By Iyorwuese Hagher
After the April 11, governorship election in Benue state, it seemed as if political heat and steam had cooled down and the winner would be left off the hook and not be dragged to the election tribunal. The former Governor of Benue state Dr. Suswam canvassed this position and went out to embrace the APC leadership in the state. He granted several press conferences that the party would not take
Governor Ortom to court. He then took off to Abuja to rekindle his broken friendship with his political mentor Senator Akume, the Senate minority leader. He actively canvassed for Akume to become the Senate President. Suswam himself let off Senator Barnabas Gemade from the clutches of the tribunal sitting in Makurdi before he took off to an undisclosed destination at the end of his mandate.
But Tarzoor the PDP Governorship candidate at the election dragged Ortom to the tribunal. I supported this action and so did a number of Benue elders within the PDP. These elders and myself were quickly labeled by a section of the APC social media as “foolish old people.” Some of my associates, friends, family members and former students either called or wrote to me advising me to withdraw my support. Many knew the fact that for over twenty years Samuel Ortom and I had worked together in the same political parties. They even knew that I was one of his principal promoters for the governorship race in Benue state before he “crossed over” to the APC. My most persuasive family member reminded me of the indignities I had received from the Benue political class of today, in spite of the fact that I was politically senior to all of them in political age and variegated experience. He pleaded that I was a father and should allow sleeping dogs be. He said I had sufficiently paid my dues and should not expose myself to more personal insults and risk to my life. My former trusted aide who had joined the APC with my knowledge and approval argued in the same vein. She said I had fought for the masses all my life. It seemed the masses in Benue voted for change and Ortom is bringing that change by the popular acclamation of his reversals of Suswam’s appointments and policies going on at the moment. She thought that it was selfish interest that I was supporting Tarzoor since I did not want it to be on my record that I had failed to deliver on my promise to make Tarzoor governor. More advises, attacks and pleas have buffeted me from all sides. This article is a response to all those who cared, and still care to know why I support the petition of Tarzoor at the Tribunal.
In considering whether to support the petition or not I was tempted by several high-ranking politicians, including some former governors. They said the justice system in Nigeria was a cash and carry affair. They said that the government at the centre would shove and push and have the tribunal give a verdict in support of Ortom inspite of whatever evidence to the contrary. Then they asked me where Tarzoor would get the stupendous sums to pay the SANS for their services and those to grease the palms of the judges to write the verdicts. Simply put, they warned me that the whole exercise was a nullity and futility. In their minds the tribunal would be an empty ritual of a well-choreographed farce.
It takes me a long time to make up my mind. But once it is made on a point of principle I brook no compromise with my conscience. I support the case at the tribunal because I believe in Nigeria and believe that a wind of change has truly taken place. I support the case at the tribunal because my life is built on the struggle for social justice for all. In this case, I am face to face with a well delineated problem; namely of the petitioner exercising his fundamental right as citizen and candidate to ask the tribunal to determine from the records before it, if the man who contested election with him was a qualified candidate as contained in the qualifications for candidature as prescribed by the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 as amended? Now, why would any reasonable person refuse a citizen this right just because of cynicism about the Nigerian legal system? I am aware that the PDP had earlier on instituted a similar case at the Makurdi High court challenging Ortom’s qualification on the basis that he did not take part in any Primary that produced him as APC candidate. I am also aware that several members of the APC have instituted cases against Ortom challenging his emergence as APC flag bearer in the last election. I have decided for the sake of all concerned people to state here clearly why I support Tarzoor’s petition and indeed Barrister Jime and Senator Waku who have also challenged the emergence of Ortom as the APC flag bearer who won the election. In doing so I hope the reader will understand the thinking process from where my support is distilled.
Reasons why I support Tarzoors petition.
- The petition will give legitimacy to Ortom’s government once the judiciary gives the process that made him governor a clean bill of health. Now as it is in the minds of Benue people and Nigerians, it is nearly impossible for one man to be in two parties at the same time and emerge on the same day as a member of the PDP and APC and then after loses in the PDP Primary against Tarzoor goes on to emerge as the flag bearer of another party in the same governorship elections. How could Ortom have had a waiver on the same day to join the APC and also to forgo the mandatory screening? How could he have gone back into the past to give INEC needed 21 days notice of his aspiration on the same day he magically became a super candidate? Was Ortom’s candidature through a process of any primary election? The tribunal will be making legal history to rule on these questions in the public mind.
The tribunal should dig and unveil if indeed the candidature of Ortom was the machination of one powerful man in the APC or the party. Could we all have been hoodwinked by an evil and corrupt system that has hijacked the prerogative of the people to exercise power to nominate and elect their leaders by a cabal’s disregard for the laws of the land? Let the tribunal establish if this was not the case. It could also establish that the matter of candidature was beyond it, and is an exclusive right of the party!!!
By supporting the tribunal I believe I am helping to deepen democracy. I believe that Tarzoor has gone to the tribunal to expose the existence of a clandestine power operating at the hierarchy of the political class determined to war against democracy. His petition is made to challenge the instincts in the Nigerian politicians that lead to rapaciousness, destructiveness and accumulation of power in some political leaders who become oblivious of their followers and plot the destructions of others.
In supporting Tarzoor’s petition I believe I am fighting against political corruption, which is the bedrock of virulent corruption that is sapping away Nigeria’s energies thus making nation building impossible. If Ortom did not emerge as a qualified candidate, and was not there at the beginning of the electoral process, but smuggled through the window to emerge the winner of the contest in which he had started in the PDP, then his election should be considered an act of political corruption. I compare this to an athlete running a one hundred meters race in which he was defeated, and just at the point of his defeat he sees another group of athletes tired and worn out about to end their race of four hundred meters. He quickly changes lanes and finishes ahead of the others in that race. Can he be declared validly as winner of the four hundred meter’s race? Let the tribunal establish the true winner of the April Governorship election. The candidate or the phantom candidate?
In supporting Tarzoor’s petition I believe that the time for real change has come, as exemplified by our new President Buhari who himself kept going to the election tribunals. As an intellectual I would be dishonest to my calling if I do not challenge the rot in our system that allows injustice to fester. The history of the world is the journey of ideas that challenged the status quo and defined reality. The change we want should not only be found in Aso Rock but in all the state capitals. Democracy cannot operate where autocracy dominates. Autocracy kills freedom, creativity and dignity. If the Ortom Governorship is built on the foundation of a corrupt political cabal in Benue state…. If he himself is now controlled by a triumphalist, power drunk and corrupt cabal…. then.. There is no hope for the common man. But it is left for the tribunal to unravel this. I could be wrong!
In going to the tribunal and not recourse to violence Tarzoor is promoting good political ethics. He is creating a social transformation and mind revolution that any aggrieved citizen can challenge impunity and expect to be heard. He is striking at the core source of power of oppression in society.
I support the petition because I have confidence in the tribunal’s proper conduct, until it proves itself otherwise. There is no alternative course to civilized justice. The tribunal is expected to be the technology by which the real truth surrounding the qualification of Ortom to participate in that election can be established.
In my struggle against social injustice I know that reason and fact should interrogate, a taken-for-granted- exercise of power, if that power degenerates to toxic levels as the Benue power cohorts in the last sixteen years have done.
To liberate Benue state from surrogate governorship and puppet governance.
I hope that the tribunal will burst open the myth of triumphalist victory, invisibility and sham posturing parading itself in Benue today by releasing the most precious and elusive of political narratives…. The truth. We the political class in Benue has failed to negotiate our differences and share our woes and opportunities. Illusions punctuate our lives, blinding us to our own inconsistencies and repeated moral failings. Nowhere are these illusions compounded more than during elections when all facts are altered and lies and posturing made to appear as truth.
By supporting the case at the tribunal I hope that the public will become more aware of the need to abandon the drive to cut corners to selfishly acquire power, prestige, and material gain. These selfish power mongers devise creative ways to skirt the law and the constitution so that the word WRONG loses its bite.
INEC had asked people that lost at the elections to go to the tribunal if they were aggrieved. INEC is aware of its limited power to prevail on a political party to drop a candidate. This has given the impression that whosoever the party fields become non-challengeable. But the electoral law spells the ground where a candidate’s qualifications as stated in the constitution can be challenged. I agree with Tarzoor that he has a strong case. I support his case.
I support the tribunal because without going to the tribunal reconciliation and peace are impossible. The tribunal is expected to deliver a verdict based on justice which is the pre-condition for lasting peace and reconciliation.
I support the tribunal as my legacy to the younger generation. It is my belief that any elder that walks by and observes something wrong in his community, without trying to correct the wrong, has established that wrong, as the new standard of behavior. Leaders that tiptoe around injustice do more harm than good in a political community.
Finally I support the case at the tribunal because it enhances the rule of law. If we desire the rule of law then we must abide by the law of rules. Let the tribunal interpret the case before it from the evidence before it. In this case they have the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. We the people are waiting the verdict.
We the Benue politicians in all the political parties have failed our generation, the younger generations, and the masses. We have all condoned corruption even when we were excluded or we excluded ourselves from it. Our masses live lives of degrading poverty.
Our politics has derailed from responsible collective decision making to autocracy. Now it is in the hands of power mongers, criminals and mediocre politicians whose eyes and fingers are permanently in the treasuries. We have polluted the entire political atmosphere with evil clandestine power, easy money and pleasure. This is the wrong path to good leadership. It is the path to perdition. We fight over corruption spoils like street dogs. We invent tiny specks to argue over so that political identities become rigidified, and anger stoked so that these petty fights can endlessly go on.
Until we can have a common vocabulary and a shared historical memory we cannot have peace in our polity. We will remain disjointed cabals who have surrendered our political leadership to criminal gangsters, militias, and other vested interests in the traditional authority and churches that we are trying to infect with our corruption. We change political platforms at whim to demonstrate our lack of ideological conviction. We are consumed with a self-righteous ethos, which we confuse with religion. We abhor honesty, humility and industry. After the PDP lost in the last election, the pathetic true colors of the Benue politicians showed. The so-called leaders were trading self-esteem for soft landings, money, phantom positions in governments and all. Can someone tell me what we stand for? People who stand on principles stick to principles. Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.
I wish to address those of my colleagues on the social media. The last election showed we have so many social media gurus and spin-doctors. Like me we are all public intellectuals. The power we hold in our hands is formidable. But as in all power we can use it for liberation or oppression. Support the case at the tribunal too so that together we can establish the true value of what was, what is and what will be politically beneficial to our people. I invite you to help our people to navigate their way through dimly lit corridors of the political disaster waiting to happen to them through the myths you have spun around your icons. These are the Emperors I see dancing naked in the market squares. Get up and go to that tribunal and puncture your myths and liberate the people. Show them the nakedness I see, and save them from their illusions, fanaticisms and exaltations.
Now that I have made my position known to you my, friends, associates, family and the general reader I return to ask for your support for the petition at the tribunal. Let those called as witnesses swear on their sacred objects and tell us where they stand. My own stand is unambiguous. I am in the pit with the people. My political memory, principles and praxis have been clearly defined in a copious body of literature comprising hundreds of poems, fifteen plays, five books, and several articles, papers and speeches.
The political class of my age and many of the younger age are afraid of the insults, petty gossips and threat to life that trail a leader who is open and is himself seeking for better ways to be effective. I have all my life, tried to act in a sensitive and responsible manner. In all the stations I have served my country I have given my best, and the grateful nation has also commended all my labor. My refusal to condone corruption, compromise my integrity and instead stand for the truth at all times is not popular! I take a lot of flak, demeaning slanders, and am often a victim of baseless vicious petty gossips. A few times, my life was in danger from those who could not take criticism (even in private sessions) but all will continue to be well. I take consolation from my favorite philosopher Michel Foucault, who said:
“The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor has no clothes!”
(Dayton Ohio.) June 9, 15.