Otunba Sunday Joseph Ochayi is a well-known legal practitioner in Ekiti State. Fondly called D-Law by his colleagues and admirers, Ochayi has been in lega practice for more than a decade. He speaks in an interview with DEMOLA ATOBABA on House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal’s recent defection from PDP to APC, the recent attack on the judiciary in Ekit and the issue of stomach infrastructure…
What is your view on the Defection of House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from PDP to APC?
Morally speaking, it is a blow to our nation’s democracy but legally speaking, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal, was elected to the National Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). By Section 68 Sub Section 1 (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended-a person who is elected on a platform of a political party to the national legislative body and decides to defect during the tenure of that legislative House must vacate the seat. That defecting legislator must vacate his seat, it is not about Aminu Tambuwal, it’s about the law. However, there is a provision to the said section of the constitution and the provision is that Aminu Tambuwal must show that there is division in the party that brought him to the National Assembly as a lawmaker, it is only then and then that he would not vacate the seat. If you look at what is happening today in Nigeria with reference to the Peoples Democratic Party, will you say there is division? The answer is in the negative. There is no division among members of PDP in the National Assembly in Nigeria. It means legally speaking, Aminu Tambuwal would have to vacate the seat as a lawmaker/speaker of the National Assembly.
To the comment of Chief Bode George, the PDP Leader in the South-west, he said Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, should move ahead and take steps to ensure that Aminu Tambuwal vacate the speakership. The position of the PDP is that he should resign. The position of Chief John Oyegun, the National Chairman of APC, is that he is welcome. He quoted the judgment in Atiku and Obasanjo case. Former lawmaker in the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Barrister Gbadebo Ibuoye, also spoke on Channels Television. He said its a tortuous legal battle. I want to disagree with Chief John Oyegun, National the Chairman of APC and also with Chief Olabode George. The position of the law is clear in Section 68 sub-1 (g) of the Constitution of Nigeria, where Aminu Tambuwal refuses to vacate the seat as a lawmaker of the House of Representatives. The PDP would now approach the court or approach the Federal High Court perhaps Abuja Judicial Division for an order of the court to compel him to vacate, having defected from PDP to APC, but we all know the working of the regular courts in Nigeria, the life span of these present lawmakers at the National Assembly will expire around the middle of 2015, so before the matter is decided in the court, the tenure of the present National Assembly would have lapsed, so it becomes an academic exercise. With greatest respect to Chief John Oyegun, he cited the case of Atiku versus Obasanjo. The law is not an all force, the position of the law as it is applicable to the Executive differs from the position as it is applicable to the lawmakers, which is the National Assembly, so the authority of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar addresing Obasanjo does not fall in here, its not applicable. According to the position of the law, as a gentleman, as a lawyer, Tambuwal should take the path of honour to resign, but our politicians are not honourable. I know he would not want to resign he has an eye on the governorship in his state (Sokoto).
With the different political developments in the country now, how will you assess the political situation in Nigeria?
Presently, the polity is charged and the election is around the corner. The presidential election comes up around February 2015 or thereabouts, there is high agitation by the players in our political life, but I will say that it would also come with its attendant insecurity, fear, high spending but our democracy is fast developing. Presently I will say that we are in the peak of election.
For quite sometimes now, the Chibok Girls have been under the captive of the Boko Haram insurgents, with Nigerians having the expectation that goverment would bring the girls back. Despite all the promises by the government on the return of those girls, nothing has come. How will you assess the Federal Goverment in terms of security?
We live in fear of insecurity everyday; but the law enforcement agents are doing their best. Now with respect to the Chibok Girls it is indeed very pathetic that in a country like ours some sect which called themselves Boko Haram will come into a small entity within the country and take at a go 267 human beings and nobody could stop them. The insurgence had their ways, they broke through all the checkpoints and they escaped with these girls. Could it be a case of recklessness, insecurity, political brigandage or political setting so as to deceive the people of this country and after the election they would release them. They were calling for negotiation; the summary is that there is great insecurity in this country. The issue of Chibok Girls to me has more political undertone than we can see. These girls have spent far beyond six months in captivity and nobody, with all our weapons in this country, could trace where this girls are kept either within Nigeria or outside the country. Despite the partnership we have with the US and some other neighbouring countries we are not able to trace them. As I speak with you I believe that these girls are kept in a place where our political elites are aware of, they are kept in a safe place, otherwise how did they get in touch with them that they said some of them are pregnant, a few of them have HIV/Aids and some other nasty things. It shows us that our politicians are doing everything to get power at all cost and this is indeed very bad for the country. So the issue of Chibok Girls is beyond the ordinary. It is mere political sore point.
With the recent attack on the Judiciary in Ekiti State, how will you describe the state of the Judiciary in Nigeria?
It is indeed a very despicable act, it is condemnable. It is unadult-like. In this country, when I was a child, we used to see the court room as a sanctified place and that fear in us did not even allow us to go close to the court because the pronouncement of the presiding officers are always very total. They are indeed very fearful. But there is nothing our politicians cannot do, and they have done it again. Two judges of the Ekiti State Judiciary in the person of My Lord Honourable Justice Ogunyemi and Honourable Justice John Adeyeye were attacked on that very Monday and Thursday of the same week. This is because one of them was handling the suit that bothers on the eligibility or otherwise of the Governor of Ekiti State, while the other Judge had no pending case at all, he was not part of the Tribunal he just made his pronouncement and I was in court that day. The way he understood the law, suddenly some thugs from nowhere came enmasse to the courtroom and moved towards the Judge menacingly and attacked him when he was to deliver the second ruling and he was rescued from the courtroom by police officers. The second incident was between Justice Adeyeye and Governor Ayo Fayose. As they were talking, thugs from nowhere came and they came to beat the Judge. This is indeed a degrading act, it is a very sad act, because in our constitution, we have separation of power between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, we are told in government and of course Political Science that these two arms of government play their functions separately but independently for the betterment of the society. Now if the political class which is the Executive would not want Judiciary to play their own roles in our own democracy, then it sends bad signals, it means that once you have a case as a politician in court and you fear that the end may not be favourable, the only thing you do is to go and attack the presiding officer. Worst of it all is that on both occasion of the attacks, our policemen numbering about 100 in the court premises, SSS men, Civil Defence, why were they unable to discharge their responsibility according to the Law? Well, one would understand that if you do, the Police Command or the hierarchy of the structure where the person comes from may return about him. Day in, day out politicians in this country are employing that weapon of “do or die affair”, so what they have done to the Judiciary in Ekiti State is do it so that I can get there and am sure whatever their way the Judge would be scared of taking the case again and the case would be dead naturally.
I doubt if any other Judge would take the matter. But beyond that, our political class need to come of age. I would say the major problem we have with our politicians is the thugs around them. The governors are very refined, but the thugs around them would go out to do what the Executives themselves did not authorise or instruct. Without pre-empting that suit, the law is that it is a pre-election matter. He has won, he has been cleared by INEC, he has contested election and he has won, it means that the case abinitio may not succeed, but the pressmen and the political gladiators would make the whole case so sensitive and I tell you its a naked case, the Judge assuming juridisction does not mean that he has decided the case,there should be no cause for calamity, it has sent a wrong signal to the outside world, wrong signal to the children yet unborn. It is indeed a very bad precedent to our society, our politician must know they have to desist from such despicable and condemnable acts in the future.
Shortly after the attack on the judiciary, the ex-NURTW boss in the state, Chief Omolafe Aderiye, was murdered, do you see the killing as political?
Well, investigation is still going on on the gruesome murder of Chief Omolafe Aderiye former NURTW boss who served the organisation for eight years. But having said that if you look at the scenario before the death, it has political undertone.
What is your assessment of the immediate-past administration of Governor John Kayode Fayemi?
The former governor made his own achievements on some physical projects; he was able to commission some projects in the state, but the fact remains that the welfare of the people in the state were neglected.
What is your reaction to the issue of Stomach Infrastructure as being propagated by the present government in the state?
Truly speaking, Governor Ayo Fayose is a lover of the masses, he may have his own excesses. He understands the masses and knows their needs. Honestly speaking, the words ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ may look childish and raw, but with the level of understanding of the masses, it has to be put in that way for them to know that the administration is concerned about their welfare. The level of poverty is so much that the issue of ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ cannot be overemphasised. Give it any other names like may be food and technology exercise, et ceteral, may look complex and cumbersome to the masses.