By Omoshola Deji
ABRAHAM Lincoln described democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people” during the American civil war in 1863. His notion later became the often quoted definition of democracy and a benchmark of rating its success globally. More than a few nations have actualized Lincoln’s thought, but Nigeria is lagging behind. Her quasi-democratic arrangement is what the writer terms Judicracy: representative government via the verdict of law lords. J-u-d-i-c-r-a-c-y is a flawed democratic system in which the court repeatedly determines who rules, instead of the electorates.
The 2019 general election is the worst in Nigeria’s history as it produced the highest ever, about a thousand lawsuits. Virtually all the governorship election outcomes were challenged up to the Supreme Court. The judgments issued bagged no dispute, except that of Imo and Bayelsa States. In Imo, the lordships sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the fourth winner. Despite the unprecedented controversy and protests this sparked, the Supreme Court courageously made another upset in Bayelsa by nullifying David Lyon’s mandate barely a day to his inauguration.
The Bayelsa Case
Two lawsuits emerged from the Bayelsa 2019 governorship election. The first is an intra-party candidacy tussle between Hieneken Lokpobiri and David Lyon, both of the APC. The Supreme Court ruled in the case that Lyon was validly nominated. The other lawsuit is an inter-party, deputy governorship candidate qualification case, instituted against the APC by the PDP. Lyon’s running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo was accused of forgery and perjury. The Supreme Court pronounced him guilty, and consequently sacked him and Lyon on the basis of their joint ticket. Lyon did no wrong, but was fired for the sins of Eremieoyo. The judgment is both fair and unfair.
Why the Judgment is Fair
It is fair to sack persons who aspire to rule or are ruling with false documents. Eremieoyo’s deputy-governorship nomination form shows he has answered five different names since he was born. In his first school leaving certificate dated 1976, Eremieoyo bore the name Degi Biobaragha. He bore the name Adegi Biobakumo in his o-level results dated 1984 and Degi Biobarakuma in his bachelor’s degree dated 1990. Also, he bore the name Degi Biobarakuma Wangagha in his master’s degree dated 2002 and he’s currently bearing Degi-Eremieoyo Biobarakuma. One person. Five names.
Eremieoyo’s trial judge proclaimed that only a woman who’s been married five times could have changed names the way Eremieoyo did. My take is Eremieoyo may have been a fraudster who kept changing names to conceal his identity and wrongdoings. Before the advent of fingerprint technology, fraudsters conceal their identity by changing names and appearance.
Eremieoyo’s counsel and apologists argument that his periodic change of name was as a result of the chieftaincy titles he bagged holds no water. Traditional honors rarely require name change; the titles are only placed before the recipient’s conventional name. Though not impossible, it is very rare to come across honors that would require a total change of name. Bola Tinubu’s name didn’t change when he was made the Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom. Also, Atiku Abubakar’s name didn’t change when he was turbaned the Waziri of Adamawa Emirate. Even kings don’t change names after coronation.
Nigerians are comparing President’s Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate and identity controversy case to Eremieoyo’s, but the facts are different. Buhari presented an affidavit and a re-issued copy of his disputed result to the court, while Eremieoyo only presented an unverifiable affidavit. Besides, in Buhari’s case, the spelling of ‘Muhammadu’ only changed to ‘Mohammed,’ on a single occasion and Islamic clerics clarified that both names are one and the same. On the other hand, Eremieoyo’s name changed significantly, sometimes completely, multiple times. God forbid a Nigeria where the court would free such a dubious personality to govern despite convincing evidence. Cry or smile, the Supreme Court judgment is fair.
The implication of allowing Eremieoyo rule Bayelsa is grievous. Every deputy governor is a governor-in-waiting. If Lyon had been sworn-in and (God forbid) dies in office, Eremieoyo will take over. By then, the same Eremieoyo the lordships fail to sack will be appointing judges to do his bidding and hounding those who fail to. The same Eremieoyo that has no clean record and certificate will be commanding professors who have many degrees and appointing vice chancellors. Haba! Nigerians should be grateful to the Supreme Court for saving Bayelsa State from such catastrophe.
APC’s failure to act right made her pay the hard price. Eremieoyo shouldn’t have been nominated, or better still, the party should’ve replaced him in the wake of the scandal. The court did no wrong to have enforced the law made by APC members for themselves and the national laws, made by the legislature in which APC is in the majority.
Adams Oshiomhole, APC national chairman’s, aspersion on the judiciary over the Bayelsa judgment is dishonorable. He should rather resign for failing in oversight. If the party he leads deliberately fail to obey legitimate laws and the court decides to punish accordingly, how dare him utter unfair!
It is indeed a great loss to APC members and chieftains, but protesting Eremieoyo’s sack in the face of overwhelming evidence is a display of sophisticated foolishness. Will any of them, as an employer, retain an employee that secures a job under them with false identity and fake certificate? In this case, Bayelsa people lack the power to sack Eremieoyo for his dishonesty, but the constitution empowers the court to, and that has been done. Instead of belittling the lordships, they should be praised for acting right. Eremieoyo’s sack is fair and should not end there. He should be prosecuted for bringing pain to APC and Lyon.
Why the Judgment is Unfair
The Supreme Court’s verdict is deserving on Eremieoyo, but unfair to Lyon. Recognizing two persons as one is an unfair custom that will always make the guiltless sink with the guilty. That is not justice. If a father cannot be imprisoned for the crime of his son despite their blood ties, it is absolutely unfair to punish Lyon for the crime of Eremieoyo, a nonrelative.