Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’Adua has welcomed a supreme
court decision vindicating his 2007 election with a pledge to speed up reforms
to ensure fairness in the electoral process.The Abuja court decision Friday ended months of legal challenges to Mr.
Yar’Adua’s April 2007 victory by opposition candidates Atiku Abubakar and
Muhammadu Buhari and lifts a stumbling block that has delayed fighting
corruption in Nigeria. Nigerian-born Washington, DC attorney Emmanuel Ogebe says that the verdict does much
to free up President Yar’Adua from a governing logjam, but falls far from
giving him a clear public mandate.
was the 11-hundred pound gorilla in the room, and it has been blamed for the
president’s inability to act or perform decisively since he came to power.Now it’s not clear if the president will
perform any better if his legal challenges have been resolved.That said, a 4-3 split decision of the
supreme court is not a clear mandate.This was the closest Nigeria has ever been to losing the presidency by
just one vote.So if the president
assumes that this is a mandate, it’s not.If anything, it should send him back to the trenches to ensure that he
achieves electoral reform – systemic reform that will ensure that the nation
never faces this same kind of uncertainty in the future,” he said.
week, President Yar’Adua launched a new anti-corruption campaign and said one
possible step might include lifting immunity from top government officials,
including himself.Emmanuel Ogebe says
that making the president, the vice president, and Nigerian state governors
drop their guaranteed immunity from prosecution while in office would send a
strong signal that the public is clamoring for.
continues to be a model to the Nigerian constitution and to Nigerian
politicians on what’s good and what’s not.So with what has just happened in Chicago with the (Illinois) governor
there being indicted and actually arrested, there’s going to be a growing
interest in Nigeria for immunity to be removed so that governors can be
arrested and prosecuted.In Chicago,
apparently the last governors have been imprisoned.So Nigerians are looking at that and saying, ‘if that can happen
in America, why can’t we have this at home?’ So that’s clearly one issue that
the Nigerian public is interested in,” he said.
Nigeria’s supreme court had ruled in favor of the election challenge brought on
by candidates Abubakar and Buhari, attorney Ogebe says the court could have
thrown the government into great uncertainty because, he argues, there is no
constitutional procedure of succession spelled out if a president is stripped
of his power and forced to leave office for legal reasons.
is no constitutional provision that addresses a situation where the courts
remove the president.So the courts
would have had to decide whether the Senate president should take over or
whether the courts themselves would require the Chief Justice of Nigeria to
take over.Both actions, if either of
them had occurred, would have been an illegality that would have just been
created on the spur of the moment.Now
in that dangerous kind of flux situation, the military could very well be
tempted to say, since the constitution does not address this, let’s go in.So we werereally looking at a very dicey situation in Nigeria,” he said.
If Nigerian Senate President
David Mark, who is mandated by the constitution were to have taken over had the
supreme court ruled against Mr. Yar’Adua, Mark would have had to hold elections
within six months.Emmanuel Ogebe says
that the National Assembly could also thwart that goalof new elections by means of conducting an overhaul
of Nigeria’s constitution.For those
reasons, he argues that the court decision late last week closed the door on a
situation for which no one in Nigeria had a legitimate answer on how it would
have played out.