Thursday, January 15, 2009

Legalising All Illegalities

In many of Shakespeare’s plays, he pondered why “Men have lost their reason”. Mark Anthony expressed disappointment at the action of Brutus who took an undue advantage of his closeness to Julius Caesar to stab him to death, maintaining as the only reason for such a diabolical action, that Caesar was ambitious. We find absolutely reprehensible, the stand of Hon Phillip Shuaibu and Hon. Paul Ohonbamu, both principal officers of the Action Congress extraction in the Edo State House of Assembly, “Whatever decision that was taken during the administration of Professor Osunbor was legal since he was sworn in by the Chief Judge of the State” (VANGUARD, Wednesday, December 24, 2008, p. 11). In the months ahead, we can see the Assemblymen struggling to wriggle out of this mess. In fact, wouldn’t have been bothered an inch if this stench had come from a less disciplined party.
A man shoots his way to power through the instrumentality of what has been adjudged the worst election ever conducted any where in the entire universe. For 18 months, he clings to power by all means. He breaks all known laws and disobeys all court orders. He plunders the treasury. He walks justice on its head. He leaves unpromoted, all those who deserved to be promoted and promotes all those undeserving of it. On the eve of his departure from Government, he dumps on establishments, all manner of people not needed by the establishments, ostensibly as staff. Haba!
The Osunbor administration was totally bereft of ideas and it brought none to Governmen. From Day One, Osunbor’s government lacked legitimacy. It did not have the confidence of the Edo people to rule them. Like the Bourbons, the administration had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. In other words, the administration killed itself and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is simply helping to bury it. Now, the Assemblymen who ought to know better are coming up with the ludicrous idea that every action taken by this illegal regime should be accepted as sacrosanct since the regime “was sworn in by the Chief Judge of the State”. Absolutely preposterous!
Our Honourable Members must answer a few salient questions: Since when did swearing in become a panacea for legitimacy? Why was it necessary to go to the Tribunal and the Appeal Court, which ultimately annulled the election? Again, was it not really because the Chief Judge whose duty it was to swear in the administration had no power to “swear it out” that it lasted that much? After all, which decent body, including the Judiciary and the Chief Judge, did that illegal regime not smear with its illegality? One simple example will do here. We recall, with sadness, that after the sham Local Government elections, the Chief Judge appointed men of integrity into the Local Government Election Petition Tribunal. That was how Hon. Justice Akinbami and two others were appointed Chairman and members respectively. The Chief Judge received kudos for the fine appointments, unaware of the rude shock that was to follow.
On the appointed day for the swearing in, Hon. Justice Akinbami and the two members dressed up in their best custom-made black suits and proceeded to Government House. But just before the swearing in started, a spurious petition came from Prince Solomon Aguele (then PDP State Chairman), alleging that Justice Akinbami would not do their bidding as he was the incorruptible Judge who had a few days before then granted an interim injunction in favour of some PDP members who had insisted on due process in the nomination of candidates for the Local Government elections.
Right there at the Festival Hall, Hon. Justice Akinbami was replaced with Justice Ighodalo, Professor Osunbor’s kinsman and loyalist who was the same faithful servant that illegally vacated the interim injunction granted by Hon. Justice Akinbami. This was how the Professor of Law turned himself to the de facto appointing authority of the Tribunal’s Members, thus usurping the constitutionally assigned responsibility of the State Chief Judge, the same Chief Judge that sworn him in!
The Bible’s stand is clear: Vanity upon vanity is all vanity (Ecclesiastes 12:8). Anything emanating from an illegal regime is illegal. Even at that, nobody is prepared to go the whole hog. The obvious atrocities are enough to occupy the full attention of any government. Need we begin to enumerate the numerous ways in which the Osunbor administration ran foul of the law? A few instances will do. On assumption of office on the 29th of May 2007, Prof. Osunbor met on the table, a court ruling by Hon. Justice E.F. Ikponmwen of the High Court of Justice, sitting in Benin City: That the Resolution of the State House of Assembly mandating the 2007 Local Government election to be put on hold and also requesting the State Governor to remove the chairman and members of Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) from office were “unconstitutional, invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”. The court also ruled that “appointment of persons into Local Government Councils… without democratically conducted elections is declared null and void and of no effect”.
We saw how even in the face of these, Prof. Osunbor sent the legitimate chairman and members of EDSIEC he met on ground packing and in their places, he appointed his own cronies, who were essentially PDP card carrying members. We saw how this soon became the albatross of the Osunbor-led administration by portraying it not only as an administration that relishes itself on disobedience of court orders but also as an administration that would never be able to conduct a credible election since it chooses to wallow in illegalities.
We are all living witnesses to the charade they called Local Government elections of last December; that advanced fraud in which the results were written and announced in Government House and other safe havens. While voters wailed endlessly at polling stations to cast their votes, the “Presiding officers” had finished their job at their chosen rendezvous.
We have said often enough that good government demands good leadership. This means the ability not only to choose staff that are loyal, but also those who have the competence to generate ideas that would enhance the implementation of the fundamental objectives of state policy.
Instead of this, while the illegal regime was beating a retreat from Government, it deliberately deposited a lot of debris on its trail, including a heavy load of undesired staff with the resultant overweight in wage bill; in utter defiance of the need for due process, it pushed its cronies into the so called statutory commissions; it selectively picked and chose which staff to promote, again without due process; it littered the entire place with contractors who were by and large cronies who had collected millions and billions of Naira for work not done; and finally, while leaving all these liabilities behind, it decided to take away every available asset, including looting the treasury and removing the last kobo, leaving the various bank accounts in deep red, and looting of other Government property, ranging from vehicles to cutlery, window blinds and tooth picks.
Of course, Government had an institution on ground, which would have squarely checkmated them from these wanton destructions. These cannot happen under a House of Assembly that knows its onions. Through the instrumentality of the doctrine of checks and balances the State House of Assembly would have prevented a lot of these from happening but apparently, they were partners in crime. What else does one expect from a House that has chosen to be compromised to the detriment of the electorate? That explains why the same House of Assembly is now telling us that whatever the Osunbor-led administration did was in order since the State Chief Judge swore it in.
The Oshiomhole Administration has started on a sound footing. The irregular promotions have been reverted to status quo ante; the irregular appointments in Edo City Transport Service (ECTS) have been terminated. This is just a tip of the iceberg. They must go through with the cleansing. And this is only one side of the coin. A thorough cleansing presupposes a situation of reward and punishment. In the process, some people must have also been oppressed, suppressed and compressed. There must be adequate amendatory action for these categories of people who were deprived during the illegal regime.
All the same, we are still convinced that these palliative measure, simply beg the question. Until we get to the point where those who rig themselves into office are made to vomit all their drawings and spending while illegally occupying office, the marginal propensity to rig will never be reduced. The evil that men do should live with them.