A Supreme Court of crises? By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu
Supreme Court

The recent assault by a clearly hired mob on the residence of Her Lordship, Justice Mary Odili, JSC, is to put it quite mildly, a very sore point for our embattled nation and democracy.

According to media reports of the incident, the mob had converged on the learned justice’s otherwise very well shielded residence, ostensibly to protest her role in the Supreme Court’s reversal of the initially declared victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Bayelsa State governorship contest.

Coming after several other equally quite troubling incidents bothering on threats to the sanctity of the nation’s judicial institution, it is one assault that this newspaper affirms must be put in proper perspective even as remedial actions and initiatives should be put in place to ensure that this troubling genie remains bottled.

Indeed, as we see it, the challenge posed by the current twist in affairs is indeed most enervating, if not ominous. It requires that all lovers of democracy in the land should frontally condemn it and take steps to ensure it never happens again.

To be sure, the crisis is one that is clearly cross-cutting. It is one that has grown quite deep and cross-partisan that it would require very deep surgery to resolve and fix.

Recall that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in the wake of the overturning of the results of the Imo State Governorship polls approached the apex court to request that the learned justices should take a second look at their initial judgment. The party also asked the court to reinstate its candidate, Chief Emeka Ihedioha.

While these would be considered as normal and perhaps legitimate, the addition of open public protests to the fray clearly comes across as a new and quite troubling dimension in the overall saga. This is because while our legal jurisprudence had in the past witnessed one or more instances where judgments of courts at the most senior levels had drawn some flak with some indeed even remaining contentious till date, the current resort to challenging court rulings on the streets speaks volumes about the health of our polity and it’s grave threat to both the institutions of democracy and governance in the land and by extension to those who work the systems on the behalf of all of us.

But even if the antics of the PDP are to be mildly explained (not rationalized) as the rumbling of a provoked opposition party, the public umbrage against the apex court’ ruling on the Bayelsa Governorship dispute by the Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is himself a former governor and in that capacity was also head of the Executive Branch of Government in his state, is manifestly system-defeating.

Pray, how does the chairman of a ruling party begin to make disparaging comments on institutions of state that his party is foresworn to defend simply because he is dissatisfied with the lawful exercise of its functions under the law? Does he not remember the very trite point that all operators of the system in a democracy are primarily accountable to the Constitution of the land?

When we place Mr. Oshiomhole’s wild gesticulations in the related context of the earlier conduct of another notable leader of his party and incumbent Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Timipre Sylva, who had reportedly also used similarly unsavoury and unprintable words against a judge in an earlier election-related matter, then we can see that we may really be caught up in a troubling situation where the body language of several leaders of the ruling party may very clearly be veering on the undemocratic.

While it could be argued that this may be an over-extended conclusion given that other APC members like the Minister, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN and its former National Legal Adviser, Mr. Muiz Banire, SAN have made more sobering remarks on the subject, the fact remains that there is almost widespread consensus countrywide that the antics of, and position of the hardliners best approximates the mood of the party at the moment.

One other very troubling point in the overall saga is the fact that the Office of the Chief Justice of the Federation has not deemed it fit to publicly and very strongly censure all concerned on the very regrettable act of invading a learned judge’s home for simply doing her job.

Should acts like this be carried out and remain unchallenged, there is indeed a very clear and present danger that not a few judges could henceforth be compelled to consider how the mobs would respond before passing their judgments. As far as we can see, the implication of this can clearly be contemplated. It does not bode well.

Finally, it is also worrisome that both the Office of the Attorney General and indeed the Presidency and security systems have not responded very forcefully to this manifest act of umbrage. We are not aware of any queries, investigations or prosecution. Is far too much not been glossed over on the altar of partisanship? This newspaper is bothered, and we believe, rightfully so. We therefore strongly call for a return to good sense and reason. It is time to pull back from the brink.

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