THE judiciary has always been upheld in democratic settings, including Nigeria’s nascent democracy, as last hope of the common man. This follows the subterfuge that characterises politics in many climes, even in acclaimed civilised societies and the deep rooted perfidy Nigerian version seems to be hinged on.
The need for judicial system that commands respect and confidence of all people becomes imperative.
The relevance of judiciary in political system is mirrored in its impeccable judicial decisions and ability of their judgments to enthrone peace, sustain harmony and promote growth in a given society.
This noble responsibility of judiciary had at one time or the other faced serious challenges such that people’s hopes come under severe threat and expectations taking unfancied detour.
In the United States of America, despite their acclaimed level of civilisation, driven by democracy, racial discrimination has refused to permanently give way, political witch-hunting and injustice still pervade their system.
James Madison once said that the job of the U.S. Supreme Court was to act as “an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive.” Unfortunately, events show that justices have not always seen their role in the same light.
The case of Kelo Vs. City of New London (2005) as it affects the Fifth Amendment, the law forbids the government from wielding its powers to seize property through eminent domain for anything less than a “public use.” Yet, the Supreme Court allowed a Connecticut municipality to bulldoze a working-class neighborhood so that private developers would have a blank slate on which to build a luxury hotel, a conference center, and various other upscale amenities.
Then, the overwhelming question was, does that qualify for Public use? It was generally seen more like public power unleashed on behalf of private gain.
Is this not a clear evidence that judicial recklessness is not a developing economy’s phenomenon alone?
In Nigeria, judiciary is looked up to as refuge point in a society so much gripped in military and civilian administrative imprudence. This expectation had received knocks from different power blocks to the shock of the citizens.
In 1997, despite, Gen (Rtd) Oladipupo Diya and fellow alleged culprit’s insistence of innocence in their alleged coup plot, the military tribunal set up to try them found them guilty; they must face death by hook or crook, provided they are permanently kicked out of the way of certain powers and interests at the time.
The justice that required the execution of Niger-Delta human rights activist and author, Ken Saro Wiwa in the gas chamber remains shrouded in bizarre, decades after his death. He and his colleagues were tried in supposed competent court of judicial administration, found guilty and sentenced in accordance with the wisdom of the court derivable from the prevailing law of the land, as claimed.
Even the wisdom of such court did not hold any plausible stand in the eyes of international observers and United Nations in particular as they did not hesitate in their condemnation of such unscrupulous judgment handed to fellow mankind on the continent of Africa in a century the world should be celebrating advanced defense of human rights and freedom of all people from injustices.
It could be argued that such judicial precedence could only be associated with military era in Nigerian history. Good defense as that may sound but even in 2009, when democracy has taken root in the country’s polity, some judicial pronouncements have continued to pose more threats than enthrone peace and growth. It is irreconcilable that an alleged money launderer could secure a clean bill of judicial acquaintance from Nigerian courts only to be indicted on the same allegations by United Kingdom’s court. The case of Former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori in 2009 challenges the competency of the nation’s judicial system as Ibori was adjudged to be free from all allegations of money laundering raised against him by both EFCC and their foreign financial security agents counterparts but Nigerian court did not find any wrongs in his dealings, only to be indicted and jailed for gross financial impropriety by a more clinical judicial system in United Kingdom on the same alleged offences. This to a large extent impugns on the quality of justice derivable from Nigerian courts and ridicules the entire judicial system in the land.
The question that the assumed Nigerian judicial czars would not escape from answering is how the country can grow, when looters secure the backing of the judiciary to get away with their acts.
In recent time, the country’s political landscape received another bombshell from the judiciary as Supreme Court nullified the election of People’s Democratic Party led government in Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha and awarded victory to All Progressives Congress Party (APC) candidate in the March 2019 gubernatorial elections, Hope Uzodimma, hence making him the new governor of Imo State, leaping from fourth position according to Independent National Electoral Commission’s result as announced after the conduct of the elections in March, 2019. Since the Supreme Court judgment on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, it has continued to generate heated reactions from different quarters and trending in all media platforms.
The Supreme Court judgment in the case of Imo State guber election is not trending for its unique judicial adjudication but mainly on the obfuscation of prudence in the judgment to many concerned minds. Court judgments and justice generally must not fail to meet certain conditions. It must satisfy the parties involved of non bias and could stand every cross examination, it must seek to redress perceived wrongs and establish rights. Finally, it must not fail to bring peace and order in the society.
Apparently, any assumed justice that plunges the society into chaos in itself may not qualify for justice in a more clinical evaluation. This is not to say that rabble-rousers would not use staged-protests to sway sympathy after losing argument in a court.
The Wednesday Supreme Court judgment that ousted Ihedioha and enthroned Uzodimma in Imo State seemed not to take cognisance of the mentioned premises justice must satisfy.
According to the People’s Democratic Party statement in reaction to the judgment, the national Chairman, Uche Secondus spared no thoughts in condemning the judicial hemorrhage that the verdict represented. In picking holes on the verdict, PDP believes inter- alia that the Supreme Court is saying that all the votes from the alleged 388 polling units were for the APC alone in an election contested by over 70 candidates.
They queried the figures from each of the various 388 polling units generated and allocated to All Progressive Party (APC), Hope Uzodinma, by the Supreme Court since no other party and their agents were called to witness, except perhaps Uzodimma and his party, yet Supreme Court was quick to deliver judgment on assumption that gives undue advantage to their favoured side.
“It is on record that the votes analysis from the Imo governorship election as at March 11, 2019, when the results were declared were as follows: total accredited votes: 823,743.
Total valid votes: 739,485 while total cancelled votes were 25, 130, making total valid votes to stand at 714,355.
But at the Supreme Court, the total valid votes increased to 950,952.
These accounts for 127, 209 votes in excess of total accredited votes of 823,743.” PDP emphasised.
Peoples’ Democratic Party while discrediting the judgment, asked whether Supreme Court has the constitutional powers to allocate votes to any favoured candidate.
According to PDP, such verdict is an invitation to breakdown of law and order as they and other concerned Nigerians may not fold their hands and allow falsehood to stand.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that there are still issues associated with the judgment and rather than clear all doubts in the arguments, the court has raised more contentious issues that could spark disorder in the polity. Part of this, is the current insistence of PDP that Supreme Court Justice, Ibrahim Tanko should resign for compromising the integrity of the court.
Even if PDP’s pleas are granted, the questions remain, when and how would a truly independent judiciary emerge in Nigeria, given the persistent claims of executive interferences in the system by some schools of thought? When will the Nigerian judicial system truly establish its feet strongly on ground as the much sought last hope of the common people?
Indeed, there has been noticeable improvement but there are more rooms for it. The judiciary as a matter of necessity should extricate itself from executive or any other external influence to establish firm professionalism that will endear them into the hearts of all Nigerians in their conducts.