Image picture of Justice above, and below is Nigeria’s Chief Justice – Olukayode Ariwoola
The first Chief Justice of Nigeria, so named, was Stafford Foster Sutton; obviously a British, who was in charge from 1956 to 1958. However, and effectively, the first indigenous Nigerian to ascend to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria [CJN] was Justice Adetokumbo Ademola – he presided in that capacity from 1958 to 1972.
There was another “first” for the famous jurist – Sir Adetokumbo Ademola, in another clime of life. He was named the First Oluwo-Apena of the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity [R.O.F] worldwide, from 1953 to 1993, though the ROF was founded on December 18, 1914, by a cleric gentleman from Ilesha; T.A.J Ogunbiyi, as an alternative of the Aborigine Ogboni Fraternity for practitioners of Christianity.
Back to the continuation of the exercise at hand, over the real culprit now standing trial in the courts, I would like to remember another Chief Justice of Nigeria; the 13th – Justice Dahiru Musdapher. He would ever be remembered as one of the few CJN that came to office with a fully prepared mind of revolutionizing the Nigerian judiciary for good.
It was him that once admitted that the process of plea bargaining has been so much abused by Nigerian courts that the respected jurist banished the process. Vanguard Newspaper of November 16, 2011, reported him as saying:
“CHIEF Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, yesterday, abolished the plea bargain procedure hitherto employed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, in settling high profile cases of corruption out of court”.
The CJN who described the plea-bargain system as “a novel concept of dubious origin,” insisted that “it was invented to provide soft landing to high profile criminals who loot the treasury entrusted to them.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the fifth annual general conference of the section on legal practice of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the CJN whose speech was read by Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, said the system “has no place in our law- substantive or procedural. It is an obstacle to our fight against corruption, it should never again be mentioned in our jurisprudence.”
Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Dahiru Musdapher said: “The guilty are afraid and when a man who has abused the public trust reposed in him feels the heat of the approaching long arm of the law he rushes to a judge with flexible conscience who makes him untouchable to the law enforcement agents. It is another obstacle to the struggle to uproot corruption in this country.
Where are we in today’s Nigerian judiciary with the issue of Plea Bargain, is it not been daily introduced by government lawyers, mostly under the caprices of the Attorney General of the Federation, in flagrant disrespect of the CJN’s regulated declaration?
But permit me to go deeper into another statement credited to this jurist, that his name had been goldenly engrossed on stones of history. He was quoted at a time, while addressing his colleagues, as saying: “as we sit over trials, we should not forget the fact that we are standing in trial at such times”.
It is on the above quotation that I would want to address the topic of this exercise strictly today. And l hope many Nigerians will find a smooth sailing with my thought, because the destiny of our dearly beloved country is at stake.
First, we need to play the issues that are most likely to tear the very tender fabrics of Nigeria into pieces up for identification. Let us flow please.
There had ever been elections in Nigeria, since the day that a country was forcefully negotiated for us by foreigners – greedy foreigners that were driven by interest of their business gains, on that fateful calamitous day of October in Calabar.
The first malodours sign of “greater evil that was coming” was the fact that in the gathering of 28 people that met to amalgamate both South and North Protectorates – including the Lagos Protectorate, only 6 of them were Nigerians.
The 6 Nigerians present at the amalgamation were: HRH Maiturare Sarkin Musulumi and Sultan of Sokoto, Usuman Dan Maje who later became Emir of Kano, Sir Kitoyi Ajasa a lawyer, HRH Oladugbolu Alaafin of Oyo, HRH R. Henshaw (Obong of Calabar), Abubakar Shehu of Borno”.
None of the 6 above appended pen to paper. They were merely gathered there, by the British, as observers. But above all, in the chain of calamity that have ruled a bedevilled Nigeria since then, is the fact – the real demonic-foul-odour-fact, is that none of the 6 Nigerians that sat at the ceremony saw the contract agreement of the amalgamation before it was signed by the British-rogues-invaders. And not one of the 6 was given a copy, even after signing it.
Back to the topic under discuss, every election conducted in Nigeria since then have thrown up issues. But none have brought more challenge than the 2023 general elections.
It became one general election that questioned and reminded us more of tribe, ethnicity, and religion. For the first time, since those notoriously challenging elements that prelude the Nigerian Civil-War, we are today closest to a more harrowing holocaust. How I wished l can secure a lesser frightening word than holocaust to define our current situation.
Yet we have a judiciary that have come a full circle, so it seemed. Yet, we have a fraudulent packaged Constitution that started its own narration fraudulently by saying: “we people of Nigeria . . .” when we know that Nigeria’s people were never gathered at any time, and at any place, to decide on the acceptability of that fake document.
Yet, we have a very good articulated Electoral law, which introduced a Game-Changer, by the BVAS, and other good provisions, so introduced ab initio, by deceitful Dishonourable and Extinguishable, loaded in one Discreditable Assembly.
Now, and above all, that the 2023 general elections are come and gone, with conflicting claims of interests in some arears, while in other areas, there are obvious manifestation of malfeasances, where should we be heading to, logically?
It should not be anywhere else but the courts. But if the Nigerian courts are the most appropriate place we should be going – I believed fully that it is the only optionable route we should be heading, will justice “without technicality” be waiting for us there?
Given the revelations of travesty of justice coming from the Nigerian Temple of Justice, are we sure of having justice there? And what shall the cost of Justice torpedoed [at that temple] be to a people that are in honest and sincere search for Justice?
Put it this way, probably for obvious clarity. The Nigerian Umpire of election – the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] is bereft of integrity; as attested to by every and all International and National Election Observers that observed the just concluded Elections, and the Nigerian Courts we must be going, is lacking in integrity, as events at the Nigerian Supreme Court have shown, will it not be safer to define who should be standing trial before the courts?
In your opinion please, and juxtaposing your opinion against the quote of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria; Justice Dahiru Musdapher, which is: as we sit over trials, we should not forget the fact that we are standing in trial at such times, who is going on trial in this issue of the 2023 general elections therefore?
Is it the Nigerian politicians, Democracy or the Judiciary? Let the answer remains your open conscience, please.
The Guru’s Court adjourns – C.O.U.R.T
Godwin Etakibuebu; a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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