022. Those arrested include Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza (a.k.a Bin Malik), Momoh Otohu Abubakar, Aliyu Yusuf Itopa and Auwal Ishaq Onimisi.

“Barely few hours after the disclosure by the CDS of the arrest of four of the Owo Catholic Church attackers, two additional ISWAP terrorists, who were also connected to the attack on the church were apprehended at Omialafara (Omulafa), Ose LGA, Ondo State yesterday, August 9 2022.

“The arrests were made through the collaborative effort by military and DSS personnel. The suspects are Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris. ”

He, however, said that Abdulhaleem, alongside other high profile ISWAP commanders, had previously coordinated attacks on military targets in Okene, Okene LGA, Kogi State , which led to the death of many.

The Punch

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How 12-Year-Old Boy Killed Nigerian Mother in US

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A 12-year-old Nigerian boy has killed his mother, Ayobiyi Cook, at their home in Forestdale, Alabama, United States.

According to CBS News, the boy “accidentally discharged a firearm” which struck and killed his 29-year-old mom on Monday.

His father, Djuan, a policeman, was said to be at work when the incident happened.

A statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office revealed that the boy had initially lied to detectives about the cause of his mother’s death after cops arrived at the scene some minutes past midnight.

He was reported to have said an intruder broke into the house, shot his mother and fled.

But on further investigation of the killing, he reportedly admitted to killing his mother.

The statement read in part, “The child originally fabricated a story that detectives determined was not possible; the child eventually gave a true account of what happened

“The boy’s family, who he will remain with, has been cooperative. The case will be addressed through the family court system.”

A prior statement by the Jefferson County deputies stated that there had been no forced entry into the home when they arrived at the scene.

It read, “On Saturday, August 6, 2022, at 12:10am, Jefferson County Deputies received a 911 call for help at a residence in the 2400 block of Freemont Avenue in the Forestdale community.  Deputies arrived and found a 29-year-old woman deceased on the scene. There appeared to be no forced entry into the home and a man was seen fleeing from the residence shortly before the 911 call was made. Sheriff’s detectives were able to recover evidence on the scene and are continuing to investigate.”

The deceased’s husband, Djuan, in a Facebook post, said Ayobiyi was known as “Yo” or “YoYo.

He wrote, “The funeral arrangements would be held on August 12. Orange was Yo’s favourite colour so feel free to wear it as we celebrate her life.”

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Ihedioha Denies Making Statement Against Igbo, Peter Obi

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A former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, has denied talking down on the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi.

Some reports had on Monday claimed that Ihedioha had called Obi ‘crafty’, and had asked Igbos to wait till 2031 for Presidency.

However, a statement by Ihedioha’s media aide, Chibuike Onyeukwu, had asked the public to disregard the statement, adding that it was fake news.

The statement dated August 8, 2022 was titled, ‘RE – 2023: Igbos Should Wait Till 2031, Peter Obi is Crafty’.

It read, “Our attention has been drawn to another fake news, with the above caption, circulated in some social media platforms.

“This is one of the many orchestrated efforts by political opponents of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha CON and their collaborators who are afraid of squaring up against him in the coming elections.

“It is noteworthy that His Excellency did not grant any interview in Abuja or elsewhere as claimed.

“His Excellency is known to acquit himself in the most civil, decent and respectful manner and therefore could not have employed such uncouth words.

“We are aware that the purveyors of these unfounded reports are unrelenting in their desperation to impugn His Excellency’s integrity and reputation.

“The public, therefore, is alerted and indeed advised to kindly ignore and disregard the fake news.”

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