THE whispers enveloped me even in Europe. Every friend and well-wisher wanted me to tell Seyi Makinde that the threat to his office is real. The Lagos mafia led by the Lion of the Coast wanted him out by all means. Seyi, they reasoned, was standing in the way of the 2023 ambition of Bola Tinubu and had to be removed by all means.I wondered why in the first place these guys thought I was a member of Gov. Makinde’s closet cabinet. I excused them very rapidly by my consistent support for good governance in Oyo State and Nigeria.
One other factor I cannot readily appreciate is how the decision of the people of Oyo State on who becomes their governor affects Bola Tinubu’s presidential dream. I think he should search more closely among the sub-tribes along the Owena River for the real threats to his aspiration. Teslim Folarin, an APC Senator from the state, admitted in a viral video that the failure of the party in the last election in the state was due to prayerlessness. That notwithstanding, he gave a hint to the enthusiastic but sparse crowd of party faithful how the calamity would be rectified. ‘Pakutemeji la de fun han’, he offered, ‘bi kan o mu han, ikeji o mu han.’
Two traps, set in the way of the PDP government. At least one of them would spring and catch Makinde! That trap they insist, is already built into the judgment of the appeal panel. The arrogance is so comprehensive and the disrespect so total that you would wonder how come so many PDP governors were affirmed by the same court. It is the ugliest piece of blackmail ever suffered by the apex court, venal and disdainful to the limit that their lordships would be so overtly co-opted into such a sickening plot. I hold all those APC propagandists including Senator Folarin in contempt of the nation’s judiciary for such reckless imagination. Every Nigerian must be used to the lies of politicians. Teslim could just be playing true to type. Only that the pakute susurration has become too strident and far too frequent to be ignored.
As a practising lawyer, I know how much the suggestion expects of the nation’s law lords. Their lordships are supposed by the intent of that proposal to somehow declare Bayo Adelabu as the governor of Oyo State or order a re-election. Those are the twin towers envisaged by the APC rumour mill. Issues were tried at the previous levels of adjudication much against the popularly held view. The first tribunal threw the petition out for lack of merit partly ascribing the decision to the burden of proof which should devolve on the claimant who tried to vest same in INEC. The appeal tribunal disagreed and would have asked for re-trial and re-evaluation of evidence discountenanced by the lower court but could not help Bayo for technical considerations. Time was the major consideration. Ordinarily, the appeal court in its regular plenary powers could have opened the case and heard the evidence disallowed by the tribunal of first instance. All these are bound by the constraints in the electoral act allowing only a specified period for each stage.
The Supreme Court has another 90 days for its job. Could the court reopen and re-try the case in order to make a decision? Or could the court simply by some magic wand claim to have seen through the mischief at the lower courts and then decide by some imagination to make Adelabu governor or ask for a re-run? Without such a re-evaluation, the findings at the lower court if upturned, could not provide meet platform to rest the finding envisaged. If you claim malpractice, you must show how the malfeasance could have affected the outcome. I do not know of any precedent in our electoral jurisprudence that would accommodate such a monumental step, but then the Supreme Court’s decision even if per incuriam (in error), is law. On the sagely shoulders of our law lords rests a burden to somehow trawl the depth of our laws and find meet pedestal for such a decision as the APC hopes and dreams. Seyi in the last few months has demonstrated the awesome gap between what the public is allowed to know and the true reality with the community till.
Subventions to primary and secondary schools after scrapping school fees sound so much out of this world. Yet these things have happened among other miracles. Seyi is wildly popular and has consistently demonstrated an affinity for the use of power for the betterment of the downtrodden. He is like an oasis in an arid stretch of the desert. That introduces a most unique factor into the issues at hand.
The court is now saddled by the APC with the task of removing a governor who scrapped school fees and one who promised to increase it; a governor who renovated medical facilities and institutions and the one sponsored by someone who would rather build his own private clinic; a governor who paid salaries by the 25th and one who endorsed the person who regularly owed arrears. It is such a daunting challenge. This must never be understood as saying the Supreme Court is incapable of taking decisions it deems appropriate, but it is correct to affirm that the court in its wisdom would not treat its hallowed powers with levity and disrespect.
The people of Oyo State are not in the face of the case. And neither would the overwhelming majority of votes won by Makinde if the Supreme Court lends itself to the sentiment of the task at hand. But judges are human. They are members of the society and could take invisible factors into consideration. Governor Bayo Adelabu could be impeached by the PDP in a few months to start with. A re-run if ordered could be the most turbulent in the history of the state if not Nigeria. The use of helicopters to shoot at voters on ground like we saw in Kogi would also need to be repeated in such an acrimonious election.
Traps are among the tools in the chest of the hunter. They help catch the quarry in stealth and with little exertion from the game hunter. But like every hunter knows, traps have a way of catching their own owners. The ambuscader thus knows he needs to keep clear of the terrain. Traps normally go with camouflage. Indeed, the capacity to conceal a trap is its true strength. A trap in full glare in a useless device. It catches no prey and sometimes its foolish owner. Landmines have a way of catching those who laid them.
Ogunwusi, a former editor of Nigerian Tribune, is a practising lawyer.