A Judicial Ray Of Hope

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A Judicial Ray Of Hope
 

By

 

Kunle Sanyaolu

 

 

culled from GUARDIAN, November 5, 2006

 

Forty-six years of the existence of Nigeria has not reduced the belief of some citizens that the entity cannot stand. Such Nigerians, and they are in large number, believe strongly that we are all wasting our time and deluding ourselves that Nigeria can be sustained as a country. They maintain that it is simply a question of time for the crash to come; and then, we would all realise our folly in thinking we were indivisible. Their position is at variance with that of our leaders from the past military regimes to the present civilian administration. Government's position has always been to emphasise the country's unity, which they add, is non-negotiable. Former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was reported to have publicly explained why he refused to convene a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) during his tenure. According to reports, Babangida said he could not preside over the disintegration of Nigeria, particularly having presided over it as president for eight years, albeit eight uninspiring years.

 

Strikingly, there have been little practical events to support government position. On the contrary, policies after policies tend to expose the country's double standards. The leaders do little to justify their cravings for unity. The followers regularly polarise, often violently, the country's existing divisions along ethnic, cultural and religious lines. Up to now, no one has been able to stop ethnic and religious cleansing embarked upon by sections of the populace usually on flimsy excuses.

 

On its part, government is always quick to react, after the orgy of killings and destruction, to the effect that people should remain calm and go about their normal business. No one takes the government spokespersons seriously, whether they are police officers or governors, or even the president. Their statements are too predictable, such that they no longer convey any meaning. One saving grace for government officials is what has turned out to be natural cover available for their ineptitude or hypocrisy. This natural cover is the rapidity and regularity of tragic events. The examples of the murder of Bola Ige and subsequent murders of Marshall Harry, Aminasoari, Dikibo and much later Funsho Williams and Ayo Daramola are too far away. It is sufficient to take a look at the last week. First, a Sokoto- bound flight of the ADC airline crashed, after take off in Abuja, killing 96 persons including the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido. The next few hours witnessed a trading of blame and buck passing by the Minister of Aviation who simply declares the flight pilot Captain Kolawole Atanda as the cause of the disaster, supposedly because he failed to heed control tower's advice. As the drama was enacting, the court of Appeal in Ibadan declared illegal and unconstitutional the impeachment of erstwhile Oyo State Governor, Rasheed Ladoja. Expectedly, the verdict triggered off a horde of intrigues and violent activities in the state. Inexplicably, the Police Inspector General, Sunday Ehindero declared that he was not bound by the verdict because the Supreme Court had asked him to stay action pending appeal. Curiously, the Supreme Court denounced the assertion hours later, as the court registrars stated that they hadn't even received any appeal by the governor, Mr. Adebayo Alao Akala, let alone the court making a pronouncement. Again, like another scene in another act, the Anambra legislators impeached their governor, Mr. Peter Obi in controversial circumstances. Simultaneously, a new Sultan was appointed in the person of Sa'adu Abubakar, even in the midst of speculations about who would succeed Maccido.

If it was difficult to digest each event as it happened, it was practically impossible to assimilate them, without incurring constipation or indigestion! The events happened too rapidly such that the public needed to be alert to keep abreast of them. Needlessly to say, the situation facilitated the commission of mistakes. The country is the worst for it. It remained permanently tottering after 46 years, never seeming to do anything right. Those who have lost faith in Nigeria as a corporate entity point to these circumstances as the very reasons why the bid for a true nation will fail. Obviously, our leaders are confounded, but they don't have the courage to admit it, or to call for a drastic change in our approach to treating issues or governing Nigeria. The country dangles dangerously on the precipice, unable either to make progress or to renounce its dilemma. It is a matter of national despair that while this dreadful state of affairs pervades the country and virtually grounds its attempts to move forward in any area, smaller countries around, with little or no resources except their land and modest population, are marching ahead. They are recording tremendous success in democracy, economic and social development. The international community is acknowledging and encouraging them. Supply of electricity is fairly stable in these countries. Schools are operating without hitches, and schools' products are up to expected standard. In the light of tremendous resources in its possession, is Nigeria not a failed state without a hope of breaking the apparent curse on it? All the global institutions including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations and the Non Governmental Organisations keep lamenting Nigeria's hopelessness in the midst of plenty. Nigeria was reported missing in the list of Africa's growing economies while Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Cape Verde, Senegal, Mozambique and Uganda have taken concrete steps to lift their citizens out of the poverty level. But in Nigeria, it seems the more money we spend, the greater the level of poverty among citizens. That is why the average Nigerian is not enthused by the fact that the federal government plans to spend N2.3 trillion next year. He knows that the money or much of it will disappear without anything serious to show for it. Huge amounts similarly appropriated in previous years have ended up without getting accounted for particularly in terms of public infrastructure like housing, roads, schools and hospitals.

 

Before allowing reason to prevail, Ehindero, the Inspector General of Police certainly caused a big stir with his statement not to disturb Alao Akala's tenure despite the Appeal Court verdict re-endorsing Ladoja. My first thought was, why would the most senior law enforcement officer, also a lawyer, be unwilling to carry out the order of a court of superior record like the Court of Appeal? Further, how can the Supreme Court ask the police to stay execution in a subsisting judgement, over which no appeal has been lodged? Ehindero's initial pronouncement simply reconfirmed knowledge that the federal government was behind Ladoja's removal. Else why should the police withdraw its men from Ladoja amid the unconstitutionality that informed his impeachment in the first place? If the police had then not withdrawn from Ladoja while giving special protection to the pro- Adedibu lawmakers, Oyo people would not have the burden of having been governed by an unconstitutional governor. Without doubt, what is happening in Oyo State simply is continuation of the assault on democracy that was played out earlier. Ehindero's utterance at least encouraged supporters of Alao Akala to unleash some violence on persons known to be pro-Ladoja.

 

The seeming afterthought of government officials in performing their lawful duties, and doing what is right is not good enough to restore hope on Nigeria. The judiciary, in spite of its limitations, has done its bit well, by subjecting the processes on Akala's governorship to strong judicial analysis. The Supreme Court has also acted timely by publicly giving a lie to Ehindero's claim that he had been asked to maintain status quo ante bellum. The court must be praised for similarly and promptly calling attention to the unconstitutional circumstances by which a judge was appointed Acting Chief judge in Ekiti, prelude to Ayo Fayose's impeachment.

 

Clearly, the executive and legislative arms of government have failed the country. If there is any ray of hope for sustainability or progress, it is being offered by the judiciary. It remains to be seen whether or not the judiciary can go far, in terms of making Nigeria right.

 

 

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