By ETIM ETIM
The Supreme Court judgement this morning dismissing Chibuike Amaechi’s appeal against his indictment by the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry has technically knocked him out of the presidential race and clears the way for the emergence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the APC nominee. Section 137 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria bars anyone who has been so indicted from being elected President of Nigeria. The Commission, headed by Justice George Omerej, was set up by Gov. Nyesom Wike in 2015 to investigate cases of corruption under the Amaechi administration, specifically the sale of valued assets belonging to the state government.
Justice Omereji had told journalists after submitting the report to Gov. Wike that ‘’there was the sum of N55 billion in the State Reserve Fund. Between 2014 and May 2015, the past administration was able to remove N53 billion and we found out that the money (N53b) was not used for projects in the state. The money went to individuals. That money belongs to Rivers people, and it should be recovered so that we can use it for the people of Rivers State’’.
Section 137 gives several conditions under which a person may be disqualified from holding the office of President, one of which as stated in sub section (i) is ‘’If he has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunal of Inquiry Act, a Tribunal of Inquiry Law or any other law by the federal or state government, respectively’’. The Justice Omerej Commission had also recommended that the state government should take steps to recover the stolen funds and assets and prosecute the indicted persons in court. Amaechi had however challenged the panel’s report at the Federal High Court, Port Harcout, and lost. He appealed and lost at the Appeal Court, and this morning, he lost at the Supreme Court.
I got wind of this matter two weeks ago, and since then, I have been anxiously anticipating the Supreme Court judgement. ‘’Whichever way it goes, this case will blow open the presidential contest in APC’’, a senior lawyer had told me. With Amaechi out of the race, the APC Presidential contest is now a two-way race between Prof Yemi Osinbajo and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But from my close observation of politics within the governing party, I can tell that the former Lagos governor is swimming against a huge tide. First, the leaders, elders and some stakeholders are not favourably disposed to him for many, many reasons. Second, the meanness with which he treated Gov. Ambode in 2019 frightened (I’m using this expression advisedly) many APC leaders. Despite appeals from President Buhari, the VP and many governors on behalf of Ambode, Tinubu was adamant in kicking him out. Third, with his dubiously-acquired wealth and the stranglehold he has on Lagos, Tinubu symbolizes the ills of our country. The Nigerian youths see him as the face of corruption in the country, and this explains why so much anger was directed at him during the #EndSARs protests in October 2020. Fourth, the international community, notably Nigeria’s development partners and some friendly countries do not support the Tinubu candidacy mainly due to the baggage he carries, and they have made this clear to the government. They actually resent some of his personal habits. Fifth, although he’s played down on it, Asiwaju has a serious health condition that would hamper him seriously. With his oft repeated, but glib explanation that the president’s job is not a wrestling match, Tinubu continues to misjudge the enormity of the responsibilities of the office.
Etim Etim is a Journalist/Media Consultant, lives in Abuja