Although the Attorney – General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has denied that the Federal Government was behind the raid on the Abuja official residence of Justice Mary Ukaego Odili (nee Ezenwa) of the Supreme Court, it is not surprising that the incident has come up during the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari. For the reason that in 2016 his government carried out early morning sting operations at the residence of the Chief Justice of Nigeria in Abuja and some other justices in the Federal Capital Territory and other parts of the country.
The chief aim of the exercise was to remove Chief Justice Walter Onnogen from Cross River State from office to pave way his succession by Bauchi – State – born Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad. Large sums of money were said to have been found in the homes of the judges. The second reason for the raids was to portray southern – born judges as corrupt and get some of them sacked.
Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna who granted the order for the search of Justice Odili’s residence said he was deceived to do so through misrepresentation of facts by two affidavits sworn to by a whistleblower named Mr. Aliyu Umar and a senior police officer, Chief Superintendent of Police, Mr. Lawrence Ajodo.
Umar in his affidavit of October 13, 2021 claimed that he had observed illegal activities going on in Justice Odili’s residence and that all information provided by him to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are true and correct to the best of his knowledge.
Based on the bogus allegations that did not give details of the illegal activities, CSP Ajodo, acting on behalf of a panel which reportedly was made up of the officers of the EFCC, the Nigeria Police and the Ministry of Justice, also deposed to an affidavit and applied for a warrant to be issued for Justice Odili’s residence to be searched.
The EFCC and the other agencies have also denied playing any part in the incident carried out unprofessionally. From the story going round on the matter it appears someone or people high – up in the Federal Government or Buhari’s presidency are behind the disgraceful action. And it looks that they did so to stop Justice Odili from been appointed acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The story is that Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad who is to retire on December 31, 2023 when he will be 70 is not in good health and may withdraw from service before the end of the year or early in 2022. Mrs. Odili an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court who is next to him is to retire on May 12, next year.
It is a known fact that President Buhari is still annoyed with the Igbo that all he received in any of the five states in the South – East during the 2019 election was five per cent of their votes. Consequently, it looks like he does not want Mrs. Odili who is an Igbo from Imo State to be appointed Acting Chief Justice for a few months. Hence, the raid on her residence to give the impression wrongdoing was why she was not appointed.
It also looks that the invasion of her home was also a design by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to embarrass her husband a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on his victory in court against EFCC on the release of his passport to him. I see it this way because the incident took place when the PDP convention to elect its chairman and other officers was on in Abuja.
The next judge after Justice Odili is Associate Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who will retire in about seven years, on August 22, 2028 when he will be 70. He is followed by Associate Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammed who will retire on October 27, 2023 and Lagos State – born Associate Justice Kudirat Kekere – Ekun who will be 70 on May 7, 2028.
We wait to see if Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad retires prematurely if seniority will make President Buhari replace him with southern – born Justice Olukayode Ariwoola from Iseyin in Oyo State. Or if his preference for northerners in most senior and crucial appointments he had made in the last six years will make him choose Justice Musa Muhammed from Niger State.
We also wait to see if Umar, the whistleblower and CSP Ajodo will be arrested and prosecuted for the crime they have committed. If in the end they are not arraigned for trial that means that in spite of the denials some senior officials in the Ministry of Justice, EFCC or in the presidency were involved in the disgraceful and embarrassing invasion of Justice Odili’s residence.
Misuse of His Imperial Majesty by some Yoruba kings, who need to emulate the Oba of Benin and Sultan of Sokoto
His Imperial Majesty is a title used by monarchs who rule over an empire and once it disintegrates, they drop the title and stop being called emperor. Furthermore, to be called His Imperial Majesty the monarch must be installed as an Emperor during his coronation. Given these facts, it is unfortunate that for 41 years now some Yoruba Obas whose ancestors never ruled over an empire have been calling themselves His Imperial Majesty.
The trend started in 1981 or 82 when Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the Ooni of Ife who ascended the throne in December 1980 began using it. Ile – Ife never had an empire. It is only accepted as the cradle of the Yoruba by most people in the South – West, but not by all. The Ooni of Ife is only accepted as the Spiritual Head of the Yoruba ethnic group, not as an overlord who ancestors conquered them.
When Oba Sijuwade started using the title of His Imperial Majesty, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, his major rival, whose ancestors created and ruled over the Oyo Empire from 1680 through 1830 felt he deserved to be the one using the title, not the Ooni. The current Olubadan of Ibadan who ascended the throne in 2016 and whose ancestors ruled over an Ibadan Empire from 1877 – 1893 joined them a few years ago calling himself His Imperial Majesty.
But what is worrisome is that today the monarch of a major town in the South – West is now referred to as His Imperial Majesty while a second – class and third – class king under him is called His Royal Majesty or His Royal Highness respectively. This is peculiar to Yoruba Obas.
The Binis had an empire from 1200 – 1800 which included towns in Yoruba land whose kings are now called His Imperial Majesty. Yet, no Oba of Benin had ever called himself or referred to by his people as His Imperial Majesty. The same with the Sultan of Sokoto whose people ruled over an empire from 1806 to 1906 which extended to a large part of the North down to Ilorin in Kwara State.
As I see it the reason for this is that the last three Obas of Benin from 1933 – 2021, Akenzua II, his son, Oba Erediauwa and Ewuare II had university education in England. So they know it is improper to call themselves His Imperial Majesty when Benin has no empire again. The current Sultan of Sokoto is a retired Brigadier – General of the Nigerian Army who has travelled to the United States and different countries in Europe and also knows that it is not proper to call himself His Imperial Majesty when he doesn’t preside over an empire.
Britain had colonies in Africa, the Americas, West Indies and Asia for centuries. But since it granted them independence the British Empire has come to an end. As a result they have always referred to their ruler as His Royal Majesty or Her Royal Majesty. Imagine, a Yoruba monarch visiting the Queen of England and is calling himself His Imperial Majesty, he would just be an object of ridicule at such a gathering.
Because people will ask the Empire he is ruling over to call himself His Imperial Majesty. I think the time has come when Yoruba monarchs who gave themselves such a title or are so called by people should stop doing so. Kabiyesi or Alayeluwa, titles the Yoruba use for their kings are noble and they should be proud to use them instead of using the borrowed and improper designation of His Imperial Majesty.
To be contd