In a recent article, Lasisi Olagunju’s commentary on the nomination of 21 justices for the Supreme Court raises concerns for any objective and well-meaning Nigerian. It appears designed to escalate fault lines, divide the Nigerian judiciary along state lines, and incite animosity against Lagosians. It’s a divisive piece, a hate-filled narrative that aggravates our nation’s existing ethnic and religious divisions.
Regrettably, our nation seems unswervingly committed to a downward spiral. The appointments to our apex court now seem influenced more by the states of origin of the justices of the Court of Appeal than merit or seniority at the bench.
Let’s be clear; this has nothing to do with the esteemed Justices Habeeb Adewale Abiru and Olubunmi Oyewole. Both are worthy of a Supreme Court seat based on merit. It’s disheartening that the focus appears to be on one instead of both. It’s even more unfair to reduce their hard work and careers to their states of origin, tarnishing their elevation with divisive implications.
Misrepresentation of the Nomination Process
The author politicizes the Supreme Court nominees by dubbing them the “electors of our future presidents, governors, and lawmakers.” This misrepresentation of the adjudication of electoral disputes as elections is not just mischievous but fraudulent. The writer also overlooks seniority at the bar and bench, a fundamental consideration in the legal profession, and fails to consider when the justices were appointed or the quality of their judgments.
A simple Google search could have helped Olagunju present a balanced article based on legal criteria and factual information, such as Justice Abiru’s seniority over Justice Oyewole at the University of Ife and the bar, and their respective appointments to the Court of Appeal.
The Federal Character Principle and Geographic Representation
While the extant law requires adherence to the federal character principle to avoid regional imbalance, this is based on the six geopolitical zones, not individual states as suggested by Olagunju. The article’s factual inaccuracies are evident, as pairings were replaced by zones during Hon. Justice Aloma Mukhtar’s tenure as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The available slot was vacated by a Lagosian, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, and subsequently filled by another Lagosian, Justice Oyewole. In essence, you have two Lagos jurists. So, why fabricate a division where none exists?
Merit Over Power Play
In conclusion, Olagunji should do justice to these two esteemed jurists by acknowledging their ascendance to the Supreme Court based on merit and the time-honored tradition of seniority within the Nigerian judiciary, rather than attributing it to political maneuvering.
Adedayo Oshodi is the Principal Partner, Robert Clarke, SAN & Ade Oshodi Partners