At the valedictory session of the 9th Senate last Saturday, a ‘Most distinguished’ (as they address themselves) told his colleagues that many owe their stay in the green chambers to the ‘benevolence’ of his wife, a retired judicial officer. Despite the best efforts of the (now former) Senate President Ahmad Lawan to apply the ‘off the mic’ principle to gag the father-confessor, the damage to the reputation of the Nigerian judiciary was already done.
Senator Bulkachuwa started by drawing his colleagues’ attention to the fact that his wife, Zainab Bulkachuwa, who retired three years ago as president of the court of appeal, had been very supportive of them. Given that she presided over several election tribunal cases while in office, questions are now being raised about whether a few of the judgments were ‘arranged’ by her senator-husband. For the benefit of readers who may not have watched the proceedings, here is what transpired. “Mr. President, at my age I don’t think I will lobby anybody under the sun. I will do the right thing, and I always do the right thing and sincerely and honestly too. So, I (can) look at faces in this chamber, who have helped me and sought for my help when my wife was the president of the court of appeal…”
Evidently uncomfortable with the direction Bulkachuwa was going, the senate president interjected, “I think I will advise that you just round up and take your seat…this kind of insinuation will mean that there was favour and the rest of it. I don’t think it is a good idea.” If the 83-year-old senator understood the admonition of the senate president, he ignored it as he merely doubled down on his claim. “Well, Mr Chairman, I must say that (it is) okay to round up, since that is what you want me to do. I will do that and must thank, particularly my wife whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while she was in office; and she had been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment and extended her help to my colleagues.” The senate president interjected again and this time, more firmly: “Please, I don’t think it is a good idea going in this direction. It is not a good idea.”
Even before the Freudian Slip by Bulkachuwa, Nigerians already knew we have a challenge in the judiciary. Only a few months ago, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, complained about the workload of the Supreme Court, seeking an amendment to the 1999 Constitution so that certain cases could terminate at the appellate court. But he was challenged by Mr Joseph Daudu, SAN, a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). “Let anyone table the Bill to amend the Constitution seeking the deletion of interlocutory appeals and we will tell the entire Nigeria why in reality there are excruciating delays in the Justice delivery system” Daudu vowed. One of the reasons he cited is “over concentration of the judicial docket on political and electoral cases as if the entire justice sector and judiciary was created for the benefit of politicians.”
In my January 2018 piece, ‘When Judges Imperil Democracy’, I bemoaned a situation in which “our politicians are no longer content with hiring Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), they also have their own judges.” That sadly is what was imputed on the floor of the Senate by Bulkachuwa. But then, it is no secret that the only cases that many of our Judges are interested in are those that border on elections and related matters. Because they are deemed ‘juicy’. Meanwhile, many other serious cases suffer from neglect and needless adjournment.
I therefore align myself with the sentiment expressed by Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, also a former NBA president. “Senator Bulkachuwa’s statement at the valedictory of the 9th senate is a monumental disgrace for our institutions. This man deserves to be taken up immediately by the authorities. It is a blight on my confidence in our systems,” said Agbakoba, who added that he had represented a senatorial candidate in the election that brought Bulkachuwa to represent Bauchi North in the 9th Senate. “We lost in three courts. Senator Bulkachuwa seems to suggest why.”
Nigerians can remember the initial attempt at the beginning of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to tackle money related corruption among judges. The homes of some were broken into at night and searched, bank accounts were frozen, and dirty money trails were reportedly uncovered. A few were arraigned in court. After the government supposedly fighting corruption became muddled in its own internal contradictions, the entire idea collapsed. The ‘gra gra’ ended. The chase was abandoned. And Judges and politicians soon found compromise. Then, all went quiet.
Unfortunately, the moral crisis associated with corruption among judges is one reason why the refrain ‘Go to court’ has today become a cruel joke in the country. Most ordinary Nigerians have come to expect only judgments rather than justice from our courts. But with what Bulkachuwa said in the hollow chambers of the senate, it should worry all of us that some of our judges have earned a reputation as wheeler-dealers of a tainted citadel of justice!
Ganduje Versus Kwankwaso
The political battle between the immediate past Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) presidential candidate in the 2023 polls, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is getting out of hand. Fielding questions from State House correspondents last weekend, Ganduje threw caution to the wind: “I know he (Kwankwaso) is in the building, but we have not met. Probably if we met, maybe I could have slapped him.” Kwankwaso has since responded: “I heard that he (Ganduje) said he would have slapped me, but I’m here. He was in a confused state when he said that. These are my political boys (and) if they see me, they lower their gaze.”
My brother, Mahmud Jega has weighed in with the argument that a leaner, younger, and obviously fitter Kwankwaso would probably be more dangerous in any physical bout between the two men. But then, Jega also forgot that Ganduje spent years at the University of Ibadan where he got his doctorate degree in Public Administration and may have picked one or two tricks in street fighting from that city village. On a more serious note, the war of attrition between Kwankwaso and Ganduje speaks to the fickle nature of the relationships between politicians in Nigeria. It is also reflected in the service they deliver to the public. If loyalty and trust mean nothing in their personal life, then we are all forfeits when they manage our expectations. That exactly is what is happening today in Nigeria.
The relationship between Kwankwaso and Ganduje dates to 1992 when the former was Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives under the transition to civil rule programme of General Ibrahim Babangida and the latter was a civil servant with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ministry in Abuja. When in 1999 Kwankwaso secured the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial ticket for Kano, he picked Ganduje as his running mate. Having won the election, they both served the first term but were defeated in 2003. Appointed Minister of Defence by President Olusegun Obasanjo, Kwankwaso made Ganduje his SA until 2006 when he resigned. In 2007, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua appointed Kwankwaso to the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) while Ganduje was appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Development Commission. When he ran again for the Kano governorship in 2011, Kwankwaso also picked Ganduje as his running mate. And when leaving office in 2015, he anointed his deputy as his successor. But less than a year into Ganduje’s term, crises between them began.
That Kwankwaso was the one at the Villa to report the action taken by the new administration in Kano to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu only buttresses Ganduje’s point that the governor is a ‘stooge’. But how the two of them resolve their personal problems is of no concern to me. I just hope that they do not set Kano State ablaze.
Trouble on the Homefront
On Tuesday, there was drama at the swearing-in ceremony of the new House of Representatives Speaker, Hon Tajudeen Abbas. The speaker apparently forgot ‘the order of precedence’ at home and his first wife would not have that. So, she chose to displace the second wife in the public glare. In Zamfara State, a ‘civil war’ is also brewing between defeated Governor Bello Matawalle and his successor, Dauda Lawal-Dare. The problem began when the new administration asked Matawalle to return government vehicles he allegedly took away. The number was put at 17. At the end, the government harvested more than 40 vehicles from the residence of the former governor. But for Matawalle, the vehicles are not the real issue. “The saddest thing is that, in my Gusau house, all my wives’ rooms were broken, even hijabs have been taken away. Stoves were all put in a car and taken away,” Matawalle wailed and who would not feel for him? With the stoves now carted away, how will his wives cook? “This is robbery, they entered everywhere in my houses, even my daughter’s wedding clothing materials (Kayan Lefe) were not spared.”
While President Tinubu should help Matawalle retrieve his wife’s hijabs from Governor Lawal-dare, it may also be important to pay attention to the trouble that seems to be brewing in the military. No, it is not what some people think! On 28th May, a day before she ‘handed over’, former First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari chaired the public presentation of a book written by the president of the Defence and Police Officers’ Wives Association (DEPOWA), Mrs. Vickie Anwuli Irabor. Titled ‘The Journey of a Military Wife’, the author is the wife of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor. Now, why is this important?
Last week, I found myself among a group of retired senior military officers, some of them General Irabor’s course mates. They were angry that his wife did not portray them well in her book. That elicited my curiosity. On Monday, I got the book. Although poorly produced and certainly could have been better edited (assuming it went through any such process), the book contains much relevant information about the military that researchers will find useful. The story of how she met her husband, the marriage and his military career are also interesting. So, I find it a good book in terms of contents. But I also discerned what riled the retired Generals.
According to Mrs Irabor, most retired military officers exhibit certain behavioural traits after their tour of duty, and she warned their wives to be fully prepared: “Furthermore, since the tension and absenteeism which the job brought to the family is gone, nights would be free so military wives must prepare!” (emphasis’ hers). And then the punchline: “While this may sound like a joke, some retired military wives during an interview revealed that the sex life of retired officers got to another level because the military job and its tension is no more there, so all they do is sex!” (Again, emphasis’ hers).
While I plead with the retired Generals to see the lighter side of the ‘revelation’, I also hope Mrs Irabor is ready for a serious ‘indoor game’ once her husband retires.
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