Osun verdict: Technicality defeats justice
“The judge should appreciate that in the final analysis the end of law is justice. He should therefore endeavor to see that the law and the justice of the individual case he is trying go hand in hand… To this end he should be advised that the spirit of justice does not reside in formalities, not in words, nor is the triumph of the administration of justice to be found in successfully picking a way between pitfalls of technicalities. He should know that all said and done, the law is, or ought to be, but a handmaid of justice, and inflexibility which is the most becoming robe of law often serves to render justice grotesque. In any ‘fight’ between law and justice the judge should ensure that justice prevails – that was the very reason for the emergence of equity in the administration of justice. The judge should always ask himself if his decision, though legally impeccable in the end achieved a fair result. ‘That may be law but definitely not justice’ is a sad commentary on any decision.” —Oputa JSC.
THE late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, one of the finest that ever sat in our Supreme Court must have turned in his grave on Friday after his successors at the apex court gave their decision on the appeal by Senator Ademola Adeleke on the 2018 Osun governorship election .
A seven-man headed by the Acting CJN voted five for technicality and two for justice. Oputa would however be consoled that two members of the panel heeded his words and affirmed justice in the matter.
Though the majority had their way, the minority gives hope that all is not lost and that the redemptive factor still lurks somewhere. The minority decision is not for the appellant really but for the justice system in Nigeria which is the wall between order and anarchy. A society has reached its final days the moment citizens reach the conclusion that justice can no longer be accessed in the land.
How absence of Justice is a handmaid of anarchy is well encapsulated in the story of Absalom’s revolt against his father, King David. In the book of Samuel, Chapter 15, it was recorded thus: “1 After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. 2. Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgement, Absalom would call out and say, ‘From what city are you?’ When the person said, ‘Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel’, 3 Absalom would say, ‘See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.’ 4. Absalom said moreover, ‘If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.’ 5. Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. 6. Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgement; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel”
He thereafter mounted a rebellion against his father which forced the king to flee to Jerusalem and it took him a great effort to regain the kingdom .
Our Prof Yemi Osinbajo of the pre-VP days made this great impression on me about some thirteen years ago at a programme organised by Rev Sam Adeyemi of Daystar Christian Centre where he was a guest speaker. He told the story of his visit to the refugees camp in Liberia after their war. As he looked into the crowd, he saw a man in tattered suit and sunken cheeks queuing for his ration with a bowl in his hand. That would not be an unusual spectacle among refugees until he was told the man was the former Chief Justice of Liberia. Osinbajo then delivered the punchy one: “Maybe a pronouncement from his court would have averted the war and he would not have become a refugee.”
And it was in that spirit that there was great expectation about the Supreme Court verdict on the dispute over the Osun governorship polls whose conclusion raised quite a lot of dust and angst. Adeleke emerged a clear winner in the first ballot until the election was forced into a controversial run-off. President Muhammadu was to say during his Presidential campaign to Osun that the APC won Osun by “remote control.”
A joint statement by the U.S, EU and Britain on the supplementary polls though couched in diplomatic diction said a lot:
“Delegations from the Missions of the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States observed the voting in the Osun State re-run election on September 27. We once again commend the vast majority of the voters in the state for exercising their democratic rights peacefully.
“In contrast to our overall findings on the vote of September 22, we were concerned to witness widespread incidents of interference and intimidation of voters, journalists, and civil society observers by some political party supporters and security agencies. Many of our findings mirror those of leading civil society groups that observed the election.”
It was therefore comforting when the Election Tribunal nullified the victory of APC by a majority decision before the party went to the Appeal court which upturned the verdict using technicality which the President of the Court warned against while inaugurating members of the panels. They nullified the decision of the lower court on the ground that Hon Justice Obiora who read the lead judgement did not sit for one day without any affidavit by the party that made the allegation which would have allowed Justice Obiora and the Secretary to the tribunal to respond with their own affidavit to ascertain the true position of things .
All eyes were on the Supreme Court as it fixed July 5 for its decision on the appeal on the matter as the Supreme Court usually stands on the side of the Constitution in all Common Law jurisdictions.
It was quite discomforting when all sort of stories began to fly in the media about what the decision of the apex court would be and that political pressures were coming on the court. We expected those mentioned in the speculations to deny but none came as the time of writing this.
It got so bad that one Abegunde Adelowo Adetunji boldly wrote on the social media 72 hours before the judgement “The judgement will be less than 10 minutes & D appeal will be dismissed. I am yet to confirm if there will be minority judgement .”On our Supreme Court?
It happened like Adetunji said on Friday except that there was a minority judgement. Hon Justice Rhodes Vivour based the entire decision of the five Justices in the majority solely on the alleged but not proven absence of Justice Obiora for one day.
It is quite interesting how Justices Rhodes and Kekere-Ekun (both from Lagos) made a panel of 7 on Osun elections petition where the interest of “Lagos “ is an open -secret. There was no Justice found suitable for this case from both the South-East and South-South.
However, Justices Akaahs and Galinje disagreed with the technicality judgement of the majority. They went for Justice as prescribed by Oputa. They stated categorically that Senator Adeleke had won the election to the office of Governor of Osun State on the 22nd of September 2018 in accordance with section 179(2) (a&b) of the 1999 Constitution. They went further to say that the returning officer exercised the power he lacked in ordering a re-run. They also made a fundamental point against the majority ruling: only a sworn affidavit by counsel for the respondents could have shown the details of the allegation that Justice Obiora was absent instead of the hearsay.
Technicality carried the day in this matter but the justice in the minority decision will forever be in our positive history.
……Yoruba appreciates Buhari
I was almost concluding this when the the below statement came from Garba Shehu:
“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the following appointments of personal staff.
- Mohammed Sarki Abba – Senior Special Assistant to the President (Household and Social Events)
- Ya’u Shehu Darazo – Senior Special Assistant to the President (Special Duties)
- Dr Suhayb Sanusi Rafindadi – Personal Physician to the President
- Amb. Lawal A. Kazaure – State Chief of Protocol
- Sabiu Yusuf – Special Assistant (Office of the President)
- Saley Yuguda – Special Assistant (House Keeping)
- Ahmed Muhammed Mayo – Special Assistant (Finance & Administration)
- Mohammed Hamisu Sani – Special Assistant (Special Duties)
- Friday Bethel – Personal Assistant (General Duties)
- Sunday Aghaeze – Personal Assistant (State Photographer)
- Bayo Omoboriowo – Personal Assistant (Presidential Photographer)
The above appointments take effect from May 29, 2019.
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)
July 5, 2019”
The announcement was greeted with celebrations all over Yorubaland that Bayo Omoboriowo made the list of the President’s personal staff as a photographer. I couldn’t reach Chief John Nwodo, Ohanaeze President General to know what the mood is in Igboland that Sunday Aghaeze also made it as a photographer .
We are now ready for battle with anybody who accuses the president of sectionalism henceforth. I mean it!
And this is an appeal to leaders of APC in the South-West never to bring up anything Bayo may have said against the president in the past if they found any. We must not lose this juicy post.