The Hub

September 1, 2011

Sound of silence

By Josef Omorotionmwan
Silence, they say, is golden.Silence means consent. A combination of these would make the power of the unspoken word very great. Most times, particularly in politics, those things you refuse to say come out louder than the spoken, or rather, the advertised ones. Yes, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, was enraged by the facts on ground at the time the Port Harcourt conference was coming up. But they went a bit far.

At no time did it occur to us that the most loyal to the NBA cause among the new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (not Senior Applicants of Nigeria!), SAN, would honour the call from the NBA, to ignore the invitation to their swearing-in. It was a very sensitive point if one remembers that this is all they have been striving for and, indeed, this is the very peak of that noble profession.

Again, the people making the boycott call did not consider it necessary to relinquish their own SAN certificates in protest. It was like asking Nigeria to reject her independence from Britain because on the 30th of September, 1960, the British Monarch had cast some aspersions on Nigeria.

We congratulate the new SANs; the combined class of 2010 and 2011. It was better to accept the honour and apologise or confess later (for now, confession is a better word since apology has been subject of ridicule in certain quarters lately). For the Katsina-Alu side, it was a pyrrhic victory because the receipt of the honour does not sway the new honourees to his side, a minute after the conferment. The NBA should open up its heart of understanding and let life go on.

After all, this is still Nigeria, not Britain. How many people can really copy the example of Tom Fawthorp who, in September 1968, then 21 years of age, tore up his final examination papers at Hall University in England, and led a student occupation of the university buildings? Try it in Nigeria today and see if you will not earn yourself a life imprisonment as a favour; or summarily, the hangman’s knife.

After all, the Adaka Boros and the Ken Saro Wiwas who dared the system decades ago have not still returned to tell their stories. In a society where a bit of dissent is tolerated, some unknown quantities could have even set the SAN into an irreparable state of inflation.

One roadside printer would replicate the SAN papers and ‘award’ them to every warm body around – market women, truck pushers, even lunatics as well as whore mongers. Come to think of it, how would that have been different from those bogus doctorate degrees that some illiterates parade these days?

If you tell a child that he looks like his father and he bursts into tears, watch out, it is either that the father looks like a monkey or there are some inglorious aspects to his past. We are looking at the power in the unspoken word. The best testimonials ever issued to Adams Oshiomhole have come from the PDP, albeit unwittingly.

We have since stopped repining over being told to our faces that the ACN is peopled by those who failed in the PDP where for eight long years, they started nothing and achieved nothing. If the same people who were in the failed PDP administration have now been picked up and put to constructive use by Oshiomhole, do we need any cult of experts to convince us that Oshiomhole is a great leader? After all, resources don’t make a nation, leaders do.

Are we saying that some compliments could be uncomplimentary? Of course! Recently, Mr. Ozuo came across Peter and his wife. Ozuo complimented Peter’s wife pleasantly: “Thank you for the nice dance we had at the club the other night. Let’s do it again some time soon”. It later occurred to Ozuo that it would have been safer to drive a sharp knife across the lady’s throat. The marriage has since gone kaput.

The presidency and the NJC have given Justice Salami to the ACN. But each time they make the insinuation, they remain stoically silent on the opposite number: that, as a natural corollary, Justice Katsina-Alu must also be intertwined with the PDP! In its usual characteristics, the PDP is not even hiding its feelings about that. We are not sure whether that congratulatory message from the PDP to the NJC did not predate NJC’s suspension order on Justice Salami.

Currently, there is a ludicrous, self-indicting advert running at the taxpayers’ expense on national media. It starts by reeling out a number of cases in the past where the disciplinary axe of the NJC fell on some people and no one said anything. Why is it now that the same axe has fallen on Justice Salami; that the ACN, NBA, civil society and others are pulling down the heavens?

If these same people kept quiet in the other cases and they are now complaining of the handling of the Salami case, in the run of the practice of law, is that not adequately indicative of the fact that there is something wrong with the present case? Rather than working from the answer to the question, shouldn’t you sit down and conjecture where things went wrong?

It is sad to watch good love go bad. The judiciary was all we had in this country. It gave expression to man’s yearning for justice. We are still wondering why the judiciary should allow itself to be used as a football by politicians in their struggle for naked power. All the same, it is not yet late for the judiciary to redefine itself so as to redeem its gliding image.

For Chief Justice Dahiru Musdapher, this is no time to distinguish between friend and foe, but a time to distinguish between right and wrong. History is waiting.