Date Published: 11/09/09
Deciphering what Ojukwu said (1) By Temple Chima Ubochi
War is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. ( Robert S. McNamara)
For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. ( Rainer Maria Rilke)
You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation. ( Marian Wright Edelman)
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph. (Haile Selassie )
In a normal setting, where the rule of law holds sway, all these hullabaloos should not have arisen, but, Anambra State is a jungle when it comes to rule of law. Nobody is oblivious of the problems obtainable in other states of Nigeria, but, Anambra State’s problems defy common sense. Since “democracy” was restored in Nigeria about ten years ago, Anambra State has been having peculiar problems and the state seems to abhor peace while courting anarchy. It’s unfortunate that a state that gave Nigeria a lot and produced some of the most prominent Nigerians ever, should be the most unstable. This topic would be re-visited another day.
Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu made a statement that has awakened the passion in everybody. First of all, let’s start by stating that few days ago, Ojukwu celebrated his 76th birthday. This writer joins Ojukwu’s people, friends and well wishers in wishing him a happy birthday and many more happy returns. May Ojukwu in the years ahead find all his dreams come true; may the dreams he have for Nigeria in general and Igboland in particular, come to fruition in his life time, may he live to see an emancipated Igbo land and people, not through war, but, through understanding and agreement with all stakeholders of Nigeria (as he wanted and was agreed upon in Aburi Ghana, but was renegaded upon by Gowon in concert with his advisers who never wanted the good of Nigeria). May God bless and grant Ojukwu long life.
Now, for clarity purposes, let’s look at what brought about Ojukwu’s statement: One Andy Uba took his case to the Appeal Court sitting in Enugu. Uba based his case on the outcome of the April 14, 2007 governorship election. He wants the appellate court to declare him “a governor-in-waiting” so as to enable him take over from the incumbent governor in March 2010. But, the Supreme Court has since voided that election because, according to it, there was no vacancy at the Government House, Awka when the poll was held. Arrangements are on to hold gubernatorial election in the State on February 6, 2010, upon the expiration of Governor Peter Obi’s tenure. Obi assumed office on March 16, 2006.
News had it that Andy Uba and his supporters started celebrating his victory even when no judgment has been given on his case. That made everybody to go suspicious and to insinuate that something’s wrong somewhere. Then we learnt that Andy Uba has influenced the Appeal Court Judges. There were unsubstantiated allegations here. The problem is that there’s no how anybody could cross-check the authenticity of bribery allegations, as the parties would never accept to have taken any gratification from anybody. It was alleged that “ as the battle for the governorship of Anambra State shifts to the Appeal Court, a strange and dangerous dimension has been introduced to the case brought by Andy Uba for the interpretation of the tenure of Mr. Peter Obi, the Governor of Anambra State. Uba wants the court to declare him “a governor-in- waiting”. But some characters have already decided what the court decision will be. Rather than allow the judges, as independent arbiters, to give their judgement free from undue influence, these characters have taken it upon themselves to influence the direction of judgement. Their aim is to fetter the courts discretion”. In a widely circulated missive on the internet, one Mr Ode Murphy declared that the followers of Andy have continued to celebrate as they are very sure of victory. According to him, “reliable source revealed that Andy has spent billions of Naira on the case. Determined not to make the mistakes that made him loose his previous cases, he has reached out to everybody, including the Sultan of Sokoto. It is not clear what he gave him, but he gave 10 Million dollars to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to keep mute in spite of the dust the judgement will generate. 10 Million Dollars to the president of the Court of Appeal, whose court is handling the case. He gave 3 Million Dollars each to the presiding justices. He gave 2 million Dollars each to other justices that may have a say, one way or the other. One striking deal about the present bribe is that the money was only released to a third party, a prominent Northerner to be given to the judges after the case”.
This writer hopes the bribery allegations are not true. But, still, this writer cannot understand why some judges are easily compromised. On October 30, 2009, the Delta State Elders and Leaders Stakeholders Forum also called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, either to halt the verdict in the trial of James Ibori in Asaba next Friday ( November 6, 2009), or transfer Judge Mercel Awokulehin from it. It pointed out that Justice Awokulehin's integrity and honour is in doubt. Also on October 19, 2009, the Campaign against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), in a petition to the Nigerian Judicial Council, described Awokulehin’s misconduct as “unprecedented in the history of the legal profession in Nigeria.” It is alleged that the judge would set Ibori free. (As this writer was putting finishing touches to this article, news had it that Ibori’s case has been adjourned for now).
News also came that the five-justice panel of the Court of Appeal, Enugu, on Nov. 5, 2009, failed to agree on a verdict in a case filed by Emmanuel Nnamdi (Andy) Uba pleading to be declared Anambra State’s governor-in- waiting. Instead, the court, led by Justice J. S. Ngwuta has set a new date of November 13 for its ruling. No reason was given for the deferment. But it was learnt that the verdict may not have been ready. Andy Uba has the right to go to court for his rights, but, the timing of this case is suspicious; he and his brother, Chris, cannot hold a state to ransom. This madness should stop.
The Supreme Court on November 2, 2009, even sent a warning to Andy Uba on his case at the Enugu Appeal Court , by its judgment in the case between Omehia and Amaechi of Rivers State. The seven-man panel of the Supreme Court dismissed with finality the application filed by former governor of Rivers State, Chief Celestine Omehia, praying the court to set aside its judgment of January 18, 2008, whereof it declared Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as the governor of the state. The apex court warns against frivolous application saying: "This Omehia's application is clearly misguided and ill-advised. But it affords us the opportunity to warn counsel to desist from bringing frivolous application before us. If a court has the jurisdiction to hear a case, it follows that it has the jurisdiction to be wrong or right in its judgment. This application is clearly an abuse of court process and it is accordingly dismissed".
These are what some of the Supreme Court judges told Omehia's counsel while giving their judgment: Justice George Adeshola Oguntade said: "This court is the final court in this country, we have a duty to make sure that justice is done. When we give our judgment, nobody can re-open it. Your mission here today is futile. Nothing will come out of it".
In his own reaction, Justice Katsina-Alu held: "This your application is a serious professional misconduct. We gave our decision two years ago. Whether you like it or not it is our decision. Your coming here now is contemptuous. If we sit here from now till December, you will get nothing. Rather, we may award punitive cost against you." For Justice Walter Sam Onnoghen, the only forum open to Omehia was with God. In his words: "Even if we are wrong our decision is final. You may appeal to God. You brought this application in contempt of court. You can go and appeal to God".
With these powerful words, the judges were also sending a message to Andy Uba and his counsel on the one hand and the Enugu appeal court judges on the other, that they (the Supreme Court Judges) are the final arbiters in any case and that their judgment cannot and should not be reversed by anybody except God. This writer hopes that all concerned got that clear message.
Before getting to what Ojukwu said, this writer wants to say that in a very conscious society, Ojukwu and his contemporaries are not supposed to continue playing the role of “the defenders of the oppressed” at their age. Nigerians are selfish, once comfortable, they forget that there are millions of their follow citizens walloping in abject poverty; Nigerians are so selfish that a person would want to own the whole town so that all others would be coming to him in genuflection to beg for food. Only few are all out to see a society where life is made easier for all. One thing people always tend to forget is that if there are no equal rights and justice, there would be no peace and both the rich and the poor would bear the brunt. For instance, majority of the kidnap victims now are the rich and their relatives. Due to the lackadaisical attitude of our people, seniors like Ojukwu, Enahoro, Soyinka etc who have played their part well and should have retired for a well-deserved rest, are still fighting for the downtrodden because, when these elders look back, they see no one to pick up the gauntlet should they drop it. Without anybody in sight, these septuagenarians/octogenarians continue trudging on. It’s unfortunate.
Based on what was going on in his state, Ojukwu decided to make the very strong statement. Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu was quoted as having said that Anambra crisis could lead to another civil war and that his people would want him to be the commander-in-chief. Ojukwu said that any attempt to stop the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, from exercising his constitutional rights of seeking re-election in 2010 could lead to another civil war in the country. He reminded Nigerians that no country had two civil wars without suffering deeply for such a mistake, stressing that what was currently playing out in Anambra State could lead to civil war in the country. In his words: “Anambra people are looking up to me to be the commander-in-chief if there is going to be another war and I will not allow anybody to toy with and play my people around like a balloon. I will support justice at all times.” Reacting to media report that the standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2007 gubernatorial election, Chief Andy Uba, had gone to the Appeal Court, asking it declare him “governor in waiting,” the Ikemba warned against any move to set aside the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Chief Ojukwu was right when he pointed out that the apex court had ruled that there was no vacancy in Anambra State Government House in 2007 and that the purported election that Chief Uba was claiming brought him into office ought not to have been conducted in the first place. In his words: “ Appeal Court is no way superior to the Supreme Court. The pillar on which our justice stands is that the constitution is supreme. Nobody can stop the incumbent governor, Peter Obi, from exercising his constitutional rights of going for a second term. Whatever we are playing with, we must know the consequences. We are stepping into another bloody war and I do not want to be part of another civil war. We are being confronted with a very dangerous situation where they want to halt the Anambra State election and we shall resist it. We must bear in mind that as we set up courts and go through our various litigations, we must remember that we cannot get something out of nothing.”
When this Oxford graduate speaks, a lot of people are mesmerized and everything he said would be misconstrued by undiscerning minds. What Ojukwu said has put some people on edge, but, Ojukwu never meant that he would lead the Igbos again to a war where guns would be shot and lives lost. A war can be fought everywhere, in the court of law, at the council, states house of assembly or national assembly without a single gunshot or shedding of blood. Many of us witnessed or heard about the scuffle that happened during Patricia Etteh’s tenure as the speaker of the House of Representatives that even led to the death of one of her supporters. Many states house of assembly are always embroiled in fracas between members, these are wars in another sense. The north/south dichotomy at the national assembly that has stalled everything there including the constitution amendment process, is a civil war by other means. We just learnt that decorum was thrown to the wind yesterday (Nov 5, 2009) as a debate on the "State of the Nation" gave way to chaos, pitting honourable members of the House of Representatives against one another. Aggrieved people taking their case from appeal court to Supreme Court, against their follow politicians, are fighting a war in another sense of it. What Ojukwu meant was that if ever the appeal court is compromised to declare Andy Uba as governor-in-waiting, he would lead the war to quash that ruling (by going to the Supreme Court). Such can be construed as civil war because it would involve a case between two brothers set against each other by judges who want no good for the state.
My people say “when a person is spoken to in parable and still, he needs the explanation, such a person should know that the dowry paid on his mother’s head (during the traditional marriage ceremony) was a waste. Ojukwu was speaking in figurative terms, he cannot start beating the war drums now, afterall, he cannot lead a war as he’s visually impaired. Ojukwu never wanted any war, that was why he did everything to see that the tenets of the Aburi Accord (agreement) were implemented. Nigeria will not fight another war, Nigeria will never break up, but, Nigeria will not remain as it is now.
On Anderson Cooper AC 360 tonight recently, Roland Martin CNN Political Analyst and the Tea Party Organizer Mark Williams, brought up the topic of Civil War in the Republican Party. It didn’t mean they were talking about a Civil War in America.
It was unfortunate that some people do not see anything wrong in what Andy Uba did by taking the matter to court, neither would they be surprised if the Court rules in his favour. But this writer thinks that the appeal court cannot rule in favour of Uba, if the judges know what they are doing, because, a superior court (Supreme Court) ruled that there was no vacancy at Anambra State House in 2007 and any gubernatorial election held then amounted to nullity and the outcome unenforceable in law. People going for Ojukwu’s jugular might as well support a constitutional crisis, one of which we would witness, should the appeal court tries in setting aside the ruling of the Supreme Court. Instead of condemning evil, some people are acquiescing to it.
For those who do not know Ojukwu’s pedigree: he believes in himself and cannot be cowed with sentiment. A Paper wrote that even at 76, Ikemba is known to have remained uncompromising in his beliefs, and consistent in his motives; always willing to sacrifice his convenience for the cause of others. Ojukwu, according to informed opinions is revered by many for his bravery, respected by his adversaries for his courage and adored by his followers for his consistency of purpose. It is against this background that they maintain that he, commands a near -cult followership in the eastern part of Nigeria, which they claimed led to the overwhelming victory of his All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) in Anambra State, a victory that brought Mr. Peter Obi, the incumbent governor to office.
Mike Ahamba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) noted that “If the politicians decide to create crisis all –year round in Anambra state, it is up to them. Whether Andy Uba is declared Governor or not, that cannot drag the South East into a war”. He thinks Ojukwu made an emotional outburst here. However, some other Nigerians stressed that Ojukwu’s statement should not be taken lightly, considering that the issues he raised are germane to the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State. They warned that Ojukwu is not known for frivolity, hence he should be accorded the respect he deserves as an elder statesman.
Some people have blamed the furore that trailed Ojukwu’s statement to some people not understanding simple English. This writer followed some of the arguments which ensued here. Someone wrote:
“War is not only when you carry arms. War comes in different forms. Ojukwu was only speaking in hyperbole. How can these dullards and buffoons think that Ojukwu can engage in lethal war with the federal government when he does not command any battalion of armed soldiers? These so called PDP members should examine their knowledge of English. I deeply sympathize with them for their ignorance. What is wrong on what Ojukwu said? Anambra people will never change. The bad name we the Igbos have today is because of the people of Anambra. Anambra people don’t have conscience. They don’t have respect for any authority except worshipping ill-gotten money. Andy Uba is going nowhere. This man and his brother made Anambra ungovernable for eight years, now he wants to be the governor of the state. Yet people are supporting him. I wonder the kind of children you people have and their future. (Armed robbers, Kidnappers, drug barons, assassins, etc.). Ojukwu seems to be misunderstood by ex Biafran warlords and PDP. He didn’t call for a civil war. He was only envisioning the implication of a court of appeal ruling against the highest court of the land- Supreme Court. What Ojukwu saw 40 years ago is what is being addressed today. Ojukwu is a visionary. We should stop castigating our very best. We should not equate the issues of the civil war with that of the Niger delta. Finally, let us pray that the Enugu appeal court will deliver good judgement”.
A coalition of Igbo organization under the aegis of Igbo bu Igbo has commended Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu over his vigilance and courage to speak out whenever the country is headed to ruins. In this present instance, the group said that he merely pointed out the supremacy of the Constitution over other laws as the judgements of the Supreme Court are over other courts. They particularly thanked him for pointing out to the hearing of everybody, the dangerous rumour pertaining to the judiciary which most people heard but nobody had the courage to speak out. They observed that critics, rather than face the real issue of the supremacy of the Constitution which he raised are playing to the gallery, trying to whittle down the impact of his submission by reference to the civil war.
In a release entitled Igbo People and the Call to Vigilance, signed by its President, Benjamin Uloka and Secretary, Johnson Offor, the group said that like other Ojukwu’s utterances in the past, that nothing was controversial in what he said, that people only went ahead because it was Ojukwu to read controversy into it. What our father did was just to caution everybody in Nigeria, including the Judiciary from taking action that will engulf the nation in crisis. He should rather be commended for his pacifism.
Arguing that those speaking against the Ojukwu were nobodies in Igbo land, the group said: “look at them, starting from Professor Ilochi Okafor, I. G Abana, Ugochukwu Uba, P.C Agu, Rev. Canon Chris Orajekwe, Ebenezer Ikeyina and their likes, would they be allowed to enter the meeting where Igbo interest is discussed?”
Further, the Group insisted that if what Ojukwu said was detrimental to Igbo progress, which is unthinkable considering his antecedents, that the likes of Chukwumerijes, Ben Obis and other worthy Igbo sons would have commented on that and not what the group described as “the passing comments of political jobbers, mostly members of Andy Uba’s campaign organization, whose only interest is Andy Uba becoming the Governor any how, without due process, because he will allow them access.”
The group warned that they would no longer take on kindly on Igbo saboteurs, who, according to them, behave like little demons without respect for the holy water, which they explained: as little rascals, these saboteurs, do not have respect for the foremost Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
This writer has an advice here: Andy Uba can wait till 2014 to submit himself to another gubernatorial election, as of now, there’s no vacancy till then, he shouldn’t waste his time and money contesting against Peter Obi this time around; he has no chance, Peter Obi will cruise to victory in 2010 election as long as the election would be free and fair. Not Andy Uba, not even Soludo or any other candidate can defeat Peter Obi, if the people’s votes are allowed to count; Peter Obi has worked for his state, he deserves re-election, he’s the best Igbo governor presently and nothing or nobody’s going to stop him now.
Andy Uba shouldn’t waste his time and money (the source is still unclear) bribing the judges of the appeal court in order to influence their decision, because such would never stand. Should for any reason those judges rule in his (Andy Uba) favour, Ojukwu, as the head of his party (APGA) would lead the “judicial war” to the Supreme Court to overturn that judgment! That’s the kind of war Ojukwu was referring to in that interview he granted recently.
This writer hopes the judges handling these two cases (Andy Uba and Ibori’s) would not render justice to the highest bidders; this writer hopes they are not putting up justice for sale, but rather would base their judgment on the tenets of the law supported by evidence/facts.
To be continued
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