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Wasted efforts...Those who fought for June 12 never benefited –Olanipekun

Posted by By Linus Obogo on 2008/06/30 | Views: 2378 |

Wasted efforts...Those who fought for June 12 never benefited –Olanipekun


With the memory of what has been dubbed as watershed in Nigeria’s political narrative now the exclusive of Lagos enclave, Lagos lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) has identified the vanishing relevance of June 12 to the exclusion of those he said genuinely fought for its survival in the post-Abdulsalami era.

With the memory of what has been dubbed as watershed in Nigeria’s political narrative now the exclusive of Lagos enclave, Lagos lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) has identified the vanishing relevance of June 12 to the exclusion of those he said genuinely fought for its survival in the post-Abdulsalami era.

According to him, the struggle for the revalidation of the election adjudged as the freest and fairest exercise in the history of the country’s democratic experiment may have passed as efforts down the drain as those opposed to its sanctity ended up as the biggest beneficiaries.

While fingering former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the biggest enemy of June 12 and a pathetic hater of Chief MKO Abiola, the custodian of the mandate, Olanipekun submitted that the tragedy that befell the struggle was when Olu Falae was not allowed to rule. “Obasanjo never liked or supported June 12, let’s face it. In fact, it was at that point in time he went somewhere in Harare to say that Abiola was not the Messiah we were waiting for.

So, when such a person now came to pilot the affairs of Nigeria for eight years, what did you expect? If Falae had become the president of Nigeria in 1999, June 12 would have been more relevant to us than it is today. But Nigerians got somebody who never liked June 12. June 12 would have been more relevant today if those who fought for it were the beneficiaries of the annulment.”

Insisting that while IBB may have annulled Abiola’s mandate, Olanipekun said the real annulment was indeed done by Obasanjo, who rendered June 12 irrelevant in his eight horrendous years in office as president.

Like a man with a chequered complex, Olanipekun said Obasanjo’s self-serving attitude never allows him to accept that any other Yorubaman can survive outside him. “Obasanjo is one man who never agrees that any Yorubaman should survive outside him or assume any importance other than him. That I know. He never accepted that any Yorubaman should survive or be more relevant than him. This is the factual situation without respect to anybody who might be agitating.

Obasanjo made June 12 very irrelevant during his eight years and killed it. He annulled the annulment during those eight years he was in office.”
On Professor Humphery Nwosu’s recent demystification of his 15 years’ silence on the June 12 saga, the Ekiti born legal luminary said though he might have goofed, his breaking of silence should serve as setting the stage for public discourse.

Excerpts:
Prof. Humphery Nwosu recently formally declared Abiola winner of the June 12 elections and went ahead to say it wasn’t Babangida that annul the election. What do you make of that?
Well, with due respect to Prof. Nwosu, it is so difficult to reconcile what he said with what we all knew and still know. But it is very good that he has spoken. It is also good for us that others are coming out to speak. The Pandora’s box will soon be opened. Nigeria and Nigerians will soon be exposed to the truth.
The truth will come out someday.

You can cover the truth for a while but not forever. Truth can never be covered perpetually because, however tiny the truth might be, it will overshadow the falsehood put in a pot. The pot will break into pieces. Have you forgot that after he spoke, a respected soldier, someone you will call a gentleman spoke? Brigadier General John Shagaya has spoken. But Shagaya has not told us the whole truth. There are some names he has not mentioned.

The fiery and patriotic retired Col. Umar has also spoken. He is coming up with a book. He was there in the military. I sincerely believe it was a military decision, which Nwosu was not there. Was Nwosu there when they were talking and taking the decision? Was Nwosu a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council? Was he there when decisions were taken?
He wasn’t there. So, whatever Nwosu has said is like setting the stage for public discourse. It is good for discussion. It is good for comment. The truth will come out. I have always advocated at the national level for truth and reconciliation commission because we must know the truth. As educated as we are, we still don’t know the truth about June 12. So, why don’t we encourage Nwosu to talk. By the time Nwosu has spoken, there will be reactions, some of them spontaneous to his own action or inaction. So, don’t let us just crucify Nwosu for whatever wrong he has done by that book he has produced. A lot of good will still come out of it.

He seemed to have demystified his long silence with his book. What kind of man do you think Nwosu is?
I don’t want to condemn Nwosu. I want to be fair to him. Let me tell you this story. When the late Justice Apata accepted the job of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission under Obasanjo, I wrote him a personal letter because I was close to him. I told him to weigh the options before accepting the offer. I knew him to be a man of steel. He was steel-minded. But I said: “with all you have earned in your life, pray that it won’t be destroyed with your acceptance of the offer. When he replied me, he said: ‘Wole, I thank you for being blunt as ever. I will try my best not to disappoint you people.’

Apata was different from Nwosu, as he Nwosu was operating under a military dispensation. I do believe that he should have spoken earlier than now. He should have also resigned. But then, to resign under the military, how many people could? Even those who are serving under the civilian rule hardly resign. How many of them ever did?

It is easier for people to criticize. For me, the way I look at it is that we should just accept what he has said for the purpose of discussion. This is because he has not said anything new. For me, I’ll say let us accept Nwosu’s book and his breaking of silence as setting the stage for discussion because there will be a synergy between what he has spoken and what the truth actually is. And we thank God that the people who will speak the truth are still alive. Shagaya has made some comment and I believe that he will still say more.

Umaru is coming out with his book. But if Nwosu has not said anything, perhaps, these people would not have spoken. We are coming to a stage where the big masquerade himself will talk. And I believe he will talk one day. I’m not holding brief for him, that’s Babangida. We have to resolve the mistakes of the past. In Christendom, when you confess your sins, you make restitution and ask for forgiveness. We are getting to the last lap, it is like a relay team.

Why are you blaming the person who is taking the first leg? Nwosu has taken the first leg. He is handing over to the Shagayas and Umars of this world. Forget about those who are late. The last leg of the relay race is more important. But the relay race has started.

Nwosu has handed over to the Shagayas and Umar who will now handover to Babangida who will talk. And we must make him talk because the rumours in the mill have it that Babangida himself, in his heart of heart did not want to annul June 12. We do understand that some people, even some civilians wanted the annulment.

Again, on June 12, I don’t know why Nigeria and Nigerians at times move to one wrong direction. We see the injustices of June 12, but nobody has ever addressed the injustice of the termination of the tenure of the governors who campaigned and were elected. They were the architects of June 12. They had been in office for two years before the annulment.

This was very painful. That is why we are not making much progress because the way we argue sometimes battles me. How many people have spoken about the termination of the governors’ tenure? How many people have sympathized with them? They brought about Abiola, the campaigned for him and they formed SDP. Abiola was not in the SDP before them. Abiola joined the SDP just six months before June 12. nobody sympathized with them and nobody is doing that now either.

Have you forgotten that as at the time June 12 was annulled, the governors were still in office under Shonekan? Please, let us do some relating back. Nobody has ever sympathized with them, as if they were not important or they were not Nigerians. But we have chosen to just concentrate on June 12. June 12 is important. It is a watershed in the sense that it was the fairest presidential election we ever had. That was the time people didn’t mind about religion or tribe and what have you.

Why do you think June 12 is steadily fading out of relevance?
I was the attorney General of Ondo State as at the time June 12 was annulled. Ondo State gave Abiola the highest number of votes. I knew how we campaigned. June 12 was hijacked by people who didn’t even campaign for Abiola. I’m getting a lot of facts that amaze me, that send me in bewilderment. When I realize how the SDP governors, in their collective wisdom campaigned for Abiola, they wanted him to become the president, and I was so surprised to hear that some people were holding meetings with some soldiers in Lagos, with Abacha and Diya on how to form a government. General Diya is also coming out with his own book. Did you read Babatope’s own analysis?

He said he was nominated. People like us were busy fighting for Abiola. At that point in time, I was briefing on behalf of the SDP governors in Nigeria. I was walking in and out in Chief Rotimi Williams’ office on how to win our case because we filed an action as the attorneys-general in the SDP-controlled states.

Yet, some people who didn’t know anything about how Abiola was nominated, about how we campaigned for him in Jos, about how Ondo State gave him the largest number of votes in Nigeria. Then they were meeting here, without cross-reference to us. Not even direct reference to us. Then, they were meeting with Abacha.

There were those who went to the cage of a lion to plead with him to come out of its den. Abacha was a lion. Anybody who dines with a lion will end up in its belly. It is rather unfortunate. Somebody like Tinubu was with us. He was in the National Assembly and we fought together to make the election a reality. And I’m so disappointed with the civilians who were meeting with the military in any form whatsoever. And that is the point I’m making. When they were meeting with the military, did they consider the governors of the SDP states? Did they have any consideration or sympathies for them because they were asking Abacha to take over? Abacha was ambitious. All he needed was the minutest of prompting. But he got substantial prompting because they were virtually saying he was the only one who could save this country.

What do you think could have accounted for its diminishing relevance now?
I’m not saying that June 12 is relevance and I don’t want anybody to say that. June 12 would have been more relevant today if those who fought for it were the beneficiaries of the annulment. Let me explain myself. Falae and Obasanjo contested. I know who Falaye is, we came from the same area, I campaigned for him within the SDP. Falaye was offered the position of interim president that Shonekan took. But he rejected it. Falaye was courted by the military, he rejected it. He genuinely fought for June 12. You can’t take that away from him. Now Falae came out to contest in 1999. But in the collective wisdom of Nigerians, they rejected him. Don’t let us rubbish history, don’t let us just jump from one to three leaving two.

If Falae had become the president of Nigeria in 1999, June 12 would have been more relevant to us than it is today. But Nigerians got somebody who never liked June 12
Obasanjo never liked or supported June 12, let’s face it. In fact, it was at that point in time he went to somewhere in Harare to say that Abiola was not the Messiah we were waiting for. So, when such a person now came to pilot the affairs of Nigeria for eight years, what did you expect?
In fairness to Abacha, he did not even do as much havoc to June 12 like Obasanjo did. I’m not saying he did well, but Abacha would at every point in time want to negotiate with Abiola. But Obasanjo who was from the same town with Abiola, never gave him any recognition, not even a mention for one day. Except one day when he said the election was annulled because of “Bad belle”.

Who were the people with “bad belle” ? We know them. He never for one day suggested that Abiola should be given a national honour.
Obasanjo was and still one man who never agreed that any Yorubaman should survive outside him or assume any importance other than him. That I know. He never accepted that any Yorubaman should survive or be more relevant than him. This is the factual situation without respect to anybody who might be agitating.

Obasanjo made June 12 very irrelevant during his eight years and killed it. He annulled the annulment during those eight years he was in office. Have you forgotten that there was a point in time when a young Federal legislator from the North was saying that the Abuja National Stadium should be named after Abiola? Did Obasanjo, a Yorubaman and more particularly from the same town with Abiola need to be told before he could say let us do this? In fact, it was within his own prerogative as the president to do that.

In life, if we cheat history, history will cheat us. We must note that because it is very important. Abiola must be recognized even as the watershed itself to our democracy and as the sacrificial lamb.

A memorial was done recently for Abacha, where retired Generals Babangida, Buhari and Abdulsami reportedly said that Abacha was not a corrupt leader. What do you make of this?
For Generals Buhari and Babangida, they could say anything because they were heads of state before Abacha. But for Abdulsalami, I would have excepted the respected general to have kept quite because if there was anybody who started probing Abacha, or hinted us that they recovered a lot of loot from Abacha, it was Abdulsalami.

And our leaders should appreciate the fact that they are not talking to fools.
They should know that they were not talking to people whose memory had failed them. They are not talking to people who have become senile. In fact, it was him, who through a decree, started recovering loots from Abacha and from those who served under him. I would have expected that he should keep quiet, even if Babangida and Buhar were talking.

Now, for Babangida and Buhari, the way I understood them, in fact I want to talk like a lawyer, they were not saying in their heart of hearts that Abacha was a saint. They were trying to draw comparism with Abacha and some un-named people who must have held office at that level after Abacha. Perhaps, they will still explain themselves more if they are approached. They know that they cannot convince Nigerians if they told us that Abacha was a saint. They dare not say it. But they were saying, “look, people have told us that Abacha was a devil but in the light of what we have seen in the past eight years preceding Yar’Adua, you can draw a comparism of who the true devil is”. That was what they seemed to be saying. That is my own interpretation.

The fear of the Freedom of Information bill (FOI) has become the beginning of wisdom for our federal lawmakers. What are our lawmakers afraid of?
Let us face the reality. Nigeria is what it is today because there is no freedom of information act. Nigeria is what it is today because the affairs of government are being run in secrecy. Nigeria is what it is today because you don’t have the information that you should have. Again, if I talk, you will say because Yar’Adua is my client.

Yar’Adua has been the first person to come up boldly to say “yes, I’m assuming the position of the president of Nigeria, this what I have, these are my assets, these are my liabilities. When ever he is leaving office, either in 2011 or four years thereafter, he must also declare what he has while in public office as president because we must know everything about those who governor us. Be it at the Federal level as president, at the state level as governor, at the local government level as chairman. The freedom of information bill, if passed, will be the most important, the most progressive, patriotic and enduring act passed by the National Assembly from 1999 to date.

They must come to terms with what we call democracy. Democracy without access to information is a charade. It is like an empty barrel. It is like democracy without the rule of law. And when you talk of the rule of law, it goes hand-in-hand with freedom and access to information. Access to information is also access to education and knowledge.

And it is when you have knowledge that you can acquire wisdom. So, I am so much taken aback by what the National Assembly is doing about it. Are they afraid of their own shadow? Do some people fear the skeleton in their cupboard will be unveiled if the bill is passed into law? At this time, I’m happy that it is not the executive that is saying don’t pass it. And I am happy that this time around, the legislature is more independent than it was in 1999 to 2007. Throughout that period, it was Ken Nnamani and Umar Ghali N’Abba who championed the independent of the legislature. The legislature at that time was virtually in the pocket of the executive. But this time around, the executive itself is not even interested in pocketing the legislature.

So, I’m surprised at what they are doing. Maybe some of them are afraid of what will constitute their past. May be some of them are afraid of their past deeds. But then, they have to pass it. They have no choice than to pass it. It is their responsibility, it is their duty. And they are not doing any favour to Nigeria by passing the freedom of information bill. And by the time that bill becomes an act of parliament, Nigeria will change.

One thing they do not appreciate and which we want them to appreciate is that one of the shortest acts to fighting corruption is information.

What do you make of the uproar trailing Farida Waziri’s appointment as the new EFCC boss?
I don’t know why there should be any uproar about her appointment. I have made my own stance known on this. Is the women qualified? Yes she is qualified. Has she been tested? Yes she has been tested. Does she have the pedigree for this type of exercise? Yes she has. A pedigree, which nobody can contest. Does she have the antecedent?

Yes she does. She has intimidating qualifications.
There must be a sort of continuum where people come and go. I play my own part, even within my family, where I’m the head, I will only play my own part as the father and disappear from the stage. I cant be there forever. The world is a stage and everyone of us has come to act his part. Have you seen an actor who stays perpetually on stage? He becomes a nuisance, an irritant. So, once you have acted your own part, it behooves you to leave the stage while the ovation is loudest.

Waziri has come on the stage, but I don’t know why some people don’t want to give her a chance. Let us give her a chance. The way I look at it, the bus stops on the president’s table. He has the prerogative to appoint, whoever he wants to appoint.

And let us be fair to ourselves, some people were arguing that the time of Ribadu, the man I respect so much has not elapsed. Which term are they talking about? The president has the prerogative to appoint whomever he wants and that he has done. We should allow sleeping dog to lie. People are still raising argument and I don’t think they are doing any justice to the young man, they should allow the Ribadu continue with his profession as a police officer.

Let him now go and perform creditable well. He should go and replicate what he had done in the EFCC in the police force. First of all, he is a police officer. The agency was not created for him. I have said it that the day we zero any agency on an individual, that day, we will collapse the agency. The EFCC is a public institution. It is not an individual institution. It belongs to you and me, not to an individual. Mind you, it is not even a place that you can say you have a vested interest in law. If it were to be an elective office like governor, president and you have won the election, you have a vested interest. But for a position that you were nominated and appointed, you can’t talk about vested interest.

As counsel to Yar’Adua at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, do you think it was morally justifiable for the tribunal chairman, Justice Ogebe to be promoted to the Supreme Court?
One thing I see in us in Nigeria, with all respect to my fellow countrymen, at times, we don’t look before we leap. At times, we don’t read our constitution. The constitution belongs to you and me. It is our property. The constitution is an organ of the law of the land. We must master the constitution. If we master our constitution, we wont be committing some of the errors and mistakes we are making. We wont make some of the submissions we are making out of ignorance of what the constitution states.
Let us ask ourselves, in practical terms does the sitting president of Nigeria appoint Justices of the Supreme Court? The answer is no, because under the constitution, a justice of the Supreme Court is appointed through the following procedures:

The Federal Judicial Services Commission will first of all look into the merits of the candidates whose names have been forwarded to them. The names of the candidates are submitted by serving justices of the Supreme Court to the Chief Justice of Nigeria. He himself will take the names to the Federal Judicial Services Commission. After the Federal Judicial Service Commission has done the clearing, they forward all the names to the National Judicial Council. The National Judicial Council does the vetting. What NJC will now do is that after the appointment, they will now send the names of the appointee to Mr. President. He, in turn will forward it to the National Assembly, particularly to the senate for approval, for clearance. So, it is between the National Judicial Council, the president and the senate.
But the president, I want to say this on good authority does not nominate justices to the Supreme Court. The presidency, under this present dispensation is just a clearing-house.

I’m so happy that this question has arisen. I want to volunteer information as an insider. I was on the National Judicial Council between 2004 to 2006. Before I joined the National Judicial Council, Ogebe’s name had been featuring and he was found to be a fit and proper person to be appointed to the Supreme Court. As at the time I was at the National Judicial Council, the president of the court of Appeal, who is also a statutory member of the National Judicial Council, when he was asked at one particular occasion, which justices of the court of Appeal he would recommend to the Supreme Court? He said in order of merit and of seniority that if he would make recommendation, it would be Ayo Salami as number one and Ogebe as number two.

When you talk about seniority, people who are junior to Ogebe from different parts of the country have gotten to the Supreme Court before him. And I’m not aware of anybody, apart from the president of the court of Appeal and Ayo Salami who is a presiding justice in Lagos state that are senior to Ogebe on the court of Appeal bench, no body else. But Nigerians will say people are senior to him.

And are you saying that because Ogebe was presiding he should not be promoted? Are you saying because Ogebe was presiding then, the National Judicial Council should not do its job? Look, from whatever angle you look at it, if Ogebe’s name that has been there before 2006 was not sent as at the time it was sent and was sent after the judgment, people will say it was a reward. Nigerians will say it is “scratch my back and I will scratch your own” . It is not fair to the gentleman. And the president does not appoint justices of the court of Appeal. I’m not saying this because I was his counsel. And when you talk about the judgment of the court of Appeal, you have to know how the court operates. There are five justices sitting on the election tribunal.

Under the constitution, every judge sworn in as a justice of the court of Appeal is expected to write his own judgment independent of others. The way you determine the judgment of the court of Appeal is by the majority decision. Every judge is expected to write his own judgment and if you don’t like it, you write a dissenting judgment. And by and large, Ogebe didn’t even write the leading judgment. The leading judgment was written by Fabiyi and not by Ogebe. Why do you want to call a dog a bad name in other to hang it? This gentleman has been on the superior court bench for over 30 years.
And let me say this, he is one of the most incorruptible judges on earth. I’m not even saying in Nigeria, but on earth. He is someone you can’t bend. He is someone you cannot dictate to. And when you talk of Christianity, forget about those who lie in the name of Christ, he is a Christian to the core.

But there are those who will read your position and say well, you client benefited from it. What do you say to that?
Oh! My client didn’t benefit. My client never benefited from it. And I won’t subscribe to that. I totally disagree with that. I know him, I often disagree with his judgment but then, the very essence of the judgment, how he came about it, I won’t disagree because he is a man who has bona fide. He is a Christian to the core.

If you know Ogebe, I doubt if he has s single building in Nigeria. Ogebe doesn’t even send Christmas cards to any body. What he sends to you during Christmas are tracts, telling you to give you life to Christ. How I wish you knew this man. He is a man that should be commended. He is not a man that should be rubbished. He is from Benue and I’m from Ekiti. So, I have no cause to be defending him so strongly.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.