NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE
"No justice, no peace" is the common theme emanating from the mouths of Nigerians on the social media and the throngs of the opposition. After thirteen years of undemocratic injustices, it seems that Nigerians have had enough from a ruling party that seems to be the very personification of injustice. But when one hears opposition parties speak about justice and peace, it is important to be reminded that the principle behind the slogan applies, not only to the ruling party, but to the undertakings of the opposition parties themselves.
It seems to have been widely accepted now that a number of the losses for the vast majority of the opposition parties in the 2011 elections happened because discipline and internal justice did not. They happened because unfairness and wrangling characterised the parties’ internal structure in the emergence of candidates to represent the parties in the primary stages of the last elections.
The best example of how internal party prejudice and injustice manifested itself in a catastrophe and defeat for the opposition is the case of CPC in Katsina, Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano States during the last elections. A specific case of how injustice within the opposition has led to a scenario where peace is yet to be realised within the party is the tug of war still stewing in the courts for the House of Representatives seat for the Nassarawa and Tarauni Federal constituency in Kano State.
In the case of the Nassarawa Federal Constituency, Kano State, Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed’s name was approved by the Board of Trustees and was submitted to INEC by the NEC of the party, in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the CPC constitution. However, despite the fact that Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed was the candidate that was recognised to have emerged from the process and despite the fact that at no time was his name ever removed or substituted, his opponent took the matter to court on the 16th of February 2011. In the suit that was filled, the plaintiff sued the CPC, INEC and Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed in a state High Court in Rano local government of Kano state. In the filling of the suit, none of the respondents, neither the CPC nor Barrister Ahmed was ever served with the court processes neither was the CPC officially notified of the impending matter.
In a strange twist, the court in Rano sat and ruled in the matter without the appearance of the respondents or their legal representatives. Investigation conducted in the matter suggests that the plaintiff, together with possible renegades within the CPC, allegedly organized a lawyer to enter appearance on behalf of the party without the party's official consent and that lawyer went ahead to admit to the plaintiff’s submission.
In its incredible ruling, the court entered judgment on the first and only day it sat for hearing. And that judgement was entered against Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed, the candidate that was officially recognised by the CPC and INEC. Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed went ahead to appeal the judgement in the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division on the grounds that; he had not been served by the High Court in Kano and therefore the process was devoid of fair hearing. He further submitted that the court in Kano lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter because INEC, as a Federal agency, was involved in the suit and the court in Rano did not have jurisdiction to entertain a suit of that nature. Furthermore the case was heard prematurely because the eight days allowed by the rules of court to enter appearance did not elapse. On the day of the sitting, not only did the court not mention or hear the case, it delivered premature judgment against Barrister Ismaeel.
It is now an established precedent by the Supreme Court that, once a party, through the Electoral-Act process decides on their candidate and submits the name to INEC, no court can interfere or change that candidate as the representative of the party for an election. And since the CPC submitted Barrister Ismaeel’s name to INEC, the matter of who was the authentic CPC candidate for the Nassarawa Local Government constituency, Kano should never have really been in doubt.
The matter of Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed is not an isolated one and one can spend days writing on cases where justice was denied to the legally recognised candidate from within the party structure. Another case is that of Alhaji Farouq Salim who contested for the Tarauni Federal Constituency seat in the same Kano.
In the case of Alhaji Farouq Salim, his name was approved by the Board of Trustees of the CPC and submitted by the NEC to INEC. However, due to some alleged ‘voilà’ within the ranks of the CPC, his name was removed and replaced with that of his opponent. Alhaji Farouq Salim instituted a case against this injustice in a High Court in Kano state. To support Alhaji Farouq’s case, the CPC’s legal team was specifically instructed to hold a brief in support of Alhaji Farouk Salim in line with the decision of the BOT. In spite of this, the lawyer sent by the team to represent Alhaji Farouq Salim appeared not to fully support the client’s case when the matter was heard in court. The case was ultimately dismissed by the High Court for want of Jurisdiction and judgement affirmed by the court of Appeal Kaduna.
In the case of Alhaji Farouq Salim, questions as to the conduct of certain elements within the CPC have again been raised. What seems obvious is the lack of support from among certain members of the party for a candidate whose name was approved and forwarded to INEC by the BOT of the CPC. Alhaji Farouq Salim has appealed to the Supreme Court where his case has been adjourned to November the 13th 2012.
Again, it would be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court will adhere to its precedent in these cases of denial of justice for Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed and Alhaji Farouq Salim, the authentic CPC candidates whose names were submitted to INEC by the NEC. It would also be interesting to see whether the CPC uses these cases to look within its ranks to determine the internal saboteurs of the party. Chances are that those faces are the same fifth-columnists within the CPC that covertly collaborated on a grander scale to sabotage the efforts of the party during the 2011 elections.
For a great party like the CPC and other opposition parties to regain the momentum they started off with and maintain its dominance and superiority in their strongholds, they must clean up all the cobwebs within their houses, stop the internal wrangling and operate with the kind of fairness they demand from the PDP. The double standard exhibited by such practice where a sponsored candidate can be out manoeuvred by another candidate able to manipulate the system and the party supports the candidate that has committed the injustice breeds indiscipline, chaos and gives way for the kind of failure the opposition experienced in the last elections.
Every opposition party talks about the injustice and corruption within the PDP. They warn that, unless the ruling party is ready to be just, there will not be any peace. But sometimes, one wonders if some of the opposition really understand what this means as it relates to their own operations. With numerous cases of internal injustice orchestrated by opposition parties themselves, it is good for them to consider their warnings afresh, consider them in light of the noble ideals that the opposition represents and in the opposition’s too-frequent failings. Consider them as if it were those very opposition parties, looking for recourse after justice failed them. Because, to say that there will be no peace unless there is justice is not a threat. It’s not a prediction. It’s not even a warning. ‘No justice, no peace’ is a certainty! And it applies, not only to the PDP but to the opposition parties as well.