I owe Senator Opeyemi Bamidele of Ekiti Central senatorial district, chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, an apology. In the course of the week, my attention was called to his disavowal of the sent list of President Buhari’s 11 judicial-apostles by reminding his colleagues that the constitution doesn’t involve the chamber in the appointment process, while trying to make a case for the executive by saying the president possibly sent the list just for their attention and not action. No Distinguished, the pesident actually asked for confirmation. There is no need trying to make a terrible call look passable. Which kain notification? At what point was serious government business reduced to “how una dey dia” inanities? Well, it is so becoming under this administration and until Aso Rock purges itself of judiphobia, embarrassing meltdowns will be constant. Anger usually births foolishness.
My attention was also drawn to a call by an NGO, ICRI, encouraging the president to reject the entire 33-man list because eight are children and relatives of judicial juggernauts. Without doubt, cronyism/nepotism is an epidemic not only in the judiciary but the entire public service. In local parlance, it is called “man-know-man.” Very few, care to know God. Abuja, the seat of power, Nigeria’s most-lucrative industry, is the headquarters of the worst of virtue and purest of vile. Among the children and relatives of men of power, it is worse than can be imagined.
On a particular day a few years back, I was dashing into the Supreme Court for an appointment, dressed in some fancy suit and bubbly bow-tie. A dark, not-much-of-a giant fellow suddenly sprinted after me, simultaneously curtseying. He obviously mistook me for a Senior Advocate as he prattled about coming around to my office in my absence and blah, blah. I was going to stop him, when he introduced himself. He turned out to be the son of “a boss” who became “the boss” and a staff member of the Supreme Court, loafing at peak period of official hours, hunting for “clients.” I later learnt he was a professional influence-peddler, who was always assuring prospective clients of goodies when “the power” is total. Well, it is now, even ahead of time and one can’t imagine what the fellow is up to now.
That was/is the judiciary that must be sponged with bleach, but not by the current occupant of Aso Rock who has crafted nepotism as art of governance without remorse. For argument sake, let’s agree God can use anyone to get a good job done and the president is the anointed one to rid the system of family succession. Why can’t he simply remove the eight names and approve the remaining “unblemished” 25, if the mouthed reform is heartfelt? If more nominees had been discovered to still be Odili and co. pikin dem, why not return the list to NJC, with a note, shoving the phlegm of appointment down the throat of the Council. The president can even leak the “security findings” to the public to show the Council’s Puppy is a Hush, instead of sitting on the rejected list and blocking the opportunity for a fresh process with better transparency, when the entire system is dying under the weight of poor staffing, poor funding, empty benches and a lorry load of work!
For a President adept at cronyism, he must have realized the inherent danger and damage of favouring recharge card sellers over trained professionals and now, possibly stung in his conscience, he wants to spare Judiciary the depravity that comes with the malady. Good thinking, only that being a son or daughter of justice of the Supreme Court isn’t enough to disqualify a nominee with requisite qualification from the Bench job. What the president should do as the appointing authority is call for the nominees’ papers and anyone found to have been unduly favoured, be served due comeuppance alongside the patrons. This time, the leadership of the judiciary can be justifiably bludgeoned. The President can even take an unprecedented step of dissolving the Council. I’m certain his AGF can find an accommodating constitutional proviso, for such “rounded” justice.
But the president can’t make vacillation on constitutional duty a governance culture. It paints the picture of an indecisive, ineffectual administrator who governs by blackmail. Very likely, Mary Odili’s daughter, on the list, can make any president like Buhari angry. Here is someone who is eternally suspected of being an opposition judge, just like Zainab Bulkachuwa, whose daughter is also on the list, was seen as ruling party judge before retirement and Okon Abang, seen as Buruji Kashamu’s judge et al. But that is neither here nor there, until a crime is proven. Today, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun is widely regarded as the beacon of hope for a better judiciary of tomorrow, yet she was part of the Bench that delivered the better-forgotten Imo governorship judgment. Should that disqualify her from succeeding Tanko, as the most senior on January 1, 2024, if PDP wins the centre in 2023?
If Njideka Nwosu-Iheme, Odili’s daughter, is constitutionally-qualified and there is no adverse security report possibly beyond the fact her mother ruled Onnoghen’s removal illegal and sacked David Lyon of APC as Bayelsa governor-elect on inauguration eve, NJC should answer for the rest of the case the president may be building against her and 21 others who were axed, since the Council recommended them all as fit and proper, qualified and competent. What the president is doing now is what Yoruba would term, obun ri iku oko ti oro mo. It simply means the president is just fishing, as Gani Fawehinmi forever riled Milton Paul Ohvowhoriole, James Ibori’s lead counsel, during the court saga of 2004 when Great Ogboru was using a certain Goodnews Agbi to unseat Ibori, by proving he was an ex-convict, who shouldn’t be in office as Delta State governor. While the said conviction of September 28, 1995 was incredibly ruled unreliable by another Bench embarrassment called Justice H. Mukhtar even when Alhaji Awal Yusuf of the Bwari Area court who convicted him, testified from the witness-box, UK judiciary taught its Nigerian counterpart how to deliver blind justice. If the Southwark Crown Court is Mr Buhari’s dream Bench and Judge Rivlin is his ideal wig, the Nigerian leader is pursuing a beautiful dream in nightmarish manner.
To be continued.
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