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The Braying Hounds of Rivers State

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By Bruno Emenike – 
There is little doubt as to the significance of the media to issues of openness, accountability, growth and development. That is why what the media prints, broadcasts, and publishes is often times regarded as ‘near-gospel truth’ by society.

But given the tendency for facts to be blurred, agendas to be pursued and arguments to be skewed with sensational headlines, it becomes imperative for those standing outside the ring to give clear perspectives on issues, and in most instances redirect discourse with facts as there are.

It is without doubt that this occasional blips are what informed John Pilger, the Australian journalist and filmmaker to say: “It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it.”

Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on February 12, 2016 upholding the election of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State alongside those of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Gombe, Ebonyi and Taraba States, there have been grand orchestrations by a segment especially the ‘princes’ of the All Progressives Congress from Rivers State to impugn non-existent motives as to why their Hon. Justices arrived at such an outcome.

For those beating the drum, overtly and covertly, in this malicious attempt to not only muddy the integrity of the justices of the apex court but single out Justice Mary Odili for public opprobrium as well as put lie to the mandate of Governor Wike, freely given by the Rivers people, is to say the least, a new low.

Within the past few days, Saharareporters have ran some fabricated and imaginative articles on how Wike ‘procured’ his mandate via the Supreme Court. Also, Leadership Newspapers in two succeeding editions, Tuesday, March 1, and Thursday, March 3, 2016, respectively, tried to give flesh to dry bones in the matter of former Governor Peter Odili and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Firstly, the media should take cognisance of due diligence and not rush to the market place in the seeming euphoria of having a ‘big story,’ when in truth, it is a commodity of ridicule.

The allegation is that Governor Wike met with some of the justices of the Supreme Court prior to the verdict at the burial of Madam Ugoeze Bernadette Nzenwa, mother of Justice Mary Odili. The failed governorship candidate of the APC, Dakuku Peterside, was quoted as the harbinger of the ‘expo!’ It is interesting to note that Lady Bernadette Nzenwa was buried on June 14, 2015, barely two weeks after Gov. Wike was sworn-in to begin his first four-year tenure.

The simple question is when was the Governorship Tribunal constituted leading to that of Court of Appeal, before ending at the apex court? If indeed, Wike met with a justice of the court at a public function as expected given the throng of people at the burial, does it also follow that Dakuku and his ‘oga,’ a ‘chieftain of this administration had also met other justices beforehand knowing they couldn’t and possibly can’t win Rivers state?

Come to think of it, the fulcrum of any and every decision reached by a competent court is on the standard of proof, except those who ply on ‘Jankara’ judgments. The Electoral Act 2011 as Amended requires that any allegation of over voting or electoral malpractice must be proved in all the local governments and polling units.

But what did Dakuku and the APC presented: 11 out of 23 local governments! This is in addition to the fact that the standard of proof failed in forms EC8A were tendered in respect of only 16 out of 23 local government areas. “This cannot meet the required standard of proving over-voting,” the apex court held.

Legal decisions are not predicated on sentiments or the perception of “majority public opinion” without the required material to sustain such grandstanding before the hallowed chamber of justice.

It is trite saying that people should be careful of what they wish. This is against the background of how Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, former Speaker and governor of Rivers ascended to become the Chief Executive of the state for eight years. When the Supreme Court decided to make Amaechi governor in a revolutionary judgment for a man that did not participate in the whole gamut of the electoral process, there were no such brazen accusations and insinuations as we now have, simply because some people have become amoral to the fact that God alone raises and dethrones kings.

To buttress the suspicion that there is a determined and obnoxious effort to tar the Odilis, a lot of energy has gone into how she influenced the apex court ruling to favour Wike. Can it be said that other governors whose elections were decided upon by the apex court had people within or outside the system that intervened and ‘procured’ judgments for them? Do we now hold onto the beer parlour talk that General T.Y. Danjuma influenced the Taraba outcome as a precondition of his continued support to the present regime? Such baloney!

Does it now become sacrosanct that the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Alhaji Abba Kyari that was sighted at the Supreme Court on the day these rulings were delivered had gone to pass instructions to the justices? Incredulous!

To fit into the matrix of the sinister plot is the overly-hyped EFCC matter of ex-Governor Odili and the EFCC. Since 2009, traducers of the Odilis have latched onto the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba to spin tales by moonlight, and have always ended empty handed. It is a known fact that in litigation, there are rules of engagement as enunciated in the Practice Direction of the court. It is one of the absurdities of the media that a newspaper that prides itself as ‘Nigeria’s Most Influential Newspaper’ will leave the substance of a case to chase squirrels. The claim that an appeal, entered more than the stipulated time-frame, had gone missing begs the question. The newspaper failed to even in its usual ‘sources’ attribute its findings to any court official.

The real kernel of the matter is that the practice direction in 2011 before it was reviewed gave all parties 60 days to enter an appeal on any matter. When it was reviewed in 2013, the time frame was cut to 30 days. The EFCC did not follow this simple rule only for it to enter its appeal on October 17, 2008 and exhausted the door provided for only two amendments to an appeal on March 2012 and June 22, 2014.

Beyond the media trial and acts of subterfuge being employed, it is Mr. Amaechi that has benefitted immensely from the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court barring the anti-graft body from investigating the government of Rivers State from 1999 – 2007.

Amaechi relied on the said judgment refused to appear before the Justice George Omereji’s Judicial Commission of Inquiry for the Investigation of the Administration of Governor Chibuike Amaechi on the Sale of Valued Assets of Rivers State and Other Related Matters.

Amaechi not only refused to appear before a duly constituted committee after all his efforts before the judiciary failed, but muscled his way through the National Assembly to become a minister of the Federal Republic.

Without doubt, probity and accountability are yardsticks which nobody has discountenanced about the Odilis, but for some people to use a different measuring rod steeped in malice and inherent desire to pull them down makes a mockery of those who pretend to be puritans while their cassocks are socked in deep mire and scum.

It will do well for those who have taken it upon themselves to smear the hard earned integrity of Justice Mary Odili and her family to be guided that in all her years at the judiciary, she has maintained a dignified poise both in conduct and her sound judgments, therefore this latest attempt like all others before now will witness Olympian crash.

No man, it is said in African folklore, spits on the beneficence of his benefactor and remain sane. A word, they say, is enough for the wise!

Emenike wrote in through [email protected]