By Obiora Ifoh
The expectation in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is that its candidate for the 2023 presidential election may come from the north, however the reality will be clearer after the national convention of the party which is expected to hold in October. This is because a lot other party leaders are of the opinion that for the interest of equity and justice, the South-East should produce the presidential candidate of the party, being the only major ethnic zone yet to occupy Aso Rock since the present dispensation. Another school of thought also thinks that the North East should be allowed to produce the candidate. This is because no other zone in the North can boast of more membership of the PDP than the zone. It also has an added advantage of being a zone three out of six state governors.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner was the last president from the PDP to have occupied the presidency and the Northern elements in PDP are strongly contending that the zoning should be in their favour. This is not withstanding the fact that the present occupant, President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner is on his second lap of eight year tenure.
PDP has however said that for the party to have any chances of retrieving power soonest, it will not be restricting the candidacy to any zone and that it is throwing open the contest to all zones of the federation.
By tradition of the party, the national chairman of the PDP and its presidential candidate should follow the North/South understanding of power equation. The implication is that if for instance, the PDP elects a national chairman from the South, the North will be expected to produce the party’s presidential candidate, and vice-versa. It is however safe to assume that the permutation on the zoning will have a clearer perspective after the October convention.
But not withstanding the contestation and debates, a good number of aspirants have already shown more than cursory interest towards the exalted office. Though as usual, there will certainly be contenders and pretenders but at least about five top contenders have so far emerged. Among them are Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; the North. And from the South are former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed came into prominence in 2007 with his election into the Senate to represent the Bauchi South senatorial district. He was a leader of the Unity Forum, a group of senators that mobilised support for the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan during the protracted infirmity of late President Umaru Yar’Adua. The Bala group had mounted a support campaign for Jonathan against the backdrop of opposition perceived to have been inspired by a cabal within Yar ‘Adua’s kitchen cabinet. Jonathan eventually became President after Yar ‘Adua’s death in 2010. He appointed Bala Mohammed as Minster of the Federal Capital Territory.
As a minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Jonathan administration, Bala had gained tremendous experience as an consummate administrator who was exposed to international politics as the Mayor of Abuja whose duty also included welcoming all diplomatic corps and personalities and in which most cases he personally honoured some of them with diplomatic citizenship.
After a four-year break, he contested for the governorship in 2019 on the platform of the PDP and won the election. He also the PDP committee charged with a responsibility to review the factors that led to the party’s loss in the 2019 election and to make recommendations for the way forward.
In his early 60s, Bala’s ambition is gaining traction, but the governor has not confirmed or denied rumours in the media space linking him to the 2023 race but a Bala presidency is certainly one project that will fly should he throw his hat into the ring.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is one Nigerian who has shown his thirst for the presidency since the inception of the present dispensation. Atiku played key roles in the enthronement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 whom he served as his vice. Efforts by Atiku to climb into Aso Rock as substantive leader have repeatedly failed.
First he contested under the AC ticket in 2007 but lost to the late Umaru Yar’Adua who ran on the platform of the PDP. Atiku returned to the PDP shortly after Yar ‘Adua’s death and struggled in vain for the party’s presidential ticket in 2011.
Jonathan picked the PDP ticket and went ahead to win the election. In 2013, he joined many other prominent PDP bigwigs to dump the PDP for the then newly formed mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He lost the party ticket in 2015 to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP, though he picked the party’s ticket but he lost again to Buhari in the 2019 general election.
Though, he had been away from Nigeria for what he claimed was for academic reasons but he has since returned and is seen playing host to his numerous supporters, visiting states and participating in most party activities lately. Born November 25, 1946, Atiku will be 77 in 2023, a factor that may militate against his presidential ambition. Though he has not made his political intentions public, but it is believed that with his huge political capital and financial war-chest, Atiku will definitely attempt for the ‘last’ time to hit the bull at the eyes.
Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto State Governor may turn out to be one of the strongest contenders in the race for the party ticket. He has been able to maintain a relatively baggage free outlook in his political career so far. His conciliatory approach to politics has continued to endear him to many stakeholders in the opposition party.
Widely perceived to be temperate and level headed, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives has continued to build political bridges across the six geopolitical zone right from his days in the federal legislature. Seen by his colleagues in the PDP Governors Forum as a team player, the 55 years old Tambuwal’s contribution to the relative stability in the PDP may count for him when the chips are down.
As chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Tambuwal, who is currently serving his second and final term as governor, is seen by many of his compatriots as a stickler for objectivity in all situations. Under his leadership, the PDP Governors Forum has become a force to reckon with in tackling the ruling APC over its obvious poor performance and the administration’s abysmal failure to tame the hydra headed security challenges ravaging the land. He has also played a key role in steadying the turbulent wave of crisis in the PDP, a situation which is currently threatening the ones famous umbrella.
Tambuwal started his political career as a member of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the PDP before he emerged as Speaker in 2011. He was a member of a group of disgruntled chieftains that formed the “rebel” nPDP that defected to the APC in 2013. He got elected governor in 2015 on the platform of the APC but dumped the ruling party and returned to the PDP in 2018 alongside a few others who defected to the APC about the same time. He joined the race for the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2018, but came second, losing the slot to Atiku. He sought re-election as governor in 2019 and got re-elected for a second term. Should he become a candidate of the party in 2023, he will certainly be a huge thorn in the flesh of other opposition parties.
Bukola Saraki was a two term governor of Kwara State and was elected the President of the Senate in 2015. Very influential politicians having been tutored by his father Olusola Saraki, a second Republic Senate leader.
His political influence was however dented during the 2019 general election where his political leadership in the state was challenged. He lost election to the APC, a party he once funded after he joined other political rebels in 2013 in PDP to form nPDP.
However, Saraki is from North Central, another zone yet to taste the presidency since 1999. In 2019, Saraki also contested for the presidential ticket in PDP but lost to Atiku. He has remained a visible force in the party and is currently charing various reconciliatory committees in PDP. His eyes are nevertheless still on the ball. He will likely attempt to seek the ticket to vie for the presidency.
Another potential candidate for the PDP presidential ticket is Peter Obi, the former Anambra state governor who was the PDP’s Vice presidential candidate in the 2019 general election. Along with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the candidate of the PDP, Obi showed his classy touch in governance particularly as it concerns the solutions to the economic quagmire, Nigeria has been grappling with in the recent.
Born in 1961, Obi graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1980 with a degree in Philosophy. He spent better parts of his life in the board rooms of many companies and conglomerates. He was elected governor of Anambra State under the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu led-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) where he spent eight years and seven months as the governor. He was sworn in as governor of Anambra State on 17 March 2006. However, on 2 November 2006, he was impeached after seven months in office. He took the matter to court, he won and was reinstated on 9 February 2007.
Another election took place in 2007, that brought in Andy Uba. Obi went to court to argue that he didn’t complete his four-year tenure, the court agreed with him and said his tenure ought to end on March 2010. After his dramatic first term, Obi contested for the position of governorship again and won a second term in office, which ended on 7th of March 2014. He left APGA for the PDP but not after he had succefully worked for the emergence of Willy Obiano as his successor in Anambra.
He was later appointed the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission by former President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015. He remained very influential and probably the best ever presidential material from the South East. He is reputed to be the only governor in the history of Nigeria that left billions of naira in the coffers of the government, and without putting the state into debt. He ran a frugal administration and built a reputation for himself as a politician who would rather work for his people than engage in primitive acquisition of wealth for which most of his colleagues have been accused of. It was that quality that endered him to Atiku in 2019 and the qualities will certainly speak for him should the presidency be zoned to the South East.
Enugu state governor, Hon. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (popularly known as “Gburugburu”) was born 20 March 1964. He was first elected to the House of Representatives of Nigeria in 2003 where he served as Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport. A third term Reps, who later contested and won the governorship election in 2015 under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He is currently in his second term in office.
Under his leadership, Enugu state has achieved tremendous transformation in the area of rural development where he commissioned several landmarks and legacy projects- projects that impact directly on the people. Never before in the history had the state witnessed so much tranquility, a situation where all political actors had to subsume their interests all for the greater good of the state.
Because Enugu city still holds the honour of being capital of the South East zone, the governor has however continued to play prominent roles in the South-East politics where he is incidentally not just a unifying decimal but also played the chief host in several meetings where the issues concerning the zone are decided.
This calm, resourceful, humane, agile, dynamic and development driven governor most often prefered not to be seen or heard but most assuredly has proved to be factor in the quest for a united Ndigbo. In spite of the political and ideological differences of most governors and leaders in the state, Ugwuanyi has continued to exhibit a unique personality as someone who appears not politically ambitious or hungry for power. He is also seen in quaters as not being flamboyant, and as a colourless politician, however, it appears that these qualities are turning out to be his strengths on which it is being speculated that he could be the best presidential material from the South East. Like every other possible aspirants, Governor Ugwuanyi has not made any pronouncement on his future ambition but when he eventually does, he will certainly be a strong contender and will certainly not lack support from the South-East.
Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim was born on February 19, 1961 and after his law degree, he became the Head of Protection Department at the National Commission for Refugees, Abuja, in 1992, a job that included the provision of legal services and political protection for refugees. In this capacity he traveled to various parts of the world.
As the political impulse flowered, in 1998, he joined the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and won a Senate election.
However, the death of General Sani Abacha on June 8 of that year nullified the result. During the transitional regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, he joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and again ran successfully for election to the Senate in 1999. Anyim took office in the Senate in May 1999, and was elected President of the Senate in August 2000, after Chuba Okadigbo was impeached. He creditably held the office until May 2003.
With remarkable foresight, he did not seek reelection in 2003 – correctly reading the political barometer at the period. He was appointed by former President, Goodluck Jonathan to head the Centenary celebration of the proclamation of Nigeria as a nation by colonial Britain. In January 2010, he led a delegation of 41 eminent Nigerians that called on President Umaru Yar’Adua to urgently transmit a letter of his incapacitation to the National Assembly to salvage the nation’s democracy from danger. This willy-nilly led to the Senate passing a resolution on February 9, 2010, to make Vice President Goodluck Jonathan Acting President. In May 2011, he was appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by President Jonathan.
Though Anyim left the scene after Jonathan left office in 2015 but he has continued to play an elder statesman’s role for the common good and sustainable development of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a whole. He is no less a child of providence, wielding influence with alluring humility and exemplary focus. He has spoken and continues to speak to both regional and national uncertainties and fears, with courage and conviction. It is also rumoured that he harbours presidential ambition.
Obiorah is an Abuja based journalist.
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President Buhari, How Far?
By Ehi Braimah
This will be the first time I’m engaging President Muhammadu Buhari directly since he assumed office in 2015 on key national issues. Mr President, I know you love Nigeria as much as I do but how do you want to be remembered after leaving office? I know for sure you will retire to Daura but what legacy do you wish to leave behind?
Recently, you said Nigeria must remain as one country in spite of our challenges. I agree with you sir because we do not have any other country to call our own. For the avoidance of doubt, let me state that Nigeria is a great country but we have refused to rise to our full potential like the true giant of Africa that we are.
Who should take the blame? I think the comprehensive failure of leadership at all levels is responsible. Nigerians, too, are part of the problem.
Our own Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, says he is very passionate about making Nigeria great. That is where I also stand. My next book is titled, “How Naija can conquer the world”, with the foreword written by Al Ries, an award-winning author and one of the world’s best-known marketing strategists. He lives in Atlanta, USA.
Each time I watch Dangote on television, he says Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources, yet we continue to import petroleum products. I’m sure this was what motivated him to build the biggest refinery in the world that has the capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
All over the world, Nigerians are doing great things in different fields. See how Tobi Amusan, Ese Brume and others shone like a million stars recently, putting Nigeria on the world map in their extraordinary performances at sporting events in Oregon, USA and Birmingham, UK. We must continue to engage them and promote their endeavours.
Apart from having the largest economy in Africa, we are also the most populous country in Africa with over 210 million people. Currently, available population data indicates that Nigeria is number six in the world after China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Pakistan. Let’s not forget that Nigeria is also the most populous black nation in the world, and by 2050, it is being projected that Nigeria will become the third most populous nation in the world, after China and India, with over 400 million people.
Mr President, before we interrogate the issues that are weighing me down, I’m happy to note that you insisted on genuine electoral reforms that will protect our democracy. It is a milestone achievement that has started building trust between Nigerians and the electoral process.
You will be remembered for the electoral act 2022. Congratulations, sir. To your credit, you played the role of a neutral umpire during the off-season elections; it did not matter whether your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was the winner or not.
In the gubernatorial elections in Edo, Ekiti and Osun states, you insisted that the elections must be free and fair. In fact, you also promptly issued congratulatory messages to the winners. I commend you because that is the true spirit of sportsmanship; you acted like an elder, father and statesman.
There was also the petroleum industry bill which you signed into law. I salute you for seeing the process to the end, knowing fully well that the bill had gathered enough cobwebs to last a lifetime in the closets of the national assembly. Again, congratulations sir.
With the petroleum industry act (PIA), NNPC is now a private and commercial enterprise that is no longer tied to the apron strings of the federal government. Because of its independence, NNPC Limited will operate like Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian public petroleum and gas company based in Dhahran founded in 1933, and Petrobas, the Brazilian multinational corporation in the petroleum industry, founded in 1953.
Saudi Aramco reported that it earned $89 billion profit in the first half of 2022, a 90% increase from $47.2 billion, the profit earned last year during the same period. This is clearly a windfall arising from the rising price of oil in the global market.
From the examples of Saudi Aramco and Petrobas, the new NNPC will enhance inter-disciplinary control, foster unity and build capacity for sustainable development in the oil and gas industry. During the launch of NNPC Limited in Abuja, Mele Kyari, the company’s CEO, spoke with confidence and assured Nigerians that old things have passed away.
Indeed, NNPC declared a profit after tax of N287 billion two years ago. That would be the first profit after 44 years of existence for an organisation known for making losses. Kudos to you, Mr President, for this positive outcome. In the past, NNPC had a bad reputation for poor corporate governance amplified by undue political interferences.
Mr President, you showed that you are an advocate of the rule of law recently. After approving that Seplat can purchase ExxonMobil shares, you reversed yourself as minister of petroleum resources in the spirit of the petroleum industry act which now vests such powers in the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) headed by Gbenga Komolafe.
The federal government and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited are in joint venture agreements in several oil mining licenses through the NNPC and the petroleum industry is regulated by PIA. It means there are laws governing the sale of shares and assets by industry players because we are talking about a fully regulated industry. Although the matter is in court, the position right now is that ExxonMobil has been denied the authority to sell until certain issues are sorted out.
By the way, it appears most commentators are confusing shares sale with assets sale; these are two different things entirely. Keen observers would have noticed that ExxonMobil has not commented on the matter which says a lot about the whole drama that played out recently.
Mr President, the following talking points should also interest you because, in my reckoning, they signpost significant failures under your leadership. There is no reason why the ASUU strike which began on February 14 should drag on for more than one week without consequences. The entire process has been poorly managed and I don’t know why the ministers responsible for education and labour have not been fired.
With the general elections in view, APC will have a big problem with university teachers, parents and students. They are unhappy and it is a bad omen for the ruling party. Read the lips of ASUU president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, carefully to understand that the ASUU strike is a “struggle” that has received the full support of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
What the federal government has done is pass a vote of no confidence on public educational institutions in Nigeria simply because you cannot find the children of “big men” schooling in Nigeria. Even your two weeks deadline for the crisis to be resolved, Mr President, did not materialise! So where do we go from here, Mr President?
There must be a strong commitment from both parties for the strike to be called off. The solution is to be creative about the funding process of universities and other public schools; it is obvious that government alone cannot provide all the funds needed.
Six months is a long time for students to be at home doing nothing, after losing one academic session to the ASUU strike two years ago. I noticed that more private universities are being approved and licensed even when public tertiary institutions are closed down. What is the wisdom in that?
I will not bore you with details of the deplorable security situation in the country because you receive briefings regularly. However, the war economy boomed with egregious corruption under your watch and kidnapping has become a thriving industry, grossing billions of naira. In spite of your assurances and several security meetings, people are worried about their safety; there’s so much uncertainty.
The other day, Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna state governor, informed you in a memo that terrorists have set up a parallel government in the state. Can you imagine their audacity? Are we then saying terrorists are winning the battle and gaining the upper hand? El-Rufai’s counterparts in Niger and Benue states, Abubakar Sani Bello and Samuel Ortom respectively, had previously raised alarms of similar magnitude.
To be honest with you sir, achievements recorded with rail infrastructure were reversed in full by the kidnap incident on the Kaduna–Abuja train service. Although most of the victims have been released, the memories of the traumatic experience by the survivors and their families will not go away for a long time.
From all indications, we do not seem to have any clue as to when the reign of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and unknown gunmen will end.
Sometimes, journalists are accused of “overreporting” our security challenges. Mr President, this is not true because you can be sure there are stories journalists who are also briefed regularly on security matters in Abuja don’t report.
It would appear you are always unwilling to wield the big stick even when it is obvious there has been a complete failure of intelligence or poor performance by your ministers and heads of agencies. Take the case of the Kuje prison attack or when terrorists attacked your convoy and brigade of guards where some military officers were killed.
I know you have less than 10 months to the end of your tenure but the time has come for you to bark and bite at the same time, and, more importantly, learn to adopt the carrot and stick approach. It is an important leadership tool.
When bad petrol was imported into this country early this year, heads did not roll. We were told cock and bull stories by your men while motorists suffered costly damages to their cars. They were also subjected to endless and frustrating fuel queues.
The other matter that has refused to go away and bothers me is the unconscionable theft in the oil industry. Why won’t Nigeria be flat broke when oil thieves are making $1.9 billion every month stealing our oil?
This is a serious tragedy and economic sabotage which began a long time ago – even before you assumed office. But why is it difficult to end the current theft of 400,000 barrels of our oil daily? Who are the thieves? Are they ghosts?
Still on the oil sector, my dear president, why are we spending so much on petrol subsidy? Between January 2017 and June 2022, N4.194 trillion was paid as fuel subsidy to oil marketers. Our economic situation is dire and we now borrow to service our debts. Nigeria’s total revenue in Q1 2022 stood at N1.63 trillion while debt servicing stood at N1.94 trillion, showing a negative variance of over N300 billion. This is a serious matter, sir.
Our total debt stock in the first quarter of 2022 was N41.6 trillion and it may climb to N45 trillion by the end of this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) which borrowed money from us in the past has decried Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio of 76%, saying it is stifling development.
For your information, fuel subsidy is no longer sustainable although the president of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, will not agree. He says we must get our four refineries working before ending fuel subsidy in order not to inflict “too much pain” on Nigerians.
At a time oil prices are going up, Nigeria is not earning the benefit. We are struggling to service our debts with the naira in a free fall.
I concede that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global supply chains and the Russia-Ukraine war has triggered inflationary trends around the world. But the war ought to be an advantage for us to have expanded our oil and gas supply footprints all over the West African market if only our refineries were working. We cannot even meet our OPEC quota of 1.8 million barrels per day. It is a shame! By now, the size of our economy should have been at least $1 trillion.
The moribund refineries are decaying assets that we spend billions of naira on yearly and they are unable to refine one drop of crude oil. The operational expenses at each refinery are top-heavy. Each refinery has a managing director assisted by a senior management team. Once you attain a managerial grade, the pay-off is huge upon resignation or retirement. NNPC is probably the best paying organisation in Nigeria, yet the four refineries are not working.
Your Excellency, it may shock you to know that the staff strength of the four refineries constitutes about 18% of the total number of NNPC employees. Money is spent on staff salaries, operations and maintenance of the refineries that were sold under former President Olusegun Obasanjo but the late President Umaru Yar’Adua reversed the sale.
Apart from acquiring brand new Prado SUVs as they wish, each managing director has two “lead and chase” vehicles – pick-up security vans with six mobile police officers and two drivers escorting the MDs; one van in front and the other behind the Prado SUV. It is the same scenario at all the MDAs where a culture of waste has been entrenched.
It is not too late to review and implement the Stephen Oronsaye committee report that contains 268 recommendations to reduce the cost of governance. We have too much duplication of roles in MDAs, and now that our economy is bleeding, this is the time to summon the political will to implement the report. We can save a lot of money and it will edify your legacy.
Restructuring the country was one of your party’s campaign promises but it was not fulfilled even after Nasir el-Rufai’s committee submitted a comprehensive proposal for implementation. It would have dealt with issues such as fiscal federalism, state police, etc.
The electricity supply is still poor and epileptic. The national grid collapsed six times this year, causing nationwide blackouts. Most businesses and manufacturers depend on generators for light but the cost of diesel has gone through the roof. Life is generally tough due to economic hardships. A litre of kerosene sells for about N800. The price per litre of diesel and aviation fuel has also become unbearable.
One more thing Mr President; a lot of young Nigerians are leaving Nigeria in droves because the story out there is that they have lost hope in our beloved country. We have a duty to make them believe in Nigeria. The popular street slang for those emigrating is “Japa”, and I have heard stories of even adults also seeking greener pastures outside the shores of Nigeria.
Medical doctors and nurses leaving Nigeria are mostly headed to the United Kingdom. In June and July alone, according to media reports, over 260 doctors were licensed to practice in the UK. This brain drain is too much and it should be reversed immediately, Your Excellency.
The good news is that diaspora remittances average about $20 billion a year – a significant inflow that supports our economy but the only challenge is that over 70% is spent on consumption, not productive activities that can create employment and wealth.
Mr President, our healthcare infrastructure is deplorable and it has given rise to mushrooming of private hospitals. Duchess International, Evercare, Nizamiye and Reddington are some of the available high-profile hospitals but how many Nigerians can afford them?
Finally, some Nigerians express concern over your medical vacations in the UK and the matter is discussed freely because the expectation is that as president of Nigeria, you should receive treatment locally even if it means flying the best resources in the world to Abuja.
Thank you, Mr President, for your patience. I hope I did not bore you with my random musings.
I sincerely wish you well. May God bless Nigeria.
Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)
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Painfully Inibehe Effiong May Spend One Month In Prison, No Thanks to Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom, Hon Justice Ekaette Obot
Having tasted detention for over 20 days before in 2019, I do not wish my enemy to lose his or her freedom even for a second. Do not get me wrong, imprisonment has its several advantages including getting closer to God in prayer and reading the holy book with measured concentration. However, the idea that you have lost your liberty even for a second could be very traumatising.
Inibehe Effiong’s journey to Uyo prison is now well documented. Hon Justice Obot, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom was of the firm view that Inibehe’s attitude on the day the matter came up for trial amounted to contempt of court.
In my previous post, I reported the fact that three of the facts that infuriated the Chief Judge were the “audacity” of Mr Inibehe in advising Her Lordship to permit the Premium Times Journalist who was sent out of the court at the instruction of Her Lordship to be allowed to observe the court proceedings since the court is a public place where access is a right.
The second issue was his observation that two armed policeman were brought into the court at the instance of Her Lordship and sat at his back in the course of the proceeding. For pointing that out publicly and seeking a reversal of the act of bringing armed policemen into court by Her Lordship while proceeding was going on, she felt that this also constitutes an affront to her authority and merited contempt in the face of the court.
The third, though not too apparent on the face is the “harmless” Inibehe’s application for Her Lordship to recuse herself having previously delivered judgement in that case in favour of the Plaintiff(Governor Emmanuel Udom) in default of defence before she set it aside. This third one, assuming but not conceding that it amounts to a contempt could only be regarded as contempt ex-facie curiae which attracts a different procedure in trial.
THE MEAT OF THE MATTER.
Two critical issues stand out from the above narration. 1. Could what has happened as narrated constitute contempt in the face of the court? 2. Assuming but not conceding that it amounted to contempt in the face of the court, did Her Lordship follow the time honoured procedures enunciated over time through precedents in trying and convicting Mr Inibehe Effiong Esq for contempt?
Without wasting your time, I go straight to the question number one. The position of the law as enunciated in several cases decided by the courts of appellate jurisdictions is that mere irritation or annoyance to a judge do not amount to contempt.
A judge should be of immense temperate mind and character, tolerant and not descending into the arena. Judges carry their weight with honour and must never condescend low to banter with counsels in court. They must be respected and honoured but not worshipped for they are not GOD. They remain human beings with flesh and blood!
I may not know all the law and God forbid that a lawyer should know all the law, what transpired at the court on the day of conviction(gathered from the account of both Inibehe’s counsels and that of the government) could not have amounted to a contempt. I am sticking out my neck for this.
On the second question, Her Lordship failed in following procedure in trying and convicting Mr Inibehe Effiong.
Again from decided authorities, the proper procedure was for her to have framed the charge therein and ask him to respond to the allegation of contempt. After giving him fair hearing, conviction could take place after he refuses or fails to purge himself of the contempt. From accounts of all parties to the case including the government lawyers, such procedure never took place. What happened was that after Her Lordship felt that Mr Inibehe’s acts were contemptuous of her authority, she proceeded to issue remand warrant without following the time honoured procedure of fair hearing.
She is functious officio for now, no doubt. Only the court of appeal can reverse her conviction. Presently the court of appeal is on vacation for one month or thereabout. I am certain that any application for bail pending appeal before her may be a waste of time. She may be happy to have Inibehe in prison, that maybe well known. She also may not, who knows, but……..
Inibehe will accept the practical reality and redirect his mind to discovering God more in Bible reading and prayers. He will come out of prison stronger, better refined , energized, acclimatised for greater work for humanity. May I whisper to him, this imprisonment will bring national and international glory to him.
Late Gani remains our example in matters like this. Our Gani was criticised, called names, booed and slandered but in death was buried in glory which no Nigerian President whether dead or alive has enjoyed. Inibehe Effiong be strong, you have carved out a name already as a hero in your tender age both physically and at the Bar.
Appeal shall be filed quickly. NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata will give appropriate direction on this and I am sure in few weeks time, we shall know where we are in this matter. As for serving out his term, he may serve it out, going from the feelers I am getting from Akwa Ibom State that the lower court will not grant him any bail pending appeal.
Inibehe Effiong BE STRONG AND DETERMINED. This is part of your history, carry it with grace, the good Lord is certainly with you.
WE LOVE YOU!
Dr M.O. Ubani.
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Inibehe Effiong: When The Bench Is Intimidated By The Popularity Of The Bar…
January 5, 1990, legendary Comrade Richard Akinnola, one of Nigeria’s most prolific judicial encyclopedia, did a report in the Vanguard Newspaper with the headline: “Gani Goes To Jail For Contempt.”
Justice Ligali Ayorinde, then Acting Chief Judge of Lagos State, had sentenced Gani Fawehinmi to jail for 12 months for contempt, because like Barrister Inibehe Effiong asked of the acting Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Gani also asked that Justice Ligali Ayorinde, should recuse himself from the defamation case against him by Col. Haliru Akilu and Lt-Col. A.K. Togun and transfer the case to another judge. That obnoxious decision and intimidation by Justice Ligali Ayorinde, was upturned by the Court of Appeal. Today in Nigeria, I am sure that almost everyone reading this knows who Gani Fawehinmi is and will only be wondering who Ligali Ayorinde was unless for people familiar with a street named after him in Victoria Island, Lagos.
The attempt by some pundits to finger the so called intimidating behaviour of Barrister Inibehe Effiong before Her Lordship in the Uyo High Court is the usual smokescreen employed by reactionary elements to conceal under-the-table deals that they cut with politicians, after meeting their match in the court rooms. It’s not a new thing. Which is why I recalled the Gani Fawehinmi episode.
Repeatedly, the acting Chief Judge of the Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Francesca Fabian Obot, has reportedly cautioned and warned Inibehe in Court over some of his applications and insistence against her decisons. She has also threatened in the past to commit Inibehe to prison. Inibehe, not convinced that his client will get fair judgment from Justice Ekaette, asked her to recuse herself and re-assign the matter to another judge. That’s where issues began to escalate. If the judge was not intimidated by the popularity of Inibehe on Channels TV, she won’t tell counsel that her court is not channels TV or AKBC. The bar’s popularity sure intimidated the bench.
During my own treason trial, the judge handling my trial descended into the arena and Adeyinka Fusika SAN, had a very serious shouting match with the judge in open court. The moment it was clear that the prosecution and the court were always in prior contact before court sittings and when the judge started saying unprintable things to me in the dock in open court; how he can do whatever he wants to do with my life. How I went and brought area boy lawyer from Lagos to come and shout at the court, how he grew up in Lagos too and challenged me to a physical brawl to tell me he also grew up in Lagos, how Gani Fawehinmi walked out on the court like my lawyers did and Ken Saro Wiwa was still sentenced to death and executed and nothing happened etc. It was clear to my lawyers that the judge was biased and needed to hands off my matter but he was reluctant and insisted on a secret trial. The lawyers also had to dig it out with him in his court. Maybe because Inibehe is not yet a SAN like Fusika, he was easily docked and jailed.
I think that it is actually some members of the bench who connive with criminal and vindictive politicians to short change litigants who come to court that bring shame and disrespect to the legal profession the most. It is a settled matter that court decisions can only be challenged in higher courts but when those decisions have not been reached, lawyers must have the liberty to do what ever they can to protect their clients, particularly, where it is clear and obvious that there is biase. Judges are not angels from heaven. They are human beings with all our frailties and we only sin differently and they should also realize that, like them, lawyers are also part of the temple of Justice. If we who stand in the dock cannot speak in the face of intimidation, it will be double tragedy if our lawyers also will be intimated into silence by mere and baseless accusations of wrongful demeanor before a court.
There is no law that forbids electronic recording of court proceedings in Nigeria to the best of my knowledge. I think we should begin to record these proceedings or regularly release CCTV camera recordings of these courts proceedings and make them available for the public on critical matters like these with high political interests and let’s see how we can minimize the encroachment from both ends if any.
Citizen Agba Jalingo.
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