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Araraume and his quest for justice

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By Sufuyan Ojeifo

The questions by a friend of mine arising from Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume’s legal action against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and two others prompted this piece. He asked: why is Araraume fighting President Muhammadu Buhari? And why is he just going to court about ten months after his removal as non-executive chairman of the board of directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited?

My responses to him were that: “I do not think Araraume is fighting President Muhammadu Buhari as a person, but that it is very clear that he has a grouse about how the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and, by extension, the Federal Government had unfairly treated him by his sudden, inexplicable removal as non-executive chairman of the board of the NNPC, a few months after his appointment.”

And to his second question that bordered on his resort to litigation ten months after his removal, I simply told him that this is one of the grounds upon which the President had already filed a notice of preliminary objection (NPO) to the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court in Abuja to entertain the matter.

My friend, who was obviously on all fours with the President on the issue, was feeling triumphant, declaring almost magisterially that the court would throw out the matter. I told him that I really did not care about what would happen in court in the matter: that whether the court ruled in favour or against Araraume would not matter to me as much as the legal process that was begun by him in the quest for justice. Araraume’s courage to have a recourse to the temple of justice in quest for mitigation of the real damage caused by the unexplained circumstances that led to his removal is all that matters to me.

It is a settled fact that many state actors and non-state actors get intimidated by the powerful office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and would allow perceived injustices meted out to them by the President and/or his agents to pass, unchallenged; and, especially when they- the wronged parties- had been compromised or their hands had, previously, been caught in the cookie jars of crime.

By his decision to challenge his ill-treatment by the “behemoth” that intimidates, muzzles and/or muffles the wronged in the court of law, Araraume has simply made a significant statement for the present generation of Nigerian public servants and for posterity: that some acts of powers-that-be can be responsibly and responsively subjected to judicial activism in the court; and to be sure, judicial activism is the exercise of the power of judicial review to set aside government acts.

Araraume has simply taken by the horns the bull of self-acquittal by heading to court to seek validation of the same. He is, succinctly put, taking his destiny in his hands; and, nothing could be more salutary than taking up the gauntlet where his integrity had become subtly challenged. The judicial process will one way or another resolve the jigsaw that his removal as chair of board of NNPC Ltd has constructed around his person and in the ecosystem of his politics.

Cognizant of the fact that opponents reach out for all manner of bullets to hunt and shoot down political aspirations especially in seasons of partisan frenzies, Araraume has advisedly launched out to fight to defend and preserve his integrity. It is a truism that character of integrity makes the man. If that is destroyed, everything is lost; it does not matter if the man is a moneybags. Afterall, it has been largely proved that wealth is usually not sustained for all dispensations or generations. Specifically put, it is hardly impossible for wealth to be retained for three generations. And since one cannot also go to the grave with it, what is important, therefore, is not material acquisition or defence of it but good character. This is what should be deservedly ancestral. It is an eternal patrimony that should be bequeathed to progenies.

Little wonder, Plutarch, a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, once said: “it is indeed a desirable thing to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors.” His significant insight into the question of ancestry and descendancy places the critical burden of mentorship on the shoulders of ancestors and prospective ancestors, which we all would become someday. This overarching reality that ramifies the concepts of life and living has become a burgeoning consideration for those who crave the institution of good legacies, including Araraume, whose character is evidently under the existential threat of being quietly and irredeemably damaged, but for the legal intercession that he now seeks to upend that scary possibility.

It is in light of the above that I have not ceased in commending his decision to walk the solitary path of confronting the powers-that-be to wrest his hard-earned name and integrity capital from the potential damage that has been quietly done to them by the whimsical decision to remove him from his position as board chairman without adducing reasons and grounds for removal as circumscribed in the relevant extant laws regulating the administration of the NNPC Limited.

For Araraume, the capricious stroke of the pen that signed the letter that would later seemingly formalize or consummate the decision that spurned procedural exactitude in desperate haste to remove him, should not, for too long, be rewarded with silence; otherwise, the community would live with the impression that he committed some wrongs, which necessitated his shambolic removal as chairman of the Board of NNPC Ltd.

The Imo-born politician, who was minding his business before he was tapped by the President for the job-thereby, in the process becoming globally exposed because of the “oily and gassy” nature of the industry-and then suddenly made to kiss the dust, supposedly, without explanations-must needs take responsible and acceptable steps to clear some wrong impressions and redeem his tottering and vulnerable image rendered so by the ill-advised presidential action of removal without following the prescribed modes of doing so.

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And if the initial insight into the processes filed in court as defendants’ briefs is that Araraume’s action is being objected to on the grounds that it is either caught up by statute of limitation (and therefore statute-barred) or that the President was capacitated to remove him in exercise of the provisions of Public Officers Protection Act, 2004 or even that his (Araraume’s) process was wrongly commenced by originating summons as the 75-paragraph affidavit in support thereof raises inherently contentious facts and the reliefs sought in the originating summons require proof by oral evidence, then Araraume should begin to celebrate his innocence as the powers-that-be had not indicated that he was removed on the grounds of a breach or breaches of the extant laws or that they were now apprised of offences committed previously, which were not known as of the time the decision to appoint him was taken.

I believe this is the clearance or clean bill of health that is of the essence to Araraume in his quest for justice and not necessarily the prayer for reinstatement, et al. However, if the legal process ends in a surprise of sorts, and reinstatement becomes a legal imperativeness, it will be an added fillip. Meanwhile, let us allow the matter to run its full course in court.

● Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via [email protected]

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