I have moved back and forth over writing on this Justice Onnoghen issue, even right from the days the matter was fresh, and the CJN had just admitted to the crimes he is so charged with by the Code of Conduct Tribunal; and we were all second guessing what the National Judicial Council would do, or better still, what Justice Onnoghen would do. The saddest and most alarming revelation from this whole scandal is that Nigeria as a country is not just in an economic recession; but we are bereft of any morals in our sense of judgement. Nigeria is in a moral recession and it would take more than arguments from legal luminaries and constitutional experts to take us out of this huge deficit in morality and the understanding of what is good and what is bad, and then standing behind good and fighting or warding off evil. Success is forged at all cost and it doesn’t matter how much evil and vileness is brought onto it; as long as you succeed, then you are formidable and celebrated; you become mighty!
It is deeply heartbreaking that the arguments, constitutional quotes, reflections on judgements and other legal precedents that have been circulated and regurgitated by both SANs and laymen of our legal system have been on and about whether the federal government was right to remove the CJN, or if the Code of Conduct Tribunal had the jurisdiction to hear or try the CJN and what have you. The National Judicial Council which is at the centre of this judicial cum constitutional crisis, thankfully, has not been left out of this immoral drama that has engulfed all national discourse, and as usual, pitched Nigerians against each other over religious and ethnic divides. As much as this matter has been so politicised and opposition political parties have pounced on it as if it’s their only ticket to anything tangible in the coming polls; the Nigerian judicial system has failed the country and further exposed the rot and insincerity that has driven our judiciary as the custodians of justice in our country. If the executive arm of government can falter and misgovern, if the legislature can be self serving and non challant; the judiciary cannot fail to deliver justice and act as ambassadors of moral behaviour and guardians of the rights of ordinary Nigerians. The executives are politicians, the legislators are politicians too and both of them have been branded together and cursed to the high heavens by Nigerians as those responsible for our underdevelopment and poor economic growth. They are bandied together as the twins of corruption and the ‘bastards’ or bastardisers of our democracy. Most certainly not, the judiciary cannot join-in in this reggae of madness or such name shaming. The judiciary is built by professionals in a school of thought that is governed by good morals and uprightness and boasts of a professionalism termed learned! So how can you join in unlearned, primitive and immoral behaviour? Haba mana!
The National Judicial Council had one job, which was to redeem the face and honor of our justice system, save the day and find justice for Onnoghen. They have allowed the most simple and basic error of a chief justice to spiral into an error of an entire country’s judicial system. They have made the person of the chief justice to be higher and more priceless than the correctional system of law and order itself. They have allowed criminals and brazen supporters of criminality to fill our ears with pending, awaiting, sine die, adjourned, etc which have neither unravelled the matter, nor rewound the seeming impasse between the executive and judicial face off.
More energy ought to have been and should still be, on how a sitting judge is in the custody of over a billion naira in foreign currency. A very wide and forensic investigation should be launched in tracing the sources and purposes of these funds. Our newly christened Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) should find a darling first national case in this matter and prove its worth. The times the monies were lodged should also help in connecting the dots of what really happened. More worrisome is the fact that several other foreign currencies are still being discovered while the saga continues which means that earlier discoveries were perhaps a tip of the iceberg! Supposing this amount was found in Buhari’s accounts, or Fashola’s accounts? Ah! Tori olowun! It is disheartening and bewildering that the crime committed, the stupendous wealth in question and especially by whom it was committed are not the main subject of the debate and the main source of worry and nerve wracking arguments from the discourse parties. No no no! It is the CCT or the NJC or the chief justice or Mr. President that is this and that, totally deflecting from the elephant in the room simply because we have no morals. I am tired!
We must not tire from demanding transparency from public servants and especially our judiciary who are the custodians of justice and equity. If you are a lawyer, then fine, you can defend whomever you choose to defend, amoral or not; but not as a judge, no, you do not have that right or privilege. Your allegiance is with the law and in fighting that justice be done, no matter whose ox is gored. The judiciary has broken the trust it has been given in upholding the law and holding everyone accountable. It’s like a mother, desecrating her new born baby in its cradle, then turning to tell everyone off, afterall it’s her own baby. Warding off the presidency from suspending or removing a rogue judge is not really the concern here. The concern is that a house that is responsible for not only pointing out who and what is evil and punishing same should be able to show the world that even its own son will be punished if he is found wanting. We have seen the executive arm do these countless times, even before this administration. The question is, can the judiciary lead by example too? Where do we go to and seek redress? The same judiciary?
Tahir is the Talban Bauchi.