#Opinion: Enugu NBA Law Week: Still on Chijioke Edeoga’s profound ignorance of the law, economy and leadership | CABLE REPORTERS

By Prof. Barr. Damian Nweke

Enugu citizens and residents had seen the ongoing 2022 Law Week’s platform presented by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Enugu Branch, as not only necessary but also an opportunity to assess; materially, cognitively, and practically which party’s governorship candidate is the most prepared vis-à-vis the reality on ground and how insulating the state from the national economic dystopia as exemplified by the Lagos’ economy of Babajide Sanwo-Olu where there’s a less dependency on mono-petro-naira economy to diversification can be achieved.

Even though some people had rightly argued that inviting persons who were not known by the law as candidate(s) of political parties in the face of the court’s decision voiding the primary election allegedly conducted by certain political party in the state could mean infraction of the law and deliberate contempt of the order of a superior court by a body that supposedly parades itself as the custodian of the rules of law, the Enugu NBA could have reasoned that INEC was yet to correct its database which requires the execution of the court order by deleting from its record, name which ought not to be there. 

That not withstanding, the NBA forum had given the electorate and indeed, members of the noble profession, yet another opportunity to see through the eyes of the camel, those with genuine, outstanding and outlandish preparation to drive the state beyond dependency on Abuja’s monthly allocations, which by all evaluations of the current state of affairs are not longer sustainable and will leapfrog the state even to extreme impoverishment and bankruptcy. 

The reality on ground today in Nigeria has shown the ugly trend of more states plunging below the belt of poverty line due to dependency on the dwindling state of the national economic revenues. Nigeria is literally generating no revenue to meet its recurrent and capital expenditures, rather it borrows to service its monstrous debts and pay its wage bills. The spiraling effects have cascaded to the state stooping stranded, helpless and, perhaps, retrogressive. In a data recently released by the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s domestic debt is currently standing at 26.23 trillion naira with its debt servicing ratio at 5.24 trillion naira. The country’s total national debt is at all time high of 42.84 trillion naira (103.31 billion dollars). These scary figures are not for fun, and the collapsing economy will definitely not require the normal politician to fix. This is typically captured in the maxim, nemo dat quod non habet. Citizens are already coming to consensus ad idem that someone with transcendental leadership style and disruptive Innovative ideas that can rescue the state in this urgency of time is what the state is craving to elect.

The aftermath of the NBA presentations clearly revealed that most office seekers are not only ill-equipped, badly informed with shortsightedness on the fulcrum of the role of leadership in navigating the state of the economy through flexible legal framework, radical policies that will inspire paradigm shift and uncanny innovation from existing norms, these office seekers appear to have a disconnect from integrated economic management structure to only the application of guesstimates and conjectures in running a state. States, like businesses or companies, are run by managers required to have the qualities, intellect, features, experience, and firm grip of what to do in complex situations. This is where leadership apparatuses swing in, in the recruitment process. A person seeking to be employed into the position of leadership or management of a state must have a convincing blueprint charted for the people to assess and critique. Gone are the days when people are accidentally imposed, oiled with emotional clannishness or primitive interest of tribal appeal. The new political language is now what an individual office seeker has to offer the people, and the design to attaining the promise must not only be reduced to writing, defended vigorously with barrage of questions, drilling and grilling, the blueprint encoded in paperwork must be freely made available, distributed at no cost to voters.  We’ve also recently seen this at town-hall meetings in the state where a political party is distributing its programmes for the state and the “how to” achieve them. 

At the NBA forum, I saw a mortifying leadership deficit displayed before the world by my friend and brother, Chief Chijioke Edeoga, supposedly running for governor under the Labour Party, even though a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja recently sacked him as a candidate, and ordered a fresh primary election within 14 days after the judgment, which had already elapsed, leaving the party with no candidate, but disparate contending aspirants. Anyways, that will be a later discussion. 

My brother, Chief Edeoga, to the bewilderment of the foremost professional body, announced, rather discourteously, that he had no manifesto, no agenda, no programme, no roadmap, no pathway, no charter, no statement of purpose, no social contract up till his invitation to speak at the gathering of the noble minds. Even though some of us had considered it a slip of tongue as it would only be a maddening jester that could have been spending billions in running, and rightly to put, littering and defacing the streets of Enugu State with billboards and posters, and yet deemed it only an ambition to be addressed with “His Excellency” title without programmes for the people he wants to lead. 

My friend’s unpreparedness for leadership could have underscored the fear many have been expressing about his candidacy or aspiration as a political neophyte foisted by political godfathers who are bent on using him as a conduit pipe to loot Enugu’s treasury and further plunge the citizens to hopeless state of poverty and economic alienation. It took minutes of appeal to the disappointed lawyers to douse their intellectual protest against what they described, rightly too, as Edeoga exposing himself as an “accidental candidate of profound ignorance who is unable to marshal the nexus between leadership, law and the economy”. 

To save his ineptitude, Edeoga had quickly stuttered, struggled futilely, in fact, to the consternation of the already angry and disappointed lawyers, said he was only waiting for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, to release his manifesto before he would assemble his own. This reinforced the confirmation that Edeoga lacks the cognitive appreciation of the complexity of leading a state of millions of people with dwindling resources, webs of demands, management of inputs and outputs mechanisms to extricate its plethora of challenges. 

The lawyers had questioned the correlation between Mr. Obi’s manifesto and Edeoga’s endless wait to even show that he has one or two programmes and how to execute them. In a more self-implicated confusion, my friend, Edeoga, had submitted that his manifesto, when presented, would focus on “recharging the Southeast” and naming Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi states as where he would spread his development tentacles and “recharge them”. One will wonder if Edeoga is running for the position of the premier of the South Eastern region or is he becoming another “balabloo-blu-bulava?” 

Interestingly and amusingly too, it’s important to emphasize that Mr. Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has deliberately and actively avoided Mr. Edeoga and his bandwagon of travellers like lepers even when the former visited Enugu and other Southeast states recently. The avoidance is for obvious reasons: Mr. Obi had seen Edeoga as an aberration to leadership and democracy having failed in all the leadership positions he found himself over the past 27 years. His records at the Ministry of Environment, House of Representatives, local government were a symbolic representation of “How not to be a leader”, with his legacy achievement being airborne disease, environmental and ecological threats to the existence in the state. Edeoga’s retrogressive record at the ministry of Local Government as commissioner where he manipulated power to handpick council chairmen he used as conduit pipes for looting spree, magazine scam running into billions of naira, and profound leadership ignorance were all parts of the reasons Obi had shunned him. Nobody will want to identify with failure and corrupt-ridden incompetent minds.

It's obvious that with the mounting pressure on him to present his manifesto, since he had no scorecard to present about his previous leadership exploits, there are strong indications that he has been planning to photocopy the state ruling party’s governorship candidate’s manifesto, do a paperback with his name on it and present it, or alternatively, copy some parties' manifestos in the Southeast and merge them for presentation. This could be what he meant when he said his aim was to recharge the entire Southeast states. This also played out in the state recently where Mr. Frank Nweke, the APGA governorship candidate, surreptitiously waited for the PDP gubernatorial candidate to present his manifesto before downloading it in a criminal infringement of copyright and plagiarism. Unfortunately for Frank Nweke, imitation can never equal originality. He could only steal the intellectual principle on the Statement of Purpose, but he lacks the grits of “how to do it”. 

One of the fundamental issues also raised by Edeoga at the 2022 Law Week was his dissension with the state government and anybody he feels is not supporting his inordinate ambition to the Lion Building for allowing one of the Labour Party’s governorship aspirants, Captain Evarest Nnaji (Odengene), to mount his billboards in the state. The visibly bad-tempered Edeoga had threatened that nobody had the monopoly of violence in the state, and that he would have to resort to self-help if Odengene’s billboards are not removed from the streets of the state.

Edeoga, who had paraded himself as a lawyer, displayed acute knowledge and petrifying ignorance of the laws on the fundamental rights of his fellow citizens, moreso, right to political expression and assembly; to receive and disseminate information, and to pursue one’s political interest within the limits permitted by the law. Sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other extant legal provisions, which Nigeria is signatory, are all enablers of citizens’ fundamental freedom to enjoy these socio-political rights. 

My brother and friend, Mr. Edeoga, left much to be desired with his emotional outburst, leaving people to question if, indeed, he’s truly a lawyer as claimed by him. His argument turned logic upside down and at crisscross with even common reasoning known to a kindergarten. Lawyers at the forum and those with the opportunity to listen to him speak via social media are now demanding that he produces his certificates for verification so as to avoid the University of Toronto, University of Chicago, etc, saga. 

It's in the public knowledge that Justice Evelyn Maha of the Federal High, Abuja, on the 9th of November, nullified and sacked my friend, Edeoga, and ordered him to immediately cease parading himself as the Enugu governorship candidate of the Labour Party, and further decreed a fresh primary election to be conducted within 14 days which had been overtaken by effluxion of time, the party having failed to meet the deadline. The implication of this failure, in law and in fact, is that Labour Party in Enugu State has no governorship candidate, throwing up the floodgate for claims and counterclaims by interested parties.

Dissatisfied, however, Mr. Edeoga appealed the judgment of court and the matter is presently lying before the Court of Appeal. It’s trite and settled in law that where the court below gives judgment, and a party dissatisfied with the judgment appeals to the higher court, in this instance, the Court of Appeal, such appeal shall not operate as a stay of execution of the judgment of the court that gave the order. See Tai Ajomale v Yaduat & Anor (SC 193 of 1989); Nwabueze v Nwosu (1988) 4 NWLR (Part 88) 257; Okafor v Nnaife (1987) 4 NWLR (Part 64) 129); Olabisi William, Miss v Busari (1973) 2 SC 19. The legal issue Edeoga should avail members of the public is: whether the appellant has applied for and obtained an order of stay of execution of the judgment of the court. 

With the overwhelming facts on ground, a negative verdict is returned, making the order of the executory still self-executory. Edeoga, accusing Odengene of mounting his billboards when the case is lis pendens as a subject of appeal, while his own billboards are defacing the streets, amounts to exhibition of profound ignorance of the law. With the Federal High Court’s decision, status quo ante (bellum) is reverted to as none of them is Labour Party’s candidate in the state.

The continuation of Edeoga's junketing, in a showmanship of obvious voyage of electioneering campaigns as governorship candidate of the Labour Party is a criminal contempt of the order of the court which should be severely punished. Edeoga cannot be found to be approbating and reprobating at the same time. He cannot appeal the decision of the court and accuse his fellow spoiler of not obeying court orders while he sees himself as above the law. A slap on the rule of law. This desperation should not be swept under the carpet. The NBA must protest it. The court must commit the contemnors to prison to purge themselves of their serial criminal propensities.

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