Reexamining Uzodinma V Ihedioha, By Jesutega Onokpasa

One Francis Ojo, a man I had never heard of in my entire life, recently penned a very poorly researched article in which he deployed the valedictory address The Honourable Justice Musa Dattijo gave upon his retirement for the purpose of impugning the Nigerian Judiciary.

Amongst other utterly ridiculous submissions, Ojo referenced the Supreme Court decision that confirmed Senator Hope Uzodinma as Imo State Governor, insinuating that it signposts corruption in the Judiciary.

For context, Justice Dattijo had reeled out a plethora of what he considers to be wrong with the Judiciary, though without His Lordship offering much by way of suggestions as to solutions.

While I must respectfully dispute some of His Lordship’s submissions, I believe he meant well in his valediction.

Nevertheless, I found it rather unfortunate that he failed to stress that the recent spate of largely unschooled, deliberately mischievous and quite maleficent criticisms of the Judiciary are baseless, without foundation, in fact, and are totally unwarranted.

According to Justice Dattijo, the Chief Justice of Nigeria is too powerful.

I respectfully disagree.

The most important power judicial authorities exercise is to render judgements in resolution of disputes and in the exercise of that function most critical to the preservation of civilization, itself, each judge’s vote is equal, indeed, the vote of the newest member of the Supreme Court is not in anyway less than that of the Chief Justice, himself.

Yes, the appellate levels of the Judiciary, beyond the High Courts, are collegiate, therefore forums of equals.

Nevertheless, every college must have an actual head and not a mere figurehead.

We must not forget that the Chief Justice of Nigeria is the head of an entire arm of the government that is coequal to its executive and legislative counterparts.

None of his or her powers to appoint or nominate persons for official positions are remotely close to that of a President (who for instance is constitutionally empowered to make thousands of appointments) or a Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives (who can singlehandedly determine which of their colleagues head or are members of particular committees, besides being able to appoint more than a hundred aides, each).

That is not to say there are no problems with our Judiciary that need to be attended to but to insinuate that it is rotten from top to bottom is most disingenuous, utterly false and quite nonsensical as Francis Ojo has done by referencing Justice Dattijo who actually did not even say anything of the sort.

I don’t think the powers of the Chief Justice of Nigeria should be howsoever whittled down and I believe a system whereby the Chief Justice nominates, and he or she in conjunction with the other justices then collegially confirm is more than good enough for the judicial arm of government.

We cannot end up with a toothless bulldog of a Chief Justice for that is not good for the Judiciary and what is not good for its judiciary cannot be good for any country.

Towards the end of his pathetic excuse for an article, Francis Ojo sweepingly concluded that “in the judiciary, there is no trust, no confidence, no hope for the poor and poorly connected”.

And I’m like “who the hell is this Francis Ojo, anyway?”

What a totally baseless and most untenable submission from a clearly poorly informed and selfevidently quite ignorant fellow.

Absolutely every day in this country, numberless litigants get genuine and undiluted justice in our courts.

In fact, the Judiciary is so reliable that miscarriages of justice are not just the exception to the rule but are actually so rare as to be accounted as statistically negligible.

Nobody remembers to celebrate the Judiciary when it does justice, not 99 out of 100 times, but way more than 999 out of 1000 times.

Instead, what makes the news is a bunch of very noisy and rather poorly educated malcontents out there ever quick to frame the entire judicial arm upon the occurrence of just one very rare error on its part.

Can you begin to count how many cases are concluded each day and how many of those decisions were just and fair compared to how many disclosed a miscarriage of justice?

Take, at random, any 100 decided cases and you are not at all likely to find even one that was wrongly decided!

What is the matter with some Nigerians – you or your candidate lose a case and therefore the Judiciary is bad?

The Judiciary is not bad: it is you that has a bad attitude to things not going your way.

Long before I became a lawyer, I remember an uncle of mine telling me how he was amazed to see a lawyer who was, at the time, still a Youth Corper, win his case against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at the Supreme Court.

The same day, an appellant who wasn’t even represented by learned counsel also won his case at the apex court, indeed against a respondent also represented by a learned silk!

In fact, according to my uncle, their lordships of the Supreme Court Bench had asked the unrepresented gentleman why his lawyer wasn’t in court and he replied that he could no longer pay him so he had refused to come.

They gave him justice nonetheless!

If the utter clowns who keep disparaging our judges were to take time out of their futile preoccupation with trying to intimidate the Judiciary into doing their bidding and simply bothered to attend court sittings from time to time, they would see similar outcomes at the end of way too many cases.

People across this country get justice in court everyday, indeed that is precisely why people keep going to court, for if the courts never did justice, as is being insinuated, they would had become extinct long before now because no one would go there.

Francis Ojo’s rather kindergarten regurgitation of the complete fiction that the Supreme Court made Hope Uzodinma the Governor of Imo State despite Uzodinma coming fourth in the election is most disgraceful for a commentator and particularly irritated me.

That is just the deceitful and quite infantile narrative of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.

It is, in fact, a total misconception that Governor Uzodinma’s detractors, and, those who, like Ojo, have allowed themselves to buy into that utter nonsense, instead of researching the case, keep propagating.

In brief, Uzodinma v Ihedioha may be summarized thus:

  1. Senator Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance, AA, and Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, had all sued Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP in the aftermath of the 2019 election.
  2. The Supreme Court found that the results from 388 polling units in the state had been unlawfully excluded from the final tally of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
  3. Uche Nwosu who had come second according to the results that EXCLUDED those 388 polling units was not even qualified to contest the election in the first place and thereupon, he, himself, withdrew his appeal.
  4. The Supreme Court found that when the results from the earlier excluded 388 polling units were ADDED to the final tally, Hope Uzodinma came FIRST, Emeka Ihedioha came second and Ifeanyi Ararume came third.

Hope Uzodinma proved his case before the court unlike those who didn’t even bother to try to prove theirs of recent and decided rather to start chasing shadows from forfeiture to Chicago to FBI files.

The Supreme Court never made the person who came fourth the Governor of Imo State; the Supreme Court found, as a material fact, that the person who was declared fourth actually came first and did justice by giving judgement in his favour.

The notion that Uzodinma came fourth is based on the illegal tally that excluded a whooping 388 polling units.

The final and truthful tally which incorporated those polling units clearly and unambiguously placed him first.

Governor Uzodinma is the Governor of Imo State today because he actually came first in the election and every truthful person in Imo State knows that.

Anyone stating otherwise is telling a lie from the pit of hell.

Please the last election cycle is conclusively over and it’s time for all of us to come together, rally round our President and move on with rebuilding our country.

Impugning the integrity of our nation’s judiciary will not assist that process.

Onokpasa, a lawyer, was a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council, and writes from Abuja

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