When Supreme Court Dodged A Bullet


In Kano, Plateau and Zamfara, the Supreme Court and President Bola Tinubu simply dodged a bullet on Friday, January 12. The judgements revalidating the mandates of Abba Kabir Yusuf, Caleb Muftwang and Lawal Dauda, who were earlier sacked by the Court of Appeal, were not altruistic. Enlightened self-interest informed both the apex court and the presidency – Siamese twins – that the cost of judicial malfeasance in those three states will be colossal. They were, therefore, forced to back down from their sinister plot. They don’t deserve the praises heaped on them by impressionistic Nigerians.

By IKECHUKWU AMAECHI 

Since the Supreme Court reversed the Appeal Court judgements that sacked Kano State Governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State and Zamfara’s Lawal Dauda, many Nigerians, characteristically, have been ululating about how the judiciary has redeemed itself. Those wishing to cut the apex court a bigger slack talk about how the Supreme Court has redeemed the image of the judiciary.

I am not impressed.

Some have even stretched the inane adulation by claiming, rather ludicrously, that the verdicts are a veritable proof of President Bola Tinubu’s democratic credentials because it must take the non-interference of the president for the judiciary, a supposedly independent arm of government, to do its work.

So, the independence of the judiciary is no longer guaranteed by the Constitution but the disposition of the president. Those who hold this view are right, though. After all, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, who also survived the judicial guillotine, disclosed how sleep eluded him for seven days because he was in Abuja fighting to prevent former leaders of Bauchi from snatching his victory at the polls.

Mohammed praised Tinubu for not listening to the detractors who told him that he was a threat. He was not alone. Every governor from the opposition parties whose victory was challenged in court went to Tinubu to plead for help. Some even pledged to decamp to APC before the end of their four-year tenure if the courts validate their mandates.

But the truth which these praise singers refuse to also admit is that Tinubu’s refusal to interfere in the Kano, Plateau and Zamfara cases is not because he is a democrat but because he is acutely aware that when dealing with those three states, the political risk of any judicial hanky-panky far outweighs the gain. The victory from any deliberate judicial miscue, if any, will be pyrrhic.   

So, the president stepped back to save his own political skin and on Friday, January 12, a five-member Supreme Court panel ruled that the Appeal Court verdicts on Kano, Plateau and Zamfara governorship polls were perverse, flying in the face of not only the law but judicial precedents.

Justice Helen Ogunwumiju berated the Appeal Court judges for going into the issue of nomination and sponsorship despite several decisions of the apex court to the effect that a political party cannot challenge the primary election of another. So embarrassed was Justice Emmanuel Agim that he warned the legal profession to wake up or risk rendering itself irrelevant to the society. Justice John Okoro lamented that “a lot of people have suffered” because of the wrongful judgments of the appellate court which had sacked several legislators who won elections under the platform of the PDP in Plateau State.

Justice Okoro’s lamentation bears repeating because as you read this, two Plateau State PDP senators and five members of the House of Representatives freely elected by the people are idling away at home, while seven APC impostors elected by Justices Oluwayemisi Williams-Dawodu, Abdulaziz Waziri and Okon Abang, none of whom is from Plateau State, not to talk of casting a ballot in the February 25, 2023 National Assembly election, are in Abuja representing themselves and the principalities who made their ascension possible. In the 25-member Plateau State House of Assembly, the self-same panel sacked 16 members elected on the PDP platform, and willfully handed their seats to the APC.

The tongue-lashing of the Appeal Court judges was so loud that Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), likened it to the whipping of errant children. “The Supreme Court spared no words, they used legal and judicial koboko (cane) to flog the Court of Appeal for what they termed miscarriage of justice, perverse judgements,” Ozekhome said while speaking on Saturday, January 13, in an interview with Arise TV.

But it is not enough for the Supreme Court to publicly chastise the lower court judges for their shameful judicial gymnastics and validation of purloined mandates, what happens to the victims of the wrongful judgments?

Should the electoral bandits be allowed to keep their judicial loot? Besides this public chastisement, should the judges who enabled these heists be allowed to get away with the crime? No! Allowing the Plateau travesty to stand is tantamount to rewarding judicial perfidy and political banditry. The politicians and their collaborators in the judiciary orchestrating these absurdities are worse than the bandits terrorizing Nigerians.

That said, will it be correct to say that the Supreme Court has redeemed the judiciary simply because it called out erring lower court judges? I dare say that will amount to stretching logic.

In restoring the mandates of Kano, Plateau and Zamfara governors, the Supreme Court simply dodged a bullet. Enlightened self-interest rather than aversion to perfidious judgments informed the decision because the apex court has given, perhaps, more perverse judgements than the Appeal Court.

For instance, no judgement can be more perverse than the January 14, 2020 Supreme Court ruling that nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State and declared Hope Uzodimma the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election.

Criticizing his colleagues who delivered the perverse judgment, late Justice Centus Nweze said it was “preposterous” for the apex court to award the “electoral victory” to Uzodimma who had contended that the election was invalid.

When his colleagues ignored him, he, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands off the perfidy with this profound statement: “The decision of the Supreme Court in the instant matter will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come.” His colleagues, six of them, laughed him off, declaring as the Jews did when Pilate took water and washed his hands before the crowd baying for the blood of Jesus Christ: “His blood be on us and on our children!”

Many of the Appeal Court judges drew inspiration from that 2020 illogical ruling by the Supreme Court in handing down their 2023 perverse judgements.

Again, the January 20, 2023 Supreme Court judgement that affirmed Godswill Akpabio as the valid candidate of the APC for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District, and another ruling on February 6, 2023 that declared former Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as the authentic APC candidate for the Yobe North Senatorial District, were as perverse as the Appeal Court judgements sacking Yusuf, Muftwang and Dauda.

The Supreme Court ruling on the February 25, 2023 presidential election also left a sour taste in the mouth of not a few. So, Nigerians should not be deceived. The Supreme Court does not stand on any moral high ground when it comes to perverse judgements and judicial hanky-panky.

On Wednesday, January 17, Aloy Ejimakor, special counsel to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, decried the failure of the apex court to release the certified true copies (CTC) of its December 15, 2023 judgement ordering that Kanu’s case be remitted to the Federal High Court for trial.

Ejimakor wrote: “Today makes it 33 days after Supreme Court delivered the final judgment in the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria versus Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

“Following the delivery of said judgment on December 15, 2023, applications were filed for the release of Certified True Copies (CTC) of the Judgment and the enrolled Order. But to this day, the Supreme Court is yet to comply.

“This failure to release the said CTC is a flagrant violation of the Constitution that entitles Nnamdi Kanu to be issued copies of the judgement within seven days of the delivery of the judgment.”

It is a fundamental right. Section 36(7) of the Constitution provides that: “When any person is tried for any criminal offence, the court or tribunal shall keep a record of the proceedings and the accused person or any persons authorised by him in that behalf shall be entitled to obtain copies of the judgement in the case within seven days of the conclusion of the case.”

So, why is the Supreme Court refusing to release the CTC knowing full well that the Federal High Court cannot proceed with the trial without the certified judgment and enrolled order if not sheer mischief?

Truth be told, no level of the judicial hierarchy is above board. If only politicians, even those who won their cases and have praised the judiciary as the last hope of the common man could tell narrate their experiences, Nigerians will shudder.

So, the revalidation of the mandates of Yusuf, Muftwang and Dauda, though gladdening, is not an act of judicial altruism. No! The Supreme Court simply dodged a bullet, knowing full well that there would be dire consequences if it did otherwise unlike in Imo State where the Justices knew there will be no consequences for their judicial malevolence and went ahead to do the unthinkable four years ago.


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