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APC Crisis: Democracy Without Democrats

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APC Crisis: Democracy Without Democrats

By Unoigbokhai Adamu

One Prince Vincent Ogbulafor once predicted few years ago that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the then ruling party, would rule Nigeria for 60 years before the opposition party can have a taste of government. Ogbulafor, who was then the PDP National Chairman was basking in the euphoria of the moment when he foolishly told the world that his party will rule for the next six decades if anyone likes it or not.

Of course, Ogbulafor’s prophesy did not come to pass, his party was beaten at the polls in 2015 by the All Progressive Party (APC). He even became a victim of the same undemocratic process that he superintended with the way he was removed and disgraced from office and forced to face prosecution. Mind you, Ogbulafor is not alone with this crazy mindset, all the PDP chairmen that came before and after him, had the same absurd mentality. The mentality of believing that they can circumvent due process and have their way at all times, not minding the injury it would have on the democratic process. The mentality of imposing candidates on the electorates without circumspection.

Of course, we cannot divorce the undemocratic nature and flagrant abuse of power by leaders of our political parties from the way and manner the military conscripted the politicians to the starting line in 1999 before they blew the whistle. The hurried nature of their disengagement left behind hordes of civilians who were hungry for power without adequate preparation. And by the time they took over power, it suddenly dawned on us that what we had on our hands were mere civilians and not democrats. And since you cannot give what you don’t have, the country and democracy have been the worse for it more than twenty years after.

Just look at the ruling APC and the way its suspended National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has conducted it’s affairs in the last two years. Oshiomhole’s action and utterances have been that of an autocrat, and not that of a leader leading an organisation made up of people with different shades of opinion and ideas. He believes he is superior to the party and he uses every opportunity to send a message that he was not ready to be subservient to the dictates of the party’s constitution and interests of the members. Hence, there is bound to be clash of interests between those who believe that the rules and party’s constitution should be followed and those who are hell-bent in forcing their agenda on the party.

The shenanigans currently playing out in Edo State APC found its roots to the crisis rocking the ruling APC and the attempt by some forces to capture its machineries to consummate their ascendancy as we move closer to 2023. Just as we witnessed in the PDP, where internal democracy was thrown overboard in favour of dictatorial tendencies; where the ruling party’s president can act like a king without minding its effects on the democratic process, is what the ruling APC is now replicating. Methinks they would have learnt their lessons by now with what happened in Zamfara, Rivers and Bayelsa and be more circumspect in making sure that there is level playing field for all interested candidates in any given election.

That was absolutely not the case with the way Oshiomhole’s constituted committee screened out Governor Godwin Obaseki and bended the rules to favour Pastor Osaze Iyamu, his favoured governorship candidate. More worrisome was the way the PDP leadership acted in paving the way for Obaseki to come in disregarding the efforts of its aspirants, many of whom have been campaigning and/or financing party activities in the past three years. Our politicians have been acting as if they have nothing to lose if Rome falls to the Barbarians with the way they have been carrying on. And that is why critics have consistently argued that most of these charlatans are not democrats and that what we have is mere civilian government and not democratic government.

Some pertinent questions that readily come to mind with the special treatment the PDP has been giving Obaseki are: How did the PDP sell forms to the governor 18 days after sales and submission of forms was concluded? On what basis and through what process was he granted a waiver to purchase the forms, be screened and allowed to participate just days before the primaries?

It is extremely laughable that the erstwhile peaceful Edo State PDP is about to set itself up for needless acrimony and instability through potential contentions and litigations when there was absolute no need to.

From accounts available, three aspirants had been on the campaign trail for over one year following the laid down guidelines set by the party, selling their candidature and basically securing their delegates, until these recent unwise actions of the party leadership. One can imagine their shock at the strange turn of events over the past one week since the unholy marriage between the governor and the national leadership of the party; an alliance that is presently heavily pregnant with crisis and internal conflicts and will spell doom for the Edo State PDP should the delivery be allowed to happen.

With the alleged on-going altering and substitution of the earlier circulated delegates list to illegally accommodate the agents of the governor, it is safe to say the same multitude of litigations that chased the governor from his former house has been introduced to the PDP. How else can a group on self-destruct be described?

It is left to be seen the actions that will be taken by the aspirants if the governor is allowed to succeed in his present trend of bulldozing his way into getting the PDP ticket and seizing the party structure of the PDP. But one thing is certain, the PDP stands the risk of losing its opportunity to field a candidate in the coming elections if it continues in its ways. With a section of the APC threatening to take the PDP to court if it fields Obaseki; the litany of litigations the governor is involved in presently; the situation surrounding his disqualification and resignation from the APC; and the issues with his academic credentials, and the possible resistance through legal means any attempt by the PDP national leadership to force the governor’s ambition on the party, this scenario portends grave dangers than it’s being considered in the PDP.

It is even more laughable that prominent governors of the party and leaders are putting pressure on the three aspirants to step down for Obaseki, instead of preaching for a level playing primary contest to enable the PDP members in Edo chose the best person who in their opinion is best qualified and prepared to carry the governorship flag. This to me should be the bottom-line and point of departure that will enable the party win the September election. Anything less would be courting for disaster.

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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

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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……..

WAY FORWARD.

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!

Your Comrade,
Dr M.O. Ubani.

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Inibehe Effiong: When The Bench Is Intimidated By The Popularity Of The Bar…

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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.


Yours sincerely,

 


Citizen Agba Jalingo.

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Surprise Birthday Bash For Mike Awoyinfa At 70

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By Ehi Braimah

Birthdays are special moments in our lives, and depending on our respective circumstances, we mark them in different ways. But when your children plan and execute a surprise party for you to celebrate a unique milestone, you could easily betray your emotions.

Every surprise party is a disguise and the organisers are required to keep sealed lips. It may come across as a dream initially but surprise parties are “coups” planned by family, friends or colleagues – or a combination of the three groups. I have also been part of a few surprise parties.

Once you are ushered into the venue of the party and see the extent of preparation and the people who knew about the party but were not “careless” enough to drop any hint, a sense of shock suddenly envelopes you. The element of surprise gradually unravels in the mind of the celebrant.

This was what happened to Mike Awoyinfa, one of Nigeria’s finest journalists, who turned 70 years old last Saturday. He witnessed the unveiling of his surprise party with 70 “gbosas”. Awoyinfa does not look any inch near 70 years (Baba 70) with his boyish looks; he could pass as 55 years old and fit as a fiddle. Not many people know that our celebrant is a fitness freak; he does not miss his daily exercise routine.

Awoyinfa – popularly called Mike by his colleagues – is a gifted prose master, prolific writer, brilliant author and consummate biographer. His children – with the active connivance and support of their mother, Olubukola – organised a surprise birthday party for him in Lekki, Lagos.

Although born in Ghana, Mike is a very private person from Ijebu-Ijesa in Osun state. He is gentle, soft-spoken and generally likes to mind his business, except for the news business. Mike has three children who are now big boys. They are Babajide, the eldest, followed by a set of twins – Taiwo and Kehinde. They hatched the plan for the surprise party with their mother and Eric Osagie – journalist and publisher of This Nigeria newspaper – who worked with Mike at the Concord Press.

The party was not loud but all the boxes for an enjoyable soiree were ticked by the organisers and event planner. There was enough to eat and drink. When Babajide sent out the invitation cards electronically, he pleaded that the birthday was a surprise and his Dad was not aware of it. Guests were required to be seated by 3.00pm just before the celebrant would arrive.

As he took the elevator up to the fourth floor where the party was held, Mike was still not sure what the hell was going on. His wife – who knew every detail of the surprise party – was right beside him as they were ushered into the expansive hall and welcomed with a birthday song by the excited audience.

Mike was instantly overwhelmed. He could not believe his eyes. He was thrilled by the demonstration of love and goodwill and awed by the ambience and props used in the welcoming backdrop in the foyer. They included an enlarged family portrait of Mike, his wife, children and grandchildren and a collection of his writings which were neatly arranged to tease guests as they arrived.

There was also a photograph of only Mike and his three boys, spotting white shirts over blue jeans. As an editor, a typical tabloid headline for Weekend Concord in his heydays would have been: ‘Mike and his bodyguards’.

Our celebrant is a journalist’s journalist who can easily be described as one of the most influential journalists of all time in the same class as Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Christiane Amanpour, Edward Murrow, Tim Russert, Hunter Thompson, and Walter Cronkite.

At the party, media practitioners which included his colleagues at the defunct National Concord and The Sun flocked together and exchanged the usual cheerful friendliness. Segun Osoba, John Momoh, Dele Momodu, Tunji Bello, Dare Babarinsa, Shola Oshunkeye, Tony Onyima, Louis Odion and Wale Sokunbi graced the occasion chaired by elder statesman and former president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, Goodie Ibru.

Everyone who spoke described Mike as a good man and accomplished journalist. I can testify that our celebrant is indeed a great mind and wordsmith who is always in front of his computer doing what he knows best; writing.

From being a reporter and national correspondent to becoming features editor of National Concord, Mike shone like a million stars in the journalism firmament. When a reporter gives him a good copy, he would scream and dance in the newsroom.

But when Mike, according to Tunji Bello, a former colleague at National Concord and Lagos state commissioner for environment, yawns and says “aah”, know he will not publish your story. Mike and his colleagues were able to package “human interest” stories and turned them into an attraction for readers of National Concord.

This was why Weekend Concord edited by Mike was launched and it became the highest-selling title in the Concord stable at the time. Every Saturday, Weekend Concord sold over 500,000 copies, also making it the best-selling newspaper in Nigeria.

Osagie used the opportunity of the surprise party to respond to Femi Adesina, presidential spokesperson and former colleague at the Concord Press and The Sun Publishing Company. He disclaimed Adesina’s charge which was a joke. “Mike and I are not ‘iniquity’ men,” he declared, firing back at Adesina. Again, it was only a joke to make us laugh. However, Osagie confessed that after work on his way home, he used to hop into Mike’s car and they would end up at a bar at Egbeda in Lagos.

The urge to sip a few drinks was always there after a long day at work. The hustle and bustle that Lagos is known for was also a reason to unwind and relax. “Those moments inspired big story ideas for the weekend newspaper,” Osagie told everyone at the party.

It did not matter that the newsroom moved elsewhere and that the discussions were assisted with beer and pepper soup. What was important was that Mike’s screaming headlines sold Weekend Concord the following Saturday. That was how Weekend Concord became the King of tabloids, an idea that Mike also birthed at The Sun.

Once you give Mike a book as a gift, you have made his day because he would thank you and pray for you. A few years back, I browsed through the collection at a bookstore at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Then I grabbed two copies of ‘Burn the Business Plan’ written by Carl Schramm, a professor at Syracuse University, New York and a leading author in expeditionary economics.

I sent Mike a copy of the book as soon as I landed in Lagos. He was excited and grateful when he called to thank me. As a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Benin, I enjoyed the writings of some journalists including Mike and I wanted to write like them. His prose is always elegant and flowery, and you could literally smell the scent of roses in his articles.

Our paths later crossed when I sent a proposal for an entertainment newspaper to the late Sunny Emmanuel Ojeagbase, my first employer in Lagos and publisher of Complete Sports, whom we fondly called SO. As it turned out, SO invited Mike and Dimgba Igwe (of blessed memory).

Mike and Dimgba were known to everyone as twin brothers before his death eight years ago. With three partners and investors on board, we launched Entertainment Express on July 1, 2011, and it was published every Friday. Six months later on Sunday, December 4, we added Sunday Express, published every Sunday.

After nearly four years, we rested the papers because digital media had changed the way news was consumed. We decided to cut our losses and move on after investing over N80 million in the project.

Babajide was the chief planner of the party and he is Mike’s first child. “Our Dad is a quiet, easy-going gentleman and he’s the best daddy in the world,” Babajide said, smiling. He was excited that the secret was kept until the final moment even though he feared his mother could expose their plan mistakenly. Thankfully, it did not happen.

“Our Daddy is kind and he wanted the best for us. He sacrificed everything he had to send us to school. We also wanted to put a smile on his face on his 70th birthday. However, he did not beat us when we were younger but when he was angry or not happy, there was a way he would talk to us and we would get his message,” he added.

My father is always in front of his laptop, reading, writing or transcribing materials. He encouraged us to also write when he asked us to keep a daily diary of events. After reviewing what we wrote, he would give a gift to the best writer. Most of the time, Taiwo was always the winner.

“That was how he sharpened our writing skills,” Babajide, a political science and international relations graduate of Covenant University, said. “My Dad has a rich library and he is always buying books”.

According to him, Taiwo, his younger brother, once finished a Harry Porter novel of over 600 pages in three days.

When Mike’s children asked him what he wanted for his 70th birthday including an offer of a car gift, he said he just wanted the family to be together so that he could share the moment with his four grandchildren who are girls – one each from Babajide and Taiwo, and two from Kehinde.

As Babajide explained, the surprise party was to appreciate and celebrate their father whom they adore.

By the way, Mike loves music and boxing and he can also write great copies on these subjects. He is also a Chelsea FC supporter (the blue corner) whereas I’m an Arsenal FC fan (the red corner). In a pre-season friendly after Mike’s birthday bash, Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 4 0.

This was not the kind of birthday gift Mike was hoping for from his favourite English premiership team but no points are awarded; that should be enough consolation.

At 70 years old, Mike is not tired and I’m not aware he has retired from writing. May the ink in his pen continue to flow.

Without mincing words, Mike is a distinguished Nigerian who deserves to be garlanded with national honours for his extraordinary achievements. As a journalist, our birthday celebrant constantly writes and advocates for a better Nigeria.

Anyway, just know that you are a leader and mentor to your numerous fans and admirers.

Happy birthday sir! Congratulations and best wishes always.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)

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