By Ebenezer Ishola
In this republic, it is a testament to the troubles of the rule of law and the fortunes of justice that we have hardly had an Attorney-General and Minister of Justice who has, like Caesar, lived above board. Is it because of the imperial powers of the office, or is it the social conscience succumbing to the power of a civil society gutted by impunity and constitutional defiance?
Whatever it is, the position has not risen above the mire of a decayed society and it is because those entrusted to that position of honour and prestige have cast doubt on the power of man over temptation.
Two things have happened in the past few months on the watch of the current office holder, Abubakar Malami, and we have reasons to worry.
The first was the question of the electoral law. Malami had shown his displeasure, just like the president, over the issue of public office holders resignation ahead of primaries. The section, 84(12) of the Electoral Act, was so objectionable to the administration that after the National Assembly passed it in defiance of the executive branch, the attorney-general promptly took the matter, in a surreptitious manner, to court in the southeast. The public was blindsided when the Justice Evelyn Anyadike court ruled that that law was illegal, null and void and should be expunged.
Rather than wait for reactions, especially because those who were supposed to oppose the verdict did not get fair hearing, so that appeal be heard over it, he promptly hailed the verdict and was on his way to inscribing it in the gazette when the National Assembly appealed the case.
“The office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will accordingly give effect to the court judgment in line with the dictates of the law and the spirit of the judgment,” the statement by the minister’s spokesperson stated.
“The judgment of the court will be recognised by the government printers in printing the Electoral Act. He was rather crude about it, and went further to say, “The Act will be gazetted factoring the effect of the judgment into consideration and deleting the constitutionally offensive provision accordingly. The provision of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act 2022 is not part of our law and will be so treated accordingly,” the statement also stated.
It was bad enough that the chief law officer of the federation was betraying a rash impulse on a delicate matter. But what has become clear to the lovers of law was his throwing his hat in the ring as a candidate for the position of governor in his home state of Kebbi.
Clearly, he had violated a fundamental principle of law and justice. He was an interested party but, one, he did not disclose it so as to recuse himself from any participation. Two, he went on to pursue the matter as though advancing the higher purpose of the constitution and democracy.