Tuesday, April 16, 2024

On this rising violence against Nigeria’s judiciary

Nothing can stand in a society where the judiciary is minimised, abused, and ridiculed.

• August 13, 2023
Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Lately, no institution of government has been the object of derision, blackmail, and threats like the judiciary. This venerable and inviolable magisterial conservatory has been reduced to the jack-a-lent of ridicule, hate, and spite by those who are pursuing political profits through guerrilla means. How did we get here?

In the past, the judiciary had a sacrality that citizens dare not violate or abuse with wild conjectures, fallacies, innuendos, and invective. The judiciary was like a place of worship, where due obeisance and respect were paid. It was like the holy of holies.

Vicious attacks were reserved for the executive and the legislature. But all of that has changed. Today, citizens, some of them born in the new millennium, take up cudgels and mud to bludgeon and smear the judiciary. The long-held worship of the judiciary seems to have evaporated.

What changed? Politics. Our politics has become more ill-omened, devastatingly cold, and dark. The 2023 elections precipitated a dangerous angle to citizens’ behaviour and to citizen-government relationships. The disposition and political proclivities of some candidates in the election, particularly, those who lost the election, introduced scorched-earth tactics into political opposition.

This dimension of opposition is most destructive, perfidious, and insidious. It tears down without building; it talks down without uplifting; it attacks without reason; it claims without evidence; it lies without let; it defames and defiles without conscience; and it opposes without a cause. All it seeks is to pull down and destroy – for as long as its longing for the seat remains a chimera.

The judiciary became the captive of vicious propaganda as the appellate judges heard cases over the 2023 presidential election. The names and photos of the justices hearing the cases became items for poisoned campaigns and objurgations. Some of the justices were virtually harassed, and their particulars were brought into the open.

A justice sitting on the panel was reported – by the troubadours of fake news on social media – to have resigned in protest against the conduct of other members of the panel. The National Judicial Council issued a statement torpedoing the falsehood.

The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal concluded a hearing on the matter on August 1 and reserved judgment. But the violence against the judiciary has ratcheted up. A few days ago, a vicious and injurious defamation, pertaining to the cases before the presidential election court, against a former governor and minister twirled on the ubiquitous and ungoverned social media. The photo of an individual alleged to be a judge with his grandchildren was published and assaulted on the same network as well.

As you read through this filament of words, a large billboard with the words “ALL EYES ON THE JUDICIARY” is currently on display on Abuja-Keffi Road, just opposite Mogadishu Barracks in the Federal Capital Territory. These are clearly subliminal threats against the judiciary.

The petals of desperation. The exploitation of mass hysteria. And the concomitants of confusion.

It is clear that the unlawful resort to naked blackmail against judges is to menace the judiciary – to bend it to the will of those seeking political gains. And perhaps to create a siege of option and chaos should the judgment of the presidential election court reflect a different candidate; and prejudice the court with an impossible fait accompli.

It is dangerous having very high hopes where there is no similitude of chance; it is foolhardy creating a dream that is unrealisable. It is unwise holding unto an illusion, believe it and live it. The only way out of this phantasm is the asylum.

It is important to mention that government, at all levels, is also complicit in the collapsing stature of the judiciary. The disregard for court orders and the raiding of the residences of judges, as witnessed in previous administrations, contribute to the desecration of the temple of justice. The judiciary itself is not without blame, but we must not in any way discredit this seminal institution or blot out its indispensability. The judiciary is too important to hold in contempt.

Nigerians must understand that the judiciary is the terminal instrument of all citizens. It must remain sacred. What is holy should be left whole. It must not be scandalised and diminished by those who lack a basic understanding of how institutions function. It must not become a sport for political gladiator-ship, manoeuvrings, and attacks. It should be left in its pristineness to function.

The danger of scandalising the judiciary is enormous for society. Nothing can stand in a society where the judiciary is minimised, abused, and ridiculed. Even under military regimes, the judiciary is allowed to function because of its central role in the balance of society and in the maintenance of law and order.

This violence against the judiciary must stop.

Fredrick Nwabufo, Nwabufo a.k.a Mr OneNigeria, is a writer and journalist

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