Bringing logic to bear on jurisprudence was one of the trademarks of the late Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC. Like the mathematician-turned-Master of the Rolls, Lord Denin, once the co-efficient of the rules of interpretation began to sag in the interpretation of appropriate laws in the administration of justice, recourse would readily be made to inherent logic that could be fetched from intellectual rigour. Like the philosopher that he was, Oputa, in underscoring the human face of justice, even at the Supreme Court, Nigeria’s apex court, once said of himself and his lordship brothers that “We are supreme, not because we are infallible; but we are infallible because we are supreme”.
This shows that, given marginal errors, there are times when anybody vested with supremacy must always re-appraise itself to be sure it doesn’t carry its hubris of supremacy too far, but must always submit it to common sense. The recent shameful and well-publicised fracas in the House of Representatives coming after the controversies surrounding the elections of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara on the floor of the upper and lower chambers, was specifically precipitated by over-bloated hubris of party supremacy and the over-bearing pseudopodia of the hierarchy of the All Progressives Congress, APC. First was the issue of the shoddy and election-by-coercion process of party primaries to choose sole candidates for the offices of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives that was anything but democratic.
As I earlier submitted in an article Emergence of Saraki, Triumph of Democracy’(The UNION, Friday, 12 June, 2015), there is no section of the Constitution or the constitution of any party which vests the power to elect the principal officers of the legislature in a body outside the parliament. This assertion is without prejudice to party supremacy. It’s just that, when shadow elections are conducted at party levels to determine the standard bearer of the party in an election, such a shadow election remains what it is, a “shadow” election.
It doesn’t guarantee the success of the candidate when the “substantive” election is held. And to all intent and purpose, when the result of any “shadow” election is inconsistent with the result of the “substantive” election, it stands to reason along constitutional logic that the result of the “substantive” election shall prevail, and the result of the “shadow” election shall be void to the extent of its inconsistency! Shadow remains a shadow, and the adjectivals for “substance” is “substantive” or “substantial”. It would augur well for Nigeria’s “nascent” democracy if the political parties and the judiciary could take judicial notice of this simple and humble assertion. Second is the issue of reading the letter from the APC containing the list of party nominees into the principal offices in the Senate. This is “Obi’s Mistake Number Two”, to borrow a phrase used by Chinua Achebe in his second classic, ‘No Longer At Ease’ to describe the miscalculations occasioned by obduracy of Obi Okonkwo, the tragic hero.
In elucidating the contradictions leading to APC’s “Mistake Number One”, let’s draw from the experience of some education entrepreneurs, thus: Candidates who were enrolled for the Unified & Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) have their examination dates, examination numbers, examination centres- all communicated to them the very day they registered online. Which other way of disqualifying oneself from the exams than for a set of students to fix the meeting with their school principal to clash with the time and date of the UTME they had long been warming up for? And why would innocent punctual candidates have their exams bogged down by the acts or omissions of the absentees?
And in another scenario, wouldn’t it be a simple walk-over in favour of a punctual team in a match where the opposing team chose to be absent on the appointed date and time? Then comes the scenario of contradiction which occasioned APC’s “Mistake Number Two”. Candidates were supposed to be well prepared ahead of an examination date. But right in the examination hall, it was being communicated to the invigilator to read out the answers sent by the candidates’ ‘loco parentis’. What else do we refer to as examination malpractice? And would it not amount to legislative malpractice when there is an abuse of the process?