Monday, October 15, 2007

Anambra State Fermented Crises; President Obasanjo’s Dilemmas

Tuesday, 14 December 2004
As the crises in Anambra State ferments and festers, many things have changed as many of the same things remain the same. And the key questions to be asked and answered are, whether Nigerians have sufficient patience for the often enervating and arduous processes that are true democracy’s demands? Further, whether Nigerians are willing to allow due process, the rule of law and the Nigerian constitution become our guide the determination and the ultimate arbiter of individual and group rights or privileges.

The rules of democracy can at times be painfully slow or even tortuous, the wheels of justice grinds, frequently, very deliberately and this can cause the most patient of persons to be tempted to resort to animal and primordial instincts of self-help vigilantism, also known as taking the laws into your own hands.

When the story of the apparent criminal conspiracies between Chris Uba and Chris Ngige first broke in 2003, I wrote a series of article, among which were, This Is A Moral Issue, What Does President Obasanjo Stand To Gain From The Anambra Crises and …Anambra State Parochial Interests Versus Nigerian National Interests? in them, described the legal and equitable constraints facing any objective arbiter who attempts a resolution of the issues in dispute between the two Chris of Anambra State….Since then, so much more have transpired, but nothing much have altered the enigmatic nature or the Catch-22 faced by anyone who attempts to broker peace between the dramatis personae.

We have two men, one a medical doctor, with extensive formal education, an avowed Christian who swore and signed a “contract” at a non-Christian Shrine, he who apparently conspired with the other man, who is a successful businessperson, without extensive formal education, but instead, money and political savvy and immeasurable “connections”

And Since the inception of the crises in our beloved Anambra State, too many people have blamed it on Mr. Obasanjo, who was accused and pointed to, as the instigator in-chief and may be because Mr. Obasanjo appear aloof, at least, at some point, albeit, providing more nuance to an already complicated crises; But who can blame the president for saying the immorality and confession of Dr. Ngige, soiled Ngige’s hands, depriving Ngige of presidential help or the benefits of presidential clout and legal protection there-from. We have now learnt that personal revulsion and repulsion, was reason, that it does appear now, that the Anambra State House of Assembly, properly accepted Ngige’s resignation, because they knew, all along, what the president has just revealed to the rest of us.
Some have promptly suggested that President Obasanjo ought to have promptly caused Ngige and Uba to be arrested or detained, but, how can anyone suggest that the president ought to order the arrest of Dr. Ngige, who still has immunity? Who for past one year has caused a raging national debate to be had in both political cum legal sense, as to whether or not he had properly resigned? And further, whether the Anambra House of Assembly properly accepted his numerous resignation(s) He remains the declared winner of an “election” as he remains the “governor” He has to be properly removed or impeached.

Many Nigeria clearly do not understand President Obasanjo who is unfairly criticized for actions and his subsequent aloofness; and more actions? Some Nigerians surely find Mr. Obasanjo enigmatic, even as they describe him as having good intentions, infused with self-righteous; But we must ask, what is a democrat to do? A democrat follows the law, which encompasses, the rules and due process, the rule of law and the constitutions and this is what Mr. Obasanjo have done in the circumstances, including some pragmatic steps in between.

Only the House of Assembly of a state in Nigeria is authorized or empowered by the constitution of Nigeria to impeach or remove a governor; A ruling of duly constituted election tribunal or court, upon hearing a petition which may be presented by an aggrieved party to an election dispute, are among such other instances. President Obasanjo does not fit any of these constitutionally mandated categories, Obasanjo is neither Anambra State House of Assembly or an election tribunal with a proper petition and it is illegal and unconstitutional for him to turn himself into any of these, or the judge, jury and executioner all in one, because he is the constitutional president of Nigeria.. Nigeria incidentally has a constitution that enshrines states’ rights, separation of powers, all of which abhors dictatorial powers, and nzogbu~nzogbu or gra~gra arbitrariness reminiscent of the military era politics, where governors can be sacked by the president!

Mr. Obasanjo had the misfortune of being the unwitting recipient of confessions by two dishonorable men, two criminal conspirators as alleged, but the confessions were not in writing, not on tape audio/video, the confessions were bereft of solid hard evidence that could meet evidentiary requirements or legal muster and legal tests… and as we have heard, Ngige has promptly and gleefully denied ever making any confessions or admissions of being part of any fraudulent elections! This, soon after, Obasanjo had let the public know about these confessions; Just imagine, if Obasanjo had dragged Uba and Ngige to any tribunal, court or the SSS as was suggested by some? Where is the evidence?
Uba and Ngige have motives to deny ever making such statements and Obasanjo have, at best, dry-as-dust spurious verbal evidence, which he can swear to, on his honor. Would the president or his law enforcement agents have had to torture them to sign the confessions?
Let us contrast this with the president’s recommendation to Plateau State House of Assembly regarding Dariye, Where Obasanjo and Nigeria apparatus of government have allegedly amassed hard and solid evidence, where EFCC and ICPC were said to be in the know of what the British Police as in, London Metropolitan Police is connected and involved in investigation financial improprieties or money laundering perhaps, against Dariye who still faces inquiries with law enforcements in Nigeria and England, but all these, even though sounds like overwhelming evidence, the Plateau law makers have ignored/rejected with a not in-my-backyard arguments. Nigerians must start the war on corruption outside the precincts of our compatriots in Plateau State?Some Nigerians in their haste to ridicule Mr. Obasanjo in their criticisms, appear to want to have both sides of these arguments!
Mr. Obasanjo is not running a military government he could not have carried out the arrest of Dr. Ngige, because the latter confessed to election fraud with Mr. Uba.; Besides, what would some people have said, had Mr. Obasanjo acted arbitrarily, because of these confessions by Ngige and Uba? Mr. Obasanjo, has also sufficiently detailed his transparent actions! Flawed and imperfect elections were had in Nigeria in 2003, but PDP being declared winner, overall, did not hinge on the singular elections result from Anambra StateHow then, can we legitimately argue that Mr. Obasanjo may not have won the presidency, because Ngige in fact confessed to haven lost Anambra (was governorship election held on the same day as the presidency?) could Mr. Obasanjo have won and PDP lost the governorship election to APGA or even AD?Too many Nigerians have engaged in extraordinary extrapolations to conclude that Obasanjo did not arrest and prosecute Uba/Ngige, because of his self-interest or because it is said, if PDP did not win Anambra State, that translates into an end result, indicating that Obasanjo did not win re-elections! Too many postulations based on some spurious extensions.It is the case that the election outcome in Anambra State would not have changed the overall outcome for the presidency, because, as it can be recalled, PDP won 26 or 29 States out of the 36 States in Nigeria. PDP had a super majority, regardless of whether or not, Anambra State was a battle-ground state, it was not key to electoral victory at the presidential level, it was not a win breakerWhat we have just learned regarding Anambra State, calls for sober reflections and if anything, the president has demonstrated that it was his sense of morality, discipline, law and the constitution of Nigeria, that informed his initial reactions to Ngige/Uba confessions and then aloofness and subsequent engagements with the crises dramatis personae in order to effect amicable resolutions and it is clear, that, out of deference, the president did not speak out sooner.Could the president have asked for Ngige resignation or impeachment then? Of course not! There is no legal or constitutional basis. If the president made such request or demand, what would have been the president constitutional or legal basis for doing so? Besides, there was the circumstance that existed in Anambra State then, which was very delicate, even as it has fermented into more outrages and anarchy or mayhem since then…. Added to all these, is the unspoken belief, by some, and loudly proclaimed by others, that Obasanjo is anti-Ndiigbo and that he has always been and will ever be. So, how would arbitrary or even fair actions against Ngige/Uba played out or been received by the public, particularly, Ndiigbo?Some Nigerians are insisting in their demand that the president, ought to have called the police or should have interfered with the Election Petitions at the Tribunal? But, what sections of the constitution of Nigeria authorize the president to act arbitrarily, in the manner being suggested? In order to have for the president, to succeeded in the removal of Ngige after his confession to fraud?There are instances, where the president acted, and he is being blamed, the instances, where president in righteous indignation or anger, he stayed aloof, albeit, temporarily and the president is being blamed as well? What would the president have to satisfy his detractors?What could the president have done constitutionally, within a federation and a democracy? That would comply with the separation of power, due process and the rule of law? I am averse to the PDP refrain, of this or that, being a family affair, but even at that, the president delegated actions to his PDP, as he duly informed his party machinery, led by Mr. Audu Ogbeh It is my belief, that the vexatious immunity clause in the constitution of Nigeria would have prevented legal actions against Ngige, period and it would have been unconscionable to prosecute only Uba, it takes two to conspire, why would we attempt to punish one out of two conspirator involved in one conspiracy for the benefit of Ngige victory at the polls, and spoils from godson later, for godfather Uba. Under most laws, when you leave one conspirator of the hook, the prosecutor has no case against the remaining co-conspirator; One person does not make a conspiracy! It would have also been immoral to seek to punish Uba while leaving Ngige off the hook
During this period, Anambra House of Assembly, was then in crises of confidence, as a result of accepting Ngige’s resignations, I meant resignations! with an S; The president could have informed the elections tribunal, and the president would have put himself in a position to, then present a hearsay evidence to prove the Ngige/Uba’s criminally heinous confessions? Again, without he having them on tape/paper and without he possess eye witnesses to attest to these confessions? The president was put in a very difficult position, to say the least! And he had to balance all these against national security and national stability including, the survival of democracy.
I would not have, as a fair minded individual, handed over Mr. Uba for punishment, when his cohort and co-conspirator Ngige, was certain to avoid punishment because of immunity? I have stated, repeatedly, since last year, that Ngige’s hands were not clean! Those who come to equity, says a famous dictum/axiom, must come with clean hands. I say this, as I continue to wonder why, Ngige is hero to so many people in Nigeria? It particularly worrisome, that too many Nigerians want democracy, but are too quick to demand actions that are bereft of democratic tenets and ideals that we all claim to seek or at least clamor. The president did not possess evidence that will withstand legal test…evidence beyond reasonable doubt. The two criminals, alone with him, confessed to a crime, no hard evidence, no tape audio/video, the two criminals have motives to deny the confessions! Add immunity for Ngige, who betrayed the electorate… add that to the mix, and let me know what conclusion reasonable persons could come to?
I am not familiar with sections of the constitution Nigeria or any Nigerian statute, that provides or states that the president of Nigeria could call for election results to be reviewed by INEC or its chairman? As some have claimed Mr. Obasanjo could not have done successfully, the type of things, that some now suggest.Furthermore, it must be added that Mr. Uba is not a public officer, he did not offer himself for election, he does not even have a medical degree, he owes nothing to Anambra State electorate on 4/19/03! And we must contrast the Ngige’s case with Dariye’s, where Mr. Obasanjo had alleged serious crimes against the latter, supplied solid evidence against Dariye and foot-dragging has set in, and this is completely now out of Obasanjo’s control; Obasanjo did not allege fraudulence regarding Dariye’s elections, instead, Obasanjo has proffered HARD evidence from Nigerian police, Nigeria’s EFCC and the British Metropolitan Police Service, there are tapes audio/video against Dariye! this is what was written in 2003 and it encapsulates a good portion of what is being said now, Mr. Obasanjo has not sought personal aggrandizements, he instead, recommended sanctions through EFCC or through Plateau House of Assembly, who may legitimately and constitutionally impeach Dariye, this makes any analogy or comparisons between the Ngige’s case and Dariye’s, dissimilar or a comparison between apples and oranges! Mr. Obasanjo seems to be sticking to the Constitution of Nigeria, until is amended, it remains our legal Holy Book!Some want faster actions, but so do I, but that might be arbitrary, illegal or unconstitutional, and my humble opinion, is that follow the constitution of Nigeria as it currently is, until it is amended or re-written. I know this is not popular.
It bears repeating, that as it stands now, Ngige is assumed not to have “legally resigned or removed” by Anambra House of Assembly…which meant and still means, Ngige remains the “declared winner” and “governor” of Anambra state, even now! May be not the de jure but only the de facto governor and hence some have argued that the withdrawal police escorts/protection from Ngige was improper; We must contrast that position with Mr. Obasanjo ordering the arrest of Ngige in July/August of 2003! The president would have had to arrest and send to trial, a seating governor of a state, all based on some verbal statements by two men, who are quite possibly, confessed criminals or honorable men? The two men, who were liable to recant their mutually incriminating statements made without witnesses. Especially, at the time….. When the “whole world” has portrayed Ngige as victim, since his kidnap in July of 2003? Nigeria and the world now have an inkling into what Ngige and Uba were up to in April 2003 elections, subsequent to their pact, but, Ngige declaration as “winner and governor” of Anambra has not been annulled or reversed, who declares that his election a falsehood? INEC, Anambra House of Assembly or other through constitutional processes, CERTAINLY not Mr. Obasanjo or any individual’s fiat. Only a proper petition to INEC, and INEC upon examining the evidence, based on proper petition, brought forth by proper parties, proper petition, will be the operative term here. And proper petition does not lay in presidential umbrages or pronouncements, and as we have already stipulated that the verbal confession by Ngige/Uba does not pass legal muster… it will fail every legal test!I do not subscribe to the pillaging of INEC of its “little independence” in the fragrant and brazen manner that some have suggested, Nigerians must enshrine in our ways constitutions recourses. Particularly, in a “democracy” “separation of powers” in a “federal setting” I prefer to believe that INEC still have some independence and that due process, rule law and our constitutional processes, should be allowed to triumph… given some time and some respect, for it to grow into acceptable maturity. Reasonable persons which Nigerians are, must imbibe these fine rules, I personally prefer the word of Mr. Obasanjo over the words, confessions of the two "honorable men" Uba/Ngige; I will err on the side of justice and fair play, that is why, I prefer the words of Mr. Obasanjo over those who swore before Shrines, resigned on tape, audio/video etc
Even now I still do not see, what President Obasanjo stand to gain from the Anambra Crises? In fact, he sought to diffuse them on numerous occasions, but without resorting to unconstitutional means Nigerians must eschew a resort to extra-judicial and extra-constitutional means... that seeks to truncate democracy, due process and the rule law...Even when we are FRUSTRATED by its slow process and how it is prone to some abuses. Our democracy and rule ladden government would have matured by now; the overthrow of Mr. Shagari not set Nigeria back by 100 years? What made Shagari's military predecessors/successors, such wonderful substitute/alternatives?
The best cure for flawed and imperfect democracy, is the need for more democracy, it must be realized that justice and democracy are sometimes painfully SLOW, the wheels of justice and the rules of democracy can be enervating and arduously slow, but, I still prefer them, over any system that has no respect for rules and operate on gra~gra and Nzogbu~Nzogbu arbitrariness! The crises in Anambra state remains mostly a moral issue, and no reasonable Nigerian should demand that Mr. Obasanjo to disregard the constitution of Nigeria, our due process and rule of law, even as fragile as these are; Time and posterity will judge all of us; All Nigerians and Nigeria, will learn and grow, mature and become greater from these debates, these experiences, as unsavory as these might be right now. I am remain boundless in my hope and optimism for our dear great country

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