Retired Justice Mary Odili has affirmed Wole Olanipekun, the lawyer defending President Bola Tinubu at the elections petitions tribunal, a master of electoral disputes whose expertise in tribunal litigation inspires confidence for victory and that “a resetting of the mind” is soon to come for losers who would eventually accept their loss.
Speaking on Friday at a colloquium held in honour of Joe Kyari Gadzama in Abuja, Mrs Odili said the 2023 general elections generated a storm, particularly from losers, who feel cheated by the elections’ outcome and have since resorted to making incendiary remarks that could plunge the nation into anarchy.
“There seems to be moves to throw the nation into chaos or conflagration. This may be brought about by some individuals and groups who fanning the embers of hatred, bigotry and tribalism fail to see the possible outcome of the utterances without caution that are being thrown around,” Mrs Odili, wife of ex Rivers governor Peter Odili, said at the colloquium which had many members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in attendance.
The retired justice urged all parties at the tribunal to express their grievances responsibly rather than “blackmail” judges or spread rumours online about the outcome of an active legal case to mislead the public.
“Therefore, in ventilating our points of view and facts at the electoral tribunal or other courts, a sense of responsibility from all parties is demanded, the situation does not call for the blackmail of the judges or the posting of speculatory hypothesis giving them such a life of their own which run riot and accepted by innocent in the society as the truth,” urged Mrs Odili.
Thereafter, she expressed confidence in the legal prowess of Mr Tinubu and the APC’s lawyers, suggesting their combined legal efforts would “at the end of the day” guarantee victory at the tribunal and put to rest all forms of speculatory legal dissection of the electoral disputes in court.
“And I am happy professional…(sic), those who are well equipped in litigation matters and electoral disputes, Chief Olanipekun is a master and our Attorney General recently sworn in. These are experts,” asserted the retired justice.
“I am confident that having such persons here including our chief host Chief JK Gadzama. There is confidence that at the end of the day, a resetting of the mind would be taking place and we would keep things in perspective in the full knowledge that elections are seasonal and litigations relating thereto.”
She cautioned that the losers of the 2023 elections shouldn’t use their grievances and frustration as justification to “bring down the roof of our nation,” as they may not be spared by the law.
“It is human to feel cheated or having the short end of the stick but one who is not declared the winner at any of the electoral contests, such a motion however grieved does not justify bringing the roof down, the roof of our nation, the reason is simple that in such an eventuality, that aggrieved person may not be spared as the commotion would be like an unguided missile which could land anywhere and upon anyone,” the former jurist said.
According to Mrs Odili, Mr Olanipekun and Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, were grounded in electoral disputes, implying that their collaboration was bound to birth victory at the tribunal.
Mr Olanipekun, a highly respected senior advocate, was in charge of the team of lawyers that defended ex-president Muhammadu Buhari’s victory against Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2019 at the tribunal. Mr Olanipekun won the matter for Mr Buhari.
But Mrs Odili’s statements have ignited furore across the nation with many citizens alleging the judiciary may no longer be independent and may have been cowered to pander to the demands of the ruling party.
The fact that Ms Odili’s statements echo the encomium Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, lavished on then Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, last November, hasn’t helped to calm public concerns that the judiciary may be seriously compromised since judicial officers are not expected to hobnob with politicians, much less make political commentaries in public.