Tuesday, February 4, 2020 1:50 pm
By Bolanle Bolawole
Many readers of this column issued me “queries” over what they described as my “criminal silence” on the Supreme Court’s abracadabra of a judgment in the Ihedioha/Uzodinma tussle over the Imo governorship, which the apex court awarded to APC’s Uzodinma in what many have described as bizarre and out-of-this-world manner. Some thought I must have concurred, hence my silence. Others – some of whom had praised me to high heavens before – alleged I must have been bought over; people are always quick to shout “Hosanna” today and “Crucify him” tomorrow! Some who said they could vouch for me guessed I must have been nonplussed and too shell-shocked that I became literally dumbfounded. I thank this group for the confidence reposed in me. But none of these was the reason for my silence.
Long before the Supreme Court overreached itself in the Ihedioha/Uzodinma case, creating more voters in Imo State than the INEC had in its voters’ register, and failing in the simple arithmetic of adding up figures, I had long given up on the Judiciary. But what did you expect when the Judiciary’s “Oga at the top” himself is said to have gained admission into the university with F9 in Mathematics and English! I had written “Politicians kill, judges bury…” published in this column on 21st July, 2019 and that said it all. Excerpts:
Nineteen-ninety-nine (1999) till now (2019) is the longest unbroken span of democratic governance at a stretch that this country has experienced. Self-rule preparatory to Independence for the Eastern and Western regions (1957) and the North (1959) pre-dated independence on October 1, 1960. Up till January 15, 1966, the country enjoyed a spell of democratic governance before series of military interregnum, after which we moved again to July 1979, when the then military Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari. That experience lasted till December 31, 1983. It was, thereafter, rigmarole after rigmarole under different military dictators until the return to civil rule on May 29, 1999. Reasons commonly adduced for the truncating of civil rule by the men on horseback, as Samuel Finer calls the military adventurists, are bad governance epitomised by corruption, ostentatious living, profligacy of the few on one hand and dearth of basic necessities of life on the side of the suffering majority on the other; and the perversion and subversion of the people’s will epitomised in the rigging of elections. Since 1999, the alibi for soldiers’ incursion into politics has not abated; if anything, it has assumed monstrous proportions; meaning, then, that there must be other reasons keeping the soldiers within their barracks. An argument often canvassed is that military rule has become anachronistic and untenable and, thus, has lost its allure and gone out of fashion. The international community, we are told, has lost its patience for military rule and is vigorously opposed to military take-overs. Through training, the right indoctrination and political education, the military are also said to have become more professional and less inclined to stepping out of their barracks at the least promptings to take on roles they are not trained or cut out for. Plausible as these arguments may seem, we have, nonetheless, seen military take-overs in a few places such as Egypt and Sudan. One point which is often glossed over in Nigeria is the decisive action taken by Obasanjo when he assumed office in 1999. He made a list of military officers who had eaten the forbidden fruit of political office and promptly retired them from service. Those with the most likely urge to topple a civilian government thus lost the much-needed pedestal. It also sent an unmistakeable signal to others of the dangers of professional imperilment should they fall out of line to seek filthy political lucre. Then, there is the well-know failure of Nigerian military governments to serve as the modernizers and agents of positive change alluded to by Samuel P. Huntington.
If corruption and election-rigging alone determine the survival or otherwise of any nation’s democracy; Nigeria’s would have long ago come to a disastrous end; for at no time in the history of this country has corruption become so rampant. Even the government that pretends to fight corruption is itself whacked by corruption. In its ranks are fabulously corrupt Nigerians who are protected by their membership of the ruling party and government while a mockery is made of the anti-corruption war running after opposition figures. The brains behind the country’s first coup who bellyached about First Republic politicians’ corrupt tendencies, describing them as “ten-percenters”, would turn in their graves to see that, today, the whole 100 percent of project and contract sums are spirited away without contractors visiting the project site or turning the sod. In those days, however, the country had something going for it; there were fearless and upright judges despite the authoritarianism of military dictators. We had judges who were bold; who looked the military straight in the face and told them bitter truths. We had judges who were minded to do justice regardless of whose ox is gored. We had the likes of Akinola Aguda. We had philosophers and Socrates who sat on the Bench and made pronouncements that made Britain’s Lord Denning green with envy; we had the like of Chukwudifu Oputa and Kayode Esho. But, no more! The few upright judges that remain these days are hounded and side-tracked via forum shopping.
Today, politicians kill our democracy; judges bury it! Both work hand in glove. They are arrayed in tandem in an unholy alliance that makes the conscionable distraught. We have never had it this bad. Not only are men of conscience in short supply in the Bar and on the Bench, little or no effort is made at all these days at pretence. It is like the Nigerian policemen who collect their bribes in broad daylight without caring a hoot about who is watching or passing by… These days, powerful litigants and big-cat lawyers have their favourite judges and courts that would do their bidding. It is no longer the law you know or the “justness” of your cause. Once the list of judges is made known in a case or the court is mentioned, you know the likely outcome. Some judges are known as “client” of this or that; the names of judges who act as consultants and go-between between judges and politicians are open secret. How did we get to this sorry pass? If a judge proves stubborn or is not amenable, you can quickly pack your bag and baggage and relocate to a pliant judge, regardless of the provisions of the law. The law here is an ass that panders to the wiles of the powers-that-be – and they are riding it to its death.
Why the judges do not care – or are yet to notice – that they are losing self-respect and relevance is baffling. The Judiciary is treated like scum by the Executive, yet, it does not care. Judges behave like Samson before Delilah; and like the proverbial foolish cock which exposed its joker to the wolf. Baron de Montesquieu, widely acknowledged as father of the theory of separation of powers, would turn in his grave. Judges are treated as trifle; they are handled as rags; their orders are spurned; yet, they remain chummy with the vile offenders. Judges loath to fight for their rights and dignity! The Judiciary is co-terminus with the Executive and Legislature; being the third Estate of the Realm, independent and possessing equal powers (for checks and balances). Judges ought to fight back and possess their possessions – but they acquiesce. It beggars belief how they display such a huge propensity to cringe and be servile. What has befallen our judges? Why have they become spineless? Wole Soyinka said in “The Man Died” that in those who keep silent in the face of tyranny, the man dies. Not only do judges keep silent in the face of tyranny meted out unto others, they themselves have become victims of self-same tyranny that whacks the entire citizenry. Judges lose their voices – and balls – when their corruption is exposed and waved in their face. It is flagged and brandished to intimidate and compromise them. How can a judge do justice when his hands are tied behind his back? They become caricatures and impostors profaning the temple of justice!
Mercifully, there is nothing hidden (today) that will not be made known (tomorrow). Corrupt judges should know that we know them. Oh yes, we see you! Your wheeling-and-dealing is not unknown. You who dispense technicalities in the place of justice; vermin and vampires devouring the truth and upholding falsehood: when a Daniel shall come to judgment, you will come under the full weight of the law you have so shamelessly, wilfully and whimsically perverted. It is travesty when the so-called last hope of the common man becomes his last scourge; consenting to the rape of our democracy and putting justice, their very raison d’être, to the sword. Theirs, like Brutus’, is the unkindest cut of all on the bleeding body of Caesar; nay, Nigeria!
Need I say more?
AIG Oyebade: Victim of Amotekun’s FG/South-west tango?
AIG in charge of Zone XI of the Nigeria Police Force comprising Ondo, Osun and Oyo state, AIG Adeleye O. Oyebade, has reportedly been posted to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos as “a directing staff” – a euphemism for “from the field, where you command troops, to the classroom or office where you stand in front of blackboard or sit behind a desk” Oyebade was replaced by Bashir D. Makama.
Meanings have been read into the new postings, especially as it came immediately after the pro-Amotekun rallies which held in South-west states under Oyebade’s jurisdiction. Recall that the Lagos rally was not allowed to hold. Rallies and protests are essential ingredients of democracy; so Oyebade did nothing wrong by not aborting the pro-Amotekun rallies, in the event that he even had the means or opportunity to do so.
The rallies were peaceful and they were in exercise of the fundamental human rights of the people as free citizens of a free country. Except we are being told that some of us are no longer free citizens and that this country is no more a free country. We operate a democracy – except we are now being told that this is not so and that we are in full-blown dictatorship and or creeping fascism.
A childhood friend that I respect so much told me he knew Oyebade closely and has spoken to him on his new posting and that the AIG saw nothing wrong with it. Therefore, my friend thinks there should be no insinuations concerning the posting. In reply, I asked him what else he expected Oyebade to have said. The man is still in active service and must be careful. All lizards lie prostrate; how, then, can we determine the one that has stomach ache? Besides, what good will it do if he sings like canary? For him, this is an occasion when silence is golden.
But not for us! We live in this country; we are not Mariners who, because of a long period of absence out at sea, can be told all manner of bunkum. “Aje ke l’ana, omo ku l’oni”…who does not know that the witch that cried yesterday was the one that killed the child that died today? They were too much in haste they could not allow fresh air to blow on the matter before yanking off the man. They must have been really, really infuriated.
Those who warned that the anti-Amotekun FG will fight back – and fight dirty – may be right, after all! The explanation by the police spokesperson that Oyebade was moved to the classroom because he is cerebral flies in the face of logic. So it is those who are not cerebral that should man command posts?
The powers-that-be should have been more circumspect but their impunity will not let them. They have got accustomed to riding roughshod over everyone that they cannot be bothered any more. Who will arrest them? What can anyone do to them? They can do and undo! The haste with which they acted was ungodly and speaks volumes, which cannot be hidden or papered over. And the replacement they chose for Oyebade was something else! This is the kind on unfeeling, insensitivity, I-don’t care-attitude, lack of respect for others that is tearing this country apart.
We put them on notice that Nigerians are watching and recording every atrocity! South-west governors especially should take note. It is Oyebade today; who next tomorrow? Wasn’t the fear of reprisal the real reason some of the governors could not initially identify openly with Amotekun? And wasn’t that why some other leaders spoke appeasement and tepidly when they should have displayed masculinity?
The evidence or facts surrounding Oyebade’s new posting are too circumstantial to be treated as mere happenstance.
Mr Bola Bolawole, a veteran journalist, Writes from Lagos. [email protected] 0705 263 1058