Last week, kerfuffle broke out over the presence of the Chief Judge of Edo state at the fifth anniversary celebration of Governor Oshiomhole’s administration. The torrents of attacks unleashed by apparatchiks of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the Chief Judge following his presence at that anniversary celebration highlight the crisis of opposition politics in our country today.
The bases of the attacks on the Chief Judge of Edo state are unfounded. There is nothing in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 that bars the Chief Judge of Edo state from attending official functions of the very state Government he represents as Head of the third arm. Sections 270-274 of the aforesaid Constitution are very clear; and in fact it limits and delimits the spheres of functions and powers of the arms of Government of the Federation of Nigeria.
And for the party apparatchiks to have scurrilously attacked the Chief Judge of Edo state on a subject within his remit and powers signifies one of two things: that they have shallow understanding of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and or that they deliberately set out to impugn the integrity of the Chief Judge of Edo state; and by extension the integrity of the Edo state bench.
Our judiciary has today become the whipping dog of politicians. Everywhere, the courts and our judges are subjected to blackmail and attacks; and in extreme cases, as we have seen in Edo state recently, kidnap. Politicians who lose out in the power game take their frustrations on judges and other judicial officers; and as the nonsense in Edo state has shown, frustrated politicians consider judicial officers as easy pickings and they take on them with cavalier because judicial convention bars them from defending themselves in the court of public opinion.
May we sound a note of warning here to the PDP apparatchiks in Edo state and to politicians across the length and breadth of our country: the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) shall resist attempts by politicians to drag the bench to disrepute, or publicly malign judges who possess no right of reply!
The politicisation of governance in our country must not be extended to the judiciary. Politicians must restrict themselves to the policy and political turfs; and by doing so, they must resist the temptation of dragging our judicial officers into political and conflictual arenas, refrain from rubbishing the integrity of judicial officers just to score cheap political points. The Chief Judge of Edo state did no wrong when he attended the fifth anniversary celebration of Governor Oshiomhole, or did he go beyond the bounds of his oaths of office. The scurrilous attacks of the Edo state PDP apparatchiks on the Chief Judge are unnecessary, unwarranted and needless.
We call on the Edo state chapter of the PDP to apologise to the Chief Judge.
Abdul Mahmud is President of Public Interest Lawyers League. He issued this statement on behalf of the League