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Opinion: An Openly Partisan Chief Justice of Nigeria



By Farooq A. Kperogi

When Justice Tajudeen Olukayode Ariwoola was appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria, I was excited for two reasons. One, he comes from Oke-Ogun, a part of Oyo State, nay western Nigeria, that is perpetually located on the political and symbolic margins of Nigeria’s Yoruba world.

My enduring passion for the dispensation of representational justice to all groups in Nigeria conduced to my feeling of joy. That someone from Iseyin, a sleepy mid-sized town in what is arguably Yorubaland’s backwater, became CJN not because of where he comes from but on merit has a significance that most Nigerians don’t and can’t appreciate. The sense of communal fulfilment that his appointment has inspired in Oke-Ogun has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Two, after I familiarized myself with his professional trajectory, I came away with the distinct impression that he understood the weight, solemnity, and impartiality that his responsibility as CJN requires. I thought he would be a comforting departure from his predecessor who was suddenly and deliberately promoted to his position only as a strategy to give a legal imprimatur to Buhari’s planned electoral fraud in 2019—after the illegal removal Walter Onnoghen because he was suspected by influence peddlers in Buhari’s Aso Rock to be sympathetic to PDP.

But it is now emerging that Justice Ariwoola may just be as partisan, as compromised, as purchasable, and as clueless as his predecessor—if not more so. On Friday, newspapers reported Justice Ariwoola to have attended a ceremonial dinner party organized for him on Thursday by Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike—of course, with Wike’s four duteous gubernatorial courtiers in tow—after commissioning projects Wike completed in Port Harcourt.

During the dinner, the CJN needlessly thrust himself in the murkiness of political partisanship when he openly identified with Wike’s ongoing gladiatorial political combat with PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and PDP chairman Iyiorcha Ayu. He said he was happy that Seyi Makinde, the governor of his state, was part of the PDP governors who are revolting against their party’s presidential candidate.

“That is why we should not be scared to have these men of the integrity group,” he said after eating his fill of Wike’s dinner goodies. “And I am happy that my own governor is among them because he would try to imitate his friend and in-law because we came here to marry for my governor. So, Governor Wike will always threaten that he will call back his sister if my governor fails to play ball. That is why you see him following His Excellency because my governor is afraid of his wife being recalled.”

He obviously said that in jest, but as English poet Geoffrey Chaucer pointed out in The Cook’s Tale in 1390, many a true word is spoken in jest. In other words, people often betray their true thoughts and perspectives on issues in humorous remarks. Humor vitiates the directness and hurt of some uncomfortable truths.

The CJN deployed the cover of humor to insert himself into the partisan disputes of a major political party whose litigations he might be required to adjudicate in the coming weeks and months. How can the other people he doesn’t support expect justice from him?

Well, as if to make it clear that his partisanship isn’t unintentional, after his partisan postprandial humor, he descended into cheap, vulgar, undignified, and saccharine extolments of Wike’s putative accomplishments in ways that would shame professional griots.

“The things that [Wike] is bestowing to generations unborn will be hard to beat,” he said. “That’s why he says it all. Anytime he has the opportunity, he will say. Yes, he would not be in office forever, but whatever time he has to spend in office, let it be spent very well.”

The CJN, who is constitutionally required to transcend petty political partisanships, was just getting started in his disgraceful and embarrassing hagiographic adoration of Wike. He continued: “I was telling somebody that [Wike] started far below from being council chairman, and the Lord saw in him a son worth raising. I have no doubt the sky is still the limit for Your Excellency. The whole world is seeing what you can do, seeing what you are doing, and wants it replicated. It has to be replicated.”

I honestly feel embarrassed on the CJN’s behalf. The man seems to have lost his calling. It’s evident that he would do better as a praise singer who extols the virtues of rich crooks than as a judge who is required to dispense justice to all parties who come to him.

The sorts of mortifyingly cloying praises that Justice Ariwoola heaped on Wike in Port Harcourt on Thursday usually come from people who are financially compromised, who are dazed by the enormous financial inducement that they received from the object of verbal worship, and who are going out of their way to justify the financial investment in them. He spoke like the piper whose tune was called by the person who paid for it.

Before I am misunderstood, I am not, by any means, suggesting that the CJN was financially induced by Wike. I’d hope that he has good enough ethical consciousness to resist that. But I can’t help but point out that there is an eerie parallel between his mawkish utterances and the maudlin utterances of paid praise singers, and that’s unmentionably horrible for a CJN.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t paid enough attention, but I had never seen a CJN who ever threw his dignity in such tatters before a partisan political crowd as Justice Ariwoola did in Port Harcourt. It’s bad enough that he attended a partisan political event during an election season; he made it worse by leaving no one in doubt that he doesn’t even pretend to be aboveboard.

A Chief Justice who doesn’t have enough moral compunction and ethical restraint to know that he shouldn’t attend a partisan political event during a campaign season— and should guard against being seen as supporting a partisan political cause— can’t be trusted to be impartial to people who are not in his good graces. He denudes himself of even the pretense to impartiality, and that’s a shame.

This isn’t about Atiku Abubakar or Iyiorcha Ayu. It is about the integrity and independence of Nigeria’s judiciary. If the CJN can profess open support for a partisan group and its cause because a governor who is notorious for inducing people with money to buy their loyalty invited him to commission a project and fed him lavishly thereafter, anyone can get him to do their bidding.

I have no confidence in a CJN who is as deficient in self-worth as Justice Ariwoola.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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Supreme Court Verdict: Executive Has Hijacked Judiciary, Legislature, LP Claims




With Thursday’s judgment of the Supreme Court affirming the electoral victory of President Bola Tinubu, the Labour Party (LP) has alleged that the legislative and judicial arms of government have been hijacked by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

At a press briefing hours after the apex court dismissed the appeals by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; and his LP counterpart, Peter Obi; LP’s Chairman, Julius Abure said the party is disappointed but has decided to charge on and remain optimistic for what the future holds for the nation.

A seven-judge panel led by Justice John Iyang Okoro ruled the opposition appeals over claims of fraud, electoral law violations, and Tinubu’s ineligibility to run for president lack merit.

The apex court affirmed the September 6, 2023 ruling by the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal that upheld the victory of APC’s Tinubu.

According to Abure, what happened from the day of the 2023 presidential election to now showed that the nation was sliding towards dictatorship.

“We are indeed very shocked and surprised that even the apex court will toe the line of an earlier judgement in spite of all the flaws associated with the judgement delivered by the Presidential Election Appeal Tribunal.

“Having conclusively exercised our fundamental rights as gifted to us by the laws of the land, we have no other choice but to move on. We may be disappointed and dismayed by the outcome of the exercise but we have chosen to trudge on and to remain optimistic of what the future holds for the nation.

“We weep for our institutions that cannot rise to the occasion and courageously defend democracy and the voices of our people.

“However, there are great lessons to be learnt. What transpired in Nigeria since the February 25 presidential election is a clear testament that our institutions are not working and that we may be sliding towards dictatorship. It is very clear that the executive has hijacked both the judiciary and the legislature. This is so unfortunate for our democracy and it is even more for the people of Nigeria.

“All what our forbearers taught us has been destroyed within a short space of time because of the unbridled ambition of a few. The founding fathers fought with their lives to achieve independence for the country.

“People lost their lives for the struggle to keep our democracy and all these years people have been struggling to achieve electoral and constitutional reforms. Regrettably, all of these efforts and struggles have been destroyed today,” Abure said.

The Labour Party chairman also alleged that some leaders of the party including himself and Obi have been marked by the government for vilification in other to suppress the party and its goal for a new Nigeria.

He called on the international community to rise to the occasion to defend democracy in Nigeria.

“Your voices were loud and clear in condemnation of the outcome of the presidential election. As we approach the next stage of our democratic journey, we call on you to stand by the millions of Nigerians who are already pushed beyond their limits into unnecessary hardship and penury,” he said.

He also urged Nigerians not to lose hope in the country, adding that “we are hopeful that we will get to our destination someday because where there is a will, certainly, there will be a way. A new Nigeria is still possible.”

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Friday Sermon: Palestine in Ebullition 2: A Call for Peace




By Babatunde Jose

You shall do no injustice in judgment: you shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. . . . nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. . . . (Leviticus, 19:15-17)”

As Muslims, our heartfelt wish is for the anger and hatred on both sides to die down, for the bloodshed to stop, and for peace to come to both lands. We oppose both the radical Palestinians bombing of innocent Israelis and Israeli killing of innocent Palestinians.

But would the interlopers, do-gooders and Munafiqun allow genuine peace to reign? Chief among them is the ‘Great Satan’, United States of America. No doubt America is not an honest broker. With a flotilla of aircraft carriers, destroyers and other weapons of mass destruction dispatched to Israel, including the preparation of 2000 troops to be sent to Israel for operation; and a proposed $40 Billion in aid to Israel: Talking about peace or settlement is a transparent sham.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is therefore doomed, intractable, complicated, and deadlocked. Today, we seem to be turning tragedy into a calamity. Only on Tuesday, 500 people were killed in a bomb raid on a Baptist hospital in Gaza. The gory scenes from the genocidal reprisals in Gaza have been variously described as a massacre, slaughter, and bloodshed. It’s like the holocaust revisited.  Latest death toll stands at 3,860 Palestinians and at least 1,403 people killed in Israel since October 7.

Since the tragic turn of events, there has been much equivocation and doublespeak on the part of many interested parties that the whole issue has become mired in semantic confusion.

President Biden advocates that Israel should wipe out Hamas but at the same time should not make the mistake of leveling Gaza. How is that possible? He also said that Israel should keep space open for settlement with Palestinian. A recipe for Peace indeed!

The status quo is killing Israeli and Arab children, their mothers, fathers, and grandparents. It is a return to the primitive on both sides. It should be noted that even some Israeli media, including the editorial board of Haaretz, have the good sense to state the obvious: Benjamin Netanyahu’s government bears responsibility for this war. On the other hand, Hamas is unwittingly playing into the hands of Netanyahu at the expense of the Palestinian population. This is very gross.

Identifying the causes of conflict and stating them openly are, on the contrary, the first steps in resolving the problem. Unfortunately, the peace makers are shy of doing just that.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all militarily occupied people have a right to resist their occupation, even militarily.

In view of the devastation of the land and people of Gaza, Hamas stands condemned for targeting Israeli civilians of any age or gender. Such targeting belies Hamas’ Islamic identity. Islam forbids the killing of innocent children and women, including elders.

Hamas succeeded unwittingly in giving a higher moral ground to Israel which has always stood condemned for its apartheid policy and in the process the excuse to ethnically cleanse Gaza of its citizens and bombing them to oblivion.

But we must condemn Israel’s indiscriminate killing of Palestinian children and women and men in Palestine.

There is talk in the western media of an unprovoked attack. What more provocation is needed than what Israel has done to the Palestinian people for 75 years.

Apart from the obnoxious policy of stealing of Palestinian lands, Israel stands condemned for its incursions into houses of worship in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Despite a 93-year-old ruling on the ownership of the place. Except that today, Israel claims it does not recognize the International Court of Justice.

Western ‘do gooders’ also stand condemned for shedding crocodile tears when Israelis are killed but feel unconcerned when Israel kills, incarcerates Palestinian men, children, and women, evicting them from their homes and denying them all fundamental rights. Where were the British Prime Minister and EU leaders when Israel was killing, incarcerating and stealing the lands of the Palestinians?

There needs to be an end to this hypocrisy.  The US Secretary of State, the Secretary for Defense and the President, including the British Prime Minister all visited Israel to show solidarity. These were all empty shows that did not succeed in changing anything.

As the Israel-Hamas war intensifies amid growing anger across the Middle East, the region looks like it’s spiraling downwards in a familiar pattern.

Biden’s trip was thrown into disarray after a meeting in Jordan with Arab leaders was called off following an explosion at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City that killed hundreds.

That catastrophe sparked a firestorm of protest, with most of the Arab world — already seething over the death toll in Gaza — blaming Israel.

For the president, the promising diplomatic drive for a rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is on ice. One of Biden’s main objectives in visiting Israel was to deter Iran, Hezbollah, and other regional actors from entering the conflict. That might be a tall order as there have been tough talks from these quarters of grave consequence if Israel carries out its plan to level Gaza.

“Relations between Israelis and Palestinians backed by the wider Arab world are in a brutally ugly phase — a reminder that such deeply rooted conflicts never really go away.” — Karl Maier

The President was rebuffed by the Arab leaders he wanted to summit with. I wonder what he wanted to tell them. What a nerve.

That primary responsibility for the antecedent conditions that most of the world recognize as having led to this latest escalation – namely, the apartheid regime imposed on Palestinians – lies principally with the West, and the US, their duplicity, complicity, and connivance. They see Israel as a strategic geo-political bulwark, buffer, and insurance for the cheap oil they get from the region. This is rather unfortunate. If the push comes to shove, and the Arab countries are forced in sympathy to retaliate by engaging in another oil embargo as they did in 1973, the West will experience a Winter of hardship.

The injustice against the Palestinian nation has become so obvious that public opinion in the West is moving against Israel, even if leaders remain blind to this fact.

We are watching an occupied, oppressed people face annihilation by a nuclear state with the full backing of the western world. This is not – and has never been – an ‘equal fight’. Right now, it is a massacre on a scale we’ve never seen before.

6,000 bombs dropped in 6 days on a strip of land just 25 miles long and 7.5 miles wide at its widest point. Whole neighborhoods flattened. Families wiped out. Hospitals collapsing under the weight of the casualties. On a population of 2 million – half of them children. 70% of them are refugees. One Palestinian child has been killed every 15 minutes since Saturday 7th October.

And now, the forced displacement of 2 million people is tantamount to ethnic cleansing. The fact that it is impossible for that many to leave means that a genocide is in the making.

All the tragedy that has happened – and continues to happen – in Palestine is traceable to the application of the Zionist ideology by its leaders.

A political turn was given to Zionism by Theodor Herzl, who in 1897 convened the first Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, which drew up the Basel program of the movement, stating that “Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.” Hence, the famous Jewish phrase “Next year in Jerusalem”.

When the Ottoman government refused Herzl’s request for Palestinian autonomy, he found support in Great Britain. In 1903 the British government offered 6,000 square miles (15,500 square km) of uninhabited Uganda for settlement, but the Zionists held out for Palestine. And the rest they say is history.

Thus, 50 years after the first Zionist congress and 30 years after the Balfour Declaration, Zionism achieved its aim of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, but at the same time, it became an armed camp surrounded by hostile Arab nations, and Palestinian organizations engaged in armed resistance. The status quo has not changed today.

Israel’s military occupation of Palestine remains at the core of this decades-long conflict which continues to impact the life of both peoples.

Throughout the world today, many intellectuals, politicians, and historians oppose Zionism. Various Christian and Jewish thinkers and authors condemn it, as do various academics in Israeli universities such as the late Israel Shahak or Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, who criticize Israeli violence directed against Palestinians and who maintain that peace can be achieved only when Israel forsakes its Zionist ideology.

Spiritually, it is a duty in the eyes of God to put an end to the fighting, which is dragging both sides deeper into unending violence.

Say: “O People of the Book! Let us rally to a common formula to be binding upon both us and you: . . . ..” (Quran, 3:64)

By using the principles of tolerance and moderation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has caused so much bloodshed over the last 75 years, can be solved. In our view, establishing peace depends upon two conditions:

1.    Israel must immediately withdraw from all the territories it occupied during the 1967 war and end the resulting occupation. That is an obligation under international law, various U.N. Security Council resolutions, and mere justice itself. All of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip must be recognized as belonging to an independent State of Palestine.

2.    East Jerusalem, the site of significant places of worship belonging to three divinely revealed religions, must be administered by the Palestine authority. However, it must have a special status and be turned into a city of peace that all Jews, Christians, and Muslims can visit comfortably, in peace and well-being, and where they can worship in their own sanctuaries.

When these conditions are fulfilled, both Israelis and Palestinians will have recognized each other’s right to live, shared the land of Palestine, and solved the contentious question of Jerusalem’s status in a way that satisfies the adherents of these three religions.

Palestine has a very long history that spans several millennia that it is too long to recount in such a short essay, but suffice to say that until 1948, it was never a Jewish country, colony or protectorate. It came under Islamic caliphate in the late 7th Century, later under Ottoman rule and the British Mandate. It had its own currency, railway, postage stamps and other paraphernalia of a country until it was partitioned in November 29, 1947.

You shall not murder. . . . . . You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house (Land)… (Exodus, 20:13-17)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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Labour Threatens Indefinite Strike, Gives One Week Ultimatum




Barely one week after leading a two-day nationwide warning strike,  the organised labour on Tuesday threatened to begin an indefinite strike should the Federal Government fail to meet its demands at the end of a 21-day ultimatum which will expire in approximately one week’s time.

The workers union said the proposed strike was necessary following the failure of the Federal Government to provide palliatives to assuage the Nigerians hardships as a result of the fuel subsidy removal.

The Nigeria Labour Congress said the industrial action which may commence any day from next week would lead to an indefinite shutdown of commercial and economic activities across the country.

Speaking with The Punch on Tuesday, the National Assistant General Secretary of the NLC, Mr Christopher Onyeka, said the FG was wrong to share a bag of rice to a dozen citizens while reportedly giving N100m palliative to each member of the National Assembly.

The union had on September 1 handed down a 21-day ultimatum to the FG over the delay in sharing of palliatives, saying it might be compelled to declare an indefinite labour action if its demands were not met.

“If the government fails to provide the appropriate responses to our demands, we encourage you to maintain your steadfast resolve. The same passion and determination that fuelled this warning strike will be crucial if we find ourselves compelled to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike,’’ the labour body said in a letter to the FG.

To demonstrate its seriousness, the NLC mobilised workers for a two-day warning strike on September 5 and 6, partially grounding social and economic activities in several states with banks, ministries, agencies and departments closed to the public in some states.

The NLC leadership had said the action was in preparation for a total shutdown which would start at the expiration of the ultimatum next week.

Among other demands, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress were asking for wage awards, implementation of palliatives, tax exemptions and allowances to the public sector workers and a review of the minimum wage.

Though the FG made a commitment to restructure the framework for engagement with organised Labour on palliatives, the eight-week timeframe set for the conclusion of the process expired in August with no action whatsoever.

The committees were given eight weeks to conclude their assignment and hasten the implementation of the framework in cushioning the effect of petrol subsidy removal on Nigerians but weeks after the timeframe expired, the sub-committees had yet to meet or actualise their mandates.

President Bola Tinubu had since June 19 set up the Presidential Steering Committee and various sub-committees to discuss the framework to be adopted on the palliatives.

The sub-committees had been created to implement FG’s palliative package in areas such as Cash Transfers, Social Investment Programme, Cost of Governance, Energy, and Mass Transit and Housing.

This was a fall-out of the President’s closed-door session with the leadership of the NLC and the TUC during a nationwide protest by the organised labour.

Nationwide protest

Giving an update on the planned walk out following the lukewarm attitude of the government, Onyeka insisted that the FG had absconded from the negotiation table, noting that it had also failed to meet the workers’ demands.

The union leader hinted that the strike would not notify the government before carrying out any action it deems fit.

He said, “We sent the letter to the Federal Government on September 1, 2023, so by September 22, 2023, the 21-day ultimatum will end.

“We have made it clear that the Federal Government has abandoned and absconded from the table for negotiation; that government is no longer negotiating with Nigerians and there is no good faith negotiation that is going on.’’

The Punch

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