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Ebonyi can win on principles of natural justice

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?By Jerry Uhuo

The word equity is a legal terminology presented in the jurisprudence as the correction of law where it is deficient. In the opinion of a Professor of Law, Howard Oleck, ?Equity is the correction of the (civil or common) law where it is deficient by reason of its universality (i.e its tendency to establish rules without exceptions)?. Equity is seen as the body of principles which provide and govern exceptions to the law. It is also a kind of natural justice, impartiality, just regard to any other rights or claims, the administration of law according to its spirit and not merely according to its letter.

The Freeman Dictionary Online by Farlex describes equity as a system of jurisprudence serving to supplement and remedy the limitations and inflexibility of common law, the application of the dictates of conscience or the principles of natural justice to the settlement of controversies, equitable right or claim.

The definition of democracy by scholars over the years expands the horizon of the concept to include equity, compromises, tolerance and understanding as guide towards living in peace and harmony in a society. From its oontological definition, democracy is usually said to come from the Greek word, ?demos? meaning people. In all democracies, it is the people who hold the sovereign power over government. But the most popular definition today is the one associated with Abraham Lincoln?s: ?government of the people, by the people, and for the people?. Unfortunately, in most nations, especially in Africa, (Nigeria inclusive), what obtains is ?government of the people? only, and not ?by the people and for the people?.

As I indicated in my previous publications, many other definitions of democracy also allude to the fact that the people determine who governs them:? Lord Bryce captured democracy as a government in which the will of the majority of qualified citizens rule. John Plamenatz conceptualised democracy as a government by persons freely chosen by and responsible to the governed people. A Nigerian Professor Ajibewa, describes democracy as a means of giving equal and political rights to citizens; while for Oyedele, democracy means the rule of the people. In all these definitions, it was Robert Dahl who introduced a more elaborate discussion on democracy. He believes that democracy is a unique process of making collective decisions which can be reached through five criteria:

Effective Participation: Citizens have adequate and equal opportunities to form their preference and place questions on the public agenda and express reasons for one outcome over the other;Voting equality is at the decisive stage: Each citizen must be assured that his or her judgments will be counted as equal in weights to the judgments of others;Enlightened understanding: Citizens enjoy ample and equal opportunities for discovering and affirming what choice would best serve their interests;Control of the agenda: Demos or people must have the opportunity to decide what political matters actually are and what should be brought up for deliberation; andInclusiveness: Equality must extend to all citizens within the state as everyone has legitimate stake within the political process.

The idea of democracy rests on the prism of government of the people, that explains why Harold J. Laski argued that the ?crown is built upon the consent of its subjects?.

The fundamental debate about democracy when it comes to majority and minority groups in a society is the fact that it is always argued that since democracy is a game of number, the majority will always have their way while minority will have their say. That is the centre of the current political situation in Ebonyi State especially as it relates to the relationship between the South and Abakaliki blocs. It is no longer news that Ebonyi state is historically divided into two main blocs of Afikpo comprising Ohaozara with five Local Government Areas and Abakaliki bloc with eight Local Government Areas and constituting over 70% of the population of the state. In the political zones, the Abakaliki bloc has two geopolitical zones against one of the South. That by implication means that if elections are held in Ebonyi and Abakaliki people decides to vote enbloc to any candidate in the election, such candidate would always win the election. That perhaps accounts for why the two previous governors elected twice each in the state since 1999 came from the two geopolitical zones of the Abakaliki bloc.

To give the Southern part of the state a sense of belonging, governor Martin Elechi from 2007 when he was elected governor of the state began to preach the gospel of equity, justice and fairness with regard to balance of power and power shift in consideration to the South. He made it clear in several fora that even though the attempt to document a Charter of Equity for citizens of the state in the past failed, he would hand over to someone from the south after his tenure elapses in May 2015. In other to actualize that promise, he nominated Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu from Afikpo North in Ebonyi South about two months before the political parties? primaries to be his successor. But the action did not receive the blessing of Ebonyi Political stakeholders because the governor took the action as an emperor without regard to the political stakeholders and leaders in the state. Ebonyians felt the governor ought to have consulted with the people and allow other interested Ebonyians especially from the South to participate in the election process without foreclosing their chances with the appointment of Chukwu as a successor.? The mounting opposition arising from the action of the governor made the Chukwu agenda to fail.? Prof Chukwu never participated in the party primaries again. Among those who participated in the governorship primary of the PDP, it was Elechi?s Deputy, Engr. Dave Umahi that won the ticket. The governor insisted he did not want his Deputy to succeed him even if he was unanimously elected by the party as its flag bearer. He moved his supporters in the PDP to the Labour party thereby creating a division in the party. Rather than allow another governorship candidate from the South to emerge in the Labour Party primary election to justify his gospel of equity and justice, Governor Elechi left the South and picked a governorship candidate for the Labour Party from the North which had earlier produced the first civilian governor of the state in the person of Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu. Many Ebonyians saw Elechi?s action as defective, deceptive and unjustifiable and filed behind the deputy governor who by his ability to defeat the impunity of the governor was seen as a political hero in the electioneering process. Since Engr Dave Umahi hails from Ebonyi South and a member of the PDP, the party members and supporters believe that it is now an opportunity for the South to have the chance to produce a governor from the zone after 16 years of return to democracy. The issue should not have been on Dave Umahi as a person but on the justification and merit of power shifting to the South.

Suddenly our brothers from the Abakaliki bloc spearheaded by governor Elechi woke up and redesigned a new charter of equity where power has to move from Ngbo to Ikwo, from Ikwo to Izzi and from Izzi to Ezza and no longer on the geopolitical balance. The Charter of Equity that is said to have not existed in the state suddenly becomes the campaign agenda of the New PDP under the umbrella of the Labour Party just to stop the South from producing the next governor. The argument of many of them opposed to the South producing the governor is that Dave Umahi should not be the flag bearer of the PDP and that it was wrong for him to have taken over the PDP structure from the governor using what they describe as Abuja connection.

The truth of the matter is that what is happening in Ebonyi today has nothing to do with Dave Umahi as a person. Dave Umahi, whether he is ?evil? or a saint, was PDP Chairman of Ebonyi chapter and worked in harmony with both Dr. Sam Egwu and Chief Martin Elechi. He was appointed deputy governor by Governor Elechi himself after he almost singlehandedly funded the re-election of the governor in 2011. There was never a time nor was it reported anywhere that Elechi brought to the public knowledge any complaint against his deputy since they started working together. ?What people were usually told was that governor Elechi promised to hand over to the South at the end of his tenure and there are said to be recorded messages in video and audio where such promises were made. How come when it was time for Elechi to honour his alleged promise, he went and took Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu who was never a politician and had no political structure without consulting the political stakeholders both in the South and other parts of the state.? Governor Elechi would have absolved himself of the current blame game and political crisis in the state if he had avoided the politics of anointing of candidate even though he was a beneficiary in 2007. ?Now, he has lost the PDP structure in the state and moved his supporters to Labour Party. That is not what is expected of a statesman. One may raise the question: Is Governor Elechi protesting against the South or his Deputy?

After all, historical and archaeological records reveal that ?one of the early settlers in Ezza area was Ekuma Enyi, who hailed from the Northern Afikpo village of Ibii. Legend has it that he married Ezekuna and the couple had two off-springs Noyo and Nodo. Noyo founded Ikwo and Nodo founded Izzi. Some Ezza groups moved eastward to Ngbo and found Ezza Ngbo, while the population pressure and adventure led to some of the pre-historic natives of Afikpo to settle and found Nkalagu?. It means that in Ebonyi both Afikpo and Abakaliki people have common heritage. The state if personified could be said to have three brothers of North, Central and South. If North and Central shared from the common patrimony of the state, is it not natural that the South should be allowed to take its own share?? I had argued against zoning in my previous write ups on Ebonyi politics because I believe any credible person can emerge to hold political position from any part of the state on merit and not on the sentiment of zoning. And Dave Umahi from the way he emerged cannot be said to have been a product of zoning on sentiment. By getting the support of PDP delegates from the three geopolitical zones of the state to win the primary election without any formula of zoning by the party is an indication that he was the choice of the party for the election.

It must be noted that successful democratic societies are committed to the values of tolerance, cooperation, and compromise. Democracies recognize that reaching consensus requires compromise even though sometimes it may not always be attainable but in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ?intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit?.

What the above suggests is that democracy thrives especially where it reflects a people?s social, political and cultural life which is the values that form a nation?s political culture. The building of democratic societies depends, as observed by Wafula Okumu, on the existence of a leadership that understands and embraces democratic ideals that favour and promotes democratic principles where every player is equal partner.

The current political debate in Ebonyi over whether power should shift to the South or remain in the Abakaliki bloc is not an issue of Engr Dave Umahi, it is about equity, justice and fairness. It is about ?the application of the dictates of conscience or the principles of natural justice to the settlement of controversies?.

If a man has three children and two of them are tall and one short in height. If the man shares something among them and the tall ones first chose their own and begin to prevent the short one to take his own, it will be injustice because height and size are not included in the definition of man. What are paramount in defining a man are his rights and privileges. Ebonyi South deserves to produce the next governor of the state. That is equity, justice and fair play. If power is to return to Abakaliki bloc, then Ezza man not Izzi should be the Governor. Rather than promote division in the PDP. Governor should join hands to give the party victory in the forthcoming elections. That is what party loyalty demands. That is patriotism. That is EQUITY. That is PEACE and JUSTICE.

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