Buhari Vs Judiciary
by Jide Oluwajuyitan
President Buhari desperately needs our help and support because most well-meaning Nigerians believe the failure of his government is not an option. This has become more imperative in the wake of the current stand-off between him and the Bench and the Bar. He needs protection not only from those who do not know ‘there are many ways of killing a hen other than cutting the throat’, who according to his other half, have hijacked his government, but also from the same set of self-serving social crusaders and human right activists who not too long ago advised him not to consider the hijacking of the Senate leadership by Saraki and Ekwerenmadu a threat to his government but as an act of brinkmanship healthy for the development of democracy. They are now on the prowl this time around exploiting technicalities to demonise government and DSS while ignoring the pursuit of justice, which is the end of law.
One thing Buhari has going for him in this stand-off is his integrity. As the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), recently reminded us, “A corrupt judiciary is an invitation to anarchy. It is a sin against humanity”. We therefore, according to him, need a ‘judiciary with integrity and honour and the judiciary with moral authority similar to what obtained in the golden era Supreme Court such as Eso, Oputa, Nnamani, Idigbe, Mohammed Bello, Obaseki who freely ruled against military dictatorships’. It was also a relief to have been reminded by Prof Owasanoye of PACAC that “the National Security Act empowers DSS to arrest and to use reasonable force if the owner of the house resists. In this instance, they have followed the law.” At least one of the affected judges has so far admitted hearing continuous banging at his door but chose to retire to his bedroom and wait.
Unlike some of our self-serving social crusaders who hide under the rule of law to protect criminals, other critics of DSS’ method and government reaction like professor Akin Oyebode, a noble lawyer and law teacher who is passionate about the role of law in society admitted in a recent lecture titled, ‘The Integrity of Law’, that ‘it seems the noxious fumes of corruption are now being smelt even within the temple of justice.’ A corrupt judge according to him “is worse than an armed robber and must be given the hemlock”. To protect the integrity of the judiciary, he has advocated substituting the ‘dysfunctional British approach to French approach’
And as for those who claim DSS attack on alleged corrupt judges is a threat to democracy, I think they have chosen to ignore the fact that we live a lie believing we have democracy. Democracy cannot exist where one leg of the tripod that holds it in place –the legislature has been hijacked by self-serving clique. (Saraki narrated how he outwitted his 51 APC elected senators only to be adopted Senate President by the opposition while Ekweremadu publicly admitted how he and PDP stalwarts literarily ‘stole’ a position which by convention belongs to the ruling party with a majority). Add to this a judiciary without a moral authority and a press that is highly compromised, what you get is not democracy but a mirage.
Instead of living a lie, the only option before us is to see democracy as a process that is attainable through a leader like President Buhari who is driven by good intentions. And for those who are quick to say ‘the road to hell is filled with good intentions’, I ask, show me one nation that has ever progressed without a leader who believes in miracles. Not China, not Japan, and definitely not America built on the conviction of leaders with good intentions. Besides Buhari’s commitment to fighting corruption, he has a good intention to pursue justice for the greater good of society. History has also shown the judiciary thrives more under such circumstances.
Sobered by his prison experience and scandalized by the level of corruption his military colleagues left behind, Obasanjo probably believed he was the messiah (he had said MKO Abiola was not) destined to rid Nigeria of corruption and corrupt elements. He set up the EFCC as an anti-corruption body and started the crusade by putting an Inspector General of Police who had converted billions earmarked for the welfare of the police to personal use, in chains. Some of his ministers were imprisoned. One Senate President after the other faced corruption charges. More than two third of governors elected on his PDP platform were put on trial. He engineered the impeachment of Ayo Fayose and Dariye. With the help of his friends in the Amnesty International, Alamieyeseigha was chased from France to London where it was revealed he had ‘accumulated properties, bank accounts, investments and cash exceeding £10m in value’, portfolio of foreign assets which included accounts with five banks in the UK, accounts with banks in Cyprus, Denmark and the United States; four London properties acquired for a total of £4.8m; a Cape Town harbour penthouse acquired for almost £1m, , and almost £1m in cash stored in one of his London properties. He was eventually indicted by a Nigerian court.
Some other governors dragged to court before leaving office in 2007 include Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), the late Audu Abubakar (Kogi), Timipreye Sylva (Bayelsa), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Aliyu Akwe Doma (Nasarawa), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa).
Then President Jonathan took over the reins of power with neither dreams nor good intention. He was hijacked by the same set of self serving human right lawyers and social crusaders. The cases were discontinued. The hunter became the hunted as Ribadu was chased out of the country. Ibori now serving a 13-year jail term got a reprieve from an Asaba court and installed his own preferred EFCC chairman. The result was the reversal of Obasanjo’s gains on corruption.
If our society must move forward, we need strong leadership with good intention to checkmate criminal elements we all agree exist on the bench and the bar which after admitting ‘the responsibility of the bar is first to the bar’, engaged in commercialization of the old criminal act to shield thieves that have stolen the country blind.
The reaction of NJC so far has confirmed the need for a strong leader with good intention to serve as deterrence to the judiciary that believes it is beyond reproach because of the doctrine of separation of powers. If indeed DSS resorted to self-help which is not the case in view of its powers as spelt out in the provision of the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the NJC has also served as a judge in its own cases by dismissing investigated cases of corruption against judges by DSS. If anything, this position is validated by NJC’s current refusal to suspend judges in whose bedrooms huge sums of money, according to DSS, were found because it abhorred its (DSS) method.
The effect of the absence of a strong credible leadership to serve as deterrence to the excesses of the judiciary is self-evident. Following the bizarre Supreme Court pronouncement on Fayose and its refusal to accept its infallibility as advised by the late Justice Oputa by taking advantage of evidence the military has used to sanitise itself, Fayose has come back with a vengeance, supervising thugs who beat up judges, chasing out elected lawmakers from the state and going into his state House of Assembly to approve his own budget. Last week in Port Harcourt, Wike who according to respected Itse Sagay, the election tribunal court, the Court of Appeal, except the Supreme Court, rode on the back of militants who preferred violence to the use of electronic voter card reader to power, was reported to have brought lorry load of thugs at 1 am to prevent the arrest of suspected corrupt judge