What about the victims?

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If there is one thing you cannot take away from a Nigerian, it is his penchant to play to the gallery. Whether in public or private office, many Nigerians like to do things in order to be noticed. The Yoruba call it ka ri mi. They like to be seen doing things which ordinarily should not attract attention because of the mileage they will get from such an act.

When rendering such ‘public service’, they speak with sugar-coated mouth. They paint a picture of themselves as having the love of the people at heart when all they are aiming at is to score cheap political points. Our politicians are most guilty of this practice. They are always, in their words, fighting for the people when in actual fact they are feathering their nest. Sucked in by their fake love, the people usually return them to the office in the next election.

There is no need to deceive the people, but that has become the stock-in-trade of our politicians, who lie through their teeth. Lies and half-truths have become their second nature. To them, they engage in lying so as to be politically correct. What kind of political correctness is that when people’s lives are involved? We all know the havoc Boko Haram has wreaked on the country in the past 10 years. The insurgents have ruined thousands of families in the northeast.

Families have been separated, with many ending up in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, children have been orphaned and wives turned into widows. Till today, many schoolgirls abducted between two and six years ago are still in Boko Haram captivity. Moreover, there is no let-up in the attacks of the insurgents, which the government wants us to believe have been ‘’technically defeated’’. The government has only scorched the snake, not killed it. This is why Boko Haram is still hitting what the military prefers to call ‘’soft targets”.

Soft must have a different meaning, with the insurgents’ attack on Garkida in Adamawa State last Friday in which former Defence Academy Commandant Maj-Gen Paul Tarfa’s home, police barracks, churches and hospital, among others, were destroyed. Boko Haram remains on the prowl, yet the Senate is contemplating granting the sect’s members amnesty. It is talking of amnesty when the sect is still killing, maiming, raiding, kidnapping, forcefully marrying underage girls and making them baby mothers ala Leah Sharibu!

Has Boko Haram shown any remorse to warrant it being considered for pardon? The Senate, as the upper chamber of the National Assembly, is to make laws for the good governance of the country under a peaceful and orderly setting. Is this what the Senate is doing with this bill proposing a law for ‘’An Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria’’. The Senate has more important things to do. It should stop wasting its time on a bill like this for now because the nation has not got to that bridge.

The bill, its sponsor, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam claimed, ‘’is to help disintegrate the violent and poisonous ideology that the group spreads; the programme will enable some convicted or suspected terrorists to express remorse over their actions, repent and recant their violent ideology and re-enter mainstream politics, religion and society’’. Is that so? Is the Senate not putting the cart before the horse with this proposed law?

Did it consider the feelings of victims of insurgency and their families before coming up with this bill? Will Gaidam have contemplated such a bill if he is at the receiving end? Is this the kind of law that Nigeria needs at this critical juncture of its existence when Boko Haram has made life nasty, brutish and short?

Will the Senate listen to the voice of reason, even among its own members, jettison the bill and allow frayed nerves to calm, especially in the northeast before embarking on this audacious legislation?  If it has nothing better to do, it can go on recess and resume after regaining its composure. For now, it badly needs a break to think straight.



So Supreme

  • Justices of this court are human beings, capable of erring — Justice Oputa

Can the Supreme Court reverse itself? Yes, it can, contrary to the belief in certain quarters that it has no such powers. Until the politicians came, the court had always lived up to expectation, dispensing justice without favour, affection or ill-will. It did everything based on law and facts as contained in the records of proceedings from the courts below. It was strong, safe and surefooted. Justices of the court were among the best in West Africa. Other countries in the sub-region sought their services and many were seconded there as chief justices. Suddenly, things changed and the court turned to something else. The public started losing faith in the court as the corruption in the lower courts crept into the place.

Today, the Supreme Court is caught in a web because of its conflicting verdicts in some similar election cases. What happened? Was it the pressure of work? The court, as the late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa noted in 1989, can be wrong, but the consolation is that it can reverse itself and set things straight. The court has a chance to do just that as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its arch foe, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) return to the court, seeking a review of its decisions in the Imo, Zamfara and Bayelsa state governorship polls.

It is an opportunity for the court to take a hard look at itself and make amends where necessary, based on the merit of each case, in accordance with Oputa’s admonition: ‘’When it appears that any decision of this court has been given per incuriam… this court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to persevere in error’’. May the court muster the courage to do what is right as the nation waits on it.

  • This piece was written before the Supreme Court’s decision on the Bayelsa case yesterday.