Retired Justice Mary Odili, speaking at a recent colloquium in honour of Joe Kyari Gadzama, has praised the legal prowess of Wole Olanipekun, the lawyer defending President Bola Tinubu at the elections petitions tribunal. She described Olanipekun as a master of electoral disputes and expressed confidence in his ability to secure victory. However, she also issued a stern warning to election losers, urging them to accept defeat gracefully to prevent potential chaos in Nigeria.
Mrs. Odili, wife of former Rivers governor Peter Odili, addressed the audience at the colloquium, which was attended by numerous members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). She expressed concern about the aftermath of the 2023 general elections, particularly the reactions of those who felt cheated by the election results. She cautioned against making incendiary remarks that could incite violence and instability in the country.
“There seems to be moves to throw the nation into chaos or conflagration. This may be brought about by some individuals and groups who are fanning the embers of hatred, bigotry, and tribalism without seeing the possible consequences of their uncautious remarks,” Mrs. Odili warned.
She emphasized that while it’s natural to feel cheated or frustrated, losing candidates should not use their grievances as a justification to destabilize the country. Mrs. Odili pointed out that such actions could lead to legal consequences.
“It is human to feel cheated or having the short end of the stick, but not being declared the winner does not justify bringing down the roof of our nation. In such an eventuality, the aggrieved person may not be spared, as the commotion would be like an unguided missile that could land anywhere and upon anyone,” she cautioned.
Mrs. Odili also highlighted the expertise of Wole Olanipekun and Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, in electoral disputes. She suggested that their collaboration was likely to lead to a favorable outcome at the tribunal. Olanipekun previously led the legal team that successfully defended ex-president Muhammadu Buhari’s victory against Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2019.
However, Mrs. Odili’s statements have sparked controversy across the nation, with many citizens expressing concerns about the independence of the judiciary. Some have alleged that the judiciary may have been influenced to align with the ruling party’s interests. This controversy is further fueled by the fact that Mrs. Odili’s remarks echo previous praise from Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, for then Rivers governor Nyesom Wike in November, raising questions about the neutrality of judicial officers in political matters.