By Festus Adedayo
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, got a raw baptism from politicians recently. In a statement attributed to him which went viral and even attracted the excoriation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faction of presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the CJN was credited with having said that he was happy that Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State was among the five governors of the party loyal to Wike. For those rustling the rubble for dynamites with which to destroy their political opponents, the CJN’s alleged statement was a perfect nuke in need of detonation.
However, the Supreme Court (SC) took the explosion off this masterfully prepared nuke by situating what actually transpired. For those who had hoped to stoke the embers and get a conflagration, it was a deflating shock. According to the SC in its rebuttal, the CJN and other senior judicial officers, who were drawn from different parts of the country, had gone to Port Harcourt for the commissioning of two buildings of the Federal Judicial Service Commission’s South-South Liaison Office and the Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili Judicial Institute, which were constructed by the Rivers State government.
During his brief remarks at a State Banquet organized by the Rivers State government, the CJN, who hails from Oyo State and seeing his governor in attendance, had said “he was very surprised to see the ‘G5 Governors’ (Integrity Group Governors), just as he equally expressed the same surprise when he saw them in Ibadan, Oyo State, during the reception organised in his honour by his state government in October 2022. His surprise particularly stemmed from the fact that he saw his own State Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde (who incidentally is a member of the G5 Governors) at the Port Harcourt occasion. He equally stated jocularly that being that Engr. Makinde married from Rivers State and is equally very close to Nyesome Wike, he would be able to replicate the developmental strides of the latter in Oyo State for the good of the citizenry.”
Now, but for the desire to make mischief and tar-brush him for whatever ulterior motive, what manner of journalism would breed the inflection that that statement was eventually given by the agent provocateurs who negatively elasticized it in the public?
Judges do not jump from Uranus and thus, also possess human feelings. It is almost inhuman for anyone not to appreciate development, especially growth of physical infrastructure. I remember being on the entourage of an ex-governor to Rotimi Amaechi’s Rivers some years ago. After the visit, I told whoever wished to listen that if any southwest governor achieved ten percent of Amaechi’s infrastructural works, he would be a hero of his people. So I wasn’t surprised that Ariwoola suffered similar pleasant shock as I did. That he wished that “the developmental strides” achieved by Wike would be replicated in his home state was just human.
Those who harangue the CJN for attending politicians’ events are merely crying wolf. By the nature of his appointment and position, Ariwoola cannot distance himself from politicians. He sits atop the judiciary but in occupation of a position which is not an island onto itself. He will constantly rub shoulders with politicians until his last day in office. He can only be advised to be wary of the fact that, cosseting him at such occasions would be evil-minded individuals who are baying for blood. Whenever Ariwoola and probably his successors are invited to such an event subsequently, it is only society that will lose. It will be denied of non-judicial narratives in the public speeches of a CJN who is also human. This is because the CJN will subsequently approach such events with a temporary taciturnity that he will impose on himself. Since what politicians and their hirelings want is a CJN who is all law and with no human aspect, that is just as well; isn’t it?