There was a glaring case of judicial robbery in Plateau State perpetuated by an Elections Petitions Tribunal which clandestinely delivered what can best be described as Kangaroo judgments spiced with abracadabra.
It may sound unbelievable to those still with decent minds to reason beyond sentiments reading those delivered grave yard judgments dished out that threw the mass of the people to the streets for a massive protest across the state.
The tribunal went off the track of justice and dwelled into the internal affairs of a political party to nail its coffin for reasons yet unknown but definitely not far from abuse of privilege to lend support to perfect robbery of victories painstakingly garnered by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The tribunal in its judgments hid behind a no-structure folktale and delivered what the majority believe to be compromised judgments for an intention. If not, what is the place of no structure issue in a case of alleged electoral rigging?
As a layman in law, I doubt very much if there is any Section of our law books that says a party that was cleared by the relevant authorities to contest elections and satisfied all conditions, can be denied its victory on the flimsy excuse of alleged disobedience of a court order issued in 2020. If there was any disobedience, was that not a clear case of contempt of court order? What is then the punishment for contempt in our laws? Does it include robbing the electoral victory of the ‘offender’?
Looking at the drama played by the tribunal as Charlie Chaplain, without the claimed structure, how were PDP’s candidates, screened and cleared by the relevant authorities and INEC nomination forms sold to them for contest? Who collected and delivered the forms from INEC? Was it not a PDP accredited official that collected nomination forms from INEC? There are so many questions begging for answers from the tribunal including the Court of Appeal that affirmed the daylight robbery.
As we all know, every post election period in Nigeria is a harvest time for lawyers and judges who jostle for electoral litigations, and membership of the election tribunals.
We are bad losers in every contest; and election results are always contested because even the politicians do not believe that free and fair elections are possible in our clime as it stands today. There is also no great expectation from the electoral umpire and security agents who are themselves compromised most of the time in bare-faced rigging of elections.
The judiciary has become ambush ground where politicians wrestle for positions after declaration of results by INEC. Election litigation therefore puts the judiciary also on trial as sometimes or in most times, unusual and curious judgments come from the tribunals where the election panels sometimes give unmerited victories to contestants rejected at the polls or did not even partake in party primaries.
To the politician, money drives the engine and everything and everybody has a price tag. We have witnessed several of such episodes in our democracy.
Not too long, Justice Flora Azinge of the Kano State Elections Petitions Tribunal opened the Pandora’s Box when she was quoted in some media platforms that a senior lawyer allegedly tried to offer her bribe for compromised judgment. However, she later cleverly lost her voice and backed down claiming that she was misquoted by the media.
Her action was certainly most un-circumspective given the position she occupies. A judge should not be flippant but should be ready to defend every word that slips out of her mouth and the office she occupies even when on trial. The story of judicial heist is often told in hush voices and allegory. Bribe moneys are delivered in customized briefcases pack full with wards of fresh mints and delivered lock-stock-and barrel with key as we have been seeing.
The Nigerian judiciary is already a butt of mockery and infamy not because it cannot deliver objective justice but because Nigerians have lost confidence and trust in the judiciary due to sharp unabated corrupt practices of the bad eggs within.
Another reason is that the judiciary has acquitted itself poorly with compromised judgments and suspicious legal interpretations that led to travesty and miscarriage of justice in so many cases. The judiciary is not just the structure of the court system but includes judges and lawyers as main actors with other ancillary staff.
But can any institution function above the wishes and expectations of the society that birthed it? I am afraid, No! No one can reap justice from the tree of corruption, ‘as a man sows shall he reaps’.
From my little understanding of the root cause of the problem of justice delivery which started from the recruitment at the Bench with scant regards for merit and character. Appointments in the judiciary have been virtually reduced to political patronage and filial relationship as obtained in security and other critical agencies of government.
Like anything else, judicial knowledge cannot be hereditary to be found in the DNA of anyone to pass unto the children. Otherwise, the likes of Charles Oputa (Charlie Boy) could have been at the Supreme Court bench and few other children of renowned upright Justices and Judges.
Today, sadly, heads of courts, politicians and government officials are rigging their children to be at the bench to secure jobs for them whether they have the knack for the job or not whereas some of them could have been better as artists or entrepreneurs. The same is true of other strategic establishments and extra-ministerial departments now becoming exclusive preserve for children of influential thieving politicians and their minions.
Ordinarily, the judiciary is supposedly a very conservative calling; almost with oath of hermit and self discipline. In those good days, a female judge for instance, could not be seen dressed the way she liked or hanged out with characters of doubtful credentials. This was because, you cannot go into the mud and wrestle with pig and come out clean, not at all! When citizens lose confidence in the judiciary, it is an invitation to self help, anarchy and jungle justice. That is the ongoing situation in Plateau State for the daylight robbery of the people’s franchise by the Tribunal and affirmation by the Court of Appeal.
The office of a judge in conventional setting is one of the highest callings because it carries with it the liberty of the people and power of life and death.
A judge is expected to be sober and solemn to remain the conscience of the society. The judiciary ordinarily does not need to be reminded through a necessitated protest that all eyes are on it to know that it must be above all impropriety on every matter that comes before it.
I will love to refer the reader to what we were lectured and read in the Christian scripture in our journalistic training at Agidingbi Lagos, that, a judge occupies the place of God and that was why King Jehoshaphat while appointing judges admonished thus; “Always think carefully before pronouncing judgment. Remember that you do not judge to please people but to please the Lord. He will be with you when you tender the verdict in each case. Fear the Lord and judge with integrity, for the Lord does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality…..”
For a society to develop there must be respect for the rule of law and social justice. The judiciary should be peopled by men and women of impeccable and unquestionable character not judicial merchants that trade judgments to the highest bidder as the case of today. Our judiciary once paraded amongst the best of justices globally who plied their trade in candor and fearless in dispensation of justice with passion. They are too numerous for mention but we cannot easily forget names like, Justices Mamman Nasir, Niki Tobi, Darnley Alexander, Sidi Bage, Akinola Aguda, Muhammed Lawal Uwais, Kayode Esho, Chukwudifu Oputa, Karibi Whyte, Aloma Mouktar and few others.
Just of recent, Niyi Osundare, a poet published a scathing lampoon on the judiciary in satirical poem titled, “My lord tell me where to keep your bribe”. Our judiciary has become like the legendary bird ‘Chichidodo’ in the Ayi Kwei Armah book, “The beautiful ones are Not Yet Born”.
A bird that does not like excrement and faeces but feeds on maggots! This is the culmination of the decadence of the judicial arm of government in Nigeria which stinks like a putrid sore and tastes like a rancid butter. The personality of the judge starts from his turnout both in and out of court, his dressing must be with moderation of the temper of a lord, edifying and sublime language with penetrating intelligence. His social life must be measured and calibrated never to court controversy in the midst of drunken political merchants. When you see a woman judge in heavy makeup, ornaments and jewelries like a Nollywood actress or fashion designer living large like celebrity, or a man judge in designer attire cruising in expensive automobile and patronizing choice eateries and shopping malls, then we have definitely lost the scale of justice to the buccaneer. We often spot such judges and justices today, sadly.
We cannot expect the judiciary to behave differently from the society it operates, so we must consciously set out to change our value system of ostentation.
We set religion and tribe as qualifications for attaining elective offices, and we are expecting good governance, no, it does not just add up like that.
For the judiciary to regain its fading glory and have the confidence of the people restored in its functions, let it stop being defensive or pretending that the rot is not pervasive. The judiciary should purge itself thoroughly and come clean to save democracy and the rule of rule. But for now, Plateau State Elections Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal had robbed the electorates and the PDP their victories on a mere non-existing technicality of No Structure Folktale!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues