Amidst the humiliating forces of terror parading our streets or almost smoking life out of an average Nigerian, is this terrible anniversary, which just reared its ugly head and did a trite remembrance of that gory years when justice was with brazen impunity targeted, shot and eaten.
The theatrical aside, which distracted us from the existing issues of the state, has saved us from the burdensome thoughts of an overrated president whose clueless fingers could not open the shut destinies of the academy and students.
Though glazed in the black book of the people’s history, he has been impervious to the fever of many flowery but controversial columns, satirically addressed via the hungry faces of many newspapers, whose forte is truth and scandals. He, in the stead, stayed perpetually glued to those snippets of information, falling from the inglorious tables of Mr Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina. These peddlers of distasteful falsehood have pitched a wall of Jericho and fortified the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), against the reality of the Nigerian State. They did this without blocking his consciousness against the shocking alert of his imminent abduction, attack on his advance team and attack on the Kuje Custodial Centre.
Justice is true to a course, bold and thorough. It is the selfless and unsolicited consolidation of the ideals which embody the saner climes of this world. It must be given freely to the different parties: either the state, plaintiffs or defendant.
As if we have had enough, there was the naked power play in the Akwa Ibom High Court. The Chief sentinel and Justice of the State, Ekaette Obot, willingly tooled herself in a way that she became a primary factor and party in a case that was brought before her. The character and judge successfully brought before us the graphic memories of those terrible times, when the military assumed the position of a typical African Prince, under whose whims and caprices the citizens live, suffer and groan in deeper pains.
She transformed the temple of justice in a way that it suits her parochial interest and aims—no wonder the gun-toting police were at the venue and courtroom on a special and direct invitation by the judge.
Who would have thought that Justice Obot would not have recused herself from a case she is glaringly interested in?
That she still attended a wedding programme organised by one of the parties is enough as prima facie evidence. She would have in the interest of justice recused herself.
Instead of humbly helping justice to take its full course, Justice Obot denied journalists the right to cover an open sitting of the court. She convicted counsel Inibehe Effiong for challenging the militarisation of the courtroom or even muzzling the press (a creation of the law). She didn’t stop at this but further frustrated every attempt to challenge her emotions in the court of law by further withholding the Certified True Copy of the judgement of the court (though later released but skewed in the voice of an artful rigger of words).
Unfortunately, a judge who should be fully ready to bear the burden of truth, was busy mobilising lawyers to cover up the sagging breast and glaring inhumanity championed against another man.
Lord Denning, the renowned British Judge, opined, in his November 20, 1980’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture titled: Misuse of Power, that “Every Judge on his appointment discards all politics and all prejudices.”
Justice Obot has been able to remind us of dismissed late Justice Moshood Olugbani whose hatchet job pushed to the extreme end. Olugbani gave a controversial judgement that grounds the voice of the masses and also empowers the ruling class to misbehave. The judgement says the ruling class should not be challenged, since they are like the king whose ruling and actions cannot be challenged in any court of law.
He earlier ordered the detainment of Dapo Olorunyomi, Bayo Onanuga, Seyi Kehinde and Adesokan of TheNews under the guise that they could escape. They were charged with criminal libel on March 12, 1993. The journalists were represented by 30 lawyers, including late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Kanmi Ishola Oshobu, Dr Olu Onagoruwa, Professor Itse Sagay and Mike Ozhekome.
While tactically treating Olugbani to a knock, Fawehinmi bluntly challenged his ordering the arrest of the journalists, he said, “They did a cover story on you and you are not happy. You are showing bitterness. You hold that grudge against them and that is why you want to send them to prison without hearing a word from their counsel. It is not right. The law and God will not allow it. It is not fair.”
Oshobu, while complementing the powerful speech and challenge availed Olugbani, said to douse the ensuing tension, “The legal temperature is rising. In the time of Justice J.J.C. Taylor, who once presided in this court, things never got out of hand.”
Olugbani in reply to this allegation only said, “It is not true,” he did not go ahead to feast on Fawehinmi.
This is in the light of the criticisms that had greeted the released record of proceedings, which was skewed in a way that exposes Effiong to be an unprofessional, arrogant lawyer. Would he have had a mentor in late Fawehinmi by fearlessly challenging injustice and obvious sabotage of the due process? How have the arguments in any way justified the inhumane treatment the lawyer was subjected to in prison?
As of now, the Nigeria Bar Association, which should reclaim its position as a pressure group in the battle against Justice and the Bar, is currently locked in an interminable intra-governmental squabble. The Bar, headed by the new breed, is now wasting away and defaulting on its responsibilities to the Nigeria lawyers. Who would rescue the Bar from the parading vultures and buccaneers (who had via the instrumentality of the judiciary) held the Nigeria State by the jugular?
- Akingbondere, an intern at the Falana & Falana Chambers, writes from Lagos