Poor chap, adviser on media affairs to President Muhammadu Buhari, whose appointment of a new chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, offered the opportunity for those with latent vested interests to pounce on Adesina. The man’s offence, according to his critics, was that, wayback in 2005, he (Adesina) faulted Gambari for defending the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa by the military administration of the late General Sani Abacha
Saro Wiwa was tried for the murder of political rival in Ogoniland, Dr. G.B. Leyton, and some supporters. Saro Wiwa preferred open agitation for redressing the plight of Ogoni people while his rivals, the most prominent of whom was Dr. Leyton, opted for peaceful dialogue with Federal Government authorities. It was not clear how it happened but the fact of history was that Dr. Leyton and not a few of his associates were murdered obviously for their political beliefs. Any responsible government must, therefore, take measures to stem such violence.
As rivals, it was not unexpected that Saro Wiwa and some associates were the first suspects and duly arrested. They were, therefore, fighting for their lives. So, fellow Nigerian elites saw in Saro Wiwa one of their own being persecuted for his political views and activities, rather than a criminal murder suspect, rightly or wrongly. Saro Wiwa, innocently, if not stupidly, played along instead of seriously defending himself against possible death sentence. Throughout the trial, Saro Wiwa was never serious as he joked, teased and ridiculed and derided his “oppressors” as the trial progressed.
The defence did not help matters by trivialising a murder trial to go their way or they would withdraw. Indeed, in one moment of unseriousness, the defence withdrew and abandoned Saro Wiwa and his co-accused to their fate. Foolishly, I believed, for a man with his life at stake. Day of judgment came. Saro Wiwa and other accused except one were condemned to death. Despite the double risk Saro Wiwa and his defence team took, still nobody ever thought the death sentence would be carried out, if only because of Saro Wiwa’s fame in the literary world.
Days later, a routine meeting of General Sani Abacha’s Provisional Ruling Council was summoned for Aso Villa, Abuja, and if any sensational news was expected, it was that the death sentences on Saro Wiwa and co-convicts had been commuted. On the contrary, a senior army officer, General Victor Malu, emerged at the end of the meeting and without any sentiments, somewhat nonchallantly, more like a passing remark, shocked the world that all the death sentences had been ratified. There was outrage all over the world largely because, even in Nigeria and the outside world, not much was known about th murderof Dr. Leyton and supporters, the crime for which Saro Wiwa and friends were convicted.
This was the very unpleasant task, which, as Nigeria’s ambassador at the United Nations, Gambari had to explain to the outside world. It was such a cheap opportunity for the elite agitators to take to the streets. But Gambari had a job to do to explain his boss to the world. Tht was the context in which Femi Adesina had to criticise Gambari. Was he the only one, even among Buhari’s today’s associates who criticised Ibrahim Gambari and General Abacha on Saro Wiwa? Has Gambari complained to anybody about Femi Adesina? These critics are frustrated and envious fellows.
Neither should Adesina bother himself. He was appointed and re-appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari. By the way, when it mattered most and everybody threw darts at Buhari, the lot fell on Adesina as one of the countable few on the very harsh Lagos/Ibadan dangerous press axis who fought Buhari’s cause. Throughout Buhari’s three unsuccessful attempts at the presidency (2003, 2007 and 2011), the picture was the same until Buhari won the presidency in in 2015. That was the basis of of Femi Adesina’s present solid profile.
In similar vein, Ibrahim Gambari had been with Buhari since 1984 as Nigeria’s foreign minister. If, therefore, Femi Adesina and Ibrahim Gambari coalesce today as Buhari’s aides, who could be more complementary in Buhari’s administration? Both are serving Buhari, the only boss in Aso Villa.
Femi Adesina was critical of Ibrahim Gambari in yesteryears and, today, are close colleagues in President Buhari’s administration. There is even a bigger fish in that mould. This is even straight from the horse’s mouth, about which Femi Adesina might not have noticed. Predictably, Femi’s critics did not know or mischievously (still) pretend not to know. To whom is Chief Bisi Akande next in rank in their APC? Akande is on record in an inerview that, before the fusion of political to form APC, he did not know much about Buhari and was severely critical of the man, a reservation about which Buhari might not even know. According to Bisi Akande, Buhari had an international engagement at Imperial College, London. Innocently, Buhari, before his election as President, invited Chief Bisi Akande to accompany him to the London engagement. That short trip converted Chief Akande about the man, Buhari.
Should Bisi Akande, on account of his past criticism or even low opinion of Buhari, be unqualified for political collaboration with Buhari? Shikena.
The K-leg in Criminal Justice Act
With pains and whatever the good intention behind its enactment, the Criminal Justice Act, because of its K-leg, was bound to fall eventually. The Supreme Court has only refused to assist in keeping the act standing despite its disability. There is no regret and there should be no moaning. In nullifying a lower court verdict arising from a major section of the act, the highest court in the land courageously diagnosed the K-leg for orthopaedic surgical operation.
All hope is, therefore, not lost. The gnashing of teeth and implied blackmail are unwarranted. Except arrogance, what is wrong in highlighting a section of a law faulted for conflicting with relevant section of Nigerian Constitution? Many times, when the need arises, it is a common ruling at any level of Nigerian courts. A law cannot be a law or remain unchallengeable simply because it is a law or because legal draftsmen deem it so even if it violates Nigerian Constitution. It is understandable if very sound legal minds see their efforts or aspirations thwarted by co-legal minds on the bench. That is the story all over the world. Sentiments will not, for that reason, becloud laws or court verdicts.
That is why, for fairness, higher courts exist to enable a dissatisfied party pursue his right, except that, in our case, Supreme Court is the limit. Even on matters of personal liberty for rogues or murderers. Let’s face it, till now and perhaps after the faulting of a major sectionof the Criminal Justice Act by the Supreme Court, accused public office holders, past and present, can be tempted(?) to hope for escape to enjoy their loot. There is no way for such pranks, unless judges and judiciary decide to be complicit in such Houdini tactics. Otherwise, the Criminal Justice Act is still applicable for trying corruption cases, short of the relevant section of the act, which violates Nigerian Constitution
Whatever our grudge against the delay tactics of defence lawyers, even prosecutors and substandard members of the bench in frustrating trials of corrupt public office holders, any firm measure against that disturbing situation must comply with relevant sections of Nigerian Constitution. That was the ruling of the Supreme Court, which is now an easy blackmail for allegedly opening the gate for corrupt public office holders to enjoy their loot. This is not quite so. All over the world, a country’s constitution is the only supreme national document. Nigeria, in particular, removes all doubt on that issue by clearly stating in Chapter One, Part One of General Provision Section One (1) that This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. With that supreme authority, the implication is that, and it is also so stated, any other law, which dares the Constitution is null and void.
Where 20 legal minds, judges as well as serving judges (up to Supreme Court) are gathered and tasked any law inconsistent with Nigerian constitution, each will most probably give different views, depending on their knowledge, sometimes personal interests, expertise, etc. The row over the Supreme Court ruling on a vital setion of the Criminal Justice Act is, therefore, to be expected. To worsen matters, laws and provision of national constitutions all over the world are crafted in such vague or at best ambiguous language, such that any interpretation is suffice. It is all over a simple matter whether a newly serving appeal court judge can step to a lower court to complete the trial he was conducting before he was elevated to the appeal court.
Even on the bench, controversial and divergent views of legal minds are often expressed in dissent of one or more judges against majority rulings. Hence, the legal convention that any doubt in law, especially in criminal matters, in favour of the accused as defendant or appelant on that score. Fury in the instant case may be food for thought except that such fury is diminished by human determination against possible miscarriage of justice. Also, one unacceptable fact is the wrong impression that all is lost in the battle against theft of public funds.
Supreme Court was careful not to excercise its full powers to completely knock out the entire Criminal Justice Act. Indeed, after the ambiguous section of the criminal justice act was faulted, Supreme Court must be appreciated for their self-restraint. In 1961, Justice Daddy Onyeama went the whole hog when, for a mere conflicting section, he (Onyeama) sitting at Lagos high court, totally nullified the National Bank Inquiry Act with which Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa tried to probe the finances of the defunct West Regional government. Justice Onyeama ruled that the offending section of the act violated Nigerian Constitution. In fact he outrightly rejected the desperate plea of Balewa’s attorney-general and minister of justice, Teslim Elias, to apply what he called “the blue pencil” and expunge the offending section of the inquiry act.
This time, the Criminal Justice Act is still applicable to fast-track trials for theft of public funds. The only caution is not to assign such cases to judges with prospects of being elevated to appeal court within a year or less. That will enable such judges to commence and conclude such trials within the time limit envisaged in the Criminal Justice Act.