By Farooq Kperogi
When I opened my WhatsApp on Saturday, I saw a higher than usual volume of messages and forwards from friends. The first one I opened was a riotously uneducated, sidesplittingly error-ridden, indefensibly malapropistic press statement attacking me for calling out the Supreme Court’s bizarre perversion of justice in recognizing Senate President Ahmed Lawan as Yobe North’s APC senatorial candidate when he didn’t participate in a primary election.
The statement was such an uproariously juvenile drivel that I sincerely thought it was written by someone who was trying his hand at textual comedy—following the wild success of online video comic skits.
I laughed hysterically as I read the statement. Who won’t laugh after reading of “abysmal pit of irredeemable ignorance,” “convoluted anger,” “caution-gate of self-control,” “pen-happy Kperogi,” “mood of bellicose jingoism,” “ineptly scripted toxic article,” and several other hilariously sophomoric howlers?
I opened another WhatsApp message and found that the press statement was headline news in all major newspapers in Nigeria. That was when I realized that it wasn’t a comedic script written by a barely literate high schooler choking on the ill-digested vocabularies he swallowed hurriedly; it was actually an official statement from Nigeria’s Supreme Court! Good gracious!
Facility for and proficiency in language (in Nigeria’s case the English language) and mastery of logic are as central to the job of lawyers and judges as stethoscopes are to the job of a physician. But here’s a Supreme Court that can’t write a statement that isn’t a ludicrous travesty of the language it uses for official business.
I’d never heard of the Supreme Court of any country responding to the criticism of its judgment by singling out a private individual who called them out. This is a world record of supreme infantilism.
Well, the fact that they had a need to isolate my criticism and pour such venom on me shows that I hit them at the right spot, that I exposed an uncomfortable truth about them that they’d thought had been hidden from public knowledge, which is basically that most of them are rapacious, unprincipled, conscienceless, and cash-and-carry judges who sell “justice” to the highest bidder.
The current Chief Justice of Nigeria, in fact, makes no pretenses about where his financially induced political biases lie. The other day, he was invited by Governor Nyesom Wike to commission projects during which he made openly partisan political statements and turned himself into Wike’s pitiful praise poet.
When I called him out, he issued a statement to deny making the politically compromising statements he made in Port Harcourt that I’d quoted. But after I shared the video clip of him saying exactly what he denied saying–and more–he shut up but bottled up the anger and bile that welled up in him, which he ventilated yesterday using the opportunity that my biting censure of the Supreme Court provided.
The truth is that he violated Rule 1(5) of the Judicial Code of Conduct, which says that “a judge must avoid social relationships that are improper…. or that may cast doubt on the ability of a Judicial Officer to decide cases impartially.”
So, it is either that Justice Olukayode Ariwoola is a fundamentally dishonest person who lies blatantly, or he was so helplessly inebriated by Wike’s treats that he didn’t know what he was saying in Port Harcourt, which is frankly a distinction without a difference.
The cockamamie judgments that have been emanating from the Supreme Court lately reflect the character—or lack thereof—of the man who leads it. Of course, he is not alone in this brazen-faced, in-your-face moral depravity. Most of his colleagues are also purchasable judicial mountebanks with zero self-worth. Thank God for the few honest ones among them.
In its embarrassingly rambling, incoherent riot of a press statement attacking me, the Supreme Court didn’t say a word about the judicial merit of its judgement. It only says it’s not “Father Christmas” and that “no one can get what he or she didn’t ask for.”
In other words, the Court is confessing that it doesn’t dispense justice to whoever deserves it; its “justice” is the exclusive preserve of people who “ask for” it, which is obviously code for those who pay for it. That’s straight-up judicial banditry!
But here are the issues. During the senate confirmation hearing of former CJN Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad (another hopelessly inept and compromised CJN that left his position in disgrace), Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe called attention to the legal and moral burden of overlooking the merit of cases before the Supreme Court on the basis of “mere technicality.”
“In the 2018 case of Akeredolu vs Abraham, the Supreme Court said, ‘technicality in the administration of justice shuts out justice.’…It is therefore better to have a case heard and determined on its merit than to leave the court with the shield of victory obtained on mere technicality,” Abaribe said.
In other words, the Supreme Court had laid a precedent that says the Court should not invoke procedural inanities as a pretext to subvert the legal merit of cases, which is precisely what Ariwoola’s Supreme Court did in Lawan’s case—and most cases involving generous bribe givers.
In my July 20, 2019, column titled “A ‘Technically’ Incompetent Chief Justice of Nigeria,” I wrote: “All over the world, courts rely on precedents to adjudicate current cases. Precedents may be modified, but they are rarely overturned without a compelling reason, certainly not within a few years after they were established. That is what legal scholars call stare decisis, that is, the doctrine that courts should follow precedent.”
A senior lawyer who followed my articles on the Ahmed Lawan case had told me months ago that I should forget thinking I could change anything and preserve my intellectual energies for more productive causes because the Supreme Court had already been “settled” and would deliver tendentious judgements to legitimize the electoral frauds by politicians who were too busy running for president to have time to participate in the primary elections for senatorial positions.
It was hard to believe, but it happened exactly as he said it would. So, the Supreme Court already had a conclusion (i.e., that big men with money to “spoil” Supreme Court justices must get what they “ask for,” to use the statement from the Court) and were merely searching for “evidence” to support the conclusion, instead of the other way around.
They invented the “evidence” in “technicalities,” which their own precedent had invalidated. In rhetorical studies we call that finalism.
That’s why it’s customary to say that “judgment” and “justice” are not synonymous. Some judgements pervert justice. The Nigerian Supreme Court in the last few years has shown that it’s not in the business of dispensing justice; it only gives judgments to favor people who “ask for it” the “right” way. They are not the “Father Christmas” of justice. They are wolfish judicial bandits who operate a judgment-for-sale racket with impunity.
At this rate, this Supreme Court of judicial bandits may give us a “Supreme Court president,” that is, a person who comes fourth (a la Hope Uzodinma of Imo State) in the presidential election but who has enough money to “ask for” a favorable judgement from the two-bit mercenary charlatans at the Supreme Court