Pa Edwin Clark, The CJN And The Rest Of Us - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Thursday, January 17, 2019

Pa Edwin Clark, The CJN And The Rest Of Us

 Nigerians like pa Edwin Clark are rare.With people like barrister Ayo Adebanjo,pa Clark,at 92, is one of the oldest yet politically active people in this country.

  So,we cannot ignore his speeches.He spoke again this week on arraignment of his lordship, the chief justice of Nigeria(CJN) before the code of conduct Tribunal.The CJN comes from the now politically exploding South-South region of Nigeria, which is Pa Clark's primary political, social and cultural constituency.

      Pa Clark's reaction is not different from the general South-South mood,namely that the CJN is a victim of political chess game aimed  at the further marginalisation of the region  in Nigeria's political and economic equations, although this region produces about 80 percent of the crude oil on which the Nigerian economy depends for about 95 percent of its wherewithal.

     Like other Nigerians  I sympathise with the plight of the South South, largely if not completely, from a spiritual standpoint.We are all creatures of an Almighty Creator Who led us as homogenous groups call it tribes or nationalities if you like,to the various habitats where we are today.Like boarding house children who are sent to school with provisions by their parents,the creator endowed each of these groups with innate abilities and material  endowments for their survival.

We are all to stand side by side,none superior to another,the strong helping the weak along in the journey of discovering the Will of this Creator in our existence on earth, and in unconditionally fufilling it. We are not to selfishly enjoy our endowments alone.

Other people will need what we have to make life better for them as we,too,would need what they have for our  happiness.But we are not to grab these resources or to steal them.We are to exchange them under mutual agreements.

  Unfortunately,the Nigerian experience is distant from this command of the creator.About 80 percent of private oil wells in the South South are owned by Northerners.But who do you blame for this?

The South South always voted the South east or the North during the first republic.The South South thought coalition with the North would best guarantee its well being in the Nigerian family. 

Politically, the South South rejected a hand of friendship outstretched since the 1959 general elections by the South West,an irredentist and hardened fighter of the feudal North which painted the South West to the South South as a cunning and appropriating region. 

Chief Lulu Briggs and chief Wenike Briggs from the South  South could not get their people to see the danger in their political association with the cunning north.

 I was in youth service in Calabar in 1977 when chief Joseph Wayas was senate president.

It was a crumb of an office which the North gave to the South South to milk its resources.It was always a carnival whenever Joseph Wayas came to Calabar.

Practically everyone stormed the Metropolitan Hotel where he lodged for the crumbs from his table.They were dazzled by the splendour of the third biggest office in Nigeria and couldn't see the alien hands that were milking the land.

Bedore this time, the razzle and dazzle included adornment of Dr Clement Isong as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.Even in military regimes,the South South got crumb offices from the various dispensations while the cunning fox dug deeper and deeper into the oil fields of the South South.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, who potrays himself as the wisest and all knowing  Nigerian, saw this anomally but failed to correct it.

When son-of-the soil Ebele Goodluck Jonathan became president,he saw what had happened, kept it to himself,took no serious steps to redress it,other than throwing the doors wide open for illegal siphoning of the treasury by South South people.But would that last for long?

The South South held the portfolio of oil minister but lacked the stamina to recover the stolen oil wells.I had thought president Jonathan would realise he was president to finish the job that Isaac Isaac Boro, and, later, Ken Saro wiwa, had begun and for which they were killed by the predating forces.

 No, president Jonathan dined instead with the wolves and the foxes.He failed to woo yhe south west to his aid.Rather,the south west was marginalised in his cabinet.

He forgot that during president Yaradua's illness, the South West helped him to become acting president and,later, president, to complete Yaradua's tenure after the latter died in office,and defended his right to run on his own merit as president.

The South West was marginalised in his cabinet.The South West,unlike the South east and the South South ,had long been used to being in opposition and marginalised,and pulling itself up with its shoe strings to suprisingly remain  the leader region in Nigeria despite its political disabilities.

    Now,the North and the South South and the South east are in a cold war which may degenerate into a full blast war.

Pa Clark said this much yesterday when he said if Nigeria could not be rearranged for every  constituent part to become equal partner in the national project with other parts ,a seperation should be inevitable and the South South was ready for that.

  I believe the arraignment of the chief justice should not tear us apart.I like the candour of the CJN.

He has defused two time bombs in a row.He has admitted the offences alledged.And he has denied propagandist reports that security forces invaded his house after the arraignment.

He probably would have taken the honourable step in this circumstance had he not become,as I suspect, a captive of south south politicians and public mood.Public opinion is divided on this subject.

Many people are sentimental or emotional, allowing base instinct to posses them rather than examining the matter on its legal merits or demerits.The emotional critics do not remember that only when cracks occur in a wall do lizards reside in the wall.Pa Clark would appear to settle for due process to be followed.

The due process procession say the CJN should have been brought before the Judicial Advisory Council of which he is chairman, that he would vacate the chair for his deputy who, according to the government side, is among 80 percent of council members appointed by the CJN.Some lawyers say due process through the council is limited to malfeances of a judge or justice in the course of his work and that criminal offences such as this one is outside the council's jurisdiction.

The chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in Ondo State says due process means investigation by the code of conduct tribunal the results of which will go to the council,if the CJN Is found guilty. 

    President Muhammadu Buhari will lose an election in the south south today on account of the CJN'S arraignment.If he does in next month's presidential election,it probably will not be because he does not mean well for the South South and for Nigeria generally.

He will most probably be rejected by an uncompromising South South because the federal information machinery is dumb. It has so far not sold the president to the south south and to Nigeria as effectively as it should.

The president has been accused of being sluggish.He has replied that he is not sluggish,that it is the judiciary that is slowing him down.

He believes the economy is suffocating under the yoke of corruption and that the economy cannot be helped and revived without rescuing it from the strangle hold of corruption.When he took the war on corruption to the judiciary,he found that no judge will jail a fellow corrupt judge.

That suggested that the entire system was rotten.He found also that the big boys of Nigeria were buying justice.He tried to set up a special court system for corruption,but his efforts were frustrated by the system.He then probably thought that the time had come to tackle the judiciary from the top.

Afterall, that was successfully done in Ghana,where an untainted new corps of judges emerged to replace an old,rotten cast that was swept away en masse.Beneath this wall,lies another which, according to speculations,is aimed at recovering private oil wells and handing them over to the Nigerian state for the use of the 36 component states.Maybe matters would not have become this rotten if these steps were well backed by an efficient information machinery.

I have kept saying Nigeria's federal government does not have an effective information machinery.It didn't start today. Biafra's machinery swallowed Nigeria's internationally during the civil war.Lately, we have been hearing unconfirmed reports that the Buhari administration has declined to renew licences for private oil blocks and that the plan of the government was to hand them over to the states as a means of boosting their revenue base without off setting federal finances . If this is true, why has such underground report not been given official stamp? Or,is it untrue? We understand many affected people are unhappy which is natural. If it is true, it should be victory for the South South and all lovers of justice in Nigeria.An only suggestion one may make,should the reports be true, is that the recovered oil wells be not allocated as one well be more productive than another. Rather, income from the wells should be pooled and shared equally among the states.
     On a lighter note, I would like to ask Pa Clark to include demarginalisation of the South-West in his thoughts and actions. 

Afterall, he is our son in law by virtue of his marriage to our daughter in ijebu ode in those days, long ago, when it was taboo for ijebu women to marry outsiders.The South West is reputable for more than 75 percent of value added tax (VAT) revenue which is shared in equal terms with states or regions which produce next to nothing.This idea was driven by the federal government from the lagos state of Alhaji Lateef Jakande who initiated it simply as sales tax.

       Pa Clarke may also not forget the quest of Lagos state to be given a special status in federal allocation to the states. Lagos state, like Kano state, is a heavily populated state but its condition is worse than Kano's because the population is packed in a much smaller land mass. In terms of land mass, Lagos state is Nigeria's tiniest state and in terms of population density, it is the most densely populated. It needs more money to take better care of Nigerians who reside within its portal.

- Article Written By John Olufemi Kusa

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