Supreme Court Judgement, Gov Nwifuru and Rejection of Opposition’s Congratulatory Message
By Abayomi Idowu
I was highly flagger basted to read in the newspapers that Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Francis Nwifuru bluntly rejected the congratulatory messages sent to him by his two main opponents during the 2023 Governorship Elections in the state. This followed the ruling of the Supreme Court on Friday, 12th January, 2024 which upheld the election of Gov. Nwifuru.
Perhaps following the normal practice of decency, the 2023 PDP Governorship Candidate, Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odi and the APGA candidate, Prof. Bernard Odoh seperately sent their congratulatory messages to Nwifuru. But he bluntly rejected the gestures and declared that he will never have anything to do with them. What were their sins? According to Gov. Nwifuru: they dragged him to the Supreme Court. Hear him: ” they are agreeing to the judgement because they know that there is no other place to go after the Supreme Court. They want their supporters to support me. They should not because I don’t need them. Let me serve those who worked for me first”.
These childish, ill-motivated and ill-advised statements reflect the bitterness in the heart of the governor. He is angry that he was taken to court. This can only happen in Nigerian politics. The newspaper caption( Daily Post: 15 January, 2024: “PDP, APGA Guber Candidates not needed in my Government”) reflects the impunity in Nigerian democratic rule at the moment. When did we sink so low to this level of banality? For a sitting governor to reason this way shows our level of political intolerance in our so-called democratic experiment. A more decent leader would have reciprocated the gestures of these opposition leaders in the state and then forged ahead with the challenges of governance, instead of displaying such a rurhless winners-take-all mentality. Nwifuru should be called to order or he may need some measure of polical education about the rights of citizens in a democratic society.
In their congratulatory messages, the two opposition leaders never asked for any special favours. I searched for their messages and read in between the lines. There was no mention of their willingness to serve in Nwifuru’s government neither did they make a case for their supporters to be included in government appointments. Rather, they made a general case for good governance in the state, rooted in the rule of law. They equally appealed to their supporters “to remain peaceful and law abiding” and “to sustain their belief in the progress of the state”. Above all, they explained to the people that they had approached the Courts in their search to remedy the diversion of their mandate and then accepted it in good fate that their efforts have been exhausted at the Supreme Court.
The reaction of Gov. Nwifuru to the measured statements of these gentlemen must be condemned as nothing but empty political arrogance. For him to aver that he does not need the opposition leaders and their supporters is a meaningless seperatist declaration. Are they not citizens of Ebonyi state? For him to even say that he is only there “to serve those who worked” for him means that governance in Ebonyi State has been reduced to self aggrandisement . It is incumbent on the Governor to run the state for the benefit of all citizens including those who voted against him.
After all, the cases pursued in the Courts were based on principles and not mudslinging. People went to court to challenge electoral manipulations and to ventilate their grievances based on the laws and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It has been generally acknowledged at all levels that the 2023 election in Nigeria was the most shambolic in Nigeria’s political history because of extreme cases of electoral corruption and very poor election management by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC). The case of Ebonyi was no exception. Nwifuru is talking as if he was a Saint, maybe because he was favoured by circumstances. Whereas it is common knowledge to all and sundry that he, like several others across the 36 states, was imposed on the people against their will. Let him learn from the wisdom of Chinua Achebe who wrote that “those whose palm kernels were cracked for by benevolent spirits should not forget to be humble.
Nwifuru should learn how to talk to assuage the feelings of the people he claims to lead. It will not be in his interest to open the Pandora box or old wounds, otherwise there are many who would point to cases of electoral violations and impunity which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people across the state just to enthrone him in the uncharted political jungle of Ebonyi State.
Court judgements alone do not confer political legitimacy. You need some measure of diplomacy and public trust to cultivate people’s confidence, except you want your government to be based on brute force. Nwifuru’s apparent air of entitlement to the seat he occupies, should be jettisoned. He has to embrace all the political leaders and players and citizens in the state because democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people and not just a government for those who won elections.
Abayomi Idowu Writes from Abuja.