The forces that are plotting to remove the President of the Court of Appeal, Hon Justice Isa Ayo Salami from office are the same reactionary forces that assassinated the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, SAN in 2001 and got away with it because the Bar did nothing.
It was the same forces that legitimized the brazen electoral heist of 2007 by upholding the ‘selection’ of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. We watched in hopelessness but God told everyone including these ‘supreme forces’ that He was in control. Umaru lasted for only 23 months and Mr. Goodluck is now in control. The writer of the lead judgment, who allowed his head to be used in breaking the cocoa nut is yet to partake in the eating of the cocoanut.
It was the same forces that inflicted Micheal Aondoakaa on the nation as Attorney-General of the Federation. On record, Aondoakaa remained the worst Attorney General Nigeria had ever produced. Even though Aondoakaa fell out with these forces arising from dispute over sharing of loot, Nigeria as a nation is yet to recover from the injuries.
The same forces are not relenting. They got the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Legbo Kutigi to illegally swear in Aloysius Katsina-Alu as Chief Justice of Nigeria. This was unprecedented in the annals of our judicial history. Katsina-Alu mounted the saddle and told everyone who cared to listen that even a Notary Public could have sworn him in! We clapped for him.
The same reactionary forces at a ceremony for the swearing in of new Senior Advocates Of Nigeria in April 2010, appeared in open court in their suits and ties while the recipients of the awards were dressed in the full ceremonial robes as was the practice from time immemorial . So the forces did not stop at that. They decreed that no one, including one of their own, A-G of the Federation will speak at the occasion. Only the Chief Justice and the leader of the recipients were heard at that occasion. It was unprecedented! The Bar grumbled but allowed the sleeping dogs to lie.
The same forces with their ‘supreme might’ got involved in the Sokoto election controversy. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the National Judicial Council through the medium of a letter ordered a superior court of record, i.e the Court of Appeal to stay further proceedings in appeal pending before it. The Bar grumbled but since it did not concern us we allowed the sleeping dog to lie.
As the days go by, the forces become emboldened. Impunity is gaining superiority. Nobody could challenge them. If you dare to challenge them you stand the risk of being disbarred from practice. The Body of Benchers Disciplinary Committee is more than willing and able to put the voices of dissent in check.
With the radical President of NBA now out of office and a more pliable and reactionary President now at the helm of affairs, anything can be done without a whiff from NBA. They took control of Sokoto appeal and got it dismissed under Section 22 of the Supreme Court. Unprecedented in the annals of our history and NBA saw nothing heard nothing and did nothing. We must allow sleeping dogs to lie.
The same forces recently made appointments to the Court of Appeal. The qualifications for appointment were not based on merit but either on widowhood or your Tiv connection. The head of court of appeal had no input whatsoever on judges being appointed into his court. The first set of appointments was confirmed on a Tuesday at NJC level and by Friday they have been sworn in. Unprecedented! But why the hurry?
The same reactionary forces recently reconstituted the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee. Experienced SANS were left out and lawyers who were made SANS one or two years ago were appointed to sit in judgment with their colleagues who competed for the conferment of the award. Again the Bar grumbled and the ‘supreme forces’ had their way.
The same reactionary forces have set into motion the process of further amending the Nigerian Constitution so as to increase the retirement age of the CJN to 75. As usual when the process becomes public our NBA will look the other way as long Halliburton briefs keep coming our way.
The climax of our ‘sidon look’ attitude has been demonstrated in the current efforts of the reactionary forces to remove the President of Court of Appeal from office. Since the move became public last Thursday, our NBA President has become taciturn. He is now silent. He will not say anything until the move is made official. Salami has now publicly repudiated the offer by the CJN to elevate him out of office. The whole world is now watching for the reaction of our NBA President. In a situation such as we found ourselves, no lawyer, the NBA in the least, can afford to stand on the fence. Anybody that is standing on the fence is either a traitor or an accomplice. And if we continue to stand on the fence what happened to a German poet during the 2nd World War will await each and every one of us. According to the poet Martin Niemöller, 1892-1984 (1984) by James Bentley, p. 177
“When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.”
Today it is Salami. Whose turn will it be tomorrow? The NBA must speak out against these evil and reactionary forces. The Body of Benchers must speak out. Every branch of Nigerian Bar Association must speak out. One person should not be allowed to destroy the judiciary.