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The Kano comedy of errors

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THE drama surrounding the political interference in one of the foremost traditional institutions in the country, culminating in the dethronement of the now reinstated Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the splitting of his  kingdom into five emirates and the appointment of emirs in each of the emirates on March 9, 2020, has yet to end.  And it is uncertain if it could be described as having gone full circle despite the recent reinstatement of the dethroned emir and the scrapping of the four additional emirates created at the time of his dethronement. This is because the battle for the soul of the leadership of the kingdom has shifted to the courtroom. The recently dethroned emir, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is challenging his removal from office and, by implication, the reinstatement of Emir Sanusi. As usual, and sadly so, politicians have dragged the judiciary into purely traditional matters, and the latter is already being scapegoated by members of the public for issuing conflicting orders on the same matter. Even the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) whose members, as counsels to the parties involved in the case, were pivotal in filing the processes upon which the judges based their orders, has been unsparing in censuring the judicial indiscretions that resulted in the conflicting orders by different courts on a matter that is largely the same.

Disturbed by the sordid turn of events, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, reportedly summoned the heads of the two courts from which the discordant orders emanated to appear at his chambers at the Supreme Court complex, Abuja. The two senior judicial officers directed by the CJN to attend the emergency meeting last week were Justice John Tsoho, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and Justice Dije Aboki, the Chief Judge of Kano State High Court. According to media reports, the emergency meeting with the CJN was to enable him to have proper briefing on the issue, and is most probably a prelude to a painstaking inquiry into the conflicting and embarrassing court orders which have unwittingly but effectively created a debacle over the Kano emirship tussle and for which the judiciary is being acerbically censured.  This is because the National Judicial Council (NJC) may be conducting an emergency meeting this week where the judges will be invited, interrogated and made to account for the seeming missteps of their courts.

It is gratifying that this time around,  the NBA is not just coming down heavily on the judges but also on the lawyers involved in the cases. The association has actually called for a probe of the judges and the lawyers. This is very significant, because the point has always been made that both the bar and the bench have to be jointly and genuinely interested in the sanitisation of the judiciary in order for the lofty objectives of restoring confidence in, and upholding the integrity of, the judiciary to be attained. It is saddening that the judiciary has yet to learn its lessons and wean itself off the patronage of politicians who are allegedly adept at deploying the instruments of incentives and intimidation to subvert the cause of justice.  There will always be parties to a suit and the judge will have to decide one way or the other, and it is most unlikely that all parties will applaud a judgment.  However, a clear conscience, it is said, fears no accusation, and the only way for a judge to have a clear conscience is to ensure that his/her rulings are predicated strictly on law, both procedural and substantive, while at the same time remaining insular to interference from external forces attempting to illegally sway court verdicts in their favour.

The development in Kano is very disappointing and embarrassing. Conflicting orders of courts do not only make a mockery of the judiciary but also bring it to avoidable public disgrace and opprobrium.  The sordid state of affairs raises a few posers. How on earth did a chieftaincy matter come under the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court? Is chieftaincy a fundamental right? Is it not a privilege to those entitled to it?  Is it not even a privilege to one out of a number of persons entitled to it? Nonetheless, and truth be told, it is not unlikely that the deposed emir, Ado Bayero, and his handlers headed to the Federal High Court because they feared that no Kano State High Court judge would be courageous enough to entertain or do justice to their case because of political interference.  This fear is a veritable one, whether founded or unfounded in the instant case, and the judicial authority at the highest level is urged to inquire into it across courts in the states with a view to reining it in. Yes, the problem in Kano was not created by the judiciary but it has been sadly amplified by it and that ought not to be. The judiciary must learn to resist the quest by unscrupulous politicians to do their unlawful biddings for whatever reason.  Judicial officers should endeavour to refrain from making decisions that predispose them to being regarded as villains by members of the public. Politicians have allegedly interfered in electoral matters time and again, and now, they have successfully introduced chieftaincy matters into the fray. This is most deplorable.

It is important to mention that the traditional rulers need to come to terms with the modern-day laws that subordinate them, as it were, to the constituted authorities in their states and even in the local governments. Yes, in the days of yore, it would have been unthinkable,  and indeed ludicrous, to imagine that the likes of the Ooni of Ife, Sultan of Sokoto, Obi of Onitsha, the Oba of Benin and so on would defer to any mortal in their respective jurisdictions, but that is the law today. The implication is that traditional rulers who genuinely desire peace, stability, development and progress of their jurisdictions must be on the same page with the government of the day even if they neither voted for the leaders in the exercise of their electoral choices nor intend to vote them in future elections. They must also shun partisan politics and refrain from unbridled sociopolitical activism. It is equally imperative to admonish politicians, too, to always apply wisdom and tact in their dealings with the traditional rulers and treat them with the respect their office demands. That is very crucial if they must be partners in progress, and indeed they have to. Again, it is in the enlightened interest of politicians to be careful about how they wield executive power because the evil they orchestrate today may come back to bite them in future. In particular, the deployment and misuse of executive power to subject revered thrones to ridicule and instability on the altar of political considerations is most unconscionable and does not bode well for the society. It has the potential to cause the breakdown of law and order.

We commend the security agencies whose proactive interventions have thus far helped to contain the resort to violence in a city like Kano that is always on tenterhooks.

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