While it has long been suspected by Nigerians that court judgements are often given in favour of the highest bidder, a series of embarrassing judgements by courts with concurrent jurisdictions over the tenure of the chairmanship of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Uche Secondus has woken up from the slumber, the National Judicial Council, NJC which is the apex regulatory authority over the judiciary in Nigeria. But the NJC is only stepping up after what seems like irreparable damage to the reputation of the judiciary in Nigeria, had been done.
In his bid to halt further exposure of the country’s legal system to ridicule, last Monday, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad, the 18th Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, who is the chairman of the NJC, called a meeting of all the six (6) Chief Judges in whose judicial divisions conflicts of court judgements have emanated since June.
He did so ostensibly to chastise them for the apparent aberrant behaviour and what some critics have termed judicial rascality. In my view, the CJN’s intervention amounts to medicine after death, simply because the reputational damage has already been inflicted.
The conclusion above is derived from the fact that the impression that our country’s judicial system is ensconced in corruption has already shifted from the realm of suspicion to reality. That is because even the blind, deaf and dump are now fully aware and believe that the conscience of some of our judicial officers seating in the temple of justice can be traded for pecuniary benefits.
It is the lack of integrity in the way and manner that the half a dozen judicial pronouncements made on the validity or otherwise of PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus’s tenure and the confusing court decisions regarding the authenticity of the candidates in the Anambra State gubernatorial elections coming up in November that nailed the coffin.
In other words, the legal commotion surrounding the sacking of Secondus and reinstating him repeatedly by four (4) judges across the country and the Charles Soludo, Valentine Ozigbo and Andy Uba, respective candidates of APGA, PDP and APC, court debacles in their party primary contests for who occupies government mansion Awka, that sealed the coffin of the erstwhile belief that the judiciary is the last hope for the common man.
Obviously, with integrity thrown to the dogs, the courts are turning out to be the architect of the disenfranchisement of the common man who would have no say in who governs him following the bastardization of democracy as the conflicting and absurd court judgements suggest that the men and women seating in the temple of justice over the referenced cases may not have passed their decisions through the crucible of truth.
As l had written elsewhere, democracies die when norms are eroded. And nothing can better illustrate that reality than the conflicting court judgements which not only constitute an embarrassment to the judiciary; they are another blithe on our beloved country as a whole.
That is because it reinforces the international embarrassment in which our law enforcement system is currently mired due to the opprobrium attracted to Nigeria stemming from the link between the highly decorated police officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari to the confessed internet fraudster, Hushpuppi, now in the custody of US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI.
It needs no reminding that compromised judiciary and law enforcement agencies in a country are key indicators for determining whether a state has failed.
I am grieved that Nigerians have been so unfortunate to have been continuously dealt a sleight of hand by not only the executive but all the three arms of government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial – since the introduction of Western-style of government in our country.
While there is not enough time to give the contest to the assertion above, it needs not much reminding that most Nigerians have lost confidence in all three arms of government without exception.
Hence, most of our compatriots, not just the youths, but elders as well, are currently apathetic to the manner that politics is being played. As such, they have come to the conclusion that the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government are now in cohort to kill the democratic system of governance that we fought so hard to adopt.
Allow me to start with the executive arm.
Owing to the failure of seekers and eventual occupants of Executive offices to keep to their lofty campaign promises, the electorate unsurprisingly lost confidence in that arm of government; from the president down to the governor and all the way to the local government chairman.
The loss of faith in public officials and government is underscored by the fact that since the founding of Nigeria in 1914 or even after independence in 1960, our political leaders have been campaigning in poetry, and governing in prose. According to Mario Cuomo, the author of the aforementioned phrase, who is a former governor of the state of New York, USA, the government should be all about delivery, not lofty promises that are seldom kept.
Unfortunately, what Cuomo railed against in his famous quote is the standard practice rather than the exception in Nigeria. And the consequences of this anomaly are that, after so many circles of promise and failure, Nigerians have become not only suspicious of promises made by politicians, but their expectation of a better future seems to have also evaporated.
In my judgement, what worries the critical masses of Nigerians the most is that every administration blames the preceding one for the misfortunes of the masses. They then appeal to the electorate to be given the chance to turn things around for good and vow to relieve them of the yoke placed on their necks by the authorities that they aim to upstage. Yet, whenever they are given the chance to rule, they perform worse than the previous rulers.
Take the case of the change of baton of government in Nigeria in the past six years from the PDP to the APC. Since 2015, the former opposition and ruling parties have traded places. Based on lofty promises about positive changes, Nigerians had hope for better days ahead with the opposition party that took over from the former ruling party. But six years into the journey with the new ruling party, what are Nigerians grappling with? Worse state of insecurity as reflected by massive killing, raping and kidnapping of a magnitude never recorded in the annals of Nigerian history.
The horrendous level of insecurity is so stunning that apart from the alarming number of those sent untimely to the grave, UNICEF, reckons that about 1,000 innocent students are still being held captive in the forests by kidnappers who are demanding ransom from their parents and authorities.
In addition to the constant invasion of schools to steal students which started in 2014 with an estimated 300 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok town, in Borno state from their hostel under the watch of the former regime, (of which some of them are still in captivity) with the multiple kidnapping of students taking place since then in practically almost all the northern states, military formations have also been raided by bandits to steal arms and ammunition across the country. But the most frightening and denigrating act against the military is the recent successful invasion of the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, Nigeria’s premier training institution for the military.
That the bandits successfully breached the military facility which is supposed to be impregnable and wounded hordes, as well as killed a couple of the inhabitants, while kidnapping three people including a major in the army, speaks volumes about how perilous it is to live in Nigeria and a justification for the loss of faith in the executive arm of government that is supposed to protect the masses.
If the military that the nation has spent trillions of naira training and arming since the past 21 years of the return of multiparty democracy cannot protect its self, what hope is there for the civilian? A plethora of governors has been encouraging the besieged citizens to defend themselves. How can civilians possibly do so successfully when the bandits are taking the battle to the military in their abode and taking their members a hostage?
The unfortunate calamity that befell the NDA is clearly a case of ‘‘physician; heal thy self’’ which is not very good optics for the nation’s military.
to be continue…
Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development Strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former Commissioner in Delta State government, wrote in from Lagos.