I returned to Anambra State in 2008 to meet a state and a people that were excited and upbeat. And they had every reason to be so happy. Anambra had two governors, in fact, those were the exact words of the master of ceremony at the first major function that I attended on my return at the All Saints Cathedral open arena, Onitsha. One was the governor of the state, Peter Obi who was then the rave of the moment having retrieved the mandate the people gave him in the 2003 election; the other was the governor of money, Charles Soludo, who was then the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The function was a special ceremony organised by the CBN to encourage communities to set up microfinance banks to boost local economies.
Present at the ceremony were the two governors. Obi and Soludo walked side-by-side like twins in their sparkling suits to the admiration of everyone. In their mid-40s, they exuded energy, confidence and brilliance. The alumni of the University of Nigeria were so proud of the duo and they showed it all over venue in their badges and mufflers. The vice-chancellor of UNN then, Prof. Chinedu Nebo was even there.
The two governors spoke eloquently and gave high hopes to the audience. While Soludo spoke on how the banks consolidation he supervised insulated Nigerians from the then global economic meltdown, Obi urged the people to invest wisely in stocks for there would always be a reward, he being a beneficiary of portfolio investments.
A great platform to take off from had already been set by Obi’s predecessor, Chris Ngige, another UNN alumnus, whose solid road infrastructure projects had rekindled faith in Anambra people that something good could still come from government after a long time of the people fending for themselves through self-help projects.
That look of Soludo and Obi at Onitsha that day looked like the look of the future for Anambra State, that seemed to had done away with the politics of godfatherism and its unpleasantness in the state. It seemed the state had been freed from the old brigade and a new post-Independence elite had taken charge. Anambra people from all over the world began to identify with the development at home.
A few months later, the League of Anambra Professionals, LAP, hosted the two great sons of Anambra at Zodiac Hotel in Enugu. Soludo was rounding off his tenure as governor of the CBN and there was so much expectations of him, given his age, energy and success at the CBN. The two clinked glasses, toasted and shared jokes. They looked like a pair that would work for the greatness of Anambra State and chart a future for the state. But that party at Zodiac Hotel seemed to me to be their parting point.
After a few weeks, Soludo’s tenure as CBN governor tenure terminated and was not renewed. Obi, whose first tenure was ending on March 17, 2010 had kicked off his reelection plans. Many had expected Soludo to support Obi to go for a second term and perhaps enjoy a reciprocal gesture from Obi. But lo and behold Soludo, buoyed by the ratings he got from his CBN tenure, was eyeing Obi’s office. This threw bad blood between their camps.
Soludo’s entry into the race created a problem. The race would have been an easy walkover for Obi with other candidates. But with Soludo something had to happen for him to win. Soludo chose PDP, the ruling party at the federal level and indeed the largest party in the country and Anambra State as of then.
That was where the parting started. Nobody could explain how it happened. Obi smartly won the heart of President Goodluck Jonathan, who chose to ignore a crisis that erupted in the Anambra chapter of the PDP where Chris Uba fought Soludo to a standstill. Even though Soludo eventually won the ticket of the PDP, it took a last minute Supreme Court verdict to validate his candidacy.
Obi played a fast one by guaranteeing an APGA support for Jonathan in his reelection bid if Jonathan supported him in Awka. In return, Jonathan tacitly withdrew support for Soludo. It’s on record that Jonathan did not honour or send delegates to the flag-off of the campaigns of Soludo.
But many believed Soludo’s falling out of favour with Jonathan’s government, which had also denied him reappoinment as CBN was the handiwork of Prof Dora Akunyili, Jonathan’s Minister of Information. Akunyili, who was the aunt of Soludo’s wife, had a no love lost relationship with Soludo. She was said to have opposed his marriage to her niece over class differences.
That meant that PDP in Anambra State lost the federal might support a PDP federal government would have given it in the February 6, 2010 election.
Soludo lost in that election, coming third after Obi and Ngige of the Action Congress. He quietly went home without challenging the outcome of the election in court.
Soludo’s loss was celebration in Obi’s camp, which included Akunyili. It wasn’t long after that his mother-in-law, Dora’s elder sister died. When Dora went to the burial at Isuofia, Soludo’s boys destroyed her canopy and chased her away. She had to host her guests in her father’s compo at Nanka.
By the time Obi was rounding off his second tenure, Soludo had sneaked into APGA in the hope that Obi had forgotten the past. Soludo looked like the best candidate for the APGA ticket until the party primaries panel disqualified him and Willie Obiano was brought by Obi as the preferred Candidate. Again Soludo didn’t challenge his questionable disqualification.
He simply hung around until Obiano and Obi fell out, and jumped on the scene as the guardian angel of Obiano. When Obiano was finding it difficult to impress the people about why he deserved a second term, Soludo came up with his famous declaration, “If it is not broken, why mend it?”
Obiano’s second term reelection victory over Obi’s PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, was sweet revenge for Soludo, who literally replaced Victor Umeh as Obiano’s godfather. By the time Obiano was leaving in 2021, he literally handed over APGA ticket to Soludo, who defeated Obi’s candidate, Valentine Ozigbo.
After the last election, the two had been pretending to be brothers again until Soludo lashed out in a TV interview against Obi’s legacies in Anambra State. Not done yet with the controversies that interview was generating he came out with his last letter where he accused the Labour Party presidential hopeful as a pretender.
After 14 years, a friendship that had given hope for the transformation of Anambra State has crashed to smithereens.
Obe, a journalist lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State
Alex Otti: From feeding bottle to dining table
On Sunday July 2, 2023 during the Thanksgiving Mass of the Deputy Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Austin Okezie Meregini at St Ann’s Catholic Church, the Governor of Abia State, Mr Alex Otti had declared thus: “…for the past 24 years, some people had put their mouths on the feeding bottle and since we came we removed their mouths.”
Otti’s disingenuous reference to ‘feeding bottle’ is his usual allusion to the alleged looting of resources of Abia State by past administrations, an allegation that exists only in the figment of his own imagination.
Such baseless accusations formed the kernel of his campaigns from 2015 when he first contested the state’s governorship election to the 2023 polls. He whipped up wicked sentiments against the PDP, accusing them of varying degrees of monumental corruption that have existed only in his mind till this day.
Unfortunately, some gullible ones bought his story and joined a war of attrition to remove non-existent feeding bottles from the mouths of acclaimed political opponents while Otti promised at the Thanksgiving Mass that “The feeding bottle is for all of us.”
Today, it has dawned on his followers that the “feeding bottle” chants were nothing but a mischievous invention by Alex Otti to expand his financial warchest and recoup all he had been spending inordinately pursuing that singular ambition of ruling Abia State. His supporters are dumbfounded to discover that indeed there were no feeding bottles so Otti could not have removed any from anybody’s mouth, but that he has rather expanded his concept of “feeding bottle” to “dining table.”
In just three months, Alex Otti has set a wide dining table with exotic dishes and expensive wines right before himself in the presence of his supporters who can only look on in helpless contrition as Otti alone devours all the food and gulps the drinks with reckless abandon.
For a man who claimed he would reduce the cost of governance and make more resources available for the people and for projects, one wonders why he spent a whopping N5.32bn on himself alone through his office in just three months, July – September 2023 according to the Abia State 3rd Quarter 2023 Budget Performance Report released by the state government when he actually operates from his private home in Isiala Ngwa South LGA of the state, while the previous administration he accused of mismanaging the state’s resources spent only N2.06bn for the corresponding period in 2022.
It is even more mind-boggling that at a time of relative peace in the State, Alex Otti who had claimed during campaigns that security votes were a fraudulent means by which governors loot state treasuries and that he would not be collecting security votes as governor, collected a humongous N2.8bn in the three months (July – September 2023) while the previous governor collected only N240m for the same period in 2022. The grave implication of this is that the “dining table government” of Otti collected almost ten times what the “feeding bottle government” of the last administration collected. Such a financial calamity!
When a governor is as selfish as Otti, the people not only get shortchanged, but they also suffer.
By so mindlessly appropriating Abia resources to himself as governor, Otti leaves the people with little or nothing. That is why at a time he is collecting billions of naira for his office, he spends close to nothing on the people’s welfare. Or how else can one explain the fact that Alex Otti spent only N1.12bn in the three months on health for the whole state while he spent a paltry sum of N737m on education?
From the foregoing, it is obvious that Alex Otti came to power not to remove any imaginary feeding bottle from anybody’s mouth but to create, set and expand his own personal dining table right before Abians so that as his cup runneth over, the poor masses can only gape in disbelief at his monumental aggrandizement while they return home emptier than when they first set out.
Nwabueze was Special Adviser to former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu
Justice is what the people say
By Abraham Ogbodo
I have known Dr. Reuben Abati almost from the cradle. We were not only in the same university but the same department. When he was leaving University of Calabar in 1985, he had in his bag, all the prime prizes. The best graduating student of the University which meant he was also best in the Department of Theatre Arts and the Faculty of Arts. I can therefore say without fear of being contradicted that he is not pretentious. He is brilliant; intellectually loaded to the brim. He left two years ahead of me which does not in any way suggest he is older. He was apparently faster and more brilliant. His law degree at the Lagos State University was a latter day addition after he had earned his PhD from the University of Ibadan and in fact already on the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper.
Of late however, Dr Abati has been projecting rather too forcefully his legal background on the Morning Show programme on Arise TV which he co-anchors with two others. He gets tutorial and even magisterial as he pushes through all the fine points of law when occasion calls for it. He was at his best last Friday following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25 presidential election and dismissal of the appeals of the PDP and LP candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi the day before.
Altogether, Abati sounded as if law is not also common sense. As if procedural law is sacrosanct and no matter the weight of evidence, a procedure cannot be overtaken to lay substantive claims or facts. He was a kind of saying the law is independent of truth and even if justice is not served in the process but the law is duly followed, the outcome should be applauded to high heavens. This is taking the Realist School of Jurisprudence too far. The school that says law does not have to go on an endless excursion for meaning beyond what the court says. It is best captured in the words of American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes that: “The prophesies of what the courts will do and nothing more pretentious are what I mean by the law.”
It amounts to open acceptance of the tyranny of the court, however, on the fundamental assumption that the operating and human agent in the court system is rational and far from being a tyrant. That way, the court for instance, will not say crime, without punishment, should be statue-barred or vitiated by the mere passage of time and a very short time for that matter. Such is the consolation and indeed the intention of the realist school. It was not propounded to lead the court into a web of legalese and reverse its very essence as the temple of justice.
If I may ask, what is law if it does not serve the purpose of justice or the hopes of the people? No jurisprudence aspires higher than the aspirations of the people or subordinates justice and morality to law. Law itself fails woefully if it only massages the intellect and ceases to be an instrument for social justice. The Supreme Court in any legal system is beyond reproach. It can only fine tune itself. Beyond it, no legal arguments stand. Its role in jurisprudence is enormous and it does not include the convenience of hiding behind procedural infractions to obfuscate substantive law and justice. On the contrary, the Supreme Court is remarked for its boldness to rise up to the exigency of changing the position of the law to serve justice and the hopes of society.
The strongest reference point in jurisprudence today, Lord Alfred Thompson Denning, did not ascend that height by just running with extant codes. Real jurists are defined by their audacity to push the frontiers of substantive law and morality to enrich Jurisprudence. They do not mark time forever upholding the law even when the law has become anachronistic and a clear affliction to society. Needless to say that the majesty of law is its inherent dynamism to translate to justice. For, in truth and as noted by Lord Denning; “law is not an end in itself but a means to achieving a fair and harmonious society.” It is also not some technical game to be manipulated for personal advantages by experts but a “force to be applied with wisdom and compassion” by the sitting judge to serve society.
I also heard Dr. Abati saying public opinion does not matter in law. Really? The thing about law is that it is 110 per cent intellectual intimidation and posturing. Whoever holds the high end in sheer sophistry and pedantry also stands on a high ground in real advocacy. Whereas the law may have just an intention, what makes it an interesting practice is the near infinite capacity of its practitioners to create intentions and intrigues to detract from the real intention. From where does common law, including written and codified law, derive if law is so insulated from its human setting.
The truth is that such legal maxims can only stand firm if other things remain equal. If in any context the *ratio* *decidendi* , that is, the reason for the judgment, repudiates facts and common sense and instead celebrates methodology or even mediocrity, public opinion will rise irrepressibly like the morning sun whether you like it or not. The position is that public opinion matters and there had been reviews of case laws on the strength of public opinions alone. For instance, the *M’Naghten* *Rule* which set the test for the defence of insanity in criminal responsibility, especially in a murder charge, was forced by public opinion.
The views of Dr. Abati were to receive huge validation by Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) who was on the Arise TV Morning Show programme last Frday to specifically discuss the Supreme Court’s decision of the previous day. Abati must have felt within himself like the first and only winner of the Nobel Prize in Jurisprudence as Papa Clarke loaded him with encomiums for a job well done. The only additional point made by the old lawyer was the call for the reordering of the statutory frame work so that elections can be decided by the electorate in the polling booths and not in court rooms by judges. Excellent point I must say.
As God would have it, while Abati and the old lawyer were in the television studio engaged in a rigorous post-ruling advocacy to dress up the Supreme Court, an old Judge, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad who retired after 36 years on the bench, 11 of which were spent in the Supreme Court, was reading his valedictory speech to dress down the Supreme. Details of the speech are too heavy to fit into this purpose. It is important to note that Justice Dattijo is more than just an eye witness. He was an active participant. He was the second longest serving Justice of the Apex court and next to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola. The balance of probabilities tilt heavily in his favour.
It was like the Supreme Court was put on trial in the court of public opinion and while Abati and the old lawyer appeared for the Supreme Court (I will resist using ‘defendant’), old judge appeared for aggrieved Nigerians. The thesis and antithesis are in search for a synthesis. The verdict lies both in history and posterity.
Pray! What manner of trust does Justice Okoro and the Supreme Court want?
Justice Iyang Okoro, made a very remarkable statement on Thursday. At the end of his judgement, while leading the seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, which ended the legal challenge to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 1, 2023, he said, the public, must learn to trust the courts.
Of course, the erudite jurist, ought to be stating the obvious. Courts are temples of justice or have been described as so. Therefore, anyone and everyone that comes to them must bow to their authority. This, of course is predicated on the assumption that judges, lawyers and other judicial officers, themselves are the priests and servants at its alter. In this wise the pronouncements of judges therefrom are supposed to be words coming direct from God. That ought to be the source and essence of the respect and nothing more.
It is like the Pope speaking ex-cathedra – when he mounts the Papal Chair of Saint Peter to make a pronouncement – the Catholic Church believes that therein lies the infallibility of the Pope – where everything issuing from his mouth in that condition, is authentic and correct teaching of the church and of God, to wit.
No true priests of Osun or Amadioha would decree the trust of the people. Their conducts and outcomes of their divinations simply speak for them. In law, it is the doctrine or dictum of res ipsa loquitur – the facts speak for themselves or what in internet technology is referred as garbage in, garbage out. In other words, you cannot plant orange and demand to reap cassava. There are so many ways to put it.
The moment it is suspected or discovered that the judgements from the courts are no longer reflective of the pristine qualities of a temple, a natural reaction follows. It is either the trust and respect they are supposed to convoke or invoke become shaky, at best or at the worst, they collapse completely and in that case, suffer the fate of the biblical salt that loses its taste, and only fit for the fire as its final destination.
Is that not what is obvious in the situation at hand? To what extent, have the pronouncements of the courts Okoro wants Nigerians to trust reflective of the voice of God that dwells in the temple of justice? That is the question that he must first answer, without which, his disenchantment at the reaction of the public goes into no issue. It is akin to eating his cake and having it or blaming the victim and not the oppressor or as it is said in Nigeria, beating a child and saying it should not cry.
It is a common saying that anything that acts in the manner of a rat would naturally attract the attention of the cat. That obviously is the case here. Over the years, the Nigerian courts have acted in manners that not only raised the suspicion of the public towards their true intendments, but reached outcomes that have dealt heavy blows to their impetus as the eyes and ears of God in the temple of justice.
It is a common dictum in law and many judges have also adumbrated so that justice must not only be done, but seen to have been done. To make the concept more reflective and understandable, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC as he then was, popularly referred as the Nigerian Socrates on the bench, even expanded it to mean, justice to the accused, justice to the accuser and justice to the society.
To what extent has this been reflected in the judgements of the courts in recent years to enable them command the trust Okoro demanded of Nigerians? Consider the case in question regarding the Supreme Court itself. Could the apex court say with its full chest that it did not act as a rat that should attract the attention the cats within the Nigerian society?
This particular Supreme Court panel, which Justice Okoro presided over, holds the record today for posting the fastest judgement time in the history of Nigeria. At no time had the apex court given such a critical judgement in such a record time. Three days to prepare and read a judgement in a presidential election, is such an extraordinary feat, to say the least.
Ordinarily, that particular speed ought to earn the panel and the judges a special mention on the pages of honour for being so diligent to their call, especially in the view of the dictum that justice delayed is justice denied. Yet, did it? But was that the case? Certainly not! Why? The answer simply lies in the sequence of events that occurred before it. Many did not see the urgency that would lead to the speed in the face of the prevailing circumstances especially with the information preceding it.
The reason is simple. Outside the main substance of the presidential election and its outcome, a bigger issue had come up in its wake – the true identity of President Tinubu, a development, whose implications clearly outshone the other questions about the credibility of the election itself during the pendency of the matter.
Before then, Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had roused the interest of not only Nigerians, but indeed, the entire world with the damning issue of the depositions at the District Court of Illinois, Chicago in the US, regarding the Chicago State University (CSU), where the President claimed to have obtained the degree certificates he submitted to INEC.
At the time the admissibility of the matter was being argued at the apex court, there was another argument at a court in the US, where Atiku was again pressing the judges to order the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to release its much touted dossier on Tinubu, which he and his supporters, believed would have given a further impetus to their claims that the President was complicit in all manners of crimes, including identity theft, which made him unfit for the number one job of Nigeria he presently occupies.
It was few hours after the District Court in Detroit, reportedly denied the former VP the request to release the record before the October ending, in order to aid the Supreme Court decide on what to do that Okoro and his panel decided to move. Therein lay the suspicion! Who could actually blame anyone that believes that they were working to an answer, even if the intentions of their lordships at the SC were noble?
Three days to prepare and deliver a judgement was incredible in Nigeria simplicita! It even got curiouser with the pronouncements of the Okoro panel proper. Who told Okoro and his men that what Nigerians and indeed the world were looking for was to hear their mastery of the law as was showcased during that judgement on Thursday? No! Nigerians and the world were looking out for answers to clear questions.
Who won the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria? If you agree with INEC that it is Tinubu, how? All Atiku, Peter Obi, his counterpart at the Labour Party (LP), their supporters and indeed a groundswell of the public wanted was a glean into the real and entire contents of the Independent Results Viewing (IReV) Portal of INEC that showed the images of women in the bathrooms or eagles chasing their preys.
They also wanted a credible judicial scrutiny of the contents of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which Atiku and Obi actually got from INEC itself after such a tortuous process, so as to ascertain to prove to Nigerians that Tinubu truly won the election. Did their lordships provide the answers as required of them? Were they supposed to and if yes, what response were they expecting if they did not? In other words, having provided what the public needed in the breach rather than substance, how then do they want to get the trust?
Today, the critical questions trailing Tinubu’s true identity remains in the public domain – in the back and forth dingdong of speculation – no thanks to the reticence of the courts to settle it finally. Even before the likes of Yinka Odumakin, a member of the inner circle of Tinubu’s empire, affirmed that his real name is Yekini Amoda Ogunlere from Iragbiji in Osun State, many of his close associates had cried out and pointed in that direction like a crying baby would point in the direction of the mother.
Coming back from the US court, Atiku et al, had equally pointed in the same direction in the allegation that Tinubu’s depositions on oath to the INEC as required by law are untrue as the certificate he presented from the CSU was forged. But instead of delving into the matter to affirm the veracity of the document or denounce it, Nigerians were offered loads and loads of law. In the end like the Gordian knot, Tinubu’s identity remains a mystery.
Yet, Okoro, demands the trust of the people? From where will it come? Trust is neither hawked in Balogun or Dugbe markets, nor is it a common commodity like the fura the Fulani woman sells at Kaduna Central Market nor the okpa the Nkanu women carry around on their heads at Ogbete Market in Enugu. Trust comes from integrity and integrity comes from demonstrable evidence of constructive human behaviours over time. It is not forced, it is earned!
This was the essence of Justice Musa Muhammad Dattijo, JSC, made on Friday during his valedictory speech to mark his retirement from the apex court, when he told his colleagues: “My lords, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen, it is obvious that the judiciary I am exiting from is far from the one l voluntarily joined and desired to serve and be identified with. The institution has become something else. Nobody could have put it better. And surely, his indictment was a tip of the iceberg.
Olisa Agbakoba, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), did a follow-up on Monday, when, while endorsing all the former SCJ said, only to add that by describing the apex court as toxic, stressing the dictatorship tendency at the highest court in the land.
Hear him: Out of the three arms of government – the executive, the legislature and the judicature, the most undemocratic is actually the judiciary. The huge amount that budgeted for the judiciary is not reflecting in the welfare of the judges because there is a mafia there. I know of judges who have passed on as matter of critical illnesses. On the budget, we have to have a democratic process, whereby the funding is spread and not just retained.
“Do you know that when a Supreme Court judge retires, he leaves his house to nowhere. The only person who gets a house in the Supreme Court, is actually the CJN. He has a choice of two houses, one in Abuja and probably one in his home state. And sometimes this runs into billions. So, that is part of why the situation in the Supreme Court has become so toxic.”
So, if Okoro et al and those before him who took a similar route in deciding on such critical matters were content in skirting around the issues by dishing out trailer-loads of law in place of answering simple questions, they might as well hold on to their law, while the people hold on to their trust. They could decree Tinubu as President of Nigeria. They have the powers to do so, as they have demonstrated. What they do not have powers to do is command public trust. That is left to Nigerians to give – to those deserving of it! Chikena!
December 3, 2023 2:05 pm
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