By  Eugene Uwalaka


Nigeria continues to be a work-in-process, and an unfinished business, until we draw up a grand master plan to restructure it. I am in total agreement with the late statesman and legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, that what we need is not this hotch-potch, patch-patch approach. The Nigerian nation is not a civilized association, Nigeria is only united by force of arms. Nigeria is a highly permissive and crimogenic society. Odd and awkward things happen in the extant Nigeria, but no one complains, no one reacts! Nigeria was founded when its disparate political units were stitched together with the colonial master’s thread in 1914 thus amalgamating the two separate and distinct political fragments the north and south purely for administrative convenience. The tenure of the amalgamation was to last one hundred years (1914-2014) and thus lapsed by operation of law in the year 2014. Remember that the amalgamation was not based on consent and agreement of the disparate fragment of the nation but on the unilateral act and will of the colonial master to promote his self-interest.

The ruling political party has glossed over this sensitive and risky position of the nation that stands it technically dissolved since 2014. Nine years since we got into this risky position our political leaders are still hunting rats. They have continued to engage in ratty and rancorous conflicts and unedifying electoral contests. It is in the precarious situation the nation beckons the judiciary to dispense justice to the land. The nation has reached a saddle point. This saddle point is a decision point. This decision must point to the way that lifts the nations out of the quagmire of election malpractices forever. The decision of the tribunal must not lead to the past orgies we deprecate. It must lead to the future bliss we covet.

The wisdom of the state is reposed in the judiciary. How the judiciary uses this wisdom remains to be seen! Will the judiciary socialize or personalize its powers? This depends on the quantum of honour and integrity it brings to bear on the decision to be taken. It is gratifying that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pandered to Montesquieu’s doctrine of separations of powers. Our judiciary is independent. Independence is largely an attitude of the mind. We cannot talk of independence without playing up the primacy of trust, truth, honour and integrity. Integrity is not acquired in the law school or in the church. You bring it from the home as part of the upbringing. The driving force, the emotional under currents welling up in the heart of the judge will be honour, integrity, courage, selflessness and godliness. When this is the case, members of the tribunal are likely to draw copiously from this repertoire of judiciary independence. One of the foremost judges in biblical history, Samuel the son of Elkanah was an upright man from whom our judges can learn one or two lessons on honour and integrity. Throughout his life, even at tender age, he judged the people. At the end of his tenure, it was the turn of the people to judge him. Listen to Samuel as he speaks to the people “I have lived with you to the present day, here I stand, answer me in the presence of the Lord! Whose Ox have I taken? Whose ass have I taken? Who have I cheated? Who have I oppressed? From who have I accepted a bribe taken and overlooked his guilt? Let that person speak out so that I will make restitution to him?” Members of the presidential elections tribunal must take their work seriously, cautiously, wisely and dispassionately. King Jehoshaphat once counseled judges to drink deep from this well string of honour and integrity. Jehoshaphat told the judges to take care of what you do for you are not judging on behalf of men but on behalf of God who sees quite through the deeds of men. He judges with you so let the fear of God be upon you. Act carefully for God does not condone injustice, partiality and bribe taking.

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King Jehoshaphat further commanded the judges to act faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of God. Refrain from injustices, bribe taking and partiality or be guilty before the lord your God and His wrath will come upon you and your family. Our political culture has not favoured preventive jurisprudence. A large dose of conservative doctrine is ingrained in the doctrine precedence. When circumstances call for a dynamic and preventive jurisprudence our judges have learned towards positivism and conservatism. In this they compel the nation to relive old injuries injustice and traumas. A judge with a dynamic and independent mind can wiggle and wriggle out of the maze and stranglehold of a faculty and enoneous orblta dictum before giving the reason for his decision. Conservative jurisprudence has often led to decision cascades verging on the side of error and injustice. But error in law is justice denied. This nation has suffered serious legal infractions and judicial hemorrhoids on account of fallacies craftily embedded in the premising of legal decisions. Talking of impartiality a judge is seen and said to be impartial when he has the courage to convict his friends and acquit his enemies when they deserve it obviously this cannot be done without honour and integrity. Professor Chinua Achebe’s maxim and pithy remark that one of the truest tests of integrity is its bold and overt refusal to be compromised is apposite to mention here. This is another reason why I agree totally with Thomas Jefferson that law in itself will not resolve things. It is the honor in men that makes the law to work. Our founding fathers died without putting this nation in order. It is a terrible thing to be in a relationship where trust is violated and truth forsaken. Our founding fathers Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello entered into this political wedlock that birthed the great Nigeria nation. It was then like a contract based on utmost good faith (Uberima Fidel). This political wedlock has long become a political gridlock. If this breach of trust is not contained once and for all now, the nation may grind to a half. Among the three estates of the realm only the judiciary has the modicum of integrity left to save the nation.

It is on this plank one is constrained to quote Winston Churchill’s pithy remark that “to everyman (or group of men) there comes in his lifetime the special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”  On the rendering in The Sun Newspaper of 19/03/23 that “No court can stop Tinubu’s inauguration” I beg to disagree. May I ask which Federal Government are we talking about? The Federal Government is a generic name comprising the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. We have argued before now (Read p.51 Nigerian footnote magazine of August 2012) that these institutions of government have coordinate powers. None is superior to the other. It is wrong headed to see one level of government as superior to the other. The executive is not superior to the judiciary or the legislature. In the contention of Harris Sowell, none of us is greater than all of us.

Does the voice of the chairman presidential transition committee represent the voice of the executive? The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria expects the judiciary and legislature to act in concert to resist this overt breach of the rule of the law

Uwalaka writes from Owerri, Imo State