The cliché that "it is not good to judge a book from the cover" tells my story about who I thought Abubakar Balarebe Mahmoud, National chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) represented. I ignorantly saw him as a man of integrity committed to transforming the instability in the judicial system in Nigeria to a near-peferction stage.
We met some time this year at Transcorp Hotels, Calabar during a one day lecture organized by the Calabar branch of the NBA with the theme "Developmental Legalism: The Role of the Bar & the Bench in the Anti-Corruption Campaign in Nigeria".
In that conference, Mahmoud said that for any reform to take place in the country, the legal profession must be the vanguard of such reformation to help stabilize the ongoing institutional reforms initiated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mahmoud maintained that if the judiciary doesn't rise to the challenge of reviewing the legal profession in Nigeria, the integrity of the bar within and outside the country will be at stake.
He emphasized the role of the judiciary in the anti-graft war saying that the judiciary need to take more drastic measures to tackle corruption in Nigeria as the damage caused by the act is so serious that most people don't accept it publicly.
The NBA chairman who then was a candidate faulted the integrity of judges both at higher and lower level that they have not performed up to standard because corruption is deeply rooted in the judiciary that an attempt to uproot it completely will temper with the existence of the country.
"If we in the judiciary allow the act to continue, it's either we will be victim or participants of corruption.
"Corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing the country. It is deeply rooted that an attempt to uproot it completely will temper with the existence of a nation but the Bar has a role to play. We must follow more drastic measures to address it with all sense of responsibility", he said.
He regretted that unlike other developing countries, corruption is so pronounced in the judiciary in Nigeria therefore "the fight for a clean judiciary has to be taken seriously to ensure the integrity of the Bar & the Bench is maintained".
After he finished presenting his speech, everybody was marveled at the intelligence demonstrated by him. He talked for over an hour without making reference to even a piece of paper. And his points, well presented and articulated.
His composure, choice of words and charisma endeared him to me and many others. To me, he was almost a judicial Messiah who has the magical blade to reinvigorate public confidence in the judiciary.
Sorry I was not there as a lawyer but to give them media coverage. But even at that, I fell in love with him that when he declared his intention to contest for National Chairman of the NBA, I abandoned what took me there and was running serious campaign for him. His PA later helped me his note to develop my story.
Yes! I remember I had brief interview with him and I asked how he would build public confidence in the judiciary especially as Nigerians believe that justice was for the highest bidder. As a good and inspirational speaker, he promised to fight corruption head on if he wins.
After the interview, my conviction that he was the right person became stronger. In fact, throughout that week, I was constantly wooing my lawyer friends for him.
Eventually, when he won, I celebrated his victory with some friends. People where asking how I became so emotionally attached to him but I couldn't explain it. May be it was because I thought he was the missing link between the people and corrupt government officials.
But unfortunately, in a typical example of Achibe's story that "Is not all that glitters that is gold", in one of his first public statements, he advocated the removal of the powers of prosecution from the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC. When I read that statement in the media and studied his reasons, I started doubting instantly if Mahmoud was ever the kind of person I perceived him to be.
When the EFCC reacted, he responded with another harsh but unnecessary attack on the activities of the anti-graft agency. At this time, I became so uncomfortable and began to see him as a dove in sheep clothing and a serious threat to the anti-corruption war.
At this stage, so many questions ran through my mind! I asked myself rhetorically that, could it be that this man contested elections just to frustrate the anti-corruption war of the President Buhari administration after he promised the contrary? Has he changed suddenly or he was never who I thought he was? Is he under any influence by the reactionary leaders who have looted us to this sorry stage or he is part of them?
As I was still pondering, I recalled that his election took place in Rivers state and controversial Rivers governor, Nysome Wike was the chairman of the convention. That revelation led me to another puzzle. Could it be that he was strategically positioned by Wike and the strong cabal to challenge the government's efforts to curb corruption?
I thought of many things but I felt it was too early to judge him especially considering the fact that there was no how he would have attained such position without gaining support from some top politicians who want to frustrate the anti-corruption war.
But the NBA's Chairman broke the Carmel's back over the weekend when he declared state of emergency over the arrest of seven Judges accused of corruption. In the statement, he ordered unconditional and immediate release of the judges.
There's absolutely nothing wrong in trying to fight for members of an association especially when you perceive infringement of members rights. But there's everything wrong when the fight is unnecessary and politically motivated.
As a layman, I was waiting to get the true position of what the law says about the arrest from the NBA. But as usual, Mahmoud disappointed me. Even when I read the media interpretation of his press conference, I was not satisfied because as a communication expert, I know there are so many factors that distort information.
When I read the full release, I concluded that Abubakar Mahmoud is a complete shadow of who I thought he was. His actions has been nothing near a man who came in power with a strong promise of combating corruption in the judiciary. He has classically departed from the concept of anti-corruption.
In fact, his press release was a good radiance of bad rubbish. From the beginning to the end, there was no line or sentence that he referred Nigerians to relevant sections of the constitution which gives credence to alleged infringement of the rights of the judges or undermining of the judicial arm of government by the executive using the State Security Service, SSS as he opined.
He rather resorted to uncivilized way of levelling the same allegation that Wike and Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose put against the President without substantiating and proofs. At this point, I didn't need a prophet to tell me that he is on a mission.
When Fayose mobilized thugs to beat up a judge and disrupt court session in 2014, Mahmoud did not remember there's a form of government called dictatorship. Even if he was not the NBA chairman at the time, as a man with good conscience, he would have at least condemned the act.
When a judge was gruesomely murdered in Port Harcourt by political thugs as alleged, Mahmoud feigned ignorance. When judges are busy selling justices and making court now look like the hope of the highest bidder instead of the common man, Mahmoud pretends to be oblivious of the monumental fraud.
Where are we heading to as a nation if constituted authorities would come out shamelessly to defend corruption under the guise of democracy? Is the law made for only the poor in Nigeria? Did Mahmoud even bordered to investigate if the DSS followed due process before the judicial embarrassment of demanding their release?
Is the office of the National Chairman of NBA now a court room where Mahmoud thinks he can sit and give any kind of order he wants? Is he on a wicked and erroneous mission of stopping the anti-corruption war? Only time will provide answers to all these questions!
I want to call on the DSS, EFCC and ICPC to thoroughly investigation the operations of the NBA under Mahmoud. Nigerians will not accept any form of sabotage from any quarter against the anti corruption war.
If Mahmoud has not formed a common front with the enemies of this country to truncate every efforts aimed at sanitizing the system, he would have remained neutral or at best supported his call for the unconditional release of the Judges with some constitutional provisions by emphatically explaining the due process he talked about in his speech.
The NBA boss would have borrowed a leap from Senator Shehu Sani who said : "The raid on the residences of the Judges if done without a proper search Warant from the court is nothing but tyranny. The millions harvested from the raid of Judges residences if it's proceeds from the sale of Justice is nothing but corruption.
To support a Gestapo raid on the Judges residences, typical of a Stasi state, without recourse to procedures of the rule of Law is to endorse the sadistic tendencies of a budding totalitarian state.
To defend the Judges When "the raiders" followed due process of law and provided clear evidence of corruption, is to embrace and endorse thievery.
A-Rule of law is the most potent tool for fighting corruption.
B-Where Justice is for sale, the law is a commodity.
C-We have a dual moral duty; to object to any attempt to circumvent the rule of law by the state apparatus;and to resist anyone who attempts to turn our courts of law into stock exchange".
Inyali Peter is a freelance Journalist and the State Spokesman of National Youths for Good Governance (NYGG). He is based in Calabar. He can be reached via : Inyalipeter@gmail.com.
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