By Taoheed Ajao
This column had earlier posited that politics in Nigeria presented a Theatre of the Absurd much in the context of Albert Camus philosophy that life is inherently without meaning by attacking the “comfortable certainties of religious, social and political orthodoxy.”
In the same way that the Theatre of the Absurd among existentialists promotes the idea of human existence and freedom as the most celebrated aspects of living – that is, to be of more fundamental importance to the individual than essence and rationality in an unfathomable world – political engagement in Nigeria, is being promoted to be beneficial only in the realm of the individual, having been abstracted from service to the people and gradually dissevered from its linkages to occupational honour and nobility. It is thereby, rendered as a nonsensical, chaotic and ultimately, meaningless endeavour!
In the political realm in Nigeria, almost anything goes; virtually any method can be applied to reach a goal and no institution or organ of government is immune from the corrosive effect of politics. Apart from there being no ideological differentiations among the political parties, the political class in Nigeria represents virtually a determinate number of people – say about a million or so party faithful – who crisscross the parties at convenient times to seek brighter political fortunes. The rest of the electorates are the voting public – sometimes apathetic, oftentimes conniving with the political class – who the politicians are able to convince and entice with more than word of mouth. It therefore, occasions no surprise that loyalty or fidelity to causes is rare among most politicians.
Let’s again dissect the anatomy of the latest in the series of absurdities that have defined the political landscape in Nigeria lately. The Friday, 14th of October order of Justice Okon Abang, of the Abuja High Court affirming Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim’s claim as the authentic Peoples’ Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate for the forthcoming November 26, 2016 election in Ondo State, raises a few questions of which, two are most salient: first question is, what should be the ultimate end of law and secondly, should orders, rulings and judgments of the judiciary – presumably grounded on law – be at jarring philosophical dissonance with the present Buhari administration’s high moral ground especially, during his present anticorruption crusade?
If to the extent that law is the regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic application of the force of politically organized societies – that is nations, countries, communities – to that extent should the application of law be informed by the nature of man and his experience; thus, the very end of law itself should be geared towards the ennoblement of man in the search for peaceful cohabitation and enhancing the dignity of man. Either in its punitive or reformatory essence, law’s ultimate goal should be to nudge society towards a more refined consciousness of rights and their limitations among and between persons, organizations and governments.
When law deviates from this path, it creates doubts about its fairness and relevance to society; it over-celebrates its proverbial status-blindness more than adhering to its flipside of equity and impartiality; it sacrifices commonsensical considerations at the altar of mechanistic application of law and ultimately, it destroys the fabric of society because it corrupts the grandeur and nobility of jurisprudence. For example, it is common knowledge that the chairman of a political party does not determine the authenticity or otherwise of the candidature of any contestant before INEC; such determinations are functions of rigid adherence to procedural guidelines laid out by extant electoral laws which INEC must partly certify by its presence through the process of primary emergence. Therefore, the originating suit filed by Poroye, who holds himself out as a PDP factional chairman, should not have encompassed the determination of who the authentic candidate of the PDP should be, as to do this, should have been ultra vires of the judge in this instance!
Even if one discountenances the trail of criticisms which of late, usually greet the Abuja Federal High Court Judge, Justice Okon Abang’s rulings – such as the Appellate court’s characterization of his orders during the Abia State governorship matter as being equivalent to turning the head of law upside down; making grossly erroneous judgments amounting to “nullity and miscarriage of justice”; and speaking from both sides of his mouth – the interlocutory injunction given and which purports to nullify the judgment obtained from a court of coordinate jurisdiction at the Port Harcourt Federal High Court, confirms that he and kinswoman, late Justice Bassey Ikpeme of the FCT High Court must share a commonality much more than of ethnicity!
Remember Bassey Ikpeme? She it was, who gave that midnight order at the prompting of a shadowy group called Association for Better Nigerians, ABN, led by Arthur Nzeribe, in furtherance of a sinister prolongation agenda – which ironically, the Justice herself did not live to witness – to stop NEC barely 48 hours before conducting the presidential election of June 12, 1993! Apart from the issue of legal technicalities, there is the overriding interest of the commonweal in the dispensation of justice. How can justice be served when it is in direct conflict with the peoples’ interest and morality? How can any arm of the judiciary validate an open boast by a political contrarian to clinch executive power in Nigeria through legal ambush? It is not a secret in Ondo State politics that the political trajectory of Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim since 2003 has been characterized by false starts and sudden dropouts, fringe engagements underscored by the ceaseless pursuit of executive power via intrigues. He has always not been enamored of going the whole hog in the electioneering requirement, preferring to wait in ambush to exploit any technicalities of law through the judicial process.
From neither being a certified PDP member at his ward nor local government, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, formerly ensconced in his political nest in the Accord Party, swooped down to cash in on the chairmanship tussle between Senators Ahmed Markarfi and Modu Sheriff in the PDP from where he envisaged he could hijack power, not by submitting himself to the electorate but, by fanning the embers of disunity and oiling the wheel of endless litigation! And for good measure, he has found a listening ear in Justice Abang Okon who, seemingly unbothered that Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim has little political followership and not minding whether the purported primary election that produced Ibrahim took place in Jupiter or Mars, usually upheld the legitimacy of Ibrahim’s faction in all his rulings.
Alarmingly and against the recent move to purge the judiciary of corrupt judges by the Buhari administration, does it not raise eyebrows that despite the serial judicial oddities that pass as rulings, the bizarreness of the legal templates employed and the several instances of judicial overreaching lodged against Justice Abang Okon, the Abuja High Court judge, still dispenses these travesties of justice with undiminished relish? Does this not present a jarring philosophical dissonance with an administration that is desirous of blowing its ethical trumpet at the deafening decibel of zero-tolerance for corruption?
One thing though is certain: no earthly or man-made barrier can stop the force of righteousness. Man can only propose but God only disposes. By this reckless and thoughtless bastardization of our once revered institution, nay, the last refuge of the common man, are Nigerians, just like in the days of Abacha of frightful memory, not veering towards a precipice? May God help us all!