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Regrettable attacks on Justice Odili

Following the judgement delivered on the Bayelsa governorship election by a panel of judges of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, demonstrators apparently not happy with the judgement have reportedly picketed her houses in Port Harcourt and Abuja.

The demonstrators have tried to link the fact that Justice Odili, being the wife of former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, who is a known card-carrying member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), must have influenced the judgement in favour of her husband’s party. They also cited the fact that Justice Odili, who hails from the same locality as former Imo State governor Emeka Ihedioha, who earlier lost his position to Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a judgement delivered by the Supreme Court, must have arrived at the judgement to even up for her kinsman.

Be that as it may, the action by the demonstrators can only represent a new low in the growing and disturbing attempts to extraneously influence the decisions of the judiciary. This is unacceptable and condemnable.

This untoward development, we must say, emanates from the partisan utterances of political actors and commentators who seek to whip up sentiments in their gullible followers to enlist their support in achieving dubious political agenda. It is opportunistic and self-serving because the same politicians whose tendentious utterances seek to paint the judiciary in bad light when judgements go against them, turn round to praise the same judiciary when judgements favour them.

Nigerians must rise in unison to condemn this dangerous tendency towards seeking self-help by political figures whose failure ab initio to do the internal due diligence within the political parties, necessarily lead to the situation where the judiciary has to step in to adjudicate. If judges who are called upon and expected by their profession and the constitution will be subjected to undue intimidation and pressure in the discharge of their statutory responsibilities, then the course of justice which is one of the cardinal bedrocks of society will not be served. We will then be courting anarchy and the recourse to arbitrary actions by those who have the means to impose their way willy-nilly on the society.

For the good of our democracy, the judiciary, which is recognised by the constitution as the third arm of government, must be insulated from acts of partisan intimidation. Indeed, unlike the other two arms of government – the Executive and Legislature – which are both all-comers affair, the Judiciary is the only arm of government that requires strict professional compliance with standards and experience in law and jurisprudence from its members. A Judge of the Supreme Court, which represents the apex of the judicial system as Justice Odili is, must certainly have proved her mettle in all cases of litigation to merit her current position. It is also rather unfortunate that the demonstrators and their alleged sponsors failed to see that Justice Odili was among a panel of justices who unanimously returned the verdict on the Bayelsa governorship election. She was given the task to read the judgement by her colleagues in deference to her respected status as first among equals. To single her out for this intimidating treatment is therefore uncalled for and must be condemned unequivocally.

The judicial system has its in-house procedures to check some of the observed lapses of its members who it deploys from time to time without interference from outside.

Going forward, before any further damage is inflicted on our judiciary by such untoward acts, we must call on especially our political actors to rein in their partisan utterances regarding judicial pronouncements whether it favours them or not. In this regard, politicians must learn to abide by judicial decisions just like others. Being the arbiters and adjudicators of contentious issues involving all facets of our society, including but not limited to politics alone, the judiciary must necessarily be allowed to perform its tasks without intimidation in whatever form.

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