Accept tribunal verdict, Gowon tells Atiku, Obi, others
Former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon yesterday urged politicians with cases before election petition tribunals to accept the outcomes in good faith.
Gowon, who insisted that it was only an independent Judiciary that could protect the nation’s democracy, advised that the Judiciary must be allowed to work without external interference.
Also, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, enjoined Nigerians, especially politicians, to set aside their differences on the just-concluded general election and chart a way forward for nation-building.
The two elder statesmen spoke at different fora in Abuja and Calabar, Cross River State.
Gowon spoke at the 15th edition of Punuka annual lecture in honour of the late Justice Chike Idigbe, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, who died in 1983.
The Abuja event had as its theme: The life and legacy of Honourable Justice Idigbe: 100 years of a gold standard for judges in Nigeria.”
Gambari gave his advice while delivering the 35th convocation lecture of the University of Calabar (UNICAL). The topic of the lecture was: “The Leadership and Followership Question in Nigeria: Imperatives of an Ethical Re-Orientation.”.
At the Punuka annual lecture/symposium, Gowon hailed the Judiciary for always acting as a stabilising force in many instances when Nigeria confronted challenges.
He said: “As we move forward as a nation, let us not forget the role that the Judiciary plays in nation-building, especially the apex court, in carrying out its duty of questioning the veracity of the decisions of the lower court.
“As such, we need to allow the Justices of the apex court to engage in their deliberations and come up with their decisions, and as the public, to be humble enough to accept their decision as final, in order to maintain the sanctity of the Judiciary as individuals and as an institution.
“I think this is very important at this stage in view of the post-election litigations that are now going on. Let us give the Judiciary the opportunity to do their work and let us accept their decision as it is.”
On the contribution of the Judiciary to the sustenance of the nation’s democracy and unity, the former Head of State added: “As a nation, we have come a long way since our independence in 1960, and we have faced many challenges along the way to put it moderately.
“It is no secret that the Judiciary plays a vital role in nation-building and in keeping us united as a nation. The judiciary, in essence, is the guardian of the Constitution and the rule of law.
“The Judiciary provides a check on the powers of the Executive and legislative branches and ensures that the rights and freedoms of the citizens are protected through the instrumentality of the court.
“As a former military leader (Head of State), I have seen and known firsthand the importance of the Judiciary in maintaining stability and order in our society.
“The Judiciary serves as the bedrock of our democracy, and it is only through a strong, independent and impartial judiciary that we can ensure the protection of our democracy and the advancement of our nation.
“The Judiciary has over time maintained their enviable status as the beacon of hope for our democracy, serving as the balance between every class and truly the hope of the common man.”
While hailing the late jurist, Gowon noted that Justice Idigbe’s “unwavering commitment to upholding justice and the rule of law is a testament to his unflinching character and his belief in our nation evinced through his life and office.
“Justice Idigbe’s life and works, off and on the Bench exemplify the ideals of integrity courage and service.
“His unwavering dedication to justice and fairness has been a source of inspiration to many and his legacy will continue to live for generations to come.
“Judges, like Justice Chukwuwike Idigbe, are the unsung heroes of our democracy and their work is essential for the growth and development of our society.”
Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola (SAN); Vice- Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) and Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, also spoke glowingly about the late jurist.
Fashola, while analysing some judgments by Justice Idigbe, said he was a thorough and hardworking jurist.
The ex-Governor of Lagos State cautioned against unnecessary criticism of the nation’s courts, noting that they can only dispense justice according to the law.
He advised litigants and lawyers to always ensure that they present their cases and evidence in the required format way to enable the courts to do justice as required by the law.
Awomolo hailed the late jurist for his many indelible contributions to the development of the nation’s justice system.
He added: “Hon. Justice Chike Idigbe was a man with a divine touch of the highest God. The scripture testifies to his path in life.
“Here was a man, an accomplished jurist who for no faults of his, was removed from office as a Judicial officer. He took it in his strides.
“He moved on and found his feet in the valley of life and, from the valley, he was taken to the mountaintops and made a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Reading through some of his decisions, he came across as one who deliberately lived a life of absolute integrity, honesty, humility and kindness and today his children and grandchildren celebrate and think of him as their role model,” Awomolo said.
Agba, who commended those behind the initiative, said the event was “a worthy addition to remind us of the evergreen legacies of this great patriot and nationalist whose knowledge and application of the law have helped to promote and entrench progressive legal culture in Nigeria.”
The deceased’s son and Senior Partner in the law firm founded in 1947, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), noted that his father’s jurisprudence is still very relevant today.
Chief Idigbe added: “He had a focus on substantive justice and he established in many cases that form should never override substance. Those principles should guide the action of our judges today.
“Some argue that there is no more adherence to judicial precedent, that it is dangerous for the system because that is what makes law science and the Judicial system strong.
“Knowing when to depart from precedent becomes quite significant to prevent abuse, and there is a lot of guidance from some of Justice Idigbe’s cases.”
Chief Idigbe called for holistic judicial reforms, adding that the same attention given to election petitions should be extended to commercial cases, as they are all critical to the nation’s survival.
In Calabar, Gambari in his lecture, said since the winners of the 2023 general election had been announced, Nigerians should join hands in building a better country.
He said: “Our journey of nationhood and statehood began in earnest at independence in 1960 amidst high hopes that, as the biggest concentration of people of African descent, we had a manifest destiny to lead Global Africa on its journey of rebirth and transformation.
“Our hopes were bolstered by a number of other factors that were at play. These included the rich resource endowments with which we were and are still blessed, and the giants of political leaders who worked to usher the country to independence.
“These political leaders were remarkable as much for their vision and commitment to national development and progress as for the integrity and sense of responsibility with which they conducted public affairs.
“The high hopes that led to independence and early post-colonial years gradually began to wane amidst rising acrimony, dissension and discord among the leaders of the First Republic.”
He noted that at a time Nigeria was locked into a cycle of ethnic-regional recriminations, inter-religious suspicions and generalised instability.
“I have never by any stretch of the imagination subscribed to the pessimistic school of commentators who exaggerate the problems of our country and downplay its successes as a vocation.
“However, few are the Nigerians who will fail to acknowledge that from a promising start, we have lived through a prolonged season where the country has, overall, not been able to live up to the promise of its founding ideals.
“It is partly in recognition of the underperformance that came to characterise governance and development in Nigeria that such developments as military incursions into the governance arena began to be witnessed, those interventions being presented as necessary “corrective” actions.
“Ironically, those interventions became part and parcel of a spiral of instability that only ended in 1999 with the birth of the Nigerian Fourth Republic.
“While it lasted as a norm in the administration of national affairs, the military in government experimented with various social engineering initiatives designed, among others, to curb corruption in high public office, wastefulness and indolence among government officials, and loss of the national moral compass,” he added.