Between the Politicization of Nigeria’s Judiciary and the Judicialization of Nigerian Politics, By Magnus Onyibe

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The ascent of judicial activism in the apex court aligns with the judiciary’s increasing involvement in Nigeria’s political landscape, which has prompted concerns among Nigerians about the potential repercussions of the judiciary taking on the role of determining political leadership , by potentially supplanting the electorate in this crucial decision-making process.

The growing trend of the judiciary, rather than the electorate, determining the majority of those in the commanding heights of power undermines the voters, whose ballots now carry diminished significance.
Adjunct to that is the fact that the increasing influence of activists within the Supreme Court poses a threat to the stability of the third branch of government, prompting the executive branch to swiftly intervene in order to prevent further radicalization within the upper echelons of the interpretative society.

The restiveness among jurists in the Supreme Court seems to be rooted in issues such as manpower shortages, inadequate remuneration, and a structural imbalance that centralizes administrative power solely in the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.

Before delving into the ongoing solutions to this dilema, it is crucial to understand how we arrived at our current undesirable situation.

Two distinct patterns of development are currently influencing and characterizing the Nigerian judicial landscape. The initial aspect involves the increasing activism in the Supreme Court, highlighted by Supreme Court Justice Mohammed Dattijo’s unveiling of the flaws within the apex court during his valedictory speech.

The retiring distinguished jurist’s alarming disclosure mirrors a familiar trend of sleaze of corruption that accompanied the departure of the most recent Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Mohamed Tanko This sordid revelation, delivered by the second-highest-ranking jurist in the Supreme Court hierarchy, can be likened to a Nunc dimittis, or at the very least, a vote of no confidence in the Nigerian judiciary.

A similar wave of criticism sparked and finalized the departure of CJN Tanko’s predecessor, ex-CJN Walter Onnoghen, who was accused of improper conduct in his role as CJN, although some argue that he was framed, seemingly to remove him from the position.

Another concerning trend is the increasing interference of the judiciary or legal institutions in the electorate’s role. Despite voters going to the polling booths on election days, their votes often seem inconsequential because the courts ultimately decide the winners of electoral contests.

This claim is supported by the fact that nearly all contested offices in the February 25 and March 11 elections have either been or are currently under dispute in the legal system. The losers are appealing these cases, as reported by Professor Mahmud Yakubu, the chairman of the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who decried the unprecedented large number of litigations on elections 2023.

Apparently, the trend began to take shape following the release of election results in October as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s confirmation of President Bola Tinubu’s victory which marked a pivotal moment, solidifying him as the legitimate and democratically elected president of Nigeria on 25 February 2023.

However, the fate of several governors and numerous lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels, that also participated in the elections on both 25 February and 11 March,remains uncertain even eight months after their engagement in the general elections.

Right now,in addition to Nasarawa state, recent developments have led to the review or annulment of results of gubernatorial elections conducted in Zamfara, Kano, and Plateau states

Over the past few weeks and days , the appeals courts have been overturning initial INEC declarations in favor of candidates earlier deemed to be the losers as they have been rendering rulings canceling elections or instructing reruns in specific local government areas. This dynamic situation underscores the ongoing complexity and uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of elections 2023.

The quartet of governors whose elections have been overturned , with the possibility of more joining the fray, will inevitably engage in legal battles in the Supreme Court to see if they can retain their mandate through the apex court in our country,sooner or later.

Apart from the election of the four governors that has been quashed , numerous other elections held in the first quarter of the year, especially those involving legislators, remain pending decisions in the courts even as the candidates involved are eagerly awaiting the judiciary’s verdict to determine their fates.

In light of all the unfolding strange developments, as a member of the commentariat , I am advocating for a reconsideration of the nomenclature used to describe the current political leadership system in Nigeria This system, as presently practiced, lacks the qualities that would justify it being labeled as a democracy.

Basically, there are various types of political systems across the globe. The primary categories acknowledged: are democracies, totalitarian regimes, and bridging the gap between these extremes are authoritarian regimes that often exhibit a blend of characteristics of the aforementioned systems

Monarchies also constitute another distinct category within political systems, either as independent entities or as hybrid systems incorporating elements from the aforementioned three main types.

Clearly, taken from the optics of the current dynamics, the governance system in our country does not align with the classical definition of democracy—government of the people, by the people, for the people. Instead, the current process of selecting political leaders through court rulings seems to be underpinned by the idea of government over the people by the oligarchs chosen by the judiciary.
This deviation from universal democratic principles is a significant aberration that is worrying to me, and l believe all men and women of goodwill.

It’s concerning that the governance system taking shape in our country doesn’t even neatly align with oligarchy, which is a government led by the wealthy. Instead, what’s emerging seems to be a hybrid, and it appears somewhat amorphous.

Perhaps this sheds light on why President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, which began its leadership journey in Nigeria just six months ago (precisely on May 29), is stepping in to address the concerning decline in the governance system.

As if walking the talk,President Tinubu’s administration has prompted the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) to release a list on Thursday, November 16th. The list includes the names of twenty-two (22) judges from the Court of Appeal who are seeking elevation to the Supreme Court.

The nominees on the list hail from different geopolitical zones across the country, and the number of candidates varies for each zone based on its current representation on the Supreme Court bench. Presently, the Supreme Court operates with only 10 justices, shouldering the workload meant for a full complement of 21 members.

To rectify this, there are 11 vacancies that require filling in order to meet the statutory requirement of a complete 21-member Supreme Court.

If and when this intention materializes, it would mark a crucial step towards de-radicalizing the Supreme Court. As we are all well aware, the constitutional role of the apex court is that it is the guardian and interpreter of the constitution, rather than the institution that selects political leaders for Nigerians which it has gradually become. Notably, the Supreme Court has never achieved the milestone of having its full complement of justices, which is 21, but under President Tinubu’s watch that is about to happen.

During the inauguration of a flyover bridge and magistrates court facility in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on 3rd and 4th May,President Bola Ahmed Tinubu made a commitment to rejuvenate the judiciary. This promise was also recently reiterated during his recent investment presentation to Saudi Arabian authorities at the Africa-Saudi Arabia Economic Summit.

In the course of making his pitch to potential investors,Mr. President had pledged that corruption, which is a malfeasance that Nigeria’s image is tarred with, would be eradicated during his tenure as Nigeria’s president. It is a commitment that he initially made when he was president-elect before his inauguration on May 29 and which he has further validated in Germany during the ongoing meeting of African leaders with German authorities and business leaders .

For the first time in Nigeria’s history, assuming all goes as planned, the nation is on the verge of having a complete set of Supreme Court justices which is a development that would relieve the current ten (10) the burden of work overload currently discomfiting the eminent jurists.

Isn’t it remarkable that President Tinubu oversaw such a positive development in the judiciary? In many aspects, this initiative bears resemblance to the actions of the late President Musa Yar’adua. After his election in 2007, marred by irregularities, he took the step of establishing the Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais Commission.

That commission was tasked with the responsibility of reforming the electoral system, aiming to address the discredit that tainted the process that brought him into power.

The commission is on record for coming up with and presenting numerous proposals that could have significantly aided our country in navigating the intricate , volatile, and acrimonious electioneering process.

Unfortunately, most of the recommendations from the Uwais commission were not incorporated into the Electoral Act of 2022. This omission has resulted in the ongoing calamity that continues to afflict our process of recruiting public office holders.

After Elections 2023 defined and capped by President Tinubus’s arduous battle to validate his mandate in both Nigerian and United States courts (across the Atlantic Ocean), he seems resolute in bringing sanity to the Nigerian political system. This determination is evident in his ongoing efforts to reform the judiciary. Perhaps efforts aimed at tightening the loose ends in the Electoral Act 2022 would follow shortly, but the work seems to have commenced with giving the judiciary the muscle that it needs to perform optimally, in light of the deluge of political matters being litigated and crowding out matters related to society and commerce.

In this case, he is currently not fortifying the electoral laws as Yar’adua did in 2007, which is a feat that his predecessor in 2015 , President Muhammadu Buhari, attempted to emulate through the Electoral Act of 2022.

Unfortunately, it is the nebulous nature of the rules in the reformed Electoral Act 2022 that has placed the country in a precarious situation primarily due to the electoral umpire’s dependence on technology, specifically the Bimodal Voting and Accreditation Systems (BVAS) and Independent Results Viewing (IReV) portals, both of which have proven to be failures as they are mainly the basis for most of the legal challenges of the results of the elections by aggrieved political actors .

So, by and large ,President Tinubu is prioritizing the stabilization of the judiciary to mitigate its increasing radicalism and activism reflected by the growing interference of the bar and bench in Nigeria’s political affairs, particularly in encroaching upon the electorate’s role of choosing their leaders through the ballot boxes during elections.

In the current Nigerian context, individuals holding positions in the legal profession, both as lawyers and judges, are highly esteemed. But analysts are asserting that a considerable number of them are benefiting from a competitive financial exchange among politicians.

This exchange occurs as politicians strive to surpass each other in their attempts to secure coveted political offices. Unfortunately, the emphasis is not on gaining the electorate’s mandate, as it should be, but rather on who can entice the legal professionals with the highest financial incentives.

The current reality is that governors whose legal cases have been adjudicated upon and concluded, with judgments awaiting later announcements, are experiencing heightened anxiety. This situation mirrors the tension in auction sessions, where participants strive to increase their bid prices in the face of strong challenges from others vying to outbid them.

The current situation has reached such an absurd level, to the extent that trust in both the electoral and judicial systems has regressed to the chaos seen in the pre-2007 Umaru Musa Yar’adua election debacle, prompting the formation of the Justice Lawal Uwais commission tasked with reforming the electoral system as earlier detailed.

In essence, since February and March, most candidates vying for political office through the ballot have been anxiously awaiting the judgment of the courts. So they have been finding themselves on the edge of their seats, with their hearts figuratively in their mouths, concerned about the fate of their careers.

This means that the destiny of a significant number of political aspirants now rests in the hands of lawyers and judges, effectively swapping roles with the Nigerian electorate, whether by omission or commission.

At this point, let’s delve deeper into the activism observed among distinguished jurists in the apex court—a rare occurrence in the history of Nigeria’s judiciary. It is essential to explore this aspect before transitioning our discussion to a new phenomenon: the appropriation or misappropriation of the rights of Nigerian voters by courts, lawyers, and judges in determining leadership.

It is a settled matter that the decisions regarding who is elected or not elected into public office are now being made by members of the interpretative community, also known as the judiciary.

While some observers in the judicial sector argue that eminent jurists critiquing the actions and inactions of their fellow bench members is problematic, others contend that it reflects the maturation of our judiciary Previously, members behaved as if part of a secret cult, turning a blind eye and remaining silent about inner-circle occurrences in the judicial system. However, a shift began when some members started to speak up.

The current situation in Nigeria’s judicial system versus the judicialization of politics raises the question of which phenomenon came first: politicization or judicialization? The bottom line is that it is whether it is politicization or judicialization that precedes the other in the hierarchy of occurrences, which is currently a matter of speculation and thus warrants further interrogation .

As earlier pointed out , there is a consensus of opinion that these developments were triggered by the widespread concern among Nigerians that their opinions via their votes were not being adequately reflected. This concern arose because nearly all election events in Nigeria end up in the courts, with many cases reaching the Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter.
The president of the court of appeal, justice Monica Bolna’an Dongban – Mensem
had raised the alarm that the court’s dockets are dominated by political issues.
What is undeniable is that through the process of adjudication, courts ultimately determine who is qualified to hold political office in our beloved country, a departure from the electorate’s intentions. For example, individuals who exercised their right to vote on February 25 and March 11 found that some candidates declared winners by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had their victories overturned.
Had president Tinubu not fought valiantly to avoid his case determined by the technicalities such as his academic certificate being the original issued by CSU or not he too would been a victim of the unfolding trend of winning the votes and being stripped of the mandate of the votes by the courts based on technicalities which are whimsical and capricious in nature.

Despite the optimism surrounding the provisions in the Electoral Act of 2022 and the 2018 amendment to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, aimed at addressing identified abnormalities in the electoral process, the Supreme Court has once again emerged as the ultimate arbiter for the 2023 general elections with respect to governors and the president and the appeal court as the final stage for legislators

The expectation that the judiciary would refrain from encroaching upon the electorate’s role this time was based on the belief that the electoral system had become highly transparent. It was anticipated that the election outcomes would be less prone to dispute, thanks to the integration of technologies such as the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal into our electoral processes.

It is quite disappointing that the expectation among Nigerians that the courts would refrain from interfering with the process of choosing their leaders has been shattered. Unfortunately, what was hoped to be an ambitious yet achievable goal has proven otherwise, as resorting to the courts has apparently become the norm rather than the exception.

On top of that disappointment,it is also rather disheartening that the widespread use of legal channels has become prevalent, which is a stark contrast to the initial optimism that technology would act as a safeguard against the electoral fraud that has plagued our electoral system since the return to multi party democracy in 1999. Additionally, the hope for a change in the selection of political leaders this time stems from the reformation of the Electoral Act in 2022. Despite these anticipations, the current scenario suggests a departure from the envisioned improvement.

The increased transparency in the electoral system, as perceived by most election enthusiasts, was expected to bring a higher level of integrity to the process of selecting our political leaders. This, in turn, led to the belief that candidates vying for political office would have fewer reasons to challenge election results in court.

This perspective is rooted in the recognition that resorting to legal action after elections has been a detrimental phenomenon in Nigeria, depriving the electorate of their rightful ability to choose their leaders. Pursuing redress through claims and counterclaims of electoral fraud not only shifts the power of the electorate to the judiciary but has also proven to be a lucrative venture for both legal practitioners and judges.
And it would appear as if members of the legal profession, both on the bar and bench, have been enjoying the privilege of usurping the roles of citizens who have fulfilled their civil responsibilities by voting at polling stations. However, these votes often end up not counting, as the courts ultimately decide the outcomes.

For example, in a recent speech, former President Muhammadu Buhari highlighted that in the four instances he ran for the presidency of Nigeria, he found himself in the Supreme Court three times, attempting to secure the mandate he believed he had lost to his opponents through alleged manipulations.

President Buhari’s courtroom experiences are more common than rare in Nigeria. That is because the trend extends to various politicians who ascend to governorship without conventionally campaigning, as exemplified by cases such as the emergence of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as governor of Rivers State, and Mr. Hope Uzodinma, the current governor of Imo State. Notably, Uzodinma secured the fourth position in the 2019 election according to INEC results but was later declared the governor by the Supreme Court several months after the INEC-declared winner, Emeka Ihiedioha had taken the oath of office as governor.

The perplexing verdicts handed down by the Supreme Court in Rivers and Imo states, as highlighted earlier, mirror similar situations in political contests throughout the country currently playing out in 2023 unless the Supreme Court overturns appeal courts decisions.

The judiciary’s apparent encroachment on the people’s power to elect their leaders has piqued my curiosity and motivated the authorship of several articles on the matter, yet the referenced cases remain a mystery

During the final days of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, a memo or petition was penned by disgruntled Supreme Court justices. This document brought attention to the purported incapacity of the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mohammed Tanko, and highlighted the deplorable welfare conditions of the justices.

The radical left, often referred to as activist jurists in the apex court, deserves credit for bringing about the appointment of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Kayode Ariwoola, who replaced the aging Mohammad Tanko.

Following this change, there were adjustments made to the salaries, welfare packages, and working conditions of the justices as per their demands.

Interestingly, the same activist jurists from the Supreme Court who played a pivotal role in Justice Ariwoola’s emergence are now vocal critics, accusing him of autocracy. This shift in perspective can be seen as a form of poetic justice or retribution in the judiciary community.

Certainly, Nigeria isn’t the first jurisdiction where members of the Supreme Court face public criticism for their actions or inactions. Consider the Supreme Court judgment commonly referred to as Roe v. Wade, wherein the highest court in the USA changed its stance on abortion which is a century old law , for example. Americans who believe in abortion were shell shocked, yet they had to come to terms with it.

Another example involves allegations that certain Supreme Court members were socializing with wealthy individuals who provided them with vacations, rides in private jets, and yacht outings, leading to a substantial amount of negative commentary

News outlets, including ProPublica, have extensively covered luxurious trips taken by Clarence Thomas, funded by Texas businessman Harlan Crow. Additionally, there have been investigations into real estate dealings between Justice Thomas and the billionaire Republican donor.

A Senate Democrats’ report revealed that Thomas allegedly neglected to repay a substantial portion of a $267,230 loan from his longtime friend, Anthony Welters, which was intended for the purchase of a luxury motor coach.

ProPublica, the news platform in the USA,also disclosed an unreported 2008 flight taken by conservative Justice Samuel Alito. The flight was provided by billionaire hedge fund founder Paul Singer for a lavish fishing trip in Alaska.

Other media reports have similarly delved into a real estate transaction involving conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and the CEO of a major law firm. Additionally, there have been accounts of aides promoting the sale of books by liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor in conjunction with her public speaking engagements.
So, accusations of members of the Temple of Justice of improper behavior are not peculiar to Nigeria but universal.

Although the breach of the new code of conduct does not attract sanctions, as it is expected that the eminent jurists would self-regulate, it is commendable that the Supreme Court justices, even though they are considered next to God as the final arbiters in the discharge of justice here on earth, recognize that they would appear to be above the law if they had no compunctions.

Returning to the situation in Nigeria, it is important to stress that perhaps the rise of activist jurists was inspired by incidents that occurred during the run-up to the 2019 re-election bid of the immediate past administration.

During his presentation at the media industry leaders’ retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the National Security Adviser, NSA Nuhu Ribadu, characterized the government inherited by the current administration as a bankrupt economy which is a reinforcement of the negative portrayals of Buhari’s administration, which was already negative even in the first term from 2015 to 2019.
The scenario described above was an imperative for jurists to assert their independence and ensure their survival through activism.

Notably, also a significant factor is the reality that some high-ranking members of the judiciary had been arrested by security operatives during the previous administration. They were apprehended in a manner reminiscent of the Gestapo. These arrests were presumably made on dubious charges, including the alleged possession of foreign currencies discovered during searches conducted in their residences by security agencies, making them more resentful of the system

The current NSA,Ribadu, appears to have chosen a different and less confrontational approach to security matters as he has been deferring to respect for the rule of law . This is evident in how swiftly he addressed the recent conflict with the organized labor union that had called a nationwide strike action following the brutalization of Nigerian Labor Congress,NLC by politicians in his homestead,lmo state.

Many thanks to Ribadu’s actions, the conflict situation was resolved promptly, preventing the escalation of the industrial action.
At first, it did not seem that there were activist jurists within the Supreme Court, such as Justice Mohamed Datijo, who recently retired. Until he opened up a Pandora’s box during his valedictory speech, where in he openly discussed issues that the apex court had been accused of, not many realize that there was a sort of molting magma waiting to erupt in the judiciary branch of government.

It’s worth recalling that, in defense of the Supreme Court amid previous controversial rulings and the resulting damage to its public perception, Dr. Akande, the court’s spokesperson, emphasized that the judiciary’s engagement in political issues is not a choice made by the third branch of government.

Rather, it is an undesirable responsibility thrust upon it by politicians. These politicians, due to the absence of internal democracy in the conduct of their party primaries and the unclear laws in the laws regulating general elections, frequently end up in court to address significant conflicts.

What could be more absurd than the Court of Appeal declaring that the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) governorship candidate, who was declared the winner of the March 11 election in Kano State, was not a bona fide member of the party before being given the mandate to contest for the position of governor?

A straightforward remedy towards addressing the issue of poorly conducted elections involves implementing a cutoff date for launching election challenges in court and incorporating technology into the electoral process, as outlined in the Electoral Act of 2022.

But the reforms , in light of the current quagmire, are far from ideal, as evidenced by the substantial number of disgruntled participants from the 2023 elections currently embroiled in court proceedings. This surge in litigation has overwhelmed the legal system, with political actors flooding the courts. Consequently, this has adversely impacted the timely resolution of other societal matters that require legal attention.

To enhance the effectiveness of the electoral process, apart from appointing a full compliment of 21 Supreme Court justices ,one potential solution could be the establishment of dedicated election courts, as recommended by the Uwais Commission. Surprisingly, this recommendation was not included in the electoral process reforms of 2022.

Also, efforts should be made to enhance the clarity and fairness of pre-election procedures, particularly within party primaries. This is crucial to prevent undesirable outcomes, such as situations where the candidates selected as flag bearers lack authenticity as bonafide members of the party.

A notable example is the case of the NNPP governor of Kano State, whose legitimacy as a candidate was contested in the appeals court. It was revealed that he was not a duly registered member of the NNPP, the party on whose platform he contested the election.

In conclusion, members of the political class need to break away from the habit of resorting to the courts to secure mandates that they failed to obtain through electoral processes of being voted for by members of their constituents .

This tendency has led to some political office holders being mockingly labeled as ‘Supreme Court-made.’ Instead, they should take a cue from leaders like George Weah, the president of Liberia. Mr Weah, after facing defeat in a presidential election and a subsequent re-run, graciously congratulated his opponent, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai. This demonstrates a mature and statesmanlike approach to accepting electoral outcomes.

It is quite commendable that President Weah chose not to take the matter to court to avoid wasting the time of the people of Liberia, raising false hopes among his supporters, and inflaming tensions. He chose not to heat up the polity despite the close margin of victory by his opponent . In the spirit of good sportsmanship, he graciously accepted defeat and saved Liberians that anguish that unending fights in law courts by Nigerian politicians foist on their supporters in Nigeria.

This noble gesture by President George Weah demonstrates a candid approach to politics, in stark contrast to the cutthroat nature often seen in Nigerian politics.

Other political figures should take note and refrain from engaging in unnecessary pursuits in courts , sparing us from futile endeavors like attempting to prove the alleged falseness of President Tinubu’s academic certificate, reminiscent of the prolonged scrutiny faced by President Buhari over his elementary school certificates.

Relying on trivial matters, such as the authenticity of academic certificates, to challenge an opponent’s election victory not only seems mundane and anachronistic,but also calls for a reconsideration of the provision of such in our country’s statutes book .
The condition in 1999 requiring candidates to present academic certificates when seeking political office may need to be reviewed to eliminate the undue focus on such issues.

As highlighted in previous articles, having academic qualifications is not a prerequisite for seeking public office in consequential countries like the USA, UK, France, Germany, bastions of democracy,and even Russia and China, which do not strongly adhere to liberal democracy principles also do not make such demand of public office seekers .
Why should Nigeria continue to uphold this provision, which holds no real value?

This is a question that the government, especially the executive and legislative branches, must urgently address with a sense of patriotism in ensuring that the requirement is delisted from the constitution.

Taking such action would spare our country the negative reputation that was attracted by the contentious legal dispute between former Vice President of Nigeria, Abubakar Atiku, the presidential candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP), and President Tinubu in the USA. It is a dispute revolving around President Tinubu’s attendance at Chicago State University, CSU, USA, or lack thereof simply because he had lost the original certificate issued to him by CSU. And what makes it so absurd is that the nasty fight happened even after his academic transcript was presented by the institution.

The recent legal controversy highlighted to me the excessive importance Nigerians attach to paper qualifications, in contrast to advanced societies where emphasis is placed on experience and academic transcripts as indicators of academic capacity.

This situation also reveals the absurdity of using such trivial matters as the grounds for overturning an election after incurring significant costs for Nigerian taxpayers running into billions of naira to conduct the elections. Unfortunately, it is the lack of funds in the economy that has contributed to a staggering 133 million Nigerians experiencing multidimensional poverty. Furthermore, it is a lack of buoyancy in the economy that more than 20 million children are out of school, which is evidence of the combined challenges of poverty and insecurity in our country .

Incidentally, it is not only the epic court battle recently fought between president Bola Tinubu and former vice president Atiku Abubakar across the Atlantic ocean from Nigeria to the USA courts that is the first such clash between political timbers and caliber in Nigeria,to borrow the phrase made popular by chief K.O Mbadiwe, one time ambassador plenipotentiary of Nigeria. As the saying goes , history always repeats itself.
As records have revealed , a similar battle for political office in Nigeria had been fought all the way from Nigeria to London between Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then leader of the party in western Nigeria and Chief Samuel Akintola the premier, alongside the Governor of western region,Oba Adesoji Aderemi, who was also then Ooni of lfe. Also in the equation is Alhaji Dauda Ishola Soroye Adegbenro,the man primed up to replace the governor,amongst other political juggernauts in the western region.

Before Nigeria became a republic in 1963, there was a court higher than the current Supreme Court of Nigeria. It was located in London and it used to go by the name : The Privy Council.
Since the colonial court was located in London, since it is the final arbiter, the combatants-Awolowo, Akintola,Aderemi, Adegbenro after exhausting their options in the epic legal battle in Nigeria, they moved across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe where their contest in court made the headlines of Uk tabloids and New York Times in the early 1960s.
The narrative above is gleaned from a nostalgic look into the past by prince Toyin Olugbade whose deep dive into the evolution of political leaders in western region and their remarkable face-off in local and offshore courts of law,was widely shared recently .
The striking thing about that revelation is that there is nothing new under the sun .
That assertion is underscored by the fact that the type of bittter legal battle that took place between president Tinubu and former vice president Atiku Abubakar before the curtain was drawn on elections 2023, had been wagged some sixty one (61) years ago between Chiefs Awolowo, Akintola,and Oba Aderemi as well as Alhaji Adegbenro under similar political circumstances.

The beauty of it all is that at that time , the brilliance of the jurists involved as reflected by the dexterity of the legal luminaries , sir Adetokunbo Ademola, then Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN ,the legendary Chief Rotimi Williams, and Mr S. lghodaro , Chief Akin Olugbade as well as the political sagacity of Nigerian politicians of yore were on display to the admiration of all those that witnessed it.

It is rather disappointing that the same or similar astuteness in law can not be said to have been exhibited by the attorney’s that prosecuted the Wazirin Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu court debacle that also saw the case being taken across the Atlantic Ocean into the US before it was brought to a final closure in Nigeria .
It is unsurprising that the jurists in the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) and the Supreme Court that presided at different stages over the matter were also not enamored by the quality of jurisprudence displayed.

● Magnus Onyibe,an entrepreneur,public policy analyst ,author,democracy advocate,development strategist,alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,Tufts University, Massachusetts,USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos, Nigeria.
To continue with this conversation and more ,please visit www.magnum.ng

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