AKARAIWE: Booby Traps We Must Avoid In 2015
THE uncertainties over the conduct of the forthcoming 2015 general
elections notwithstanding, fears are being expressed that if eventually the exercise holds, some behind-the-scene issues might
crop up to challenge its outcome.
The issues so identified are the contentious permanent voter card (PVC), the displacement of some Nigerians in the northeast following the security situation there, as well as court cases over president
Goodluck Jonathan’s eligibility and Major General Mohammadu Buhari’s (rtd) certificate, among others. Some persons insist that these are booby traps that could be subject of litigations in the long run.
Taking a broad look at the issues, however, first Vice President, Nigerian Bar Association (2008 -2010), Mr. Ikeazor Akaraiwe, said that
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is empowered by law to make rules and regulations that could help it conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria. He said: “My view here is that the Plaintiffs in that suit are mixing up the constitution of the United States with Nigeria. If the President of the United States dies in office, the Vice-President gets sworn in, and if he/she serves more than half the term of the predecessor and one other term, he/she is not eligible for yet another term. But if he/she served less than half the term of the
predecessor like Jonathan did and then, one other term, s/he would be eligible to contest for yet another term. However, the Nigerian
constitution is not as specific as this.
“It is in fact silent. Section 135 of our constitution as amended stipulates the matter of succession but is not as specific as the
relevant sections of the US constitution. So, if President Jonathan became President of the US for instance under the circumstances he became president of Nigeria, he would be eligible to run for his own second term under the American constitution since he served less than half the term of his predecessor, from February 2010 to May 2011
before embarking on his own first term; how much more under the Nigerian constitution which does not give the same specifics as the American constitution.”
He continued: “Other suits, which you refer to as ‘legal booby traps’ include those ones seeking to disqualify Mr. Buhari on the grounds of his qualification to run for president within the requirement of S.137 (i) (j) of the constitution as amended, which has to do with his school certificate. I am reluctant to comment on this case because it is sub-judice; I am certain that this case is in court from what I have read in various online media. I will only say that I thought that
General Buhari’s categorical assertion as reported by the press that his certificates were with the military whereas they were not, as
tricky and a little problematic if correct. If the courts will be dispassionate and legalistic; these cases ought to enrich our
jurisprudence and the democratic process. And so they are not booby traps. The courts exist for the resolution of disputes, and it is
better to jaw-jaw in court than to war-war in town.”
Akaraiwe also reacted to the legal implications of the 2015 elections not holding as scheduled. He said: “I need to point out that I do not belong to any political party. In my view, there are two possible legal scenarios that could lead to the elections not holding as appointed:
One, a constitutional amendment which circumscribes the presidency to a single term of six years only, commencing with this incumbent, so as to give him another two years terminating in 2017, and not renewable.
The acidic and vitriolic campaigns up to the postponement of the elections; and the fact that the presidential elections are a struggle for the soul of the nation by ethnic nationalities vindicate the view
that a single term of six years only for the president would suit the overall political temperament of the Nigerian as well as the present level of maturity in this democracy. This scenario requires a
constitutional amendment and the assent of the National Assembly.
“The second possible scenario is a declaration of a state of emergency because of the ongoing civil war in the north-east, and obvious breakdown of law and order in some other parts of the country, Rivers
State being a pre-eminent example where there is a quasi-non-functional house of assembly, bombing of courts, which by the way, have been shut down since June 2014, and so on. Such a state
of emergency is provided for in the constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria and is in force in some states of the federation. And for it to be made applicable across the nation, will require the assent of the national assembly as well.
“Any further postponement emanating from these two scenarios would be
legal. I cannot imagine any other legal scenario besides these which would lead to a further postponement. Military intervention is out of the question and would be clearly illegal. Permit me to utilise this opportunity to commend the military for having subordinated itself to civil authority so admirably in the past sixteen years. I advise the military to continue to respect and subordinate itself to civil authority, which today has President Jonathan as the alter ego of the nation.
“Our military must conduct itself at this time with the same restraint and decorum of the Indian military which in spite of how fractious India used to be, which led to the breakaway of Pakistan, then Bangladesh, and numerous assassinations of leaders, religious dichotomies as bad as Nigeria’s, with a fractious democracy, the Indian military have remained professional, for 67 years since independence, not one coup detat. It would be bad publicity for a military which has found it difficult to defeat Boko Haram and whose reputation as run-away boys would need a decade to rebuild, to take over power.
“I would advise President Goodluc Jonathan to be careful, and avoid a booby trap, and a couple of banana peels. Anyone who advises the President not to hold the elections on the rescheduled days is most probably a fifth columnist, who wants to trigger off enough crisis sufficient to catalyse a military intervention however brief.
President Jonathan should believe he will win the elections, and prepare to win. He should also prepare his mind to step aside
honourably in the unlikely event of his losing. All those stoking the fires of national crisis through deliberate wrong advice, and
waiting in the wings, hoping to benefitsomehow from the unfolding crisis shall be swallowed up by the crisis. They shall fall into the pit they have dug; and be hung from the noose which they have prepared.
“Above all, President Jonathan must own the process. He must command chiefly. He must cease trying to please everyone. Good leadership like good parenting cannot please every child. He must refuse to do the
wrong thing. He must interrogate every counsel he receives. He must weigh every counsel against the integrity of his heart, pray, and ask if this or that counsel will bring glory to God. He must remember that
he came literally from nowhere to become president, and that if he did not lift a finger to make himself president, he ought to avoid and eschew anything shenaniganistic to keep himself in power. His philosophy at this time must be ‘If God brought me here, He alone can keep me here. And if God no longer wants me here, I cannot keep myself
here. For I was not the best person and yet He brought me here.’ He should read the account of Jeroboam in 1st and 2nd Kings of the Holy Bible. Jeroboam was the man God literally took from nowhere and made
him King, but who forgot that God made him, and started trying to sustain himself in power, thereby losing favour with the Lord.
“I advise President Jonathan to ensure the elections are held as now rescheduled, and to go into those elections with the attitude that ‘God gave me this job, and if God is not done with me, I will return; and if He is done with me, I am happy to join the pantheon of former leaders and statesmen’. I have a hunch that this President will return
in a free and fair election howbeit narrowly, but like the Americans do, he should prepare for both victory and defeat. I recommend to the president Revelations Chapter 3 verse 7 of the Holy Bible: When the Lord opens a door no man can shut it; and when He shuts a door no man can open it”
“He commented on the internally displaced persons, especially in the northeast as a result of the security problems in the area. He said: “I honestly am of the view that the patriotic duty of the National Assembly putting aside partisan considerations, is to pass a resolution as provided for under Section 135 of the constitution to shift the presidential elections nationwide, and gubernatorial and other elections in the north-east in the light of the civil war ongoing, disfranchisement of the internally displaced. I believe this initiative should proceed from bipartisan sponsorship in the National Assembly and not the presidency.
“If it proceeds from the presidency, it will be misunderstood as an attempt to elongate the president’s tenure. It will be tainted by the backdrop of Obasanjo’s perceived attempt to elongate his own tenure few years ago. President Jonathan should work towards the elections holding as rescheduled.
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