…Says it is unwise to put hope on the judiciary at the moment
…Blasts Nigerians for complaining about militarisation of elections

By Olayinka Ajayi

Obviously peeved at what he described as the flaws in the nation’s judicial system, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, in this interview, calls for the re-orientation of judges who, according to him, now select governors, among other political leaders, to the detriment of the electorate and the nation. Excerpts:

Prof. Itse Sagay

How do you assess the High Court disqualification of the embattled Osun State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke, after being declared the winner of the governorship election by the tribunal?

It seems the court has decided, that means he was not eligible to contest the election in the first place and so could not have won. It means his candidacy never existed in the eye of the law; effectively what the court is saying is that the PDP did not take part in the governorship  election.

What about the tribunal that declared him the winner of the election?

The tribunal is a body that comes after the election while the court that disqualified him is an ordinary court that stands before the election. The question of qualification is a pre-election matter. So what it does is that it cuts away the ground from the tribunal matter.

Who then becomes the governor based on what has happened?

From what has happened, the APC candidate, who was initially declared as governor remains governor.

Somebody has contested an election which the tribunal says he won. Now a court says he was not qualified to vie in that election. What does this say about the nation’s judicial system?

It’s unfortunate that we are allowing judges to be the one selecting our representatives in government instead of the electorate. We have such judicial intervention in almost all the states where elections were held. For instance, some judges effectively declared Governor Nyesom Wike unopposed in Rivers State by removing the only candidate who could contend with him at the polls, that is, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC. You have the same scenario in Zamfara where some judges declared the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, unopposed by nullifying the nomination of all the APC candidates in the state in the general elections. In other words, judicial intervention in our political system is creating serious problems which will have major political consequences for the country.

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But it is generally believed that the judiciary is the last hope of the ordinary man and that the judges’ actions stemmed from certain anomalies that took place in the ruling party.

That obviously is not true. Although it’s a critical saying, I don’t see any shred of evidence in our judicial system. You cannot just say the judiciary is the last hope of the common man; it depends on the judiciary you are talking about. If it were an upright judiciary which unwaveringly follows justice rather than applying questionable technical laws, you can say that. I don’t think we have that situation right now as a nation. It will be very unwise for anybody to put his hope on the judiciary at the moment.

What then do you see as the way forward?

I have always said it, we should try and re-orientate  our judiciary back to what it used to be before 2000 when our judges administered justice without applying technicality to do injustice, or when they were absolutely above board on corruption, but it’s unfortunate that is no longer the case.

What is your evaluation of the just concluded general elections?

I am definitely not happy about the manner it was handled. Nigerians pretend a lot. We heard a lot about militarisation. However they know deeply in their heart that without the involvement of the military, election cannot be peaceful in this part of the world . Without their involvement, they would kill everybody the way they did in 2015. So that is the hypocrisy of Nigerians which I find very annoying.


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