Ralph Egbu

The Supreme Court controversy 

By Ralph Egbu  08186958958  ralphegbu@gmail.com

LAST week’s discourse, second on love and national development attracted huge responses from across the nation that proves to me that ours is a nation deeply in search of the love tonic. Truly, love needs stare us in the face in all facets of life: the orphans and abandoned children, the sick who cannot afford the high cost of treatment, disdain and maltreatment of fellow citizens in work places and political environment, hatred and discrimination amongst supposed citizens of one nation and of course, government differential policies which increased hate levels in the nation. For something you love, you cherish and nurture and you also avoid acts capable of destroying or diminishing the value of the object. When something is of no value to you, it can be abandoned, neglected or thrown away outright. I don’t know how much love we attach to the entity called Nigeria. When it is not a case of raping her to death, it could be deliberate attempt to rubbish it, for most of the time it has become a case of one week, one nasty controversy.

Some are of the view that this should be expected in a nation that is just developing and they would insist developed nations also passed through this process; given what we read, there could be some facts in this but not the whole truth; experience would be useless if man, as a rational being, cannot learn from it with the sole objective to sidetrack mistakes made by the preceding generation. From what we are seeing, I now agree with those who have earlier said that personal experience can sometimes be very costly because not all those who encounter events may remain alive or be healthy enough to correct their errors. For some decades now our leaders have been leading us to walk through different minefields and I’m not sure that the experience is pleasant at all and in spite of this we are still being pushed to work the discredited routes over and over again. Today we are still back to old controversies like privatization, commercialization, foreign loans and value of the naira; these are all issues we have quarreled over since our nation became independent and which some of our leaders pandering to foreign interest have forced us to adopt as strategies for national development and which rather than help us have emasculated the little life remaining in all of us and rather than task our head to find genuine and relevant solutions and where this is not possible because of our laziness just open the books and see how others did theirs, we are busy engaging in all manner of analyses and becoming paralyzed by it.

When the futility of walking on the wrong road begins to catch up with us, we take a recourse to instigate one nasty controversy to keep the atmosphere fouled up and to keep the entire population busy doing actually nothing. The latest in the bizarre act is the unwarranted attack on the judiciary and particularly the careless onslaught on the justices of the Supreme Court. Before I x-ray the delicate aspects of this sensitive matter, I desire to state some clear positions: it is wrong in a democracy to take on the judiciary in the manner we seem to have been doing in recent times. I hold this position for the simple reason that in the trinity of democracy where we find the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, the judiciary has always been the most resilient of the three and the real bulwark against tyranny, impunity and other acts of recklessness capable of throwing the society into big chaos. Destroy the judiciary under any guise and for any reason, then pave the way for a dictatorship and at best introduction of oligarchy none of which is good for a modern society especially a complex heterogeneous nation like ours. The Nigerian judiciary may not have attained the best level we expect of it, but in the history of the development of our nation none of the other two arms of government has done what the judiciary has given to sustain the entity and development of our nation. Let me put it this way: without the curbing influence of the judiciary, our political leaders and their military counterparts that exchanged power between themselves would have sent this nation into oblivion through many of their reckless utterances, vain pursuit of power, policies and partiality. There are obviously bad eggs in the judiciary and their dirty actions especially in the perversion of justice smell to high heavens, this we know, but they have survived the system because of protection offered by the small minds who appointed them. Rottenness we caused.

When we introduced quota system as a means of recruiting judges and when there is no definitive process for assessing performance, what then did we expect? We distorted the process for excellence and still want to reap excellence, how ironic this is. In some instances those who manage power go over the best to pick lawyers of low competence and of unsound mind and appoint them as judges just to satisfy narrow ends in the short run but in the end, the entire society suffers. We know such misfits particularly those who must be induced to perform their statutory duties; they can be fished out and shown the way out without destroying the sanctity of the judicial system. The attack against the Supreme Court was predictable by those of us who know the significance of present political configuration, it is instructive that all this while the Supreme Court has always been hailed except recently when it decided to stroll into the political fray in full. It did no wrong by deciding to be the final arbiter for political matters at the commanding heights; we can see the intention is noble with the finality it has given to many contentious political questions. It rested the issue of divergent pronouncements especially from the Appeal Court operating from different zones. In the Supreme Court verdicts are seeds for growth that even lawyers are yet to see. The first is that it is time our politicians learn to play by the rules, the era of brazenness ought to be over especially now the pains are obvious and the second the electoral body should take seriously the need to properly state its rules and have the most important ones in form of legislations given our tempestuous political atmosphere, arrangement and attitude, not to leave out poor attitudinal disposition of the political class which has defiled correction so far. The introduction of card reader was a magical art, such a fundamental issue in the electoral process should not only have come early with numerous trial exercises its centrality in election matters ought to have had the force of law. Now we never start our preparations for the next elections until it is few months to the polls. The only thing the Supreme Court failed to do was to bring judicial activism to bear on some areas that appeared cloudy. It would have to be doing so in future because examples have it that the American democracy was given shape by progressive pronouncements from the Supreme Court. Judges pre-trial conference would have helped matters. By now judges should know that honour is not conferred but earned.

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