Exclusive! Judicial pronouncements can derail our democracy, George-Ikoli SAN warns

Ogunsakin Mustapha
7 Min Read

A senior lawyer, and former Attorney General of Bayelsa State, Mr Anthony George-Ikoli SAN has warned the judiciary not to crash the nation’s democracy with different and conflicting utterances and orders coming out of Nigerian courts.

George-Ikoli, the first Senior Advocate to be produced by Bayelsa State said that the present state of the judiciary is a cause for worry to all right thinking persons. “Our failures on the political terrains have always been presaged by the perfidious collapse of the judiciary .The treasonable felony cases of the Action Group years, culminated in the first coup.

The declarations of the courts in the Second Republic presaged the 1984 coup. Also, the pronouncements of the courts before and after the annulment of the June 12,1993 elections led to another coup. How did we end it all? The discordant symphonies from the courts of late should worry and be particularly troubling to all lovers of democracy”, he said, adding that  ” I am looking and very avidly too, for a silver lining in all these, depressingly I can find none. God help us all”.

The senior lawyer said he loathe to venture opinions in public, especially when not paid for, “but the good of the public, compels a departure from this predilection, as in now, every now and again”.

He lamented the present composition of Nigeria’s Supreme Court, saying the occupiers of the hallowed chambers cannot be compared to the sages that held court in the past. “The current complement of the Supreme Court is not an asset . Just Judex without Jurists; not even pepper without salt, but unfortunately, just all of the same and our country is the poorer for it. The unceasing misadventures of the bench (especially as its lack of depth and profundity is demonstrated with embarrassing regularity) makes inevitable the conjecture that we would never ever again experience the sublime offerings of the philosophers; Justices Chukwudifu Oputa, Kayode Esho, Charles Madarikan, Niki Tobi, Karibi Whyte, (the peerless Taslim Elias) George Oguntade, Fatai Williams, Udo Udoma, Chukwunweike Idigbe…all in no particular order”.

The Nigerian judiciary has been enmeshed in several controversies over judicial decisions in political cases before them recently. The Supreme Court for instance faced flaks on its decision in Zamfara, Imo, and Bayelsa States gubernatorial elections. A new twist of judicial pronouncements seems to be replacing the power of the people to decide their leaders through polls.

The senior lawyer commenting on the Supreme Court decision on both Imo and Bayelsa State said: The two cases exposed the timidity of the court and weakness of its bench. They (justices) frittered away an opportunity for immortality. As we say, the two cases are distinguishable”.

He said further: “Respectfully, the Supreme Court, is a neutered institution; apart from its role as umpire between states and between states and the federal government, it is, what the Italians call a, stromboni; potentially lethal, but practically harmless. This Supreme Court is just an assemblage of reviewers. But that is where their problems emanate from. It has no original jurisdiction, outside that donated by its constitutive protocols, but and despite that constriction, it is the only institution, in a Constitutional  Democracy, imbued with the unfettered ability to shape society. It is the only body, literally and largely unregulated to profoundly affect the health of the commonwealth. Acts of the parliament can be ruled unconstitutional, but there is none that can so declare a pronouncement of the Supreme Court;

Without fear or favour; without let or hindrance, with malice to none, even if the heavens fall, justice shall not be only done, but , it shall be manifestly seen to have been done. These are all that ,we were taught, but can we say and confidently that, those paradigms are still the ruling ethos of the court? ;

Bayelsa, was perhaps a wrong summation and consequently, perhaps a wrong and unjust review, but, Imo was patently judicial heresy. Analyze the legalese employed and deployed in the two judgements; one was combatively excoriating, unapologetically redemptive and territorially assumptive, while the second, was tentatively presumptive and defensively magisterial; there was even a dissenting opinion;

As a collegiate, dispensing judicial nostrum, dissenting opinions amongst the robed brethren,  is confirmatory of lack of unanimity and nothing is more emblematic of the chaos in the temple. By my attainments, I am a senior votary in the  temple; enjoying privileged preferment as a praetorian of the court, but with Bayelsa and Imo, especially Imo, I dare to be iconographic and I say, our  rainments are sepulchral and justice itself is on trial.

George-Ikoli, himself an aspirant under the umbrella of the Peoples’  Democratic Party (PDP) in last year’s Bayelsa gubernatorial elections advised that the judiciary should create a separate court to handle constitutional and political matters to safe the country from collapse.

He said: “Nigeria must now have a court purely for constitutional and electoral matters. The regular courts must not be burdened and saddled with the current detritus of egregious human ambition.it is unfair to them and being “politicians “ themselves, a continuation along the current “foolish” path will sooner than later crash this experiment”.

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