Mr. Ọlabọde George is a member of Nigerian ruling party-PDP. Under the regime of President Oluṣẹgun Ọbasanjọ, he was a chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. Together with others, Mr. Ọlabọde George abused his office as Chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority.
In a court case between Mr. Ọlabọde George, Architect Aminu Dabo, Captain O Abidoye, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminu Tafida, Alhaji Zanna Maideribe and Engineer Sule Aliyu v. Federal Republic of Nigeria, Justice Olubunmi Oyewọle convicted the accused of abuse of office and disobedience to a lawful order issued by constituted authority. The logic of meaning draws a distinction between the particular and the general. And the logic of meaning which appeals to a universality shows that abuse of office and disobedience to a lawful order issued by constituted authority, is a general statement and not a particular statement because it is a general form which gives warrant to a particular matter.
Mr. Ọlabọde George and others appealed their conviction. The Supreme Court over ruled the decision of the lower court. The Supreme Court based its ruling on the particular. The logical and by extension legal and ethical question is: Is the Supreme court right to have based its judgment on the particular while it gave the impression that it examined the ruling of the lower court which based its judgment on a general statement of offense under which Mr. Ọlabọde George and others were charged and convicted by the lower court? Does the Supreme Court have the logical, and by extension legal and ethical basis to shift the argument?
I am interested in this matter from the standpoint of logic and ethics. This is because the most important challenge to African countries today-whether big or small, united or gradually disintegrating-is ethics and the question of rationality, even when the national question is a legitimate question but is often confused with the clannishness it has assumed in the country.
As it is being shown in the fate of Southern Sudan, which recently, separated from the old Bigger Sudan, African countries –(regardless of whether they are a single ethnic/nation country or multi-ethnic/national country)-will continue to suffer setbacks if they do not respond to the questions of ethics and rationality in the affairs of women and men.
To be ruled by sentiments-and not rationality and ethics- is to tread the path of immorality, corruption and ultimately perdition as we have it in many African countries today. This is the case of Nigeria today. And that is what we have witnessed in the Supreme Court’s decision to change the argument in the middle in order to judicially free Mr. Ọlabọde George and others in a clear case of abuse of office and corruption.
Back to Ọlabọde George. For the benefit of fellow countrymen and women, lawyers, judges, common folks and those who still have time to care I will try to make digestible and readable in basic terms the basic thinking in deductive reasoning which the lower court relied on to justifiably convict the accused and inductive reasoning which the Supreme Court relied on to unjustifiably free them.
In deductive reasoning, you move from the general to the particular. For example a general statement is: (a) “Every mother is kind”. A particular statement is: (b) “Bọla is a mother”. From a and b I can deduce that (c) Bọla is kind. However, if I assert, that is say that (d) “Bọla is a mother and she is not kind” I will run into an assault against basic reason-this is what is called contradiction. Why? For me to say (d) “Bọla is a mother and is not kind” I have to deny a and b. But I have affirmed a and b, so I can no longer deny them without raising serious ethical questions. So (d) cannot stand before reason. And (c) is the judgment that can stand before reason.
The conviction of Mr. Ọlabọde George by honorable Justice Oyewọle follows legal pattern of a deductive reasoning for good laws are formulated in a way to prevent their abuse by accused, judges, lawyers and lay people. And to follow an inductive path in legal reasoning as the Supreme Court judges had wrongly done where the law under which the accused were tried is formulated (as a general law against abuse of office) to prevent such induction will be morally problematic and logically chaotic. I will show this presently.
But what the Supreme Court judges have just told Nigerians and the world through their inductive path is that there is nothing called abuse of office by rulers and politicians in Nigeria. With due respect to these judges, this is morally frightening and logically absurd.
The general statement of offense against Mr. Ọlabọde George under the law belongs to the (a) kind in our illustration. The particular belongs to the (b) kind in our illustration. To therefore depart from this as the Supreme Court has done in freeing Ọlabọde George and others of a general offense they are guilty of under the appropriate law is with due respect a war against law, basic reason and ethics. The Supreme Court followed an inductive path while giving the false impression that it is still faithful to the deductive path of the charge and conviction in the lower court. This is morally and logically unacceptable. The Bar and the Bench ought to take this up to save reason in the country if they wish.
In inductive reasoning you reason from the particular to the general. In order to make things simple and uncomplicated I will use exactly the same example I used with deductive reasoning. Just reverse what we did with deductive reasoning. For example a particular statement is (e) “Bọla is a mother. Bọla is kind”. (f) Bukọla is a mother. Bukọla is kind. There are general statements that can be rightly or wrongly “induced” (inductive) from (e) and (f). We can say (g) Every mother is kind. or (h) Mothers are kind or (i) Not every mother is kind.
The question is: Can or do (g) and (h) follow from (e) and (f)? Can we say (g) “Every mother is kind” or (h) Mothers are kind because (e) Bọla is a mother and Bọla is kind and (f) Bukọla is a mother and Bukọla is kind? No, because you have to check all mothers in the world before making such induction. And this is not possible practically. This is why for any serious country that is fighting corruption, laws against abuse of office are general categorical laws. Public office holders (such as Ọlabọde George as former chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority) including President and Governors must not use their public offices to serve any interest other than the interest of the state- in this case Nigerian state and the public. When they do that the name is abuse of office.
Law against abuse of office where the office belongs to the Nigerian state belongs to the Categorical General Law as codified in specific and concrete codes in states. For example take my university as a country hypothetically. I am a teacher. If in a class of ten students, I trade my grade for money or body gratification to two students, such trade is a particular act, which is an abuse (general) of my office and role as a teacher. If my university or country has a Categorical Law against abuse of office, then I am guilty for I have “particularly” i.e. “specifically” sold my grade for money and body gratification. I have abused my office for a general university law or code exists against abuse of office.
Contract splitting is an instantiation or if you like a sub set of the general. Justice Olubunmi Oyewọle of the Lagos High Court tried Mr. Ọlabọde George and others for a general offense, which is known to a general law specified in a code. Contract splitting is a particular act like the hypothetical example of my grade trading , which does not serve the interest of the Nigerian state and public just as my trading my grade for money, or body gratification does not serve the interest of my university and the country where I teach.
Mr. Ọlabọde George’s contract splitting as erstwhile chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority and my trading of grades as a teacher are known to a general offense called abuse of office such that if someone under the law is found guilty of the general offense he is guilty of the particular precisely because if (a) Every mother is kind(general) and (b) Bọla is a mother (particular) , then (c) Bọla is kind(the judgment).
What the honorable justices of the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have told the world in freeing Mr. Ọlabọde George and others in the case of Mr. Ọlabọde George, Architect Aminu Dabo, Captain O Abidoye, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminu Tafida, Alhaji Zanna Maideribe and Engineer Sule Aliyu v. Federal Republic of Nigeria is that I have not abused my office and role as a teacher if I (as a teacher) trade my grades for money and body gratification because the university law against abuse of office does not cover grade trading. This is frightening, deadly and morally grim. It ought to send cold chill down the spine of any moral being.
If my reasoning in this essay is an illustration of what lawyers such as Mr. Jiti Ogunye and Mr. Fẹmi Falana have canvassed, and if this is a faithful illustration of the two forms of reasoning –deductive and inductive reasoning, then the Supreme Court erred in freeing Mr. Ọlabọde George and others of guilt. I move further to say with due respect that the Supreme Court not only erred , the honorable justices have not been faithful to the truth, they have actually been very hostile to truth.
I maintain this position for the following reason. To invent a straw argument as the supreme court justices have done either deliberately or by an act of omission is to be unfaithful to truth, is to be hostile to truth. This is what the supreme court has done. That is the Supreme court gave the impression that it was dealing with the case before Justice Oyewọle as the ground of the appeal. But Justice Oyewọle’s judgment is a deductive judgment for he tried Mr. Ọlabọde George on a general statement before him. On the other hand the Supreme court’s judgment is an inductive one for it focuses on the particular. In other words, the justices of the Supreme Court shifted the argument in the middle.
This is a serious professional and ethical failure. With all sense of responsibility and deference to knowledge, I put it before Nigerians and the world that the Nigerian Supreme Court in the case of Ọlabọde George and others Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria and in freeing the accused the Supreme Court has conducted a major offense against law, morality and reason.
The Supreme Court shifted the argument completely while giving the impression that it has not. Since what we are dealing with here is universal knowledge, these claims could be checked with any institution of knowledge (i.e. a university) in any part of the world. This is the way of knowledge. This is how we should proceed.
The Supreme Court’s judgment is a moral failure, a knowledge failure and a failure of the rational.
But as previously argued on this platform, our position is that everything in the world is ethical. Any injury to the ethical in us as the judgment of the Supreme Court has shown is a moral threat to our collective being. It is this regard that the judgment of the Justices of the Supreme Court is a violation and a threat to our collective being. It is legally unstable and logically insecure.
Adeolu Ademoyo firstname.lastname@example.org is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.