• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Tinubu documented drug-trafficking underpins Obi petition

Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi

“The United States has developed several safety valves through which unpopular, unable, or unfit leaders can be flushed…presidents have been (or can be) ousted by voters, rejected by their own parties, removed in place by opponents or subordinates, dismissed preemptively, displaced by death,…declared unable to serve, or impeached and removed” – How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives by David Priess.

In the week just past, Nigeria’s secret service warned about plans by some unscrupulous elements to forment violent acts. Whoever these people are, know this: you will be playing into the hands of the corrupt political elite, who have been fazed by the graveyard silence of the citizenry in the face of what were a hugely flawed 2023 general elections. Even protests will be ill-advised at this time.

Young Nigerians should not allow themselves to be goaded into self-destructing acts that will only end up undermining their democratic governance goals. Anything outside of legal and civic engagements towards rectifying what are genuinely felt grievances will be counterproductive.

There is nothing to prove with protests this early: the 2020 “EndSARS” protests already showed what Nigerian youths are capable of when they put their mind to something. That is leverage. The focus should instead now be on the presidential election petition process. That is the only effective and constitutional way to seek redress.

The documented drug-trafficking past of Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, will finally be formally interrogated within the Nigerian judicial system.

Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), who has woken up the patriotic passions of a hitherto aloof dominant youth population, is making it the bedrock of his petition against the declaration of Mr Tinubu as president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in early March. Curiously, the Nigerian media is under-reporting this great matter yet again.

Had there been enough coverage hitherto, Mr Tinubu might not have become the presidential candidate of the ruling APC in the first place. Silence was acquiescence. Mr Obi and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who were Mr Tinubu’s key rivals in the 2023 presidential election on February 25th, are similarly guilty of silence as consent. They both had good grounds to challenge Mr Tinubu’s suitability for the most exalted office in the land before the election.

They did not. Perhaps they thought it unimaginable that Mr Tinubu will win. Well, I guess they are wiser now. After the declaration of Mr Tinubu as winner by INEC, unprecedented as that was, being as a compulsory 25% of votes requirement in the federal capital territory was discountenanced, Mr Abubakar and Mr Obi are now challenging Mr Tinubu’s purported victory at the federal court of appeal, which is the election tribunal for presidential elections.

Mr Obi’s petition is the most encompassing, as he not only argues his view based on observed widespread irregularities during the presidential election, which have already been attested to by local and foreign election observers, but also on the more robust matter of eligibility.

It is probably not accurate to say many of the controversies around Mr Tinubu’s eligibility, ranging from inconsistencies in his personal history to corruption, were not interrogated by his opponents via the courts previously.

But they seemed to always fall through on either some technicality or out-of-court settlement. The one matter that was robust enough to force his withdrawal from the presidential race was never formally broached by his opponents.

That is, the great matter of Mr Tinubu’s forfeiture of a significant sum to US authorities over documented drug-trafficking activities. That has now changed. Mr Obi has included the evidence of Mr Tinubu’s documented 1990s drug-trafficking in America as one of the grounds for his disqualification from even running for president in the first place, talk less of becoming one.

An ironic twist is that the relevant Supreme Court judgement that will make the great matter qualify as conviction for a crime was rendered by Olukayode Ariwoola, the current chief justice of Nigeria, when he was a Supreme Court judge.

Read also: Court of Appeal grants Peter Obi’s request to serve petition on Tinubu

Mr Ariwoola ruled that a forfeiture was punishment for a crime in a previous case, thus setting the precedent for why Mr Tinubu’s documented drug-trafficking in the US is a criminal conviction under Nigerian law. Establishing this fact is a necessity at the presidential election tribunal.

Incidentally, Mr Ariwoola was mired in a media controversy about the purpose of his trip to London in mid-late March 2023.

Mr Ariwoola’s response to the matter suggests to me that he cares about his reputation. So, all hope is not lost. Even so, whatever the tribunal rules is not really what matters, in my view. What does, is that this great matter, which for some bizarre reason has had a conspiracy of silence around it, will finally be formally interrogated in a Nigerian court of law.

That is progress in itself. Much kudos to David Hundeyin, a BusinessDay columnist, who first brought this great matter to light in July 2022. This is no mean feat. Many Nigerians have been executed for drug-trafficking at home and abroad.

It is utterly unjust that a citizen with a documented drug-trafficking past will not only get immunity from prosecution as president of the republic, but will also have the power of ordering prosecutions for exactly the same crimes. Needless to say, it is important to ensure that we never make the mistake again of allowing someone so tarnished feel so confidently entitled to the highest office in the land.