Recently, there was an addition to the list of absurdities that have defined Nigeria’s political environment in the last few years. The current absurdity is the present conflict between the executive and the judicial arms of government in all its underhand, devious potential. Since the infamous milieu, there have been reactions from different quarters. While some people, diehard supporters of the current administration, insist that Mr. President acted in good faith by suspending the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), others, who are disposed to the rule of law, have condemned the actions of Mr. President, citing despotic and tyrannical tendencies reminiscent of his days as a military head of state. For literary critics like us who are inexorably condemned to consistent dialogue with the muse, those of us who inevitably interpret social reality from the translucent prism of arts, the current tussle in the corridors of power reminds one of Theatre of the Absurd.
For non-members of the literary fraternity or members who became rudderless in their search for the cosmetic evanescence of life, Theatre of the Absurd is a term coined by the critic Martin Esslin to describe various forms of drama which outline the futility of human actions, a life without purpose, full of mischief, totally meaningless and inherently illogical. In coining the term, Martin Esslin gave credence to Albert Camus’ work “The Myth of Sisyphus” which underscores man’s laborious and repetitive action, lacking direction and in the final analysis, does humanity no good. Gradually, the Theatre of the Absurd sensibility is penetrating Nigeria’s political matrix which is presently built on autocracy, with a steady slide into dictatorship.
I love the word penetration. For the male folk, penetration brings to mind images of sensation and an elevation to the ecstatic realm. Penetration is a gradual process whether as an idea or as physical activity. Once penetration is achieved, it enunciates a rhythm which slowly graduates in tempo, which in turn leaves the object of penetration or the recipient ravaged and conquered. In the current dispensation, Nigeria is being penetrated by a rule of subversion and sabotage, which if not checked will ultimately leave the polity despoiled and devastated.
Briefly, let us scrutinize Nigeria’s current political experience with emphasis on the face-off between the executive and judiciary arms of government, and then examine the underlying absurdities in the situation. The erstwhile CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was alleged to have large sums of money in various bank accounts which he didn’t declare when he assumed the exalted office of the CJN. All things considered, without any bias or reference to the present debacle between the two arms of government, a CJN who has a stupendous amount of money in local and foreign currencies and fails to declare same before assumption of office has run afoul of the law and should ordinarily resign from his position.
That the CJN forgot to declare these funds is untenable and innately mischievous. That is not the kind of behaviour you will associate with a distinguished man of noble intentions. If truly the CJN has huge sums of money in various bank accounts, local and foreign, it follows that the underbelly of his exalted office is subsumed in corrupt practices which reminds one of Niyi Osundare’s poem “My Lord, tell me where to keep your bribe”. It is absurd that the former CJN also failed to honourably resign from his position, giving room to excessive use of power by the executive arm of government headed by the president.
However, the action of the presidency, the swiftness with which the former CJN was suspended, besides reliving the absurdist tradition, has elicited fierce reactions from many Nigerians. To all intents and purposes, the presidency acted in bad faith for failing to allow normal proceedings to take place in the CJN imbroglio. The action of the presidency smacks of predetermination to see the former CJN quit office. That the presidency also immediately appointed a northerner, Hon Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed as acting CJN adds to the narrative of unrivalled nepotism which has been the hallmark of this administration. The judicial and legislative arms of government, the media, the corporate world, students, the businessmen community, and well-meaning Nigerians are kicking against the actions of the presidency, not because they support corruption, but because the presidency has desecrated the hallowed judiciary using his executive powers in the manner of a maximum ruler.
When Kemi Adeosun, the former finance minister was indicted for forging her NYSC exemption certificate, the issue dragged for so long even after many petitions were written against her. This column lent critical voice to the Adeosun-gate among other voices. When she couldn’t stand the heat anymore, she left office in ignominy although she was not arrested or made to face trial. The Code of Conduct Tribunal chairman has an undetermined criminal charge filed against him at the Federal High Court on behalf of the EFCC. In spite of the criminal charge, the CCT chairman is still in office and has not been suspended.
An aide of the president on Public Prosecutions is still in office after he was indicted by the House of Representatives for certificate forgery which was confirmed by the West African Examination Council. A certain APC governor in the north was alleged to have received bribes worth millions of dollars. In spite of incriminating visual aids, no arrest was made, no committee set up and no query given. Up till today, the governor is still in office enjoying the accruing filthy lucre. Life goes on while the presidency fights corruption. Indeed, the penetration of the absurdist tradition is gaining momentum in Nigeria. Regrettably, we live in a country where the aim of the leadership is to promote glaring nepotism and totalitarian behaviour and then create an amnesiac condition in which it will be as though such notions never existed, placing them beyond our powers of conception.
The action of the presidency to suspend the former CJN is absolutely illegal in conception and execution, although some people have inferred that the president is not in charge. The judiciary is neither a ministerial position nor an agency of government tied to the whims and caprices of the presidency. The CJN is to the judiciary what the president is to the executive arm of government. The difference is that the president, as the Commander-in-Chief has the instrument of force and cohesion at his disposal. The president can only appoint the CJN based on the recommendations of the National Judicial Council (NJC) subject to the approval of the Senate. According to the constitution, the president can only remove the CJN acting on the support of two-third majority of the Senate after it is proved that the CJN cannot discharge his duties. That the removal of the former CJN did not follow any of these procedures paints the whole scenario in bleak absurdist tradition. It is hoped that the president or those behind these democratic infractions would swallow spit a second time and have a rethink on the subliminal damages being inflicted on the country’s leadership carapace.
Dr. Adiele writes from Lagos via [email protected]