If you chance upon Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar, the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, you’ll meet a handsome, seemingly innocuous young man. A lawyer and former Chief magistrate before his appointment to head the CCT, Umar greets you with a smile, a veneer of friendliness shorn of arrogance.
A genuinely simple and humble public office holder, he’s also an ambassador of Nigerian youths in national leadership. Tag him in the negative, one thing you cannot take away from him is his humility. But make no mistake about it, Umar’s simplicity and humility are no signs of weakness. Inside his modest frame is encased a steely heart: daring and audacious. This explains why he visits public places unchaperoned by a platoon of security agents.
Umar is a simple man who does not think so much of himself; who is not lofted by empty pride or inebriated by the monster of power. So, here’s a simply guy, a humble man who would rather stop by and buy roasted plantain, visit Banex Plaza or any plaza to fix his phone and make purchases without a retinue of armed-to-the-hilt security goons. I applaud him for this. Public office holders should never detach themselves from the public. They (including the president, vice president, leaders of the legislature, governors etc.), must make out time to connect with the people, the ordinary people. Some leaders are admirable in this regard.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the hardworking governor of Lagos does this often. The other day as his convoy moved towards Ajeromi area to commission a project, he got them to park over one kilometre to the venue. The rest of the distance he trekked. In his words, it was an opportunity to connect with the real people of Lagos, the folks on the streets, the housewives, artisans, commuters and all manner of Lagosians. And he felt a positive vibe as grandparents prayed for him. He connected with children some of whom ran towards him and cuddled up in his arms. Remember, he was not seeking their votes. Election is still very far. He was merely feeling the pulse of the people, first hand, not through intermediaries.
Back to Umar. The CCT chairman’s simplicity is also his Achilles heel. What he gained so much in humility and simplicity, he lost in temperament. The trending video of Tuesday, March 30, 2021 where he was caught on camera assaulting a private security man at a popular plaza in Abuja takes so much away from him as a lawyer, a former magistrate, and the Chairman of the CCT: as the one who sits in adjudication of the conduct of persons in public offices. His conduct diminished his person and office. It’s a conduct unbecoming of a man of his calling and office. It tars him as a ruffian, a thug from gangsterland. It’s enough to make him step aside or step down from that exalted seat. Conduct of public officers is not only measured by fiscal impropriety or financial recklessness, it’s also a measure of their conduct and comportment both in their private engagements as well as in their conducts in the larger society especially while still holding a public office.
Let’s avert Justice Umar’s mind to Section 9 (Abuse of powers) of the Fifth Schedule, Part 1, of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers as contained in the 1999 Constitution. It states: “A public officer shall not do or direct to be done, in abuse of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of any other person knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy.” The action of Umar in the vexatious video is a clear violation of the rights of the assaulted security man. It’s for such actions that the CCT was established by law as an adjudication unit of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB. And as Chairman of the CCT, it’s within Umar’s power and competence to mete out punishment on any public officer whom his tribunal finds guilty of abuse of powers (office) and consequently impose punishment on such officer including vacation of office or disqualification from holding any public office for a period not exceeding 10 years; etc. if stretched within the context of the Criminal Code Act, slapping someone in the manner our learned Umar did is actionable. Assault remains an infraction of the law. It’s weightier and messier if it came from a Justice of the CCT, a presumed custodian and defender of the law, especially laws bordering on the conduct of public office holders like him. No matter the provocation, Umar should never have allowed his vicious temperament override his genteel nature. His conduct is far beneath him. He owes the security man and Nigerians whom he has betrayed an apology. As at the time of writing this, no such apology has come from our learned Umar.
His case is further compounded by the effusion of illiteracy and untamed bigotry from a certain Ibraheem Al-Hassan, Head, Press & Public Relations unit of the CCT headquarters, who in a press statement muddled the waters rather than apply filters. He wrote inter alia:
“Our attention was drawn on a report from some online publication with a video cliff suggesting Hon Chairman, Justice Danladi Y. Umar assaulted a Security Guard at Banex Plaza.
To start with, the said plaza has been his usual place of visits for the past 18 years for shopping and repairs of his phones, and in all these periods there have never been any time he had any turmoil with anybody.
Unfortunately, yesterday’s altercations started over a packing lot, which Chairman met vacant and it was directly opposite a shop he want to make a purchase and to fixe his phone, when the young Security guard sighted him, he ordered that Chairman should not pack his car in that particular empty space, but Chairman asked why, the security guard couldn’t convinced chairman, though Chairman didn’t identify himself, because to him is needless and is a place he visited often, but the boy was rode in his approached and threaten to deal with Chairman if he refuse to leave the scene.
As the few policemen in the complex were apparently overwhelmed by the mobs, consisting of BIAFRAN boys throwing matches and shape object to his car, which led to deep cut and dislocation in one of his finger, causing damage to his car, smashing his windscreen.
At a point he attempted to leave the scene, these same miscreants, BIAFRAN boy ordered for the closure of the gate thereby assaulting him before the arrival of police team from Maitama police station.”
If we forgive the bigotry and unvarnished profiling of Biafrans in his presser, what do we make of the infelicities and solecisms in the press release? Al-Hassan has attracted more odium to Umar whereas his duty is to burnish his image and publicise the efforts of the CCT. Justice Umar should know that Biafrans are not his enemy, Al-Hassan is. He should weed out the likes of Al-Hassan hankering around him. Unfortunately, the Nigerian civil service is populated by misfits like Al-Hassan. That’s the danger of quota system.