As humans we are all formed in our youth. In 1976/77, I worked as a court clerk in the court of Justice Ọlájọńpọ̀ Akíǹkúgbé who was then the first president of the newly created Federal Court of Appeal in Ibadan. Justice Akíǹkúgbé’s other brothers Justices in the Ibadan temple of justice were Justices Akanbi and Uche Omoh.
As a court clerk, I had good and positive memories of all the Justices I was fortunate to work for at this court together with other young Nigerian kids who had just finished high school.
Unknown to these honourable Justices, and especially Justice Akíǹkúgbé, there is an anecdote about them. The anecdote is that they cultivated and maintained a deliberate intellectual distance from the public that allowed them to interpret the law and dispense justice with equity, fairness, fearlessness and truth. They hardly socialized.
They seemed to correctly believe that the career of the process of law making and its interpretation is a covenant of truth, fairness and objectivity with the Nigerian people.
Through their acts, they seemed to believe that the making and interpretation of law proceed from a deliberate objectivity and a disinterested state of mind, hence their tendency to cultivate a disinterested mind in their avoidance of the public.
My mother, who is Justice Ọlájọńpọ̀ Akíǹkúgbé’s niece, and who she worked for as his secretary in the city of Ondo where Justice Akíǹkúgbé practised law in the first half of the 20th century, confirmed this much about this honourable Justice. She said as a lawyer and Judge he hardly socialized, he rarely went to parties.
She said her uncle, Justice Akíǹkúgbé, avoided parties as a way of avoiding potential litigants whose cases he might have to interpret and judge. Then as a high school kid, I never knew what that meant. I only heard and believed what a mother said.
Later as a student in the university, I discovered the meaning of what she said. The intellectual distancing of these Justices – Akinkugbe, Akanbi and Omoh – from the public was a deliberate and careful cultivation of the mind, a cultivation of objectivity that would allow them interprete the law with equity, fairness and truth.
Justice Ọlájọńpọ̀ Akíǹkúgbé has left us eternally, Justice Akanbi later became the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC. I lost contact with the trajectory of Justice Uche Omoh.
May God bless the souls of these vessels in the temple of justice through whom I saw the practical meaning of disinterestedness and objectivity in law making and interpretation, which is that the integrity of the law as law rests on the ethics of perceivable objectivity, and its defence proceeds from a deliberate cultivation and nurturing of a healthy and disinterested mind.
Unfortunately, Mr. Farouk Lawan, my subject this week and a current member of the Nigerian House of Representative stands for a completely frightening negation of all these virtues in the making of laws.
Given this background, I believe that either of three things should happen with respect to Representative Farouk Lawan.
Mr. Lawan should either resign and leave of his own volition, or the House speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, should weigh in and persuade him to leave, or Nigerians, especially the principled and discerning ones in Mr. Lawan’s constituency – the Shanono/Bagwai constituency in Kano – state should commence his recall from the House of Representatives.
I maintain this position because Mr. Lawan, through his act, is at war with the very nature of law-making – its objectivity, and by extension Mr. Lawan is engaging in a subtle violent war against truth and against the Nigerian people, the owners of his legislative watch.
If Mr. Lawan does not leave the house immediately, we would have damaged beyond repairs the future of the country and especially the psychology of our youths. Here in America where I live, my children had constantly asked me what Mr. Lawan is still doing in the Nigerian House of Representatives. In other words, through their joint actions, Mr. Lawan and his soul mate, Mr. Otedola, have come to personify a moral wreckage of our youths’ imagination.
A brief re-call will suffice. Mr. Lawan was the chair of the committee set up to investigate the oil subsidy fraud. Mr. Otedola is one of the accused in the fraud. During his investigation, Mr. Farouk Lawan allegedly collected between $600,000 and $620,000 dollars from Mr. Otedola.
These two men have advanced two claims with respect to the status of the money. Mr. Lawan claimed that he was right in collecting the money because he did so to show that Mr. Otedola was trying to bribe him. Mr. Otedola disagreed. He claimed that he was right in giving the money because he did so to show that Mr. Lawan was demanding the money from him as a bribe.
The two claims show there is a stalemate. However it is beyond stalemate that Mr. Lawan, one of the makers of Nigerian laws, met with Mr. Otedola an accused who is under investigation under the laws Mr. Lawan watches over. Mr. Lawan had this meeting WITHOUT the knowledge of Nigerian law enforcement agencies.
To this extent, Mr. Lawan has sacrificed the essential nature of the law – its objectivity. On the basis of this violation it is reasonable to say that Mr. Lawan has breached a public trust and hence can no longer be trusted with making laws that govern our lives – the owners of a legislative watch he holds temporarily. He needs to leave. It is strange why this is difficult for him and his fellow representatives to see.
Those who defend Mr. Lawan claim he was set up. But this defence contradicts Mr. Lawan’s own assertion that he went to Mr. Otedola of his own volition to collect the money in order to expose Mr. Otedola. A volitional act allegedly done to expose an alleged fraud as Mr. Lawan claimed cannot at the same time be said to be a set up. To hold the two to be true is a contradiction.
But suppose it was a set up, Mr. Lawan still remains unassailably culpable based on the African fragment that one does not bring what one does not eat close to one’s nose to smell the aroma. This implies that if one does, then one wants to eat it.
Thus, there is an unethical intentional act that is sufficient to legitimately de-robe Mr. Lawan from further law making duties. In this regard, it means that even if Mr. Lawan was set up, this was possible because he has an original unethical intent to collect the money. And he would have done so anyway without a set up. No legal permutation can absolve him from this culpability.
In this write up, I have deliberately ignored Mr. Otedola. This is because an oil seller who strangely donated 200 million naira to a sitting president’s library project has defined where he belongs in ethics and in the moral scheme of things.
We need to know where that money came from. Really, Mr. Otedola and his case do not deserve our time and energy. And more importantly, like other oil sellers like him, they all belong to slime and the dodgy world of business defined by perfidy, treachery, fraud, brute and scorched earth survival tactics. It is unworthy to engage such slime, stealth, and oily and brute state of nature of the world of these so-called oil sellers who strangely call themselves businessmen.
Thus, Mr. Lawan’s case reminds one of Mr. Anthony Weiner, the American Congressman who resigned from the Congress (the American Congress is the equivalent of our House of Representative) over an Internet sex scandal. Mr. Lawan ought to follow the example of Mr. Weiner’s resignation.
Mr. Weiner did not collect money from anyone. He resigned because he was caught with his pants down while he exposed his lewd pictures with females over the Internet. Unlike Mr. Weiner, Mr. Lawan has allegedly committed a crime, he is refusing to resign. But Mr. Weiner committed an act of indiscretion yet he resigned. This says something about the honor of these two men in these two houses of representatives in these two countries-America and Nigeria.
Based on this, Mr. Lawan has violated his oath of office. He has conducted a direct aggression against objectivity – the very nature of law making – by melting with and allowing himself to be co-opted by those whose cases have come before him.
No self respecting Nigerian ought to again believe whatever Mr. Lawan says or whatever law he participates in making. Given that any law Mr. Lawan participates in making is inherently dispossessed of moral integrity, the honourable speaker of the house ought to protect the integrity of law making process by persuading Mr. Lawan to leave.
In a situation where Mr. Tambuwal, the speaker refuses to do this, in view of constitutional provisions, members of Mr. Lawan’s constituency – the Shanono/Bagwai constituency in Kano state – must help Nigeria by commencing a constitutional recall of Mr. Farouk Lawan.
I maintain this position because Mr. Lawan is morally unfit to be a member of the Nigerian House of Representative. Given his lies, he has inflicted a major injury against the Nigerian people. We should not allow this man to continue to inflict more injury on the moral imagination of Nigerian youths and children through his continuous stay in the house and participation in making laws that will govern our moral, political, social, economic and cultural lives.
Mr. Farouk Lawan must leave.
Adeolu Ademoyo (email@example.com) is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.