One year after what is turning out an illegal suspension of Justice Isa Ayo Salami, President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), it is ode to reckless and wanton rape of the rule of law.
The irony is damaging enough for a democracy trying to gather suction. The traducer is Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic and the republican servant-in-chief, who took the oath to obey the law and preserve the integrity of the Constitution, which makes him the prime custodian and protector of the rule of law in our country.
The victim, on the other hand, is a jurist of note and iconic man of conscience on the Nigerian Higher Bench; next only in official ranking to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
Now if gold rusts, as Geoffery Chaucer, the English poet queried in his Canterbury Tales, what will iron do? If the president must play politics with the law – and justice – and the victim of that power play is the official Number 2 in the judicial hierarchy, who else is safe from impunity and wanton injustice? Now, which polity can put up with such violent contradictions, and yet not lose something critical and essential in its democratic evolution?
That is the sorry pass which the Justice Salami saga has brought this country. Yet, the current powers-that-be do not seem to appreciate the tragic reality of their power posturing!
Indeed, Justice Salami’s suspension odyssey is well and truly a kangaroo case. A kangaroo National Judicial Council (NJC) – kangaroo because its quorum was suspect, aside from shunning a valid court order telling it to stay action – met on August 18, 2011, pronounced Justice Salami suspended, and recommended his dismissal to the president.
Then, a kangaroo presidency hurried post-haste to implement the order, but hid under subversive legalese to act as though it only met the NJC order half-way. It okayed the suspension, but said the “dismissal” bit would wait until after all the court cases in the matter had been disposed of.
That was very neatly done: for that action satisfied the partisan imperative of appeasing a retiring but baleful CJN Aloysius Katsina-Alu, whose quarrel with Justice Salami inspired the clear NJC conspiracy; and hurting but thieving People’s Democratic Party(PDP) faithful in Ekiti and Osun states, who by virtue of the Court of Appeal under Justice Salami, were forced to ignominiously surrender their gubernatorial loot.
Then on May 10, the NJC met and reversed itself on the Salami suspension – and a president and his legal advisers that were quick to suspend, even with a subsisting court order, have so far become slow to restore!
Besides, the kangaroo setting is further underscored by the so-called acting PCA who knows by law he has no basis to be on that seat, since the law clearly specifies how long a PCA should act before yielding for the substantive filling of the post. Yet, the acting PCA sits there, a proud symbol of blatant rape of the law, the very fundament of the judicial system!
It is a good thing the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was quick to raise the Salami case, at the first anniversary of that grave injustice. Sure that reminder has not, so far, made a recalcitrant president change tack from his brazenly illegal path. But it has again brought to full public glare the open sore of a nation, to paraphrase the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, whose president, and the holiest-of-holies of his legal advisers, profane the law; and do not ‘give a damn’ on the dire consequences of institutionalised impunity.
Those who would counter that the ACN is an interested party in the case miss the point. That it is involved does not vitiate the president’s illegality and culpable double-standard for partisan gains in the Salami matter. To hold otherwise is to be guilty of the fallacy of ad hominem – in this case, meaning that generally certified facts automatically change, simply because it comes from the mouth of an interested party.