A few days ago, ace broadcaster, Amaechi Anakwe of the African Independent Television, AIT, was interviewing me on sundry matters of current public significance, including exchange rate and electricity tariff, when he suddenly sprang up a question regarding the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for Ondo State.

Apparently, because he alluded to the existence of a crisis pertaining to the race for the ticket, a submission I felt was without basis in fact, I forcefully insisted there was absolutely no crisis in the Ondo State chapter of my party that I was aware of and that as far as I am concerned, what was playing out was the exhibition of untowardness on the part of certain persons who had taken to conducting themselves in a manner showcasing disrespect for the state’s Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, thereby advertising their wanton disregard for constituted authority.

My firm, unwavering and severally reiterated position on that occasion was that Governor Aiyedatiwa, being the incumbent, is entitled to a right of first refusal to the ticket of our party in that state and my position remains the same without the slightest hint of hesitation, modification, dilution or equivocation.

Ever the relentless professional he is, Anakwe had insisted that we had witnessed one or two instances in our present democratic journey since 1999, wherein an incumbent was denied his party’s ticket and that I probably ought not be making the case that an incumbent was entitled to such a right.

I promptly pointed him to the practice in the United States of America where neither of us could recall an occasion at which an incumbent was denied his party’s ticket to run for a second term while pointing out that whatever the drawbacks that might had pertained to persons like Mai Kachala of Borno or Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra in the past, those circumstances certainly are not applicable to Lucky Aiyedatiwa.

While there is certainly nothing remotely in the nature of a crisis in the Ondo State chapter of the APC, the truth about the state’s APC gubernatorial race is that it has taken a rather absurd turn, no thanks to the excesses of those opposed to the Governor.

What I find rather quite instructive is the fact that the increasingly pedestrianised opposition to Governor Aiyedatiwa’s ambition has absolutely nothing to do with his performance, character, acumen, abilities or popularity.

Funny enough, a forensic scrutiny of the often quite banal refrain of his detractors actually reveals what cannot be mistaken as something other than a deep fear of Aiyedatiwa on their part!

In fact, the sum total of their argument is that if Aiyedatiwa wins the next election, he cannot run in 2028 and Ondo South Senatorial District would thus be shortchanged!

I have never heard anything more irretrievably nonsensical in politics, even as nonsensical as politics all too often can be.

Just a couple of days, or so, back, I tuned into a television station only to be confronted with one very uncouth, profusely uncourteous, quite rude, clearly not properly educated, and obviously not well brought up fellow addressing party executives in the state, supposedly to declare his intention to run for the governorship of the state, only for the fellow to end up making it all about Governor Aiyedatiwa not being able to run in 2028!

I mean, don’t you have anything better to say about yourself and why the good people of Ondo State should prefer you to your Governor, rather than making it all about the Governor and making yourself look quite inconsequential, with absolutely nothing to offer, in the end?

But, let’s even interrogate this quite childishly contrived notion that Governor Aiyedatiwa is somehow less of a desirable candidate owing to the constitutional encumbrance his challengers keep repeating like broken records.

If one might ask, what is the guarantee that some other person who flies the flag of our party would win in Ondo State?

What is the guarantee that such person, assuming he or she wins, would then perform so well as Governor as to be guaranteed a second term in office?

And, for God’s sake, what law or rule of morality could possibly entitle a political party to most illegally and reprehensibly extra-constitutionally prevent anyone from vying for the Governorship of a state, more so when he is the incumbent, on the absolutely motorpark grounds that he wouldn’t be able to run for another term?

The constitutional provision Aiyedatiwa’s miserably intellectually lazy traducers are hawking about, happens to be the result of an amendment showcasing the most patently unreasonable and altogether untenable political outcomes imaginable.

While it was intended to prevent a Vice President who succeeds and completes the term of a President, or Deputy Governor who does the same with respect to a Governor, from spending more than eight years in that position, it ended up potentially preventing them from spending much less than the eight years they would have been due if they had never succeeded and completed the tenure of their predecessor!

This provision is inspired by the Constitution of the United States of America where its Twenty-second Amendment provides that a person cannot be elected President more than twice, and that a person who has served more than two years of a presidential term to which someone else was elected cannot be elected more than once.

This means such person who completes the term of a predecessor can only spend either a total of six or ten years in office in America.

The Nigerian equivalent of this provision is however so utterly absurd that it means that if a Deputy Governor had contested election to become Governor and won, and the Governor died on the 28 of May of that year, and he was then sworn-in as Governor, and was subsequently sworn-in again the very next day on the 29th to begin his elective term, he would not be able to run for that office ever again and would end up spending only four years and one day in office as Governor!

Is that not the height of insanity?

As if to expose a fundamental flaw in the competence of the relevant institutions to undertake responsible, coherent and meaningful constitutional review, there’s a similarly nonsensical amendment transmitted for assent to former President Muhammadu Buhari, which I am not even sure he signed into law before leaving office.

That amendment purports to provide for independent candidacy but actually ends up doing anything of the sort.

The amendment stipulates that for someone to be able to stand as an independent candidate, such person must obtain the signatures of at least 20 percent of the registered voters in the relevant constituency.

Thus for the purpose of vying for the presidency of Nigeria, wherein the entire country is one constituency, such person shall obtain the endorsement of approximately 20 million voters just to run!

It didn’t occur to whoever drafted such an idiotic provision that no presidential candidate in Nigeria has ever garnered up to 20 million votes for the real election; that only between 20 and 25 percent of registered voters usually come out to vote on election day; that requiring potential independent candidates to have to come up with such quantum of endorsers would entail them spending humongous amounts of money similar to what is voted for INEC to conduct general elections; and, that if they had just bothered to do the math, they would immediately had realized they had accomplished anything but a constitutional amendment!

Indeed, if the amendment had been in force back in 2022 and President Tinubu had been denied our party’s ticket, as certain ingrates in the party were machinating at the time; had been unable to get some other party to nominate him; and, had thus decided to run as an independent, he would have required the signatures of everyone who later voted for him; as well as everyone who voted for Atiku Abubarkar; in addition to a huge chunk of those who voted for Peter Obi, just to have his name on the ballot for the main election!

Is that an amendment or just a most ridiculous comedy of errors?

Similarly do the kindergarten prescriptions in sections 137(3) and 182(3) of the Constitution, which both purport to be a solution to preventing someone from spending more than a reasonable time in executive office, only foist an outcome most repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience on executive office holders.

Given that Governor Aiyedatiwa is the first person it might actually affect, I can bet it will be appropriately amended to the effect of an equitable outcome long before his first elective term is over, thus rendering the lazy man’s objection of his detractors, who apparently have nothing to offer of themselves (hence their fixation on a nonsensical amendment) totally without basis.

By the way, I heard the Honourable Attorney General of The Federation and Minister for Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, aims to have the quantum of cases capable of being appealed to the Supreme Court abridged in order to reduce the workload of the apex court.

I hope he ensures that the committee he has charged with the task does not place emphasis on certain categories of cases absolutely not being appealable to the Supreme Court, for that would amount to an unimaginative approach to the problem, as well as an unmitigated disaster from the point of view of justice delivery.

Rather, the underpinning logic of the reforms should be on the Supreme Court Bench having some latitude in determining what cases to hear or not, and, to be entitled to hear absolutely any appeal it deems fit, in the interest of justice, law and order, and, the overall public good.

Coming back to the matter at hand, I recall that when President Bola Tinubu was campaigning for the presidential ticket of our party, he came to see us in Delta, asking for our support.

On that occasion, Chief Hyacinth Enuha made a profound remark that turned out to be quite prescient, as far as I am concerned.

He said to Asiwaju: “You ought not to be constrained to come here or go anywhere else asking us to support you; the presidential ticket of the APC ought to be yours as of right of first refusal.”

As it turned out, most of us in the party agreed that indeed that was the case and we ended up making Bola Tinubu our candidate by more than a landslide!

The rest, as they say, is history.

Those vying with their sitting Governor for the gubernatorial ticket in Ondo have never won a governorship election yet expect to be preferred over an incumbent who contested as Deputy Governor and won.

It is the height of arrogance, self-aggrandizement and disloyalty run amok.

While there is no legal bar to some other interested person challenging an incumbent in the United States and most other democratic jurisdictions I am familiar with, by convention, the incumbent always has a right of first refusal.

Respect for, and adherence to conventions are the stuff men and women of character are made of.

Nevertheless, whomsoever wants to run for the Governorship of Ondo is free to do so but they must adopt a tenable and interrogable approach to canvassing their ambition by being intellectually honest rather than showcasing brazen political rascality.

Just tell the good people of Ondo what you have to offer them and please cut out all that balderdash about someone else not being in a position to go for a second term.

Perhaps those apparently with nothing to market themselves other than some obviously nonsensical constitutional amendment, might not have noticed, but their Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, is manifestly a child of grace.

In spite of the relentless, almost maniacal, opposition to his becoming Acting Governor, he ended up becoming substantive Governor.

My projection is that in spite of the opportunistically contrived, pathetically watery, and, pitiably unimpressive objections, that those clearly scared of meeting him on the battlefield of the primaries have been vainly trying to sell, grace will yet embrace Governor Aiyedatiwa to the will of the electorate of the state and he will not only clinch the APC’s governorship ticket but will go on to resoundingly win the main election and continue to be their Governor in Ondo State for the good of every citizen of that blessed state.

Onokpasa, a lawyer, writes from Abuja.

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