British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is gone. Nothing might seem to be significant in her departure as Prime Ministers come and go in that country. Her exit only needs to be formalised. Otherwise, her party, the Tories, opposition Labour Party and indeed the whole country already resigned themselves to that reality.
What may not be noted is that, against all the pessimism which greeted the emergence of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about four years ago, the man is fast becoming too toxic for all political enemies not just within his party but also in the ruling Tory party. With the imminent end to the career of May as Prime Minister, Corbyn, leader of Labour opposition party, is waiting to see the back of the third British Prime Minister within four years. That is, if as expected, owing to the crisis, division and instability in the ruling Tory Party, Mr. Corbyn wins the general election. In that case, the first lesson for future Tory leaders is to respect Mr. Corbyn.
It started some four years ago when a controversial opposition Labour party rebel, Jeremy Corbyn, against all odds, emerged leader of Labour party after the resignation of his predecessor, Ed Milliband, who himself was elected leader following the defeat of Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the 2010 elections.
A non-conformist left winger for more than 30 years in parliament, Corbyn’s leadership bid alarmed top Labour party leaders who all swallowed their long-held differences in the hope of stopping him. Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Milliband all gangedup to stop him. But Corbyn won the leadership race and embarked on returning the party to traditional socialist ideals.
With the support of previous Labour party leaders, the opposition was thrown into crisis with many front-benchers and shadow ministers abandoning Corbyn and calling for his resignation. A sponsored vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn was lost by the faction of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, which had fraudulently veered to the right to accommodate their near-Tory ideology disguised as centrist politics. New left wing Labour party leader, therefore, involved the entire party membership at large to attain the vote of confidence.
Owing to the damage done to the Labour party by the Tony Blair faction, which portrayed Corbyn as the latest communist in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron regularly taunted the Labour leader (Corbyn) in parliament week in, week out. At one stage, Cameron told Corbyn, “Your party doesn’t want you. For God’s sake, go.”
That turned out to be a self-curse, as Cameron had to resign office. He had gambled on a referendum to keep Britain in European Union. Instead, Britons voted to quit membership of European Union.
New Prime Minister Theresa May followed the same path, pounding Jeremy Corbyn every week at Prime Minister’s question time in the House of Commons. Two years ago, Theresa May also gambled on a general election, banking on a bogus opinion poll, which predicted a landslide for her at the expense of decimating Labour party membership in the House of Commons. Instead, Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour party to win more seats, while Theresa May lost her working majority in Parliament. She has since never recovered from her political disaster.
This week marked Theresa May’s free fall as high-ranking party members called for her resignation. Somehow, Theresa May is so intransigent in her determination to leave a legacy of seeing Britain’s withdrawal from European Union. Against that ambition, her party is on a showdown, which may end this morning or early next week.
In effect, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would have seen the second British Prime Minister out of office within four years. Corbyn has also diminished the political influence of two former Labour Prime Ministers – Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Who next? The fear of Jeremy Corbyn in British politics…
A meritorious judge
Much as they are envied and unappreciated largely owing to the misconduct of some of their reckless colleagues, two very demanding qualities of men on the bench are discretion and sacrifice. Without judges, anarchy portends. Yet, unlike other folks in society, judges, ideally, are more of recluses compared to fellow citizens. Yet, judges, no matter how discreet, may not entirely escape the fall-out of everyday life of their spouses and offspring.
This seemed to have been the lot of the erstwhile president of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who had to withdraw following protests raised on her possible impartiality by counsel of the petitioner, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Remarkably, Justice Bulkachuwa withdrew not because the fear of impartiality against her was sustained. Indeed, the panel dismissed the allegation of possible political bias on account of being married to a senator elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammed Bulkachuwa.
Whichever way the ruling went, there was bound to be controversy. Justice Bulkachuwa, therefore, had to voluntarily withdraw so that justice would be seen to have been done. That was meritorious. At their level, especially in these days of a tainted judiciary, such judges do not emerge easily. And there was no way Justice Bulkachuwa could have remained on the panel without playing into the hands of malicious critics. On the other hand, the judge’s withdrawal has enhanced the potential credibility of the tribunal.
The ruling of the tribunal itself is monumental. At the appropriate or chosen time in life, a judge must get married, a human obligation or desire, which is neither an offence nor an indiscretion. The danger now is that, henceforth, judges finding themselves in Justice Bulkachuwa’s shoes will be vulnerable to such naturally circumstantial protests. Lawyers call such citation authority.
Yet, no judges of whatever gender could ever foresee the involvement of spouses or offspring in undertakings capable of raising doubts on their integrity during their career.
Was it wrong for the petitioner’s counsel to have raised the controversial objection? Surely not. It is a standard, if convenient, practice in litigations in any genuine democracy. Once the matter is raised and determined as in the instant case, the door closes against prospects of whingeing after the verdict. On this sensitive issue, justice has been dispensed without fear or favour. Justice Bulkachuwa has helped the situation by asserting her discretion. After all, following the dismissal of the allegation, she could have continued presiding over the trial of the election petition.
There was this other angle. A matter of trust was raised and instantly dealt with, while the judge voluntarily withdrew even without any fault on her side. Suppose Justice Bulkachuwa stayed on, flaunting her innocence inherent in the ruling, the Judge would have distracted public attention on himself, away from the trial of the election petition proper. In that situation, the election petition trial might have been prejudiced by irresponsible comments. We must not underestimate the importance of the election petition.
Should the spouse of a serving judge refrain from participation in politics? That is at some stage unrealistic. However, ordinarily, discretion should have been better exercised. No judge will ever taint himself or allow himself to be tainted deliberately by political partisanship from any quarters but the same judge, as in this case, cannot escape being eventually rightly or wrongly faulted even if conveniently for the real or imagined conduct of his spouse, ironically in the exercise of the spouse’s fundamental human rights assured under Nigerian Constitution to associate or hold or express views on and for politics.
When such a situation arises, necessary sacrifice must be made as Justice Bulkachuwa has done for Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the overall lesson must not be lost, especially the family of judges. Whatever company they keep, however they conduct themselves, whatever views they hold privately or publicly do not end with them. Innocently waiting as victims or beneficiaries are the judges themselves as Justice Bulkachuwa would testify.