Tinubu and Betta life

Judicial lessons from Kaduna for Gov Abba, Sanusi

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ON Thursday, while returning parties in the Kano Emirate crisis to pre-Lamido Sanusi’s re-enthronement by Kano State government, Justice Abdullahi Muhammad Liman, now-of the Federal High Court, and soon-to-be of the Court of Appeal, whether inadvertently or in a poorly-concealed deliberate hurrah during a victory lap, pointed to the likely judicial future of the ambition-ravaged, now-cheapened but once-revered Kano throne.

I will consider just three poignant instances. First, he was certain that the state would not be let off the hook, overreaching his “order from abroad”. So, contrary to Auwalu Yadudu, Professor of Law’s claim, nothing in Liman’s ruling was ambivalent, except for a party in the suit trying to sync its messaging of the pronouncement with overall agenda. Two, he promised to deploy the coercive powers of the court, to force compliance with his latest “home” ruling, which dialed time back to when Aminu Ado Bayero was the lawful Emir of Kano. Judiciary often resorts to coercive powers when it feels diminished.

Three, he confidently disclosed he was handing the matter over because of his ascension to higher bench. Liman is supposed to be under the probe instituted into the Kano Emirship tussle by the National Judicial Council and he would not be assuming higher responsibility if preliminary investigation launched into the conflicting rulings by him and Justice Aminu Adamu Aliyu of Kano High Court, had found him errant or that he likely misconducted himself.

The emergency meeting of the Council called over the Kano case, couldn’t hold due to Labour strike action and Sallah break, according to my findings and if members are likely to participate virtually in the re-scheduled meeting, which has no fixed date yet (I checked with relevant authorities) as I write this, then Liman would have won a moral victory on his “ruling from abroad”, since I was told that instead of the tradition of summoned judicial officers facing select probe panels, this time, the invited fellows would be answering straight to the plenary of the Council, which is going to be a full house, with in-person and virtual participations.

How incongruous would it look for someone participating virtually to rule Liman wrong for hastening the course of justice virtually?

Even if NJC eventually holds that Liman misconducted himself in the first ruling upon which he built his latest, which materially and effectively terminated Lamido Sanusi as Emir, Kano government would still have to toe the path of an appeal to set Liman’s subsisting order, aside. At least, Femi Falana, SAN, has prepped a path for the embarrassed authorities on the issue of jurisdiction. Governor Abba Yusuf and his crowd, should take this route to stand a redeeming chance, because not even NJC can overrule Liman, even if ruled a hack in this matter. Kano government would do well abandoning its deliberately rigged messaging of the latest ruling, possibly designed to assauge the feeling of defeat among its supporters. Reinterpreting the ruling won’t make it go away as a defeat, or change it to an enforceable win. Getting bullish with Bayero, by pulling down the mini palace he currently occupies, won’t also change government’s fortune with the judiciary and now, with the watching public.

It can only worsen the optics. Already, public sympathy and goodwill are dwindling for Sanusi, basically because of how Governor Yusuf has been thuggishly prosecuting his return agenda. If a topdog, you keep pummeling an underdog, the people are going to take up his battle at a point irrespective of cultural or religious divergence. Apart from submitting himself to the ongoing judicial process, Bayero had barely muttered a word since his travail began though it is clear that his battle is being fought from Abuja. Even the Bible says a fool who can shut his mouth would be considered wise (see Proverbs 17:28). The Abba camp however, has been everywhere, alleging everything and accusing everyone. Who fights a strategy battle being this prolix?

The Emirate crisis is, no doubt, fully political but as long as the country operates constitutional democracy, the judiciary will have the final say and this is why I think the governor’s camp may benefit a thing or two from how the judiciary settled the last governorship election in Kaduna State.

Whenever the system goes on trial like it has in Kano, it has a way of uniting and unifying.

On September 28, 2023, the Tribunal looking into PDP’s Isa Ashiru’s case against incumbent Uba Sani of APC, had controversially in a majority decision, held that while Sani’s lead counsel, former AGF Bayo Ojo, SAN, was right that Isa’s petition was BiD (Brought-in-Dead), it went into a needless voyage of “wishes”, saying a supplementary poll would have been ordered if the petition wasn’t abandoned by the petitioners. Just like the saying “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride”.

However, PDP seized on the “wish” of the Tribunal and went to town with news of Sani’s sack. Expectedly, just like Kano government’s Thursday outing, the messaging initially resonated with the public and even a section of the media dubbed Sani’s victory “technical justice”.

In this state of deliberate messaging “confusion”, the Court of Appeal weighed in on November 24, 2023, taking Sani’s victory beyond doubt in a unanimous decision, siding with the former AGF. The penultimate court bluntly held that there was nothing to justify another single vote being cast in the state after the main poll. The three-man panel said nothing was proved because the petition, as argued by Ojo, was dead from the very begining.

By the time the Supreme Court was done on January 19, 2024, thrashing the supplementary election claim and request, nobody remembered anything about a controversial Tribunal ruling or technical justice again.

I can wager on the next judicial pronouncement on the Kano matter, especially at the Court of Appeal where Liman is headed (certainly he won’t get to sit on the matter again), coming with enough lucidity that a loss won’t look like a win and vice versa.

The odds are that the same scenario will play out at the apex court, where a new CJN would be seated in the next 60 days, possibly before the Kano appeal will berth.

Instead of threatening a report to the Governors’ Forum where the dismantling of NJC is always on its card, Abba should read the fine lines of this ego-contest well, before he procures for SLS a lifetime embarrassment now that the state appears to have foreclosed any peaceful resolution of the stalemate, with Bayero.

And to think Bayero and Sanusi are from the same bloodline. Some cousins sha!

ALSO READ: Cholera: Stop drinking rainwater, Kano govt warns residents

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