Lawan vs. Machina: Justices Adamu Jauro & Emmanuel Agim As Expressions Of Judicial Conscience And A Note To Chief Justice Ariwoola On Judicial Fairness And Integrity

Feature Article Justice Adamu Jauro, Justice Emmanuel Agim and CJN Ariwoola
FEB 10, 2023 LISTEN
Justice Adamu Jauro, Justice Emmanuel Agim and CJN Ariwoola

In October of 2022, all over the Nigeria media here are some earnest words from Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola: "Nigeria at crossroads, needs honest judges” which he uttered during the swearing-in of the newly appointed acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Stanley Lawal.

Chief Justice Ariwoola, those words present themselves as so relevant in the last few hours in regards to the case of Lawan V.Machina.

Justice Ariwoola, you also reflected on Nigeria's current situations and challenges as a young but troubled democracy.

"Nigeria is currently plagued with myriads of problems that require sincere and honest interventions of judicial officers."

"We hear of corruption of various forms…against the state and individual citizens." "Most often, these cases find their way to the court for the right and proper adjudication."

Lord Ariwoola, in furtherance of honest dealing you said, “In everything you do in the course of adjudicating, you must consult your God, the Constitution and your conscience."

"Always have at the back of your mind, as I believe you had always, that at every point of your life someone somewhere is right behind you and taking note of all your conducts.

In the last few days, the public, lawyers and students all over the world are talking about the duty of honest performance in regard to legal conflict over the authenticity of the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Yobe North.

In a lead judgment of three Justices against two, Justice Chima Centus Nweze whose image is above affirmed Lawan as the authentic APC senatorial candidate for Yobe North. But guess what Bashir Machina at a primary senatorial election organized in May 2022 won unopposed? The Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, did not participate in the primary election. Never!

Lord Ariwoola please remember your words on Honesty.

I hereby remind you my Lord that the primary senatorial election where Machina not Lawan was lawfully nominated was lawfully conducted on May 28, 2022, in line with the provisions of the law. I repeat: Lawan did not participate in the primary senatorial election in Yobe north district.

Lord Ariwoola remember your words on Honesty.

At the time the primary senatorial exercise was held, Lawan was pursuing his presidential ambition but lost to former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu. Who told him: “You Can Now Go Lick Your Wounds“

Lord Ariwoola, as a lawyer you know more than me a forensic/legal/clinical psychologist that in the Nigerian law, section 115(d) of the Electoral Act, said a candidate cannot be nominated in two elections.

Lawan as the Senate-President and his legislative allies created it. Yet Nweze and his two collaborators produced rulings favourable to Lawan.

Lord Ariwoola remember your words on Honesty.

During my graduate studies in criminal justice/criminology, in my criminal law class, I still recall lessons about substantial justice which must always be prioritized over a reliance on technicalities or procedural errors like the way and how a case is filed. The American professor who was also a legal practitioner mentioned the weight of the psychology of merit.

Yet in this case Nweze and his two allies delivered on procedural technicalities. Good God!

Lord Ariwoola remember your words on Honesty.

I repeat: Nweze and his two allies chose strategically to take away the name of an authentic candidate, Machina, an average Nigerian and replaced it with a powerful and rich politician, Lawan by focusing on forms of commencement of action instead of substantial facts of the court case.

Lord Ariwoola remember your words on Honesty.

Here is the odd part, the leadership of APC with Lawan playing along lost their cases at the trial and appeal court levels, then took this case to the supreme court arguing that the primary election held on 28 May last year which produced Machina was in breach of the Electoral Act 2022. That was a lie.

The two dissenting Justices Adamu Jauro and Emmanuel Agim said Machina was lawfully nominated because the primary election of May 28, 2022, which produced him was rightfully conducted in line with the provisions of the law.

The two Justices noted that APC conducted an unlawful primary election because the May 28 primary election was not cancelled before that of June 9, 2022, that purportedly produced Lawan was illegal, improper and a breach of section 285 of the 1999 Constitution. At no time did Machina who was already elected tell APC he had withdrawn from the context.

Moreover, Justices Agim and Jauro noted that Lawan in an undeniable letter to APC voluntarily withdrew his participation in the primary election for the presidential election. The excellent judges contended that INEC was specific that it witnessed the May 28 primary election that produced Machina but did not witness that of June 9, 2022, because there was no notification from APC to that effect.

Justice Nweze and his two allies know that the conduct of another primary on 9 June 2022, where Mr Lawan miraculously emerged, was fake, deceptive, and illegal. Agim called the purported primary election on June 9, 2022, a "ruse" because INEC did not supervise it. Agim observed that Lawan was picked in a "illegal contraption" at the APC primary poll that took place on June 9. Justice Jauro even fined the APC N3 million after stating that the APC’s "appeal is devoid of merit."

Justices Jauro and Agim unlike the 3-majority judgment (by the way two out of the three names not in the public domain) held that both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal were accurate in their findings of declaring Machina as APC’s senatorial candidate for the Yobe North Senatorial District.

All this substantially meant nothing to Nweze and his two sidemen, as the trio focused on means of filing a case, paperwork. Na wa oo.

Lord Ariwoola remember your words on Honesty.

Justice Ariwoola, it is only morally and psychologically and well as legally proper to see this controversy and current public uproar as a constitutional issue, that bears the weight of democratic concern. The only corrective now is that the supreme court reconsider, revisit or reverse itself.

Since Nweze and his two allies are more concerned manipulatively about the manner this case was earlier filed and the type of forms used, Justice Ariwoola creates an environment for that to happen again at the trial levels. We still have a little time.

Justice Ariwoola it is generally known that the supreme court is not under any obligation to hear this case, but this case could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions regarding double dominations.

Justice Ariwoola, the declarative approach by Nweze and his two allies and the opposite conclusion by the two dissenting judges, which one should for the sake of a young democracy have precedential value.

This is a question you as a human being with emotions and conscience will have to answer. You and your administrative colleagues and staff. Remember your speech on honesty!

I conclude here as a son of the Nigerian soil with the godly words you uttered in October last year.

"In everything you do in the course of adjudicating, you must consult your God, the Constitution and your conscience.

"Always have at the back of your mind, as I believe you had always, that at every point of your life someone somewhere is right behind you and taking note of all your conducts.”

Lord Ariwoola, may I remind you that six months ago during a thanksgiving event organized in his honour in Calabar, Cross River State for Justice Agim, in which you were present, he begged Nigerians to elect people of conscience into power but as you can see the supreme court has become a political ground where some Justices for reasons known to their conscience help seize and secure for a political party the candidate with power and sway even when the person did not participate in senatorial primaries but the validly elected candidate of the people is thrown out by judges under the instrument of technicalities and procedures.

Lord Ariwoola remember your words on Honesty.

This case, no matter how long it takes, is going nowhere until there is justice.

My Lord, I could understand that your hands may be tangled, you are not free to behave in the way that you would like, and you may be prevented from doing something that you'd normally have the power or the authority to do. Yes, you are a veteran in the Nigeria-type judiciary where you all know each others secrets in terms of you all sharing and doing things together, and with others, but a time comes my lord when you say,‘I will take this on, we can continue like this right is right ’

Lord Ariwoola, I leave you with the words from Isa Ayo Salami, former President of the Nigerian courts of appeal. "The problem with the Nigerian judiciary is that some dishonorable people not cut out to be judges got into the system and after that made it to the highest level of their judicial careers. Another major factor why the problem has festered is that many Nigerians do not want the truth to be told. Whoever dares to tell the truth is marked down for persecution."