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Rejoinder to Emmanuel Ogebe's Laundromat

March 12, 2009
 "It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." Mr. Thatcher (Spouse of Margaret Thatcher)
    I emotionally checked out of Diaspora dialogue fora several years ago because of the sheer futility of reasoning with the irrational. One low point was when one commentator described another's mother as a street-cleaner in Lagos. This was possibly an all-time low for a supposedly enlightened gathering of Africa's brains "drained" abroad although I can imagine that new lows have been attained yet since that sorry incident years ago. I now have 28,925 emails in my box that I don't/can't read from my various afro-naija groups.
    Often in writing, we speak about the proverbial "arm-chair theorist" or the "educated illiterate" (sometimes also known as the ill-informed commentator.) Recently one man distinguished himself as the half-baked professional of the year.

    As Bill Maher of Politically narrated, a top Bush official in Health and Human Services was being divorced by his wife. This prominent conservative Obstetrician and Gynecologist was accused by his wife in court papers of spousal rape and sodomy while she slept. The good doctor's response in his defense? That he mistakenly missed her permissible privates for the no-go-area!
    I was reminded of this incredible paradox when I saw a diatribe bearing my name as it's caption "Emmanuel Ogebe's Laundromat." Frankly I did not realize that I was that famous in cyber9ja celebritydom and that unknown people could actually attract interest in an article simply by putting my name there (Of course I am touched that I may have generated a cottage industry for under employed Diaspora talents to ventilate their exile angst and gain some momentary psychological high in a recession economy.)
    I could not make head or tail of the incoherent and illucid piece but can make out a couple of threads of thot from my dear net author Pontius Pius Adesanmi's efforts. As the article holds no nuggets of ideas or issues, it is not amenable to rigorous intellectual review. I will therefore subject it to a limit of 6 observations.
    1. Pontius Pius' first line says Emmanuel Ogebe should "shut up." This was his finest response to a constitutional treatise I had published in an op ed in the Guardian. Thus this intellectual giant of the Diaspora was denying my fundamental human right to freedom of expression. Apparently the right to expression is allowable only to him and his view point.
    2. Pontius Pius then amazingly misread my byline at the end of the article (see below) which reads "Ogebe is a U.S.-based Legal Consultant on Nigeria" and errroneously concluded that I was arrogantly describing myself as a "consultant to the Nigerian government." Thereafter his entire thousand-word essay was founded on this basic lack of comprehension and therefore was fatally flawed from conception to the end.
    The title Legal Consultant on Nigeria derives from the DC Bar and is one I have used since 2003 when I made history as the first Nigerian lawyer to obtain that license. Pontius pious then went on a tangent about consultancy that out of respect for the intellect of the current reader, I will not repeat as I myself cannot comprehend his rant.
    3. At no point did Pontius attempt to address any constitutional issues raised by my article. Rather he grudging conceded my right to defend my family name but he made no effort to protect his as he exhibited the most uncouth language and intellectually porous arguments on personality not on issue. He therefore self-annulled even the one redeeming feature in his piece that would have made for objectivity.
    4. Pontius then revealed that he regurgitated his article from 2008 because I had gone after Shakara reporters. In essence admitting that his contribution was done out of spite or vengeance.
    The question is - if I pointedly asked Sahara to prove allegations or retract - have I not made a scientific inquiry that requires a scientific result? How is that going after Sahara? Is it only Sahara that can go after? And of course pontius too can go after? But God forbid that I should dare to ask "oga sir pls u say I tiff, abeg show me wetin I tiff make me myself know."
     Sowore proposed a theoreme comprising premise A,B,C leading to conclusion D. I have asked for proof of 'A' to begin with and Adesanmi has called the attack dogs!
    5. Upon reflection, one can only conclude that Pontius Pius is a nobody. Only a person with no self-esteem, self-respect or self-worth would display such wanton ignorance from the highest rostrum with no thought for his nakedness in the market square. After reading his tirade, the reader comes away without a discernible improvement in his knowledge base. Nothing learned. Just a waste of 20 minutes of one's life. Even in this elementary essay, Pontius failed to achieve an end goal.
    I say he is a "nobody" not because he has of a no-name pedigree. That would be wrong of me and goes against my nature. Indeed I make bold to say that my life is modelled on these lines:
     "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in[e] Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
    27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible." Hebrews chapter 11
    I am somebody not because of who I am but because of who I have become. As a young lawyer in Nigeria, I forsook influential clientele to side with the human rights and pro democracy struggle. I was arrested, detained and tortured by Abacha's goons until I finally came on exile. With my pedigree and intellect, I have no business being in America but my personal belief, principle, conviction and faith brought me on a collision course with the powers that be then and now.
    I have been consistent in fighting for respect for Abiola's June 12 mandate. Ironically Justice Ogebe was one of the 3 courageous judges who defied General Abacha and granted Abiola bail at the court of appeal in 1995. Of course Pius Adesanmi was conveniently not around when I was in detention or when Ogebe gave that verdict to accuse him of being influenced by Abiola's money to grant bail. When he was passed over for the Supreme Court in 1998, the Adesanmis of this world were not there to lament the travesty. Yet he and Abiola are of course brothers. I am not. My pro-June 12th stance was purely on principle at great personal price.
    In the absence of the mandate i have been consistent in the call for compensation for the Abiola family for the last 8 years. Again no Adesanmi to be found. Suddenly comes 2007 election and behold Pontius shows up axe-wielding, tiger-riding and shadow boxing - a paper tiger in his fiercest glory!
    6. The final observation in all this is that although a nobody, Adesanmi is not a no-book janitor.
    I honestly thought he was a dysfunctional literate until I saw his impressive academic signature.
    Pius Adesanmi, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor
    Director, Project on New African Literatures (PONAL)
    Department of English
    Carleton University
    Ottawa, Canada
    K1S 5B6
    Tel: +1 613 520 2600 ext. 1175

    Wow! he is a prof in an actual (accredited non-online) university and
    1. He denies freedom of expression to others as a wanton dictator would?
    2. A prof in the department of English and yet he cannot understand that "a U.S.-based Legal Consultant on Nigeria" does not mean "for the government of Nigeria?" or does "Director of New African Literature" mean "for governments of Africa?"
    3. He has a doctorate degree and cannot address constitutional issues in a legal treatise objectively but rather went on an ethnic cleansing rampage against my family?
    4. He operates in a center for academic freedom yet he wants to hammer me for attempting to speak in my own personal defence for the first time in one year after he and his cohorts have gone on ignorance gallivant all over the internet by reycling an expired junk piece from 2008?
    5. Pontius is actually a director over other people? He writes like a garbage-collector by day whose only outlet to redeem some form of machismo and manhood is by internet bravado and braggadacio. He does not write like one with any managerial, leadership or diplomatic skills.
    6. Pius Adesanmi is actually a quasi intellectual? Where did he buy his Toronto degree - Walmart, Ebay or Ariaria market? If someone this educated and able to feed well with access to PC can be this functionally-illiterate then it is all over for us in Africa. There is no hope whatsoever!
    Well maybe not for Nigeria but at least for Africa. Our Camerounian sister Ms Joe pointed out that personality versus issues were unbecoming. Again Nigerians have exposed our pettiness before the world. Goodluck to Cameroun! Tough luck to Naija...
    I was well aware of the risk of trying to speak out in this black-on-black lynch fest where idle minds and feeble thots often hold full court. I anticipated that quack doctors would jump into the fray but as JFK said "there are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction..."
    Moses left the palace and killed an oppressive co-Egyptian. When he tried to make peace between his own Israeli brethren they themselves attacked him. How similar to my misadventures with the "masses." Heaven and hellfire are very real constructs that will be the ultimate revealer of truth and men's motives when the deceit and intellectually dishonesty of this age is passed.
    However God has blessed me with a one size-fits-all ignoramus to address once and for all for those who belong to the tribe of the foaming-at-the-mouth pseudo patriot. Adesanmi is all the case study I need to show how "sounds and fury, signifying nothing" can be elevated in cyberspace to citizen junknalism. His breaking the silence has removed all doubt about his gravitas.

    I return to my private space after this not because I am sanguine that my words will not fall on deaf ears. But simply I have taken a stand so the intellectually curious and agile can sift for themselves from the chaff and the wheat. Again JFK "A man does what he must.. in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures.. and that is the basis of all human morality."
    (Below, I have included my original article in the Guardian for comparison, Adesanmi's scholarly contributions)

Why Yar'Adua can't win
By E.I. Ogebe
THE Constitution of the Federal Republic requires the president of Nigeria upon the recommendation of the National Judicial Commission to forward the names of Supreme Court nominees to the Senate for confirmation.

As it turns out, Justice Ogebe who happens to be presiding judge on the presidential elections tribunal was nominated by the NJC in 2007 for appointment to the Supreme Court. However, when his name was formally forwarded by the executive to the Senate for confirmation, conspiracy theorists went agog, as is often the case in Nigeria, with all sorts of puerile and preposterous innuendo. Even one or two lawyers who should know better, in an effort to play to the gallery of their political clientele have made remarks totally unsubstantiated by the law or the facts. The truth is that the two judges, Ogebe JCA and Coomasie JCA were nominated not by Umaru Yar'Adua but by a group of judges of the Supreme Court and esteemed members of the Nigerian Bar Association.

However, by reason of a redundant provision in the constitution, the NJC has to send the nominees to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who then sends the names to the president who in turn sends the names to the president of the Senate for confirmation. Thus the function of the president in the whole process is no more than an executive courier - a postman. All he is required to do is collect the letter from the CJN and forward it to the president of the Senate. The real duty of assent lies with the Senate not with the executive.

The beauty of the Nigerian system over the U.S. with respect to judicial nominations is that it is purely apolitical process. While the U.S. president can pick whomever he wants, as George Bush did when he forwarded his personal lawyer for confirmation, in Nigeria it is actually members of the legal profession and fellow jurists that make the selection thus maintaining professionalism, decorum and merit in the process. Conversely, in America judicial confirmations are tawdry, rancorous and downright unseemly.

The problem with the Nigerian appointment process though is that for some reason, although the president has no role in the selection, he is required to send it forward to the Senate. This situation calls for constitutional amendment because it adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and avoidable politicisation to the process in a clime prone to such. Indeed it is a stark abuse of the concept of separation of powers because the judiciary is being subjected to dual exposure by both of the other arms of government who are both political whereas it is apolitical.
The democratic dispensation is very different from the military one where the Armed Forces Ruling Council as the executive arm, in the absence of a legislature, simply appointed justices upon reviewing the recommendations of the NJC. In the past, a meddlesome democratic executive has been known to refuse to forward the names from CJN to Senate President and actually returned to sender repeatedly until the NJC amended the list of nominees. This is clearly an abuse of office as nowhere is the president given powers under our laws to place a demand on the NJC in appointing judges.

At worst, a president withholding the names of nominees from confirmation consideration is tantamount to the withholding of Lagos local government funds after a Supreme Court pronouncement. It is disrespect for due process. The most, a president can do, it is respectfully submitted, is to like any ordinary person raise whatever security report objection they have at the Senate hearing. This is where checks and balances come into play. Thus the judge nominee will have a fair hearing which he himself as a dispenser of same is entitled to.

Therefore Yar'Adua was entitled to, indeed, duty-bound to follow due process and forward the names on. If anything, he can be blamed for not acting expeditiously in sending the name forward when the justices were nominated in October last year. Once again his go-slowship has constituted itself into a noisome nuisance.
But the fact of the matter is, whether he had forwarded the names before or after the judgment, our conspiracy-theory-loving compatriots would, if it turned out his way, say it was a reward or even on the other hand that they were trying to get rid of the judge because he was going to rule against them.

It is one of those moments of which it can truly be said that you are damned if you do, damned if you don't! This is why Yar'Adua cannot win on the issue of this nomination. Whether he forwarded the names before or after, someone would complain. It is a no win situation until our citizens are better enlightened or the constitution is amended.

Recently, Yar'Adua conferred on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Kutigi, upon the recommendation of the National Council of State, a National Honours Award. This is at a time the Supreme Court itself has reserved judgment on one of the election petitions filed against President Yar'Adua. Is there any right-thinking person who for a moment would allege that the presidential award is a means of inducing the Supreme Court over the very same presidential election petition now on appeal before them? Incidentally, the Supreme has six cases challenging Yar'Adua's election before it while the Court of Appeal has just two!

    * Ogebe is a U.S.-based Legal Consultant on Nigeria (this is the 5-word sentence prof misunderstoond and misfired from)

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