Being an Address delivered by Solomon Asemota, SAN on behalf of Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Edo State at the Valedictory Court Session on the Retirement of Hon. Justice E. F. Ikponmwen, FCJEI, Chief Judge of Edo State on November 22, 2019
In the Economist of November 14, 2019, there is this special report on migration, why “voting with one’s feet” is more effective than a ballot in that by moving from one country to the other, people choose the kind of society they want to live in. One can choose by moving from Nigeria to the United States (US) as a number of Nigerians did after the purge of 1975 and are still doing in the perilous journey through the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe so that when they eventually become citizens, settle to a determined way of life. The length to which people go to be able to “vote with their feet” give a hint of how large the benefit of voting with one’s feet can be. A pious Muslim might choose to live in an Islamic country such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Egypt while some liberated women in these countries may choose to move to Canada to be able to obtain divorce should it be necessary. It will not be a bad idea if Nigerians are allowed to vote with their feet because voting with the thumbs has proved ineffective. There is need for both Democrats and Sharia proponents in Nigeria to be able to vote with their feet in the 36 states and one federal Capital Territory. If one is a democrat and wants a free and fair election, one moves to a Christian state, such as Rivers or Edo. If it is Sharia, one moves to a Sharia State and there are 12 of them with Sokoto as headquarters of the Caliphate in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is illogical however to have Democracy and Sharia operating in one Nigeria. As a country with two systems (Democracy and Sharia), Nigeria has become very unfair to both Christians and Muslims with the two irreconcilable and incompatible ideologies. It has not worked in Hong Kong, India, Pakistan or Israel and will not work in Nigeria.
The British brought all the over 389 Ethnic Nationalities together to form one Nigeria in 1914 and thereafter tutored the country on Democracy, in administration and Government. Fortunately, before independence in 1960, the British discovered that the phrase Hausa/Fulani means Sharia an Islamic word meaning “the path to be followed – the way to a watering place. The path not only leading to Allah the Most High but the path believed by all Muslims to be the path shown by Allah.” [Per Abdur Rahman I. Doi – Sharia the Islamic Law, pg. 2]. To counter this, the British ensured that the Nigerian Constitution had a chapter on Human Rights as a deliberate action to forestall Sharia. I honestly believe and, with all sense of responsibility that it is this conflict in ideologies that has been responsible for the situation Nigeria and Black Africa has found herself. The situation arose from the following as facts:
- Democracy’s origin stem from Christianity. It is the secularized residue of Church doctrine of the people of God while Sharia is that “Allah alone is the sovereign”;
- Nigeria has not been able to conduct a free, fair and credible election since the 1950s because it is against the tenet of Islam to promote man-made laws. Sharia also proclaims the supremacy of Islam over other culture, faith, government and society and it is ordained by Allah to conquer and dominate them; and
- There are other tenets of Islam that are in direct contradiction of the principle of “one man, one vote.”
The summary of the above principle are that Nigeria is at war with the promotion of these two ideologies as reflected in the presidential election of 2019 and the recently concluded Kogi and Bayelsa elections where two forces were at play: (a) those who want democracy through free, fair and credible elections as means of electing leaders; and (b) those that are determined to make it impossible for free, fair and credible elections.
To understand its implication, I must draw the attention of your lordships to the statement by one-time Secretary for the Federal Government, Alhaji Saleh in reaction to a discussion with late Prof Omo-Omoruyi thus: “Professor, my vote is not the same weight as the vote of the Emir of Bauchi, is not the same weight as the vote of the Sultan of Sokoto”. He (Saleh) thus re-emphasized the Muslim concept of pre-destination to wit: “the doctrine that all events have been willed by God, whereby God's omniscience is incompatible with human free will”. Traditional rulers were ordained by God. These are ideological issues which cannot be swept under the carpet and, as senior lawyers, we have decided to raise it on this occasion when the three heads of the arms of government - the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary are assembled.
Destroying Democracy from Within
The political history of Nigeria suggests that democracies are thought to die at the barrels of the gun, in coups and revolutions. The ordinary Nigerian must appreciate that democracy is now been strangled slowly in the hands of the people who are supposed to fight against corruption. The elections conducted in Nigeria this year – presidential and governorship in February/March 2019 and the recently concluded Kogi and Bayelsa States elections show that in future, the President need not adopt the method used in 1983; all that he requires now is to get the National Assembly to change the law as he now has the additional advantage that both the legislature and the Judiciary are Sharia compliant.
There is a rot in Nigeria which set in with the first coup of January 15, 1966 and has become very difficult to stop. Since 1966, the issue of corruption has become the bogey word used in restraining the liberty of some selected Nigerians year in, year out as the polity continues to be more corrupt because of weak institutions brought about by the promotion of competitive ideologies in the country.
The Sharia proponents have expressed dissatisfaction with how democracy is practiced in Nigeria and the manipulations of the appointment of incumbent CJN constitute part of an established conspiracy against the Judiciary in addition to the Executive’s inability to provide adequate security. The presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division was kidnapped and has only just been released which makes the ordinary Nigerian to develop a measure of disrespect for their political leaders. It is my conviction that this kidnap was intended to intimidate the Judiciary. Democracies can renew themselves but with the conflict of ideologies in Nigeria, the Judiciary as the brain of this government must be able to provide considered opinion through a Commission of Inquiry. A Commission of Inquiry into One Nation, Two Systems is a must because democracy is a process and those of us lucky enough to inherit one must strive to protect it. Sharia is polluting the spirit of Justice in Nigeria as we used to know, and there is need to filter this spring, separate justice from injustice in the temple of Justice. The Judiciary is the brain of any government and must not be allowed to become brain dead. The Supreme Court of the UK exhibited this recently when it was called upon.
In the case of R. Miller vs. the Prime Minister and Cherry vs. Advocate General for Scotland, the Supreme Court of the UK in a unanimous decision of all 12 Justices of the court decided – that “the limits of royal prerogative power to prorogue Parliament of the UK as a prelude to the UK departure from the EU following the advice given to the Queen by the Prime Minister, was to avoid further debate in the lead up to exit day October 31, 2019.
The court held that the PM’s advice to Her Majesty was “unlawful, void, of no effect and should be quashed and that the Bill of rights of 1688 is an Act of the Parliament of England passed on 16 December 1689. It lays down limits on the powers of the crown and sets out the rights of Parliament and rules for freedom of speech in Parliament, the requirement to regular elections to Parliament and the right to petition the monarch without fear of retribution. It re-established the liberty of Protestants to have arms for their defence within the rule of law, and condemned James II of England for “causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law”, does not apply. This Bill excludes the courts from intervening in issues being debated in Parliament. That the prerogative was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions.”
In Hong Kong, the High Court there has declared the Executive ban on face mask, as unconstitutional. In Nigeria with the help of my Brother Silk, Femi Falana SAN, the Court declared the proposed “Operation show your identity” as justiciable and got an order of temporary stay of execution. It is clear that lawyers in Nigeria need to protect democracy and rule of law through court cases, especially now that the judiciary is controlled by Sharia trained lawyers that have made it possible for Sharia jurisprudence to interfere with Common Law notwithstanding its incompatibility. Two state policies in Palestine that sought to provide two state solutions has also failed. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that one state, two systems should be tested not only in court, but also be subjected to a tribunal of inquiry.
In 1975, the Murtala Mohammed coup resulted in ethnic cleansing and violation of human rights. The rule of law was jettisoned in favor of brute force. The then Chief Justice of Nigeria, late Justice Teslim Elias was summarily dismissed as were many Judges and other judicial officers. It took a number of years for Nigerian lawyers to realize that the show of bravado was intended to intimidate the Judiciary and the Nigerian populace and subsequently introduce Sharia not just as law but also a way of life contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The promulgation of Sharia laws in 12 states of the federation in 2000 that are inconsistent with the Constitution but remain operative to this day, is a classic example of intimidation against non-Muslims.
Nigeria was a Common Law jurisdiction until when she deviated to operate both Common Law and Sharia jurisdictions. Nigeria has one leg with the developed countries and world powers and another with Bangladesh etc. There is need therefore for a governor from a Christian State to call a conference of One Nation, Two Systems to show that the two ideologies are incompatible. It is legitimate to say I am a Benin, Fulani etc and a Nigerian but illogical to say “I am a Northerner or Southerner in one Nigeria.”
The Guardian of Wednesday, November 20, 2019 wrote: “the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, yesterday blamed the violence reported during last Saturday’s gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States on persons he described as fake policemen.” I think the I.G. is being economical with the truth. They were “Sharia” police not fake in that common sense and logic suggest that the Nigerian Police was directed to work with them. These “Sharia” police are at war with Democracy and had the assistance of the Nigerian Police Force, ammunitions, vehicles even Police helicopter to do the dirty job of ensuring that the gun determined who was declared elected not the ballot. A video recording has been produced for this purpose and titled “Ta ta ta”. It also explains why we cannot have State or Local Government Police Force. Justice Onnoghen, CJN was removed and replaced by a Sharia compliant Justice. The Civil Defence came into being from the blues and, today, is authorized to deal with issues that include event nuclear technology. Once again, we have begun the alibi on Kogi and Bayelsa elections blaming the Police, INEC, DSS etc rather than concentrate on the fact that Nigeria is at war in which the protagonist and casualties are the same people. At the end of it all, Sharia will declare victory. Our hope is that this stealth jihad that did not work in Algeria, Sudan etc will not work in Nigeria. Sharia is the problem and has not succeeded in defeating Democracy anywhere in the world. It will not succeed in Nigeria notwithstanding the help and assistance of “Christian” Mukharabat.
To our Legislators, please be informed that it is we, the people who elected or did not elect you, it is not God. You were not predestined to be a member of the National or State Assembly, God has given us, the people according to Christian teaching, the authority to decide how we select or elect our leaders thus “the choice of political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the freewill of the citizens.”
Permit me, my lords, to conclude this address by reiterating that women on the Bench must make it clear in their conduct and judgments that they do not approve of gender inequality. This should be made clear so that no one will be in doubt that men and women in Nigeria are equals. The threat of kidnapping and the burning of a woman party leader in Kogi State should not deter women in positions of leadership. The example of the young lady, Natasha Akpoti the gubernatorial candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Kogi State Governorship Election comes readily to mind here. Her Christian faith and belief in Democracy are worthy of emulation. I take this opportunity to demand that Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo be released from the DSS illegal detention immediately. What is now being exhibited is that the well-conducted youth of the North (a polygamist) is playing harem politics with his two wives – Yoruba and Nd’igbo. He has no further use for his Yoruba wife and is now turning to the Nd’igbo wife to do his dirty job.
I wish on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocates, former Chief Judge of Edo State, Hon. Justice E.F. Ikponmwen, a happy retirement. She is lucky to get to 65 years before retirement; some were not as fortunate especially during the purge of 1975 and I also wish Hon. Justice E. A. Edigin, our new Chief Judge a useful and productive tenure in the defence of Democracy and Rule of Law.
Permit me to say that it is welcoming news to hear that our Governors especially those of Rivers and Edo States, say they are Governors of Christian States. They should not stop at that but must continue to say that their parties are there to promote Democracy and Common Law jurisdiction to the exclusion of Sharia.
Merry Christmas in advance
God bless Nigeria
Solomon Asemota, SAN