On charges against our CJN

Justice Walter Onnoghen

These are interesting times in our country. These are very, very interesting times indeed in our country of countries. Every day we wake up to be encountered by new realities, new experiences that are not really new, but whose unexpected in-dwelling in us tends to de-familiarize the familiar we saw and knew only a day or a night before we went to bed. Am I waxing philosophical? Am I waxing paradoxically and absurdly philosophical?

Whatever answer/answers you may want from me relating to these two questions, let me state straightaway that I never planned to do the present subject today or whenever even though I had an inkling of it a long time and not-a-long-time ago. Confused? You better don’t be.In our country of lies, rumours, gossips, nepotism, injustice, violence and wickedness one, especially if he/she is a columnist, must be carefully careful before reacting as sharply as perhaps Socrates could have done. I know that Justice Walter Onnoghen, our country’s Chief Justice, would experience something untoward after the recent court-case in Port Harcourt where a judge debarred the APC from presenting a candidate from either faction of the APC for the forth-coming Rivers State governorship election. What has that ruling got to do with Justice Walter Onnoghen?, I asked my informant.

“A lot,” he answered. He went on to add a merry-quip relating to allegedly unpatriotically injudicious relationship between our Chief Justice and Rivers State Governor Wike, on the one hand, and on the other hand between him and South-South governors in general. As my informant further rumoured and alleged, this was one reason why our patriotically moral crusading president did not want Walter Onnoghen to be our Chief Justice abinitio. He went on to tell me other things which I must skip here because neither this newspaper nor this columnist is a bearer of gossips or rumours. But I have only mentioned what I have just mentioned to help the concerned to draw and re-draw their lines of strategy; for the Walter Onnoghen matter is not a matter for rejoicing for us South-South people.

But as a columnist I must attempt, like a judicial judge or literary detective, display a true feeling of disinterestedness/impartiality on the matter at hand. Thus the verdict I may pronounce here, even though lacking the force or weight of law, will happily be of a truth yearned for or sought by the moral heart and assented to by the mind of patriotic conscience.

The Justice Walter Onnoghen case is both a legal and political one. It also has a moral angle.Let me begin with the moral aspect. Anybody who wishes to applaud President Buhari as a moral crusader cannot but give him a decently decent grade for the war he has presumably been waging against our country’s judiciary since his arrival as our president four years now. From the start of his presidency, he set himself the simple but severe duty to do away with bad judges in our judiciary under the auspices of love of country. This accounts for the diverse raids of the residences of several top-notch judges. His style may be questionable, especially on the grounds of its nepotistic fervour and colour, but generally it is that of a force that wants to destroy in order to create a-new.

It is Buhari’s moral experiment, a philosophically political experiment which he may even not be aware of. But because it is much too one-sided in nature Southerners and partisan politicians who mainly bear the brunt of his moral blow vehemently question it and its directed end. To them, Buhari’s moral patriotism is devoid of justice and love of country. It is too sectional, too nepotistic, to be garmented in true justice, love of and concern for our country. If this happily is not true, then Justice Walter Onnoghen must be let off the hook in the same way that Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Governor of Kano State, has seemingly been let off the hook of national/natural justice after allegedly being filmed/videoed collecting allegedly five-million-dollar-bribe from contractors.

If Kano State legislators and northern governors and President Buhari have quietly closed ranks in order to bail out Governor Ganduje, their very own northern brother, regardless of party affiliation, why can Southern leaders and Southern governors not close ranks and rally round their accused son and brother who is the current Chief Justice of our country in his time of great need? Ostensibly, our Southern leaders and governors will not be wrong to give Justice Onnoghen moral and practical support just as our Chief Justice’s professional colleagues are standing by him in large numbers. But will their actions retain a good percentage of moral character? President Buhari himself should answer the question.

But, speaking legally, I must vouch here, even though not a certificated lawyer, that Justice Onnoghen, my Southern brother who is our Chief Justice, must, with due respect, be a judicial looby if it is true that he owns the bank accounts he allegedly owns and the foreign moneys and local currency therein. He also must be a ridiculous loony of a lawyer who rose from the judicial ranks to be our Chief Justice if the other charges against him are similarly true. Did he, for instance, deliberately falsely declare his assets before or after he was sworn in as the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court? There are other pertinent questions I wish to ask here, but I will not since the matter is already in court, and more importantly, it is not my wish to supply the enemy of my brother the weapon and ammunition to blunt his case.

In any case, Wole Olanipekun, his leading lawyer and his support-team of many, many lawyers are more than capable to release him from the hole of objectionable disgrace. Our Chief Justice may not have done wrong but his lawyers must not fasten his plea on technicalities. No judicial legerdemain can save our Chief Justice if there is credible evidence, I mean truthful, factual and legal evidence that he allegedly committed the offences he has been charged with. Indeed, no judicial clusters of jargons and words like chromosomes can determine the procedure to save him from the presidential bull and judicial buffalo ready to maul and gore him out of our apex court in primordial circumstances ably nurtured and supported with considerable gusto by primordial hypocrites.

And this is where Justice Walter Onnoghen’s Southern leaders and people should enter the affray, so to say. But they must not play the emotional or sentimental card. They must stress the importance of creating a character called Rigorous Impartiality in their construction of the plot to snatch their son and brother from the crushing hands and temper of the seemingly victorious enemy. They should not shout. They should not scream. They should not foozle their shot through any kind of hullabaloo. Their character of Rigorous Impartiality must see beyond the skin of Justice Onnoghen to his inside.

Then they will be in a position to determine if our Chief Justice’s case is political or is tantamount to that of an officer a whistle-blower has blown a whistle against to reveal shady transactions. Whatever their discovery and finding(s), they must think of how to give Justice Onnoghen political sanctuary as Kemi Adeosun, erstwhile Finance Minister, Ayo Oke, erstwhile Director-General of National Intelligence Agency, and Babachir Lawal, erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation, were given. Above all, they must resist the presidency and insist that Justice Onnoghen’s successor must be from his region as well. It is then our compatriots will know if the Chief Justice’s current travail has on it the marks of primordial politics or whether it marks a predominance of partisan politics and its instincts.

Whatever the case may be, a significant question we must ask now and afterwards is: To what judicial guidance dare we commit our country in the face of lies, rumours, gossips, nepotism, injustice, violence, wickedness, hatred and immorality everywhere about us? The answer must come from each of our bigly learned Supreme Court Justices who holds us under his sway. If gold should rust, what will iron do?

In this article:
Walter Onnoghen
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