Grimot Nane Zine

A Nation without Institutions: Elected Politician Orders the Beating of a Judge

When a governor-elect for one of the states in Nigeria can openly slap, then instruct his thugs beat up and chase a sitting judge out of court for comments rendered, the days when the citizens of Nigeria could hope to build the nation up are long gone. Govern-elect, Ayo Fayose, of Ekiti State in southwest Nigeria is the malefactor in this case and high court judge, Justice John Adeyeye, the victim and the entire justice system desecrated. Such misbehaviour is a wanton “attack on the state” and the state must exact justice, appropriately.

Even if the position and responsibilities of a judge are taken for granted, they can never be taken lightly under any circumstances. The separation of powers in Nigeria’s democracy grants a high court judge the authority to overturn or uphold the decisions of the executive of a given of nation and even foreign states. Recently a high court judge in the USA decided the terms of national debt repayment for an old democracy, Argentina. Another high court judge in the USA decided that the Barack Obama-sponsored NDAA Act was illegal, though later a court injunction on the decision was sought through a higher court. That is supposed to be the democratically invested power and discretion of a high court judge. Similar decisions have and will take place all over the world in countries that call themselves democracies. Those who ardently claim Nigeria is a faux démocratie seem to be justified, anarchy reigns.

Assassinations (and attempts), kidnappings, among other crimes have been exacted on judges and senior legal officials in democracies everywhere. Bola Ige, Justice Minister of Nigeria, was assassinated in own house by unknown hit men for unknown reasons. However, special interest groups, powerful men etc. do not have the guts to batter or insult a judge openly because “it is not good for business”. The “business of government” in Nigeria is no business at all, it is the theft of public funds backed up by derisory projects to look like “he or she is trying” and watertight impunity secured from party Big Men. If the business of government was a serious thing in Nigeria, an elected official would not dare order his thugs to beat a high court judge, even corrupt judges.

It must not be forgotten that the “real judges” for politicians in Nigeria are the Big Men of political parties; they are the ones that “settle matters”, most informally though which is ironic because neoliberal reform insist on “institutions!” Neoliberal economists advocate “third party law enforcement” especially of contracts as a justification for “small government”. Yet, this is an invariable outcome of third party enforcement; institutions of the state get bypassed.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is becoming a more prophetic book by the day in a nations where institutional failure is a given. Ayo Fayose may be an elected official but he does not appear to be good for any part of the governance in Nigeria.

Grimot Nane

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