From Jude Owuamanam, Jos

Governor Caleb Mutfwang spoke to Channels Television immediately after the Supreme Court had restored him as the winner of the governorship election in Plateau state. Excerpts 

Congratulations your excellency, how does it feel?

A huge relief, huge burden. A huge relief because it’s been a tortuous process. Having to go through litigation after you have been sworn-in is not the best of engagements. Full of uncertainties and we thank God that finally today it has been brought to an end because litigation is not a necklace that you should wear perpetually. It has to come to an end. We are glad today that finally it has come to an end and in that sense it brings a huge relief. But again seeing the kind of excitement the judgment has generated, it again tells me that you carry a huge burden. And that is a burden not to be taken lightly and by the grace of God, we thsnk God for his grace not only to discharge that burden but to carry it effectively.

I imagine that you may have been packing some of your personal effects out of the Government House few weeks ago because going to the Supreme Court after you’ve lost at the Appeal Court, you know one thing could happen – it’s either you win or lose at the and for any reasonable person would have said these are my important personal effects, let me take them to my personal home in case anything goes wrong. Was that the case?

That’s an interesting one. I can assure you that certainly no such thing came to my mind and as I am talking to you, my family is still where I have resided since May 29. And I had always believed that God was on our side, that the law was on our side. That the Supreme Court would do the needful and therefore we need not panic. Therefore we didn’t lose confidence in the institution of the judiciary, in the personalities of the justices and therefore we managed it better than you think imagine that it must have been some kind of pain when you lost at the Appeal Court. You won on the field in the election and you perhaps had thought that your fate hangs on the balance in the hands of just about seven justices of the Supreme Court to determine whether the victory you got in the field will be affirmed or rejected. So in that sense it was a very dicey one. In the final analysis what would you say is the biggest lesson in all these process for you

Many lessons to learn from this process. I must tell you that there are many conversations that we must have out of this process. But for me today is a day of glory for justice. It’s a day of glory for the judiciary. It is a restoration of hope and confidence in the judiciary that it’s the last hope for the common man. Today, the lordships made Nigerians proud because they didn’t state any new position of the law. I sat through all the judgments. All they did was to restate the position of the law because a lot  of the issues that came up for determination have been decided upon in a plethora of cases. It was therefore surprising that some of the tribunals missed the application of precedence and at the Court of Appeal some of the panels also  missed the application of precedent. Our jurisprudence has been based on judicial precedent. Put in another way, judicial discipline and therefore once a superior court has stated what the law is, had interpreted what the law is that interpretation itself becomes law.  So it is not expected that the lower court will deviate from what has been stated as the law except they can find reasons to defer from existing judgments.

But the Supreme Court can on its own disagree with  its own judgment and deviate from the judgment if it can find good reasons and  changes in the processes.

Very well. There is what we called the inherent jurisdiction of the court. And the Supreme Court is called supreme  because it’s not just a court of law, but a court of policy. And when it’s making a decision, it looks at the totality of the impact of that judgment on the society. And so of course it tries to follow the rules of interpretation of statutes to make sure that the interpretation of the law conforms with the spirit of the law because before you enact any law there is a mischief you intended to cure. And so the Supreme Court is the guardian of the justice system and today they executed that role very well.

If it had gone the other way what would you have said?

I would have been surprised but I would have taken it because it’s the highest court of the land

What was your plan? What were the alternatives plans if you had been sacked finally today?

If I had been sacked, I would have taken it in good fate

What were you planning to do afterwards?

I had no plans because I didn’t think that I was going to be sacked.

Or you thought that it was either this or this?

I was confident that the Supreme Court was going to do the right thing

What gave you that confidence?

Two things: one God, two, the law. The law has never been unambiguous. The issues canvassed in my case were based basically on issues of nomination and sponsorship of candidates which is not within the jurisdiction of tribunals. The other issue had to do with a purported disobedience of a court order which was a contrived lie that was packaged and sold to the Court of Appeal and it fell for it because there was no court order that was disobeyed and today I am glad that the Supreme Court made appropriate findings that every Court order that was given had been obeyed and that the Court of Appeal strayed beyond the boundaries of its jurisdiction in saying that I was not duly nominated and sponsored by my party.

So for some reasons do you think that under the administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu dispensation there is some kind of hope in the system in the climate about what the judiciary has delivered today?

In my first interaction with the press, I did make that point. For an African president not to intrude into the political space, we must say kudos to Mr. President

You think he did not?

I think he did not. He did not. If he had, the Nigerian president is one of the most powerful presidents and if he decides to use his powers wrongly and intrude into the political arena it could unsettle a lot of things. But today I believe he allowed their lordships to do their work and they did it according to the dictates of conscience and according to the dictates of the law and I am proud of them.

Those who have lost hope in the judiciary would have thought that the judiciary is being in the market for sale. What do you have to say?

That is exactly what the Supreme Court did today to show that the judiciary and justice is not for sale. I wish you were at the court to hear some of the comments of their lordships, First of all, what they said in a lot of things that went wrong, which were corrected today, showed that it’s a wake up call for both the bar and the bench. There were very many cases that ought not to have been taken to court by lawyers and I think we need to address that. Maybe there needs to be some penalty for those kind of mischievous cases which were abuse of court processes. There must be a sanction and it is that that gives the judges the latitude, the platform to also misapply the law.

There are those who would say that Gov. Mutfwang if these were to be some politicians that would want to wield political power using the courtrooms that the parties in power would have taken it all.

Yeah the political parties also have a role to play. When the political parties don’t do their homework and leave loopholes, disobey their own rules of engagement, disobey their guidelines for elections, then they open the window for lawyers and the court to be able to misbehave and so it also means that the political parties have to ensure that the processes, the internal processes are fair and just and they are very transparent. If not we will continue to have this vicious circle of very laborious litigations, which are very energy sapping and distracting from the purposes of governance.

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There were those who think that some of the violent things we had seen on the Plateau were also as a result of some of the political tension created in the aftermath of the Appeal Court judgment. Now as the leader of the state, as the number one citizen of the state, are you willing to extend the olive branch to all and sundry no matter what political party they belong to come together and help you build Plateau state or do you still want to fight on politically?

There is nothing to fight over. Today has brought the judicial process like I said to an end. I am the governor of Plateau stay, both the good, the bad and the ugly and my responsibility is to run the state efficiently for the benefit of all. I can tell you that there are many things that had come out of the perverse judgment of the Court of Appeal. One of it is that it has expanded my knowledge of the people of the state. It has expanded my knowledge of the dynamics of Nigerian politics. It has expanded my depth of knowledge about the dynamics of the workings of the judicial system and I can tell you that what it has done for me is that it had brought out in me some positive energy that we can be able to change the Nigerian system. I have always been an incurable optimist that Nigeria can change and today with what I saw at the Supreme Court, it raises that hope further that if the Supreme Court can get it right, the judicial system will get it right, the administration of justice will get right. It therefore means that we can cascade this into other spheres of our national development. I believe that with a lot of the things that are happening now some of the drastic corrective measures Mr President is taking means that change is possible.

You believe in what Bola Tinubu is doing?

Ohhh why not

Have you met with him?

I have.

Did you discuss your case with him?

Nothing unusual. Of course he’s aware. As the president he’s aware of all these.

What were his comments about this?

I wish you good luck. I wish you good luck.

He never tried to help?

In what way can he help?

He’s the president

He’s the president, but he’s not the judge. That’s what I said. That’s what I am commending Mr President for the deliberate decision not to intrude into the judicial space. It takes a great restraint for a good leader to restrain himself when he knows that he had that power that can be able to distort a system and he says no I am not going to use it. I would rather allow the system to sort out itself and I think that is good for our country.

One thing that is of concern to a whole lot of people, whether they are from Plateau state or not or from the central region of the country or not is the security situation in the state.

Almost 100 communities in three local government areas including Mangu, your local government area, there are people who are worried about what has gone. These are some of the theories people have. In the interim what comes to your mind. What do you think is at the heart of this violent crazy killing of innocent people in their beds in the middle of the night and chasing them out of their communities.

When a lion tastes blood and you don’t kill the lion, it’s going to go after more humans. And this is what has happened in Plateau and perhaps most of the North Central where these criminal activities began over two decades ago. And they were treated with kid gloves and they kept snowballing and they kept dividing. The dynamics kept changing. Today it’s a multifaceted hydra headed problem. It will not be far fetched that there is land grabbing interest l involved in this matter. It will not be far fetched that we also have criminals who have lost humanity and therefore can be able to shoot a three year old baby with a gun at close range and why the baby didn’t die takes God as a miracle worker to have preserved that child. Where you matchet a five-year old boy for no just cause. It shows a loss of humanity. I am worried that it looks like to some degree in Nigeria, our values have been thoroughly eroded, that we have lost our humanity in many respects and today we have allowed criminality to thrive. What I can tell you we are dealing with on the Plateau and the attacks in the recent times are pure acts of terrorism and the earlier we deal with them as acts of terrorism as a state not Plateau as a subnational, but as a Nigerian state, we will not be able to apply the hammer with the full weight we have to bear on this monster. It’s a big monster and we need to deal with it.

Are they Terrorists?

Yes and no.

Are they non- Nigerians?

I believe that the sponsors of the terrorists, the financiers of the terrorists who arm the terrorists are known and the security agencies know them. If they don’t know them, they have the capacity to know them. And that’s why we are insisting that the security agencies must do their work, which is to protect lives and property and when they recruit unknown persons, when you hear about unknown gunmen, few have been caught and truly they don’t appear to be from any part of this country.

I can imagine that as a former local government chairman in Mangu for instance, you have local intelligence report that you get from the people

Very well

And when you say that these attacks are being sponsored and these people are known and you yourself as the chief security officer should have an idea. Who are these people?  Can we name them to shame and Nigerian people will know the terrorists that are terrorizing our nation. Is it possible?

It’s possible. It’s a collaborative effort. I do not have the tools of coercion to be able to catch these people and bring them to justice. Even if I do, my duty is to transmit my knowledge to the security agencies because they have the constitutional responsibility to investigate, to arrest and then oftentimes they have done that I as governor now under my ministry of justice we can be able to prosecute in conjunction with the federal ministry of justice. So it’s a collaborative effort. We must share information and knowledge. Some of the things are very sensitive and therefore you cannot just spill out in the media. You must’ve able to engage the appropriate authorities if it’s going to bear the much-needed fruit.

Are you thinking of alternative measures because the police and other security agencies are not under your control and you can only assert your authority as prescribed by the constitution. There are other state ls in Nigeria that have developed vigilantes, local security to help security arrangements. Are you thinking of this alternative?

It will interest you to know that Plateau state was the first to be given an authority by the then President Goodluck Jonathan to start what people today know as Amotekun Lagos. Former Governor Jang started what we call Operation Rainbow, which politicians mischievously said he was building a militia and unfortunately that platform of security management was not well utilized in the last eight years. We are trying to bring it back. Everything we are doing is in the open. We are trying to mobilize the local vigilantes and hunters so that they can defend their communities. We are doing it very transparently. We are getting the police and civil defence to give them some training so that they can be able to safeguard their communities. If we don’t do that we are going to allow people to resort to self help, which is very dangerous