Letter to Appeal Court President

By Sam Omatseye  

Just after the Appeal Court reinstated Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi, my memory woke up to our lack of memory. Just last December, three judges fell under the gavel of the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC). The reason was simple: They were judicial adventurers. They gave us a paradox: The judge as a guilty party.
They were guilty of what has become a maggot of this republic. It is the case of what we now know as judges of courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

They have disgraced in public the time-worn principle of equality. Because the law says they are equal, each of them wanted to act like George Orwell’s Animal Farm. So one judge wants to prove that they are more equal than the others. It created the sort of stalemate that the great scientist, Albert Einstein, said of our species: “Before God, we are all equally wise, and equally foolish.” With such stalemates, equality becomes a stalemate instead of a virtue or even a source of right. Each judge is equally foolish, and equally wise. One cancels the other.

 Each judge is trying to universalise their jurisdiction. My jurisdiction is better than yours. Here Hobbes takes over Locke, and equality is defenestrated.

We saw the same recently when a court ruled that Umahi should vacate his seat as governor. Another court of equal power elsewhere in the country, ruled that Umahi could remain in power. It is the vulgar version of what we called “two fighting” as kids. In this case, it is adult delinquency.
Two courts, one in Abuja, the other in the southeast, ruled on behalf of the same judiciary, the same republic, the same law. But they gave us two verdicts, two justices. It mocks the idea of one law, one judiciary and one nation.
That explains why the NJC, in a slap on the wrist, barred three judges from ever being elevated to the Court of Appeal under you and above you at the Supreme Court. It is a slap on the wrist, hence the courts defied your authority and that of the NJC by doing the same in the case of Governor Umahi. Given the verdict in the Appeal Court to throw it out, it is still around to do the merry-go-round in a few days in the case concerning Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River and legislators. The matter has already been adjudicated and resolved in a higher court. So, why is the nation going through the dark comedy of waiting for a judge to sit and decide when a higher court has told us what the matter is. That is why I call it a merry-go-round. It is like the masquerade in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart who has danced himself lame before the main dance. He cannot dance again. The concert is over. Should anyone buy tickets, invite loved ones to the party or buy that new dress and drape the neck with the choice perfume? Only to learn later that the dancer is nowhere?

 Your Appeal Court ruled that the power to remove governors should not be subjected to the whim of court verdicts. They are officers of state. We have seen for too long where courts decide on behalf of millions of the electorate. Many observers have seen this as another form of oligarchy, a system sponsored by well-feathered politicians and anointed by justices. It’s called courtocracy. Justices are now under scrutiny because of this.
It is now common knowledge that judges are believed to be on the take. We have justice, we have purchases. It is the oligarchy of politicians and judges. It obliterates the people. It makes votes null and void, and consecrates the principle of a few strong men over the egalitarian ethos of democracy.

“Defection of elected executives is not novel in our political system but their removal must be in accordance with the constitution. The defection might appear immoral but they have freedom of association,” said Justice J.O.K. Oyewole.
Those who sued did not win an election, and they want to reap where they did not sow. Not only in Ebonyi but also in Cross River. Let the people, not the courts, decide. That is how to deepen democracy.
We have seen a few cases where the popular choice is overthrown over technicalities. As the philosopher Blaise Paschal noted, “Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful must be just.” The cases against Umahi and Ayade have sought to conflate power with justice.

Source: Nation Online


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