Saraki vs CCT: Skillful Dribbler-Feeble Defenders

Saraki’ vs CCT: Skillful Dribbler – Feeble Defenders
By Yussuf Ayodele*

Wonders shall never end! Not even in Nigeria – a notorious wonderland. One couldn’t help but to marvel at the spate with which corrupt politicians and public office holders now ferociously turn against the law (rather than the other way round) in the face of an imminent defeat. Fain would they fight and challenge the credibility of their prosecutor rather than prove themselves innocent. The case of Saraki vs CCT is a readily available example of such contempt of law, inefficiency of our judiciary, and prevalent lack of regard for rule of law.
One may be digging too much into the past by relating the several maladministration of Saraki’s tenure as the governor of Kwara state, but at least we recall with ease, the controversy surrounding his election as the Senate President of Nigeria. Nothing could been more germane in the definition of hypocrisy and betrayal than his sudden emergence as the winner of the fraudulent election. The news of his emergence rocked Nigerians like weather storm, several mathematical predictions were made as to the political fate of the Nigerian senate. In fact, to describe the bizarreness of such news, Nigerians had to add a new word to their dictionary: “sarakious” – an adjective synonymous to devious, dishonest, disloyal etc.
The recent dramas at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) sufficiently proves Saraki’s sarakiousness. At the start of the trial, arising from a false declaration of asset, Nigerians were anxious, hoping that nemesis would catch up with Saraki, especially in relation to his dignified senatorial post. Saraki seemed to have bitten more than he can swallow, unlike the biblical prodigal son, he had no backing of his betrayed party, the end seemed near. All of a sudden, Saraki’s dribbling faculties were agitated. Firstly, it was a claim of immunity. After several debates and refusals to appear in person, realizing the futility of such foul cry, Saraki finally entered the dock, sigh! The trial begins.
Then came the legitimacy of the CCT in trying the senate president. Saraki having the fear of failure hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles, fled to the Supreme Court, challenging the legitimacy of the CCT in trying his personality and demanding a halt of the trial. The apex court dismissed his appeal; by fire by force, Saraki must face the trial! The pressure was becoming unecessarily unbearable; Saraki went more steps further, hiring the highly experienced Kanu Agabi – a two time Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the federation whose name reminds one of the then professional dribbler and skipper of the Super Eagles of Nigeria as his lead counsel. Kanu like his namesake, swung into action immediately with his dribble skill, claiming there are procedural errors in his client’s trial. That not being enough, the dribble master himself launched a #freeSaraki hashtag campaign, hired several men of God from all religion, all in an attempt to make ‘the cup’ pass over him. All in the while, Saraki had to lose his memory (of his count charges at the tribunal) only to recover and start afresh, again challenging the legitimacy of the tribunal on his trial – a case he had earlier been defeated through the Supreme Court and the cycle continues.
As much as Saraki’s dribble skill is noteworthy, so is the weakness and ridiculousness of our judiciary which has long lost its credibility and defensive structure at all front. From indifference to court ruling (by public office holders), to political interference, delay in justice delivery, poor management and funding, judicial corruption, executive manipulation and several others. Perhaps our yearn for transparency and true justice in the case of Saraki was influenced by the accurately wrong notion that our judiciary still has an element of integrity capable of such task, or probably by the return of the no-nonsense Buhari whose reign in 1984 instituted a tribunal that credibly prosecuted many top corrupt government officials (known as executive prisoners) and befittingly handed them several jail terms. Far from the dreamland, anyone who truly lives in the 21st century would know that current Nigerian Judiciary is only a parody of its previous version, and in fact a worthy object of ridicule and a toothless tiger turn prey to its hitherto preys.
When a football team lacking solid defense is paired with another with a great striking force, the extent of calamity that would certainly befall the former is undoubtedly high. Unfortunately, the case at hand is a typical example of such failure at both ends. Saraki is a far bigger opponent for the poor Nigerian judiciary. It would be unfair and “wicked” of any Nigerian therefore to expect smooth delivery of justice in such case considering the shambolic state of the nation’s judiciary and the magnitude of her opponent.
Yet ironically, if Saraki could go scot free with this, then we are doomed! For there are far bigger opponents the court would be afraid of trying. The case of Dasuki vs EFCC is one already losing Nigerians’ interest. The case of Tompolo vs EFCC where the former rather than appear in court sued the latter for God knows reason is another heartbreaking match in the waiting. Forget it! Nigerians may have to forget justice or equality since some animals are more equal than the others. A nation whose judiciary is appalling and not free of executive control, corruption and other vices cannot in any way effectively secure truth and justice for her people. The cry for the probing of prominent past government officials whose actions smell corruption, and who are well known super dribblers always on top of their games, at the moment is frankly a mirage.
All in all, the Nigerian judiciary is in a dire need of a thorough review. The one that would transform it from its present state of mess to that with dignity and integrity. The judiciary is the most important arm of government and the stability and success of the nation is largely dependent on it. When trees fall on each other like Yorubas would say, you lift the one on top first. If the president’s anticorruption crusade would achieve any meaningful success, then it should be extended and in fact should have started from the judiciary since the present is in no way comparable to the one he left in the 80s.
Aside the corruption plague rocking the Nigerian judiciary, there are a million other maladies needing urgent attention. The absence of financial autonomy is one. There are reported cases where court sessions were held in classrooms, rented apartments and other places of disgusting eyesore. We remember with ease, the 2014 strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), precipitated by Federal Government withholding funds meant for the judiciary. The dwindling legal educational system is another. Students are no longer interested in studying law. Of course they are not to be blamed, the profession is no longer lucrative and dignified as of the old.
Only to whom much is given should much be expected, if Nigeria must expect any good –accountability, transparency, impartiality, integrity, fair trial, equality, etc. from her judicial system, then, as rightly posited by John Arewa, much must be given in terms of sufficient funding and remuneration, well defined career path and security of social tenure, broad based legal education, effective and fair enforcement of judgement, and thorough refining. Only with these can we safely assume that top government officials like Saraki would be given an appropriate judgement without bias, prejudice, timidity, or threat. Otherwise, we shall continue to witness several judicial ‘sarakiousness’ from public office holders .

*Ayodele is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos. A writer and an editor.