Bayelsa, APC And The Limits of Mendacity, By Ikechukwu Amaechi
POLITICS DIGEST – Let me state from the outset that I am not a member of any political party. I used to have sympathy for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) until its leaders destroyed it for whatever reason prior to the 2019 elections.
I spoke out against the injustice of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), particularly under the dictatorship of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, though democratically elected, wanted to transmute into a maximum ruler and life president.
In the 2015 elections, I rooted for Muhammadu Buhari not only because of the lack-luster leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan but also because the PDP had become arrogant, dictatorial and complacent.
In spite of my preference for Buhari, I wasn’t a fan of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the vehicle in which he was chauffeured to power. And my reason for not being beholden to the party even then was simple: I could hardly stand its hypocrisy.
But I must confess that even in my wildest imagination, I could never have believed that the party will travel this far on the concourse of mendacity, particularly since Adams Oshiomhole, former governor of Edo State, became its national chairman.
The ruling party has become the standard-bearer in charlatanism and it is horrifying. When it was first mooted that the APC may approach the Supreme Court to review its judgment which sacked its governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, and his Deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, I doubted the possibility.
Here was a political party whose leaders should apologise to the good people of Bayelsa State and cover their faces in shame for trying to legitimise fraud. There was no doubt that the then Deputy Governor-elect of Bayelsa, Degi-Eremienyo, who sadly is a senator of the Federal Republic, even as I write, is a certified fraud.
Born on January 1, 1960, as Degi Biobaragha, he became known as Adegi Biobakumo in 1984. By 1990, he mutated to Degi Biobarakuma, and 12 years later, in 2002, he took up another identity as Degi Biobarakuma Wangagha.
These different names were unashamedly and brazenly reflected in the different certificates – primary school leaving certificate, General Certificate of Education (GCE), first degree, NYSC discharge certificate and Master’s degree certificate – submitted to INEC.
But the Supreme Court said all the certificates were products of forgery, which violated Section 182 of the Constitution and, therefore, has established a case of forgery and perjury, ruled that his presence on the ticket was a toxic infection on the validity of the APC ticket. Simply put, his inclusion vitiated the ticket.
My quarrel with that judgment was that the Supreme Court did not go the whole hog to commit Degi-Eremienyo to jail for the incontrovertible crimes of forgery and perjury in order to deter other fraudsters from treading that route.
Gradually, certificate forgery by the Nigerian political elite is becoming a pandemic and annulling the fraudulent mandate without committing the cheat to jail as it is done elsewhere, though a clear rebuke against political recklessness and rascality, is a slap on the wrist.
I also took umbrage here last week at the shenanigans of Oshiomhole when I wrote that: “It is nauseating, to say the least, watching Oshiomhole rather than bowing his head in shame, double down on his infantile theatrics by dancing naked in the political arena.”
But it was because the Supreme Court didn’t complete the job that Oshiomhole had the guts to pontificate that the verdict “lacks the fruits of justice” and that “where justice and democracy thrive on the altar of technicalities, it constitutes a danger to our democracy.”
Had Degi-Eremienyo been committed to jail for the crime he committed and all those who aided and abetted the commission of the crime, including Oshiomhole, who as the national chairman of the party looked the other way when a fraudster was being railroaded into government house, the APC wouldn’t have had the temerity to go back to the apex court to seek a review of the judgment.
In any other country that is not as integrity deficient as ours, the leadership of the APC would have immediately distanced itself from the man who brought so much shame to the party.
But how can they when the party’s alter-ego is also enmeshed in the same certificate scandal himself and the Supreme Court ruled that it does not matter. Perhaps that was what emboldened the APC apparatchik that since President Muhammadu Buhari got away with it, why not a deputy governor-elect? After all, isn’t sauce for the goose supposed to also be sauce for the gander? What is even more surprising is that two of Nigeria’s finest senior lawyers, revered Afe Babalola and Wole Olanipekun, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), represented the sacked Degi-Eremienyo and APC in such a ridiculous legal pursuit.
I am not a lawyer, but did Babalola, a man who owns a private university, want a certificate fraud to govern Bayelsa? Or did Degi-Eremienyo convince him that he did not get justice? In which case he must have presented him the genuine certificates.
Or am I simply being naïve asking questions that are never raised between a lawyer and his client? So, on what basis did the APC seek a reversal of the judgment? Going to the Supreme Court to seek a review for the heck of it without pointing out an error is a gross abuse of the court process.
Or could it be as some people have said that the APC deliberately went to court knowing that their request will be thrown out ignominiously but with the sole purpose of preempting the learned justices of the Supreme Court on the Imo governorship verdict which is also before them for a review? Knowing how mischievous and disingenuous Nigerian politicians are, that may not be far from the truth.
Already, there is a celebration in certain quarters that with the pronouncement of Justice Amina Augie who read the judgment on Wednesday, the Emeka Ihedioha application against the Supreme Court elected governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma will suffer the same fate.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel headed by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, dismissed the two different applications that sought to set aside the judgment it delivered against David Lyon and his deputy on February 13. In the lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Augie, the court described the fresh applications that were filed by Lyon and his deputy, as well as by the APC, as “highly vexatious, frivolous and gross abuse of the judicial process.”
Justice Augie, who said the application lacked merit, contended that the decisions of the Supreme Court are final for all ages and no court on earth can review them.
“There must be an end to litigation; even if we review this judgment, every disaffected litigant will bring similar applications and the finality of Supreme Court judgments will be lost.”
But the Justice also said something important and very instructive, which is, the applicants failed to point out errors in the judgment they were seeking to reverse. Awarding, justifiably, a N60 million cost against Lyon, Degi-Eremieoyo, and APC to be paid in favour of Governor Douye Diri; his Deputy, Lawrence Ewhruojakpo; and the PDP; the Supreme Court, which frowned that the applications were aimed at “desecrating the sanctity of the court,” ordered that the cost should be paid by respective counsel to the applicants for bringing such frivolous applications on behalf of their clients.
That is instructive. I wonder why Babalola would allow his name to be dragged into the APC mess. For those dancing that it is also all over in Imo State, we will wait to see what happens on March 2. But they fail to acknowledge that unlike the Bayelsa ruling, there are a thousand and one errors in the Imo verdict, which the Supreme Court Justices are already mindful of.
Besides, it also bears restating that Ihedioha is not being accused of forgery and perjury. Instead, it is that awarded victory on the altar of fabrication and deceit that should be wary.