Justice Tanko: The Burden Of Judicial Neutrality – Maiwada Dammallam
With equally powerful and just as unrelenting political opponents vying for the affirmation of the Supreme Court to either actualise or sustain various mandates on the schedule of the Court, hardly would anyone envy the Justices of apex Court least of all, the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the highest ranking jurist of the court.
Even without saying, it’s easy to assume all contenders in almost every case brought before a court of any ranking for adjudication, expect justice to swing their way by hook or by crook. It is this subscription that makes the job of Judges tricky and cumbersome while the crooks among them make it worse. This is where Justice Tanko stand tall among his peers; restoring confidence to the bench while keeping an eagle’s eye on the bar.
Justice Tanko made his mark early enough and loud enough to express the neutrality of the Supreme Court and provide the needed confidence among politicians to rely on the judiciary for fairness while in pursuit of their ambitions. And of course, not without, simultaneously, telling the unscrupulous among them that the days of perpetrating impunity and seeking for shelter under the flowing robes of Judges is over.
Against all expectations, the Supreme Court, under Justice Tanko Muhammad, gave victory to PDP — from top to bottom — in Zamfara State, a very critical state fully subscribed to the APC/Buhari for as long as anybody could recall. The landmark judgement was an unprecedented judicial feat even to those either wearing their thinking caps wrongly or wearing none at all. It left the PDP beneficiaries more mesmerized and dumbfounded.
The Wadata Plaza accolades that greeted the Zamfara verdict on the Zamfara State imbroglio almost painted the taciturn and highly principled jurist as the National Chairman of the PDP rather than the unbiased Chief Justice of the Federation that he is. Many people were tempted to believe the insults and allegations of corruption and nepotism that greeted the appointed of Justice Tanko sponsored by the PDP were only a figment of their imaginations.
With a single stroke of the gavel, Justice Tanko recovered all his professional integrity and moral uprightness staked and bastardized by the PDP to protest the sacking of the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen who was caught pants down changing the job description of the office of the CJN to a little more than that of a Bureau de Change.
As it turned out, PDP is the best beneficiary of President Buhari’s wisdom in avoiding the boobytrap that was CJN Onnoghen. I doubt if Zamfara State would be in the kitty of the PDP if Justice Onnoghen (rtd) is still calling the shots at the apex court. The moral settings of the apex court might’ve remain what it was complete with the tendencies that striped it of public respectability. It’s also likely that almost 300,000 disenfranchised voters in 388 polling units of Imo State wouldn’t have recovered their invalidated votes to have leaders they believe are cut for their developmental aspirations.
Nigerians should be thankful to President Buhari for having he wisdom and strength of character to appoint a Chief Justice of the Federation who’s not afraid to step on toes of even the ruling party. Now politicians are careful to invest their funds in rigging elections because of Justice Tanko and the culture of fairness he revived in the judiciary. Just like President Buhari, he’s for everybody and belongs to nobody.
The rich debates provoked by the Supreme Court verdict on Imo State clearly proved a new respect for the apex court. Majority of those who disagreed with the judgement did so on the basis of their political sentiments and or worse, just to affirm their allegiance to an “oath of wailing” members of the PDP seem sworn to.
The purpose of this piece is not to eulogize Justice Tanko but to expose Nigerians to the cumbersomeness of judicial supervision of a complex society like Nigeria. No matter the facts of a case, many people would argue the case to suit their sentiments and convenience. There are some that argue a case without even knowing the details — same as arguing details of a movie without watching it — it’s that bad! And if anything, that’s why Nigeria should be happy for having a CJN fully subscribed to the oath of his office and fearless to express it.
In the next few days Nigerians would enter another round of judicial review after the apex court’s decision on Sokoto, Kano, Bauchi is put on the table. It’s advisable to understand that facts and figures at the disposal of the Supreme Court Judges are always finer and more reliable than those obtainable on the internet. A clear example of confusing analysis that may be provided to deliberately or ignorantly challenge the integrity of the judiciary was the beautiful albeit, angry and inconsistent opinion of ace journalist, Segun Adeniyi.
Adeniyi must have lost his cool and composure due to his close friendship with the sacked Governor of Imo State, Ihedioha. He might have raised pertinent questions relevant to the case but, somehow he refused to provide critical details to make a complete sense of his opinion. Even more important, he pretended not to know that Judges work with only facts at their disposal. For instance, it’s not for the Judges of the SC to ask why Udozinma score more votes in the 388 polling units invalidated which the court revalidated. Their responsibility is only for them to ascertain the votes were legit. Ditto, it’s not for them to ask why Udozinma’s APC didn’t win any House of Assembly seat in the state. That’s for APC to determine and improve its chances in future. This is saying, the arithmetic of injustice seen by Adeniyi is probably visibly only from his elevation and not the higher more reliable elevation of the jurists that gave the verdict.
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