Tribute by Richard Akinnola
This is the story of a man, a man whose calling was to dispense justice without fear or favour. The man, Justice Yaya Abiodun Olatunde Jinadu discharged his duties impeccably, courageously and fearlessly for good ten years on the Bench between 1974 and 1984.
However, feathers of trouble began to fly in his tenth year on the Bench when the Federal Military Government, through John Oyegun, then permanent Secretary, ministry of Internal Affairs, flouted his order seven times in a contempt of court motion, in the case of Saidu Garba v. Federal Civil Service Commission and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Rather than show solidarity with the embattled judge, the Advisory Judicial Committee(AJC)(as then constituted in 1984), that had the Chief Justice of the Federation as its Chairman, asked the judge to apologise to the Government for the way he handled the case.
As a purveyor of justice, Justice Jinadu felt that the day a judge apologised to the executive over an action the judge had taken in the course of his judicial functions, would be the day the judiciary would be interred.
Rather than be a party to the humiliation of the judiciary, Justice Jinadu tendered his resignation. He preferred justice and honour to obsequious, sycophantic and groveling obeisance to the powers that be.
At the time he resigned , Justice Jinadu had no personal house to go. He packed out of the official quarters to squat with relations but he had his peace of mind and conscience. As someone who was a witness to the whole court drama during the case in 1984, l felt the issues were too important and necessary to be documented in a book.
Hence, the book- SALUTE TO COURAGE-THE STORY OF JUSTICE YAYA JINADU, published by the Nigerian Law Publications in February 1989.
For further appreciation of the issues, l hereby reproduce the FOREWORD to the book, written by Dr Olu Onagoruwa.
“History does not remember moral traitors because they do not live in the hearts of people. Albeit, their evil deeds are recorded for the moral edification of posterity that may wish to learn in order to avoid the potholes of life’s journey.
This book “Salute To courage”: The story of Justice Y.A.O Jinadu, is a befitting symbolism to courage, intellectual and moral integrity, uncompromising upholding of judicial independence and honor and a historical assertion of personal values and self-denial.
The book written by Mr. Richard Akinnola, the versatile columnist of the Vanguard newspaper, is a deserved and overdue tribute to a gallant judicial meteor. Richard has performed a great job for our society by probing the background and career of this famous judge in order to put into permanent record, the illustrious career of a man who became a byword for judicial courage.
The book has shown that in an age characterized by expediency and sycophancy, there were men on our judicial chair who would rather serve God than mammon, particularly the monstrous mammon of military oligarchy intolerance and dictatorship.
The military period proved to be the worst and most disastrous for our judiciary in terms of executive neglect, impudence and deliberate disrespect for the institution. The philistine attitude of the military reached its apotheosis in its humiliation of Justice Jinadu, a sequence of events that led to its dignified quitting of that highly exalted office rather than stain the ermine.
Perhaps the worst period for the judiciary was the Buhari/Idiagbon diarchy. It was period of extreme brutalization of the judiciary. Most of it’s government decrees either ousted judicial interference in the interpretation of laws or in some cases created parallel bodies like tribunals etc. headed in some cases by soldiers and against which there were no appeals.
In these circumstances, judges’ agonized predicaments were better imagined than described. Generally, therefore the attitude of the military executive to the judiciary was hostile and at the mildest contemptuous, with decisions of courts either by being ignored, flouted or disdainfully disrespected.
Perhaps more degrading was the summary removal of High Court judges by the military while at the same time proclaiming their unabated belief in the Rule of Law.
Briefly, this was the background against which the valiant independence of mind of Justice Jinadu was to do battle. The tragedy of our judiciary is that the military always relied on fellow lawyers like the Attorney-General and some overzealous state counsel to do their dirty battles for them against the judges.
It is even some of the judges who sell their colleagues down the river either out of fear, envy of sheer love of office. All these features marked the untimely exit of Justice Jinadu from the Bench.
Mr. Akinnola has painstakingly dug into the depth of facts leading to the sordid tale. Ofodile, S.A.N. was the Attorney-General of the Federation, Justice Sowemimo was the Chief Justice of the federation .Mr. Moshood Adio, State counsel, was the vehicle of humiliation for Justice Jinadu. He openly defied his Orders. Justice Adefarasin, the Chief Judge of Lagos State could not even protect his own. Ironically, Mr. Adio was brought up under the legal tutelage of Justice Jinadu while he (Justice Jinadu) was in the Ministry of Justice. All this nostalgic relationship did not manifest itself in the power game unleashed by Mr. John Oyegun’s defiance of Justice Jinadu’s order that Saidu Garba should be reinstated, a decision subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
Mr. Oyegun, a Permanent Secretary, not only defied the order of Justice Jinadu, this defiance was reinforced by Mr. Adio and Ofodile, the Attorney-General.
The judiciary in Lagos State as symbolized in the Chief Judge, Mr. Justice Adefarasin, also did not support Justice Jinadu. He was left alone to uphold the high tenets of justice. To compound the disgrace meted out to the great judge, he was told to apologize to the Executive for attempting to subject Mr. Adio to the Rule of Law for openly defying the judge in open court.
This order was from the Advisory Judicial Committee presided over by Mr. Justice Sowemimo, the former Chief Justice of the Federation. Rather than do this, he gracefully resigned and maintained the dignity of his office. The Supreme Court in the case of Saidu Garba v Federal Civil Service Commission & Attorney-General of the Federation(1988) 1 N.W.L.R. 449 upheld the legal standpoint for which Mr. Justice Jinadu had suffered so much humiliation and undeserved executive hostility.
The abiding irony is that Justice Jinadu even in his retirement has been able to establish that truth, however long suppressed, will triumph over falsehood and official humbug and arrogance.
Mr. Richard Akinnola must be congratulated for his momentous effort in the field of legal journalism. The book is a formidable memorial to the unfaltering spirit of an illustrious judge.”
Farewell and rest in peace, Justice Jinadu. You wrote your name in indelible ink.
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