According to an anonymous source, whose adage through use and age has become synonymous with celestial truth, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine”. The same is true in today’s Rivers State as we’ve seen with our very eyes.
Rivers people went into the 2015 General Elections with a determination to protect their heritage from political fundamentalists. The Presidential and National Assembly elections were held before the Governorship and House of Assembly Elections. President Jonathan, a son of the State was seeking re-election after a remarkable term in office that saw the Nigerian economy perform at its best in history. Naturally, Rivers people could not but give him the same support they did while he sought their votes for his first term in office.
Our people turned out in their numbers for the 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections. President Jonathan, who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), won massively in Rivers State, as was expected nationally, and so did the candidates of the PDP for the National Assembly elections. It was a bandwagon effect. But while it was great that Jonathan won in Rivers, he conceded defeat for national interest as a patriot and statesman to save the nation from bloodbath promised by fundamentalists.
Jonathan’s popularity and that of the PDP in the South-South, especially in Rivers State, prior to that election had never been a subject of debate. When he conceded defeat based on the blackmail and compromises of institutions and systems by political fundamentalists, Rivers people felt betrayed by those from among them by whose hands the blow on them, and not just Jonathan, came. They also felt vulnerable to enslavement by a set of leaders whose history bespoke of anything but patriotism and sanity. It was in that spirit and a defiant resolution to protect themselves from enslavement that they went into the next elections, which were those of the Governorship and House of Assembly that also held on the same day.
For the mass of Rivers people who had either sat on the fence or opposed the candidature of Chief Nyesom Wike, it no longer mattered that he was of the same Ikwerre stock as was the then incumbent Mr. Chibuike Amaechi. Nothing mattered. Neither Riverine nor Upland sentiments made sense to anyone again. Rivers people were simply united in their resolve to elect a Rivers man that could stand up to the Caliphate and defend and protect them from slavery. For many, losing Jonathan as President was bad enough. They couldn’t comprehend losing their heritage, identity and liberty. They went into the election and voted massively for the PDP. The All Progressives Congress (APC) as a Party simply sunk to nought.
The results of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections brought great relief to the vast majority of Rivers people. Finally, there was something to hold on to. The elections had gone on quite peacefully with just a few incidents that saw the desperation of the APC, sensing a humongous defeat, instigating violence.
When the violence narrative and efforts failed to have a huge impact, the APC rushed to the Elections Petition Tribunal to claim there were no elections in Rivers State and that it was marred with violence. If Rivers people thought they were joking, they were even shocked to see the dramatisation of the claims by the APC to accentuate the narrative and mislead Nigerians, and perhaps the courts. It was indeed a tortuous period for Rivers people and Nigerians. Rivers State remained constantly in the news for the very wrong reasons. The more damning the story, the more sponsorship it got from the APC, leaving the PDP perpetually on the defense.
As judgments proceeded from the Elections Tribunal, it became obvious that established principles of law and decisions of superior courts were being departed from just to give the APC another opportunity to claim Rivers State. The Court of Appeal repeated the same thing and even deviated from its own ruling on the same issues canvassed by other States. It was a clear case of injustice. For some, it amounted to robbery. Only a handful of House of Assembly members were spared. From the Governor to National and State Legislators, a people who had been validly elected and declared as such, it was a festival of annulments. In all these, quite instructively, no one trooped to the streets to celebrate; not even the inconsequential pack of APC apologists. We all kept mum publicly, praying privately that justice would be served.
For the Legislators, the courts didn’t help. The judgments were so sharply criticised by citizens and jurists alike that even the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmood Mohammed, himself, had to caution the Court of Appeal. But what could be done? The courts had spoken and the elections had been annulled. The buck for those cases stopped at the Court of Appeal and there was nothing else to do than to go for rerun.
Fortunately, the Governorship election petition got to the Supreme Court and every legal principle that had been departed from by the trial and appeal courts were affirmed. The Governorship appeal of the PDP, INEC and Candidate Wike all succeeded in unanimous and landmark judgments by the Supreme Court. Governor Wike’s mandate was restored and finally justice was served to Rivers people.
The wild and wide jubilations that greeted the judgment confirmed the injustice that had been done to Rivers people. To this day, people are still celebrating the salvation of Rivers State from the stranglehold of political fundamentalists led by a few deviant sons of Rivers State.
Since that judgment and the subsequent liberation of the people’s will by the Supreme Court, it has been hailed in glowing terms. In fact, the Chief Justice of Nigeria now goes by the description: THE INCORRUPTIBLE JUDGE for upholding the rule of law, administering justice and defying the establishment.
The Supreme Court’s verdict confirms the fact that the scheduled legislative rerun election in Rivers State is a restorative exercise rather than one seeking a mandate. The mandates had been freely given. They were given in an election that the PDP won overwhelmingly. They were unjustly suspended by political fundamentalist who compromised State institutions for their benefit. We are not going into the rerun to seek new mandates. We are going into the rerun elections to join the Supreme Court to restore all the mandates that were unjustly annulled. It’s a matter of justice. This is not necessarily a re-election exercise. It is a mandate restoration exercise.
As we file out in our numbers on March 19, 2016 to cast our sacred votes, be informed that we all, you and I, will be taking the stands, too, just as the courageous Justices of the Supreme Court to uphold the law and restore the mandates of those unjustly annulled. We, too, would be incorruptible judges on that day. We will stand against political fundamentalism and ego-centric partisanship and join Gov. Wike to completely salvage Rivers State.
As it is said and truly so, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine”. March 19, 2016 is a date with destiny. Don’t miss it for anything, my dear incorruptible judge.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.