- Post 29 August 2011
- Last Updated on 29 August 2011
- By Tunde Fagbenle
Let me start by saying that my sympathy lies with Justice Ayo Isa Salami the suspended President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) simply because he acted the way I would have acted if I were in his shoes.
But it’s a heady even if right way – or, if you like, the right way in the wrong system. The operating system is a “yes sir” one in which you are expected to toe the line, do as you are told and keep your objections in your pocket if you want to keep your job. And that’s why I would not touch government job, or indeed any “establishment” job even with a ten-foot pole. I am not cut for it.
Like Justice Salami, I would have kicked against any wrong, any corruption, and any injustice or undue interference in my job. Indeed, I would possibly have done more. I would have gone to my damn boss’ office and given him a mouthful if he tried to be silly to my face. But before doing that, I would have packed my bag ready to get on my bike – my back turned on the job!
The years of upright and incorruptible judges like a Justice Kayode Esho, a Justice Ayoola, or a Justice Oputa were sure gone we thought, then comes a Salami who not only delivers courageous judgements against the powers that be but is ready to stake all on the altar of integrity and justice.
Something tells me that someone like Salami would have long formed an unfavourable opinion on the character of Katsina-Alu and the CJN’s unwholesome interference in the Sokoto State gubernatorial election tribunal may only have been one attempt too many to pervert the cause of Justice. If it is so, then we may expect a catalogue of earth-shaking revelations on the shenanigans and corruption in the system to be kicked up sooner than later if the system pursues the present ignominious route of seeing to the end of the PCA’s career. After all, as Keith Richards said, “If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet”.
The speedy descent of the faceoff between Salami and Katsina-Alu into this gory mess of national scandal is stuff for fiction. And it is so simply because the sincerity of purpose of the mediating body, the National Judicial Council, (NJC) to be an impartial arbiter is suspect. In passing a verdict over the charges and counter-charges (corruption, perjury, etc) between the PCA and the CJN, a ridiculously minority number determined that whereas neither of the PCA and the CJN was guilty, the PCA was to apologise to the CJN for the PCA’s wrongful (media) approach to (family) issues.
Absolute nonsense. It was a bait for only a fool to swallow. And Salami is nobody’s fool. An apology from the PCA would’ve been the nail to a coffin prepared for him. To save the CJN’s face (perhaps seeing that his retirement from service was only a month or so away anyway, amongst other possible self-serving considerations), it was alright to splash mud on Salami’s face. If Salami would not fall for the “apology bait” then he should be forced to retire and leave the system for the more pliable.
It was clear at this point that short of a prompt presidential intervention nothing could stop the momentum of the roforofo fight. Salami went to court to stop the NJC and Mr President to whom the forceful retirement recommendation was made from acting ultra vires, since constitutionally the process for removal of the CJN or the PCA from office was more windy and required senate assent.
The needed presidential intervention came, but to the chagrin of a nauseated country it was to muddy already muddied water. Discountenancing the judicial imperative not to act prejudicial to matters in court our president went ahead to appoint an “acting” PCA (Justice Dalhatu Adamu) thus recognising, if not affirming, the suspension of the incumbent Salami.
The shock is still reverberating in the land. No matter how much gloss and honey the presidency tries to put on it, it is a slap on the face of our constitution and the judiciary. And it is an action that has now ranged virtually all of the rest of the country against the president, the NJC, and the PDP.
Right now the Nigerian Labour Congress, the Nigerian Bar Association, the National Association of Nigerian Students, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Nigerian Medical Association, and all manners of Human Rights groups are joined in opposition to the illegality of the NJC and the President. They cannot all be wrong; they cannot all be politically motivated or instigated by the ACN and other opposition parties. But would commonsense prevail, or is it already too late?
I cannot but feel sorry for my fellow brothers working for president Jonathan at this point, Reuben Abati and Oronto Douglas in particular. These are guys who would have been at the forefront of the ongoing public disenchantment and protest against the mess of the NJC and the conspiracy of the presidency, were they not presently working for Jonathan! Where were they when the decision was taken to ignore the fact that Salami had gone to court to declare his suspension illegal? Were their voices drowned by those of the more powerful hawks in the system?
The way Goodluck Jonathan has acted in this matter reminds one too much of the way a Chief Olusegun Obasanjo would have acted – impetuous, damning, and wrongheaded – to hell with the law, the courts, and the constitution!
President Jonathan’s action is surprising and yet not surprising. Surprising in that he is assumed to be ordinarily a nice gentle guy who would want to stand by his vaunted respect for rule of law and good governance. Then, not surprising as it fits the hard-to-dismiss notion of him as stooge of some powerful forces.
Unfortunately, I cannot see how the imbroglio would resolve in Salami’s favour. I cannot see a return to the status quo ante. But neither will it happen that Katsina-Alu will have his reputation intact and his name written in gold at his retirement in a month’s time.
This is a battering that the judiciary that is still groping its way back to some respectability and honour after disdainful years under a dominant mass of bad apples (mala poma) – judges that literally shat on the bench – can hardly endure.
The like of Justice Ayo Salami is rare. He will lose his job because the system can neither tolerate nor cage him, but what he stands for shall endure as part of the building blocks in the reconstruction of the judiciary and our dear country.
I’ll leave my readers with these two memorable quotes: “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” – Emiliano Zapata – and, “Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.” Albert Einstein.
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Thanks Uncle Fagbenle. Your analysis is ringingly true of the state of our impotent judiciary and the assault it currently suffers from the hands of Jonathan, PDP, NJC and Northern Cabal. Justice Ayo Isa Salami's integrity, impartiality and steadfast courage are in challenge but the man has not fallen for Satan's bait. President Jonathan is a cowardly, bootlicking and dangerous demagogue who hates democracy but pretends to be a champion of it. His patronising attitude toward the Northern Cabal who installed him and his attempt to pay them back with grovelling acceptance of every nuanced dictate from them is classically Jonathanian in execution.
There is a Northern gang up to frustrate him and if need be to impeach him, if he does not do their bidding. The man is impotent, inefficient and not ready to rock the boat. I share your pain for Reuben Abati and Oronto Gouglas up to a point. The point of out departure is this: many public intellectuals are harlots and pimps. They are always on the look out to sell virtue, honour, soul and body for the highest bidder. Abati was a happy pundit in The Guardian but like the harlot, he had to sell virtue, honour, soul and body to the Abuja clueless figurehead who paid more.
President Goodluck Jonathan has succeded in heaping ash into our collective mouths. His appointment of an acting PCA is his clearest subversion of the Nigerian Constitution which he swore to protect. Now, tell me who is a traitor?
Would Reuben Abati and Oronto Douglas consider resigning in the face of Jonathan rape of the constitution? Never! Once you fall for Satan's apple, you go on sinning until the day of judgment. Abati and Douglas are in that dilemma.
Salami is the architect of his own downfall.. He started very well by instituting a case against the CJN, then stupidly allowed himself to fooled into dropping it!
Once you declare your hand to the enemy there is no going back. He has been very naive and silly.. What is the President expected to do? separation of powers etc.. Like the President said, his faith lies with the Judiciary.. He should never have withdrawn the first case! He has shown very poor judgement!!
There nothing to thank Uncle Fagbenle. This same man wrote many articles to support Jonathan's candidacy for president without critically assessing fairly what the man represents, surprisingly not only did Mr Fagbenle not keep his conviction about GEJ to himself he was busy here and else drumming support for GEJ, he rejected other counter argument and labelled other candidates has unfit, I wonder why someone of Mr Fagbenle pedigree before putting his integrity on the line should at least look critically at GEJ antecedence to understand what the man really stood for whether he's a reformist/progressive minded or just representing the status quo. Getting an answer will only have warranted a critical assessment of 12 or 13 month he served has Bayelsa State Governor. If Mr Fagbenle had done this then he probably won't be writing this article now and if he claim to knew then and still went ahead to systematically campaign for Jonathan then that confirm as fact that most of his articles during the last presidential campaign misrepresented the reality about GEJ to the people.
.. Am surprised this man expect to plant yam and harvest corn... I cannot but laugh when i think about Nigeria a country plagued with delusion..
we are living witnesses to the assasination of a former chief justice of oyo state.
and some of you guys want salami to keep dancing.
when he is vivamused, my hand no dey ooo.
@Olubadan. What TF stated here formed the thrust of my assenting to his views on the shenanigans going on in our judiciary. However, writer's inconsistencies are not new. We live in a changing world of flux where allegiances are like quicksand in their changeability.
The entire Nigeria media and their writers are woefully guilty if we should all go by what they said in support of GEJ during his campaigns. Even now, many of them are afraid to criticise a president who is not fit for the job. FT is better. He has realised his error of backing a wrong horse and has come out to say so in this piece.
Fagbenle: " I cannot but feel sorry for my fellow brothers working for president Jonathan at this point, Reuben Abati and Oronto Douglas"
The above made me burst into laughter as it reminded me of "My fellow widows"
Brother Tunde does not know that Abati and Oronto are typical "Nigerians" looking for their own from the corrupt system. In civilised countries, Abati, a vocal critic of Dr Jonathan would never be offered such job in his Govt. He, too, would never accept if offered. All he loses right now is credibility. But Nigerian would say: "Na credibility man go chop?" (But he cannot work against PDP for life!) Walai, if another "Saro Wiwa" is judicially murdered today, Abati will defend the govt! (Salami is "Saro Wiwa" of sorts)
I am yet to see a single Nigerian turning down lucrative Fed job! So, Egbon, "pocket your sorrow" as we used to say in Primary School. Una never see somethin!
Ogbeni Hellofadude: "He should never have withdrawn the first case! He has shown very poor judgement!!" This is not a lawyers' forum. (The case was never meant to be tried. Salami get case o, he no get case o, he cannot practically continue with the job and his choice to be let go rather than apologise cannot be faulted by anybody. With such powerful adversaries you (Lawyer) can never legally get it all right and at this stage, if him withdraw the other cases nko, you go say na double poor judgement again? Abeg ...
Ogbeni Olubadan, (apologies to Gov Raufu) there is no contradiction whatsoever in Fagbenle supporting Dr Jonathan and Justice Salami. The popular opinion is that Salami is a judicial Hero just as Dr Jonathan was the Candidate to beat at the Presidential Election unless you are a Military Apologist or Anti-Democracy. If Egbon had written to support NJC, he for see ...
I never rejoin to rejoinders on what I've written, but I'll make an exception of this. In this age of the Internet and easy research I think it is lazy not to do simple fact-finding before forming an opinion, and evil and slanderous to deliberately make false accusations as this Olubadan person has done about my views on Jonathan in the past. All my postings on this Square is available and I would like him to come out with one in which I was rooting for Jonathan for Presidency. Right up to the election day, I did an assessment of all the candidates and I still went for Ribadu, rightly or wrongly. I am have chosen to bring this up because it is easy for others to unwittingly believe the hogwash Olubadan has written and perhaps even cite it in future. Go to my past contributions, simple. Thanks
I was about to challenge Olubadan to show us where Mr. Tunde Fagbenle wrote in support of Jonathan when I saw that he has uncharacteristically came in to throw the challenge by himself. Good, record must be set straight at all times. There was never a time he supported Jonathan, the closest he was to supporting anybody was Ribadu, check your facts Baba Ibadan!
I think some of us just like to criticze for the sake of it without even knowing what we are criticizing about. Hellofadude wrote:
"Salami is the architect of his own downfall.. He started very well by instituting a case against the CJN, then stupidly allowed himself to fooled into dropping it!...He has shown very poor judgement!!"
How can you pass a judgment on issue you do not have a proper grasp of and still scream while at it?
Justice Salami did not approach the court because the ridiculous inJustice Katsina-Alu "arrested" a judgment of the Court of Appeal illegally, he went to court because he was about to be unjustly "promoted" to the Supreme Court.
The NJC stopped the "promotion" and he was advised to withdraw the suit. He had no choice than to withdraw the suit because the issue has become moot. He approached the court to stop the fraudulent "promotion" and the "promotion" had been stopped, what else will he continue with the case to redress? Now, who has shown a poor judgment?
Well you have demonstrated an even less understanding of human nature, power and politics than the erstwhile President of the Court of Appeal.
When you start out to publicly denounce the most powerful Judge in the judiciary a liar you better be sure you have all chips properly stacked and be prepared to go all the way..
Only someone guilty of being afflicted with an unhealthy dose of naivity or worse still overconfidence will institute such a case just to stop promotion they don't want! If he did not want promotion to the supreme court that badly he could have simply declined and then resigned rather than accusing the Chief Justice of attempting pervert the course of Justice and think any Chief justice worth his salt will take such a slight lightly.
Your argument is weak, naive and fails to properly motivate human nature and the nature of power and politics!!!
The man is old and may be forgiven his folly, you on the other hand have no excuse!
Is this your newly found position or just for want of something to say?
OK, the man has instituted an action against improper "promotion" the step was reversed, should he still continue when he is no longer been promoted? Go all the way to do what? Whether he should have instituted the action is another matter that is not under discussion here...you claimed he should not have withdrawn the suit, now you are claiming he should not have instituted the action...dockowy, you see one day ehn, I will beat you up when I see you before I buy you a bottle of Star and Isi-ewu, just watch.
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