THE metaphor of aloku soja (discharged spent soldier) fits the Nigerian judiciary in its current state, like an over-starched military fatigue. The imagery of this rusty condemned soldier man is uselessness-personified, almost not useful to himself, useless in service, frustrated with nearly everything and everyone, going about everywhere with a king-size grudge. He is the butt of crude jokes. He gets angry like a whitlow-infected fellow but considered helpless and hopeless. If you care for his story, he possibly joined the service with high hope of a great ending.
The beginning of his career was possibly prosperous with bright potential of endless possibilities. His bosses might even consider him the man for the future. But the future that should be his for the taking obviously left him behind because he remained on a spot, refusing to move with times and their pace. Developmental opportunities that should have positioned him for the future that he thought would forever wait for him, was never considered even when cozily by, begging to be harnessed. He possibly revelled in pepper-soup and beer, available in large quantity at Officers’ Mess.
Then, the unexpected happened. He was injured in battle-field and no longer serviceable for the only thing for which he could be useful; cork and fire on superior order. He gotta go as sentiments have little space where senses are required. He is disabled, within and outside. Who will fear such a man when he barks his loudest?
Not even when the daring fellow is a first class monarch in Yorubaland where royalty is quasi-divine. The myth which used to make it absolute divine in the past, had been eclipsed by the failure of many Kabiyesis to transform from mere mortals to deities after the ascension of throne, a transmogrification that preserved the royal mystery of days of yore. Not anymore. Greed minted in its putrefying pure form, has demystified Ekeji Orisa, literally shaving away the covering beads on their crowns and revealing the visage of ordinary men pretending to be celestial.
I remember running into a second-class Kabiyesi being endlessly kept at the waiting-room of an approving authority, with his contract file clumsily clutched to his billowing three-piece agbada. The aura that trailed his entry gradually evaporated after hours of waiting, with Iku Baba Yeye, having to repeatedly dab his lips to restrain an overflowing spittle that came with sustained dozing off and coming on, while his head did palongo (uncoordinated dancing). Where is the deity in such king?
With mirthless smile for the degeneration that has assaulted the royal and judicial institutions, I have followed the drama between custom-unplugged Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi and a needlessly-adventurous Osun State Magistrate Olusola Aluko.
The little I know of subjudice will exempt the back-and-forth between the two personalities from the no-go-area jurisdiction. Without touching the rest of the case, I just wonder if the suit brought by Oluwo-Oke, Oba Kadiri Adeoye isn’t civil in nature, regardless of the weighty allegations made therein, since the constitution solely gives the Attorney General the prosecutorial power, while the police can use a delegated piece of it. If it is agreed the case involving Oluwo isn’t yet criminal since no prosecutorial authorities have filed charges against him, why can’t the Magistrate simply enter judgement in favour of Oluwo-Oke, if Oluwo would not appear to defend himself, instead of issuing an order compelling a defendant in a civil case to come and show why he should not lose a case.
It should be Oluwo’s choice to defend self in a way considered best. He may not even enter an appearance at all, though he did in this case. The only snag is that he must accept the judgment as binding even if he decided not to enter an appearance. So, why would the usual appearance summon get to contempt point when Oluwo had not acted against any interlocutory or preservative order? Except there are material evidence not in public domain, the Magistrate would likely be seen as deliberately fishing in a turbulent pond.
His tough-talk regarding the contempt order suggests Magistrate Aluko still thinks highly of his judiciary. He should. His colleagues calling a strike over the wig Vs crown novelty, have also well-defined career camaraderie. But what truly is the worth of a judge today? Yes, there must be exceptions. But isn’t the basket so toxic that the supposedly not-rotten apples even look so grisly from the outside?
The day I saw Oluwo in customary crown and customised jeans, I knew Yorubaland had an uncommon royalty to manage. I would be disappointed if he obeyed the contempt order. But the judiciary as an angry disabled soldier is a danger to be avoided. If it must be trampled, its crotch must be spared, hence it decided to be permanently impotent but first groping its assailant to death with its last gasp. Instead of a counter-threat, Oluwo could appeal the controversial order, with the lower court expected to adjourn sine dine (indefinitely) until the appeal is decided, except the Magistrate is throwing a dice with same figures all around. it.
Kabiyesi should know a court order subsists even when made in error until such is withdrawn or a superior order sets it aside. Aluko is known to law while Oluwo isn’t. With a stroke of pen, Aluko or his supporting colleagues could mischievously end Oluwo’s reign. I could have taken Oluwo’s counter-threat as just a face-pull, except that it came from Oluwo. The needless spat between the duo is the tragedy of the institutions they represent today. Baba Oyin Adejobi’s Kootu Asipa of 80’s, is a halfway home for both Aluko’s formal courtroom and Oluwo’s traditional courtyard. Though no longer airing, both gladiators can seek past episodes for the concept’s core didacticism. Thankfully, the relics are in their backyard.