Many  Judges Are Insensitive  To The  Laws They Swore  To Uphold – Onyeama | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Many  Judges Are Insensitive  To The  Laws They Swore  To Uphold – Onyeama

Posted: Oct 16, 2016 at 3:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

‘We  Are Not  Serious About  Electoral Reforms  In Nigeria’

Sir Collins Chudi Onyeama was the House of Representatives candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for Umuahia/Ikwuano Federal Constituency in the 2015 election. In this interview with CHIKA NWABUEZE, he said the judiciary is the biggest scam in Nigeria’s politics. He also accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rigged the election in Abia State. Excerpts:

Talking about Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), what do you have to say about the country’s situation today?

We are not in good time, nobody is happy with what is going on in Nigeria. This is not the change we expected. The change, nonetheless, we have to accept the reality. We all know Nigeria was headed in the wrong direction that was why most people voted for APC, and now it is over one year with nothing positive. In fact, we have regressed from where we were. We always make the argument that things were bad, I believe we elected a new leadership so they should stop making excuses. It’s like a poker game. You play with the cards you have, this is what the game is all about. They have been making excuses, blaming PDP. That’s not a policy statement; it’s not what we want to hear. After a year we need to start seeing some results. I listened to the Finance Minister (Kemi Adeosun) talking about the recession would be over next year without any basis. Predicated on what? There is got to be a strategy on how to bring about the changes they are talking about. The same with the CBN Governor, whatever they are doing now is more of trial and error, but their errors are far more than anything positive coming out. They should call people who are vast to help stabilise the free fall of the naira. I don’t know how long we are going to depend on oil, it’s so volatile. There’s got to be more comprehensive approach on how to turn around the economy.
Some people argue that Buhari government has not done anything right, what about the deregulation of the downstream oil sector?
It depends on how you look at it; right now there is no scarcity, so it is a good policy. I understand they are saving us so much foreign exchange in terms of importation. It is my expectation that in the next one year, the price of PMS will come down to N120 per litre. It is good that we have been able to manage the crisis, but they should do the same in other sectors and see how they can bring a change that is consistent with the desires of our people.

You contested for the Umuahia/Ikwuano federal constituency seat in the 2015 election as the APGA  candidate, and everything seemed to be working for you but at the end you lost. What went wrong?
So many things happened if you ask me, and based on information from our field workers, our agents; it is nothing unusual because it is something that is common in Nigeria’s political terrain, where ballot papers and documents are forged both at the polling booth level and at the collation centres. I understand that even our men were not allowed entry; they were kept outside for hours while this whole forgery was going on. And by the time I was called, that was the next day, the damage has already been done and it was too late to salvage it. The PDP candidate was pronounced the winner. So there was so much rigging going on.
Even beyond that, that’s not even the difficult part for me; the real challenge came during the court process all the way to the Appeal Court. One thing I have learnt is that the judiciary is the biggest scam in this whole process if you ask me. I think we live in a country where lady justice very frequently removes her blindfold and winks at her friends, and targets her enemies.
Why did you make such submission?
Because there was no court processes. In fact, I am not even sure the judges read any of the petitions. I don’t think they did up to the Appeal level. And you heard the rumours of how these judges were bribed, fortunately now, some of these judges have been caught, and dismissed by the National Judicial Council, NJC. In particular, one of the judges on my case happens to be one of the people suspended. Also one of the candidates, Nnamdi Orji stated clearly that he was asked to pay N200 million, and the judge made it clear to him that if you want me to rule in your favour, you have to come up with the amount, that if he can’t, he should forget his case and that was exactly what happened.
So I’m happy the NJC reviewed this case and came to the conclusion that this judge acted in a very wrong way and should be dismissed. I applaud the NJC and I think all these judges should be dismissed, that’s the way I feel about the whole thing. In every civilised society, the people you can look up to uphold the rule of law is the judiciary, it is the last hope of the common man and in our case, it is the reverse. If you can’t depend on the judiciary to review a case and allow the merit of the case to prevail then we are finished. And all this thing of not being able to settle the judges means that if a poor man is involved in a case and you don’t have the resources then you have no case. This is exactly what is going on in our society today and I feel utterly bad about it. The leaders who have been in politics and government all these while knew quite well that the judiciary is our problem and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Even the attempted abduction of some judges by the DSS  operatives, clearly speaks to my premise that the over-reaching problem we have in Nigeria today lies with our judges, who are despicably corrupt and insensitive to the laws they swore to protect and uphold.
Do you not think that the Electoral Reforms Committee will address some of the shortcomings in our electoral process?
I’m happy to hear there is electoral reforms committee set up which is led by Senator Ken Nnamani. Again, we have heard similar thing in the past, at least there was the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led electoral reforms which reviewed the whole process and came up with recommendations. If you ask me, I don’t think there is anything positive that will come out of it, although the idea on the surface is a good one. We have the recommendations out there, what should be done now is to start the implementation.
Does it not bother you that we are in a situation whereby elections are decided by the judiciary rather than electorates?
Exactly, now let me say this one of the things I learnt. I remember there was an INEC official that told me that now the election is over you will be blessed by the judges and I didn’t quite understood what he was saying. In Nigeria, every election stops at the judiciary. In fact, it seems like a continuation of the election process. It is such that as soon as the election was over everyone runs down to the judiciary and it is unfortunate. In every civilised society, elections are determined by the electorates. Now what we have is three or five people sitting as the judges and there is no guarantee for justice. Really, it does not make any sense. So those are the things we need to change. If we have an election and the results are pronounced we should respect that, but before we could do that, part of the reason why we have difficulties is because elections are not conducted fairly.  Here we have a system where the people (INEC) entrusted with the responsibility of running the election process are now the problem. The reforms should start from there. Now they came up with the idea of card reader and at the end that idea was rejected, they said it is unconstitutional. So I think these loopholes are created for people to take advantage of it. We are not serious about electoral reforms, if we are serious, Nigeria has intellectuals but the will is not there to be able to bring about this change.
Politics in Nigeria is often described as money politics, how where you able to cope?
Like I said before, money is an essential function of this whole political game. In civilised societies, electorates even contribute money to enable an individual run, unlike here in Nigeria; if you don’t have the resources to run for an election, you can’t run. The people overseeing this electoral process are not even the kind of people that should run it and that’s reflective of the kind of people we have in government today. They don’t really care about bringing any positive change. Again when you spend the kind of money required to prosecute a campaign I don’t see how you can conceivably effect any positive change while you are there because all you are trying to do is to regain the monies you spent. My own for instance which is House of Representatives, you are now taking about N400 million. It will cost you about N200- 300 million to do the primaries and election, then the court process. You may even end up spending far more money in the court process. These are some of the things we can change; we know what to do because it is not rocket science.
Given your background and training abroad, how do you compare Nigerian politics with the U.S.A?
There is a big difference, they are miles apart. The way they do things over there is quite different with the way we do it here. There you run for an election, the society gives you money to contest. There is what we call matching fund, you bring some amount and they will match it. That’s the only way you can bring about change and credible leadership. There they look at your pedigree, your understanding of the issues, then they listen to how are able to articulate your policies and they will know whether to support you or not. But here it has nothing to do with issues or how vast you are with issues out there. During our presidential election there was no debate, nobody could ask Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd) what he is going to do, for instance to tell us his plans to stabilise the naira. So, when he won the election they were not prepared because they didn’t understand what the issues were. So many things we have to do, though we are making progress we are not doing enough.
What informed your decision to seek for elective position?
I have always believed in service, and like I told you I worked for Maryland State Government, Social Policy Department in the Governor’s Office. We handled issues that affect people, the disable, families and children and we helped people move away from poverty. People who are HIV positive and drug addicts are also there and government assists these people. So how do we assist these people here? You may be comfortable but there are people who need your assistance, the basic things of life are not there. So having been exposed to this kind of environment I felt I could bring some changes in the lives of people and the only way you could do this is through participation in the political process. That’s what informed my opinion of trying to be a candidate. So I realized that politics has nothing to do with you but people believing in your cause.
So they came out and voted en mass for APGA. We won the election but were rigged out. Abia people wanted a change. In Abia in particular we have had PDP in the past 16 years and the question is what they have done in terms of affecting the lives of people in a positive way. There is no one single industry in Umuahia, we see people graduating from school and I ask who is going to employ them, where are the jobs for our kids. How about basic needs like medical care, what about infrastructure? Basic things they take for granted over there, here it is luxury. Now to feed is a problem even for the average Nigerian.
Do you have any regrets now?
I don’t have any, to lose an election or contest of this nature is not a fun game. You spent money and energy campaigning, it is a difficult thing but people believed in the cause, we made an impact, we drew attention to what is happening in Abia and for the first time we have never had an election like that. People came out and voted for change and we actually tried to bring about change. It was a movement of sort, not just an election. I was excited about the whole exercise.
Will you be willing to run again in 2019?
I will think about it, I’m still thinking because it’s not something you just jump into. You still have your family members and other people to consult. I’m still exploring the possibility of running. I believe in any society where you allow people to rule you and you don’t have any say, you have to take whatever they give, but you need to have a voice. I think for the grassroots we are not doing enough, the grassroots should rise up if you ask me. We have accepted so many things, it’s time we say enough is enough. In civilized society it’s not the government, you have to do whatever you need to do to bring about the change. So if we seriously want to bring about this change the masses owe it to themselves, it’s a wakeup call not only for Abia state but for Nigeria. Look at what is happening in Nigeria today, how they mismanaged our resources because the masses were sitting idle, doing nothing. And if we don’t rise up and do something about it, we will be doomed forever.