March 28, 2022
On the 16th and 23rd June 2021, I wrote about the ruling party in Nigeria in my articles entitled, “Lawlessness of A Party” which served as a wake-up call to the political actors to reflect on their conduct, redress their steps, andact in a manner consistent with the propositions of the Constitution. Today, I can report that the situation has not improved since the last non-telescope; in fact it has gone from bad to worse.
In most conventional world sports, the competitors are always reminded that the Referee or the Umpire’s decision is FINAL. If that were not the case disputes would go on endlessly. Politics and electioneering is considered bymany around the globe to be a sport, therefore once the Supreme Court of Nigeria has pronounced, that is finality on the matter so the tussle of the governorship battle in Ondo State between Eyitayo Jegede SAN of the PDP and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN of the APC is over and the decision is binding on all parties. However, just like in any other sport even though we all have to accept the final result, it does not preclude us from doing a post-mortem of the participants of the contest, including the umpires.
In the on-going Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games holding in Japan, as many as ten (10) members of Team Nigeriahave been disqualified from the event for failing to meet anti-doping requirements by Athletics Integrity Unit, in other words flouting the doping rules. In the international world if you breach the rules you pay the price.
Furthermore, from my limited knowledge of competitivesoccer, if the Association that governs football in a particular territory or competition finds that one of the teams has blatantly, recklessly, or negligently breached the competition rules, it doesn’t hesitate to take necessary action. Even here in Nigeria it is on record that the League Management Committee in charge of the Nigerian professional football league staged over the years, have taken decisive action against various clubs for breach of the rules, even after a match has been concluded. Usually, the team in default will lose the match, almost certainly be deducted points in addition to any other financial penalty regardless the outcome of the game. In October 2015, Warri Wolves and FC Taraba were deducted 6 points each; in February 2018 Sunshine Stars were deducted 3 points and fine totaling N1.5 million; in January 2019 Plateau United were deducted 3 points and a total of N2 million; in June 2021 Kano Pillars were deducted 3 points and N8.5 million fine. As we speak Jigawa Golden Stars are facing a petition protesting the use of an ineligible player in their Matchday 34 encounter played on Sunday 18th July 2021. These penalties partly serve as a detriment to others not to take unnecessary risk such as fielding ineligible players against the Rules.
Returning to the concluded case of Jegede –v- Akeredolu 2021, if seven (7) Supreme Court justices were able to establish that an ineligible player was fielded by the APC in the October 2020 contest, then what plausible rationale was there for a majority decision of 4 to 3 doing anything other than disqualifying the offending team? The usual outcome would have been to award the match to the opponent and to also impose further penalties on the offending party. But what they did in the Supreme Court was to award APC the match and all the benefits that flowed from the result in spite of finding that they fielded an ineligible player. It is hard to understand and we are still waiting for the full details of the Judgment, but they appear to have hinged their decision on the premise that the protesting party of the alleged infraction included the offending team in the petition but did not include the Manager of the team in the petition. Frankly speaking, in my candid opinion decisions like these makes a mockery of the system and encourages the brave-hearted to breach or circumvent the Rules of the game.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling Jegede and PDP have accepted the decision and called for calm amongst their rank and file, even when it seems clear to the naked eye that something fishy must have come upon the learned most senior bench. As for the APC there have been very diverse and mixed reactions which fetter at vast extremes.
Kudos to Festus Keyamo SAN a federal minister and member of the APC who quickly alerted his party and members to the looming disaster set to befall the party if they fail to take notice of the recent ruling. He advised that the planned party Congresses scheduled for 31st July should be suspended and the Mai Buni led Caretaker Committee should be dissolved and immediately reconstituted in compliance with the Articles of the APC constitution.
Unfortunately, his pleas have fallen on deaf ears and this is my bone of contention that a political party that was perhaps ignorant in June 2020 when Buni was first appointed; then negligent when his tenure was extended in December 2020 amidst court battles challenging his appointment that had already commenced; was arguably reckless in June 2021 when further extending Buni’s tenure in spite of Court of Appeal ruling that raised eyebrows; and is now damn right audacious and daring in their impunity following the pronouncement of the Supreme Court that Buni’s appointment is in breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
For the APC to declare that all arrangements for their nationwide congresses shall go ahead on 31st July 2021 despite the Supreme Court decision is daring. To suggest that after all, the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo is a senior advocate (SAN) and so also the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and Federal Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola are not only amongst their ranks but were present when the Supreme Court gave their verdict and they can rely on their competence is sheer arrogance.
In concluding, although this is intended as a post-mortem of the Apex court decision, we cannot get away from the fact that the ruling party in Nigeria is an unrepentant and defiant serial offender whose day of reckoning beckons. It is interesting to note that following the APC primaries in Anambra State, Mai Buni has already forwarded the name of the APC governorship candidate to INEC and thereby sponsored the candidate in breach of the Constitution of their party and the country. It only stands to reason that this time around the litigants will include Mai Buni in any petition that goes before the courts. We patiently wait as the next saga of the ugly drama gradually unfolds.
Gbenga Akinmoyo writes from Idanre