By Nick Dazang
We were, in the 1970s, voracious readers of the African Writers Series, AWS. The series were authored by the continent’s foremost intellectuals. The series were, for good measure, edited by Chinua Achebe, whose THINGS FALL APART had received world-wide literary acclaim.
By the same token, and at the same time, we fed on a daily diet of novels written by Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner, Reno Lodge Brabazon Raymond, also known as James Hadley Chase, etc. Whereas the books in the African Writers Series were deep, cerebral and had educational value, those authored by Christie, Gardner, Raymond and the eight writers who authored the NICK CARTER franchise, had entertainment value.
The books written by Agatha Christie, James Hadley Chase and Erle Stanley Gardner stood out. Christie was the Queen of detective fiction and mystery. The characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, in some Christie’s novels, distinguished themselves by their detective acuity and genius. Gardner created a record 82 PERRY MASON novels with a legal tilt.
John Ray Grisham Jnr. was to later build on the foundation laid by Gardner with a decidedly legal genre. James Hadley Chase wrote across the genres of crime, fiction, mystery, thriller, detective and espionage. His women were often comely and manipulative. Even though he made crime and its denizens attractive by way of strong characterisation, his stories always underscored the fact that crime did not pay. Thus, well-laid and fantastic plans by criminals unraveled at the peak of their executions.
One of the 90 novels that resonates with me, and comes across as a fitting metaphor for our interesting times, must be THE WORLD IN MY POCKET. It was published in 1959. In the said tale by James Hadley Chase, five criminals: a lady and four men, intend to rob an armoured American military truck containing one million Dollars, being the payroll of soldiers. With the one million Dollars split into five, the criminals imagine that the world will be in their pockets. This informs the title of the book.
Not more than two weeks ago, a flippant politician and a member of the National Assembly, told the world that the Supreme Court was in his political party’s pocket. Coinciding with contradictory judgements issued by our Appeal Court, the claim naturally drew the consternation and indignation of Nigerians.
Consequently, the politician attempted a push back. But the push back proved feeble and hardly impressed Nigerians, especially given the politician’s proclivity for coarse loquaciousness. If the politician’s pronouncement drew the ire of Nigerians, he merely stated what most of us either knew or hazarded a guess. When the late General Oladipo Diya was second in command to General Sani Abacha, he gave an interview to TELL Magazine’s Editorial Board.
On the sidelines of that interview, General Diya who was also a lawyer, lamented that matters in the judiciary had reached such a sordid pass that some judges wrote two contradictory judgements for every case and were prepared to read out whichever favored the higher bidder. Shortly thereafter, I was privileged to be invited to the Chambers of Chief G.O.K Ajayi. Chief Ajayi was a seigneurial Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who was noted for taking political cases. He, at that time, held brief for Chief M.K.O. Abiola and General Zamani Lekwot with other Atyap elders.
He gave me a detailed briefing, supported by pieces of evidence, as to how a craven Supreme Court at that time deliberately delayed and filibustered Chief Abiola’s case. By so doing, the Supreme Court not only pandered to the whim of General Abacha, it prolonged and compounded the Chief’s suffering. If the aforementioned unfortunate cases seemed decades ago, the judiciary has, in recent times been awash with lurid accounts of corruption, abuse of power and nepotism.
A senator told Nigerians, in the full view of television klieg lights, how he used his conjugal relationship with his spouse to procure favorable electoral judgements for his colleagues. Recall that even before the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, a former Justice of the Supreme Court had praised, to the high heavens, the legal prowess of the lead counsel to the President. Coming in lieu of the judgement, the laudatory statement seemed calibrated to give us an inkling of how the Court was going to rule.
Add to these the travesties of justice that informed the candidatures of the Senate President and his predecessor and it becomes crystal clear that the Honorable member is only professing the obvious. Beyond these bizarre judgements issued by the Supreme Court, Nigerians cannot fail to notice the coincidence between the recent plunge in the value of the Naira, vis-a-vis the Dollar, in the official and parallel markets and the many election cases which judgements were then afoot and pending. It is true that at that time, Nigeria was unable to meet its financial obligations by settling Letters of Credit, LCs, issued to importers as far back as February.
It is true that our foreign reserves had so depleted that we lived by the day until we secured an inflow of $10 billion to shore up the Naira which was in a free fall. But it was also true, and which truth excited the Abuja grapevine and sent it agog, that politicians were allegedly and madly scrambling for Dollars to take care of judges who were to pronounce on their cases. These accounts, and sundry such sensational ones, attest to the fact that our judiciary, like other institutions, is a cesspool of corruption. It has gone rogue.
Consequently, the judiciary can hardly deliver justice. Neither can it succour the poor or be the refuge and last hope of the common man, as the well worn saying goes. Even more concerning is that this sorrowful state-of-the-affair speaks to an eminent and inevitable apocalypse. Once upon a time, and invested with uncommon haughtiness, a political party boasted that it would govern us for a century. Later it adjusted it to 60 years. As things panned out – before our very eyes – it lost power in less than 20 years!
Enter the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the arrogant claim that they have the Supreme Court in their pocket…Translation: the Supreme Court can be deployed by the party to decide Election cases to suit its caprice(s). When politicians carry on haughtily and fail to exercise circumspection, it only means we are hurtling speedily to the abyss – and that disaster awaits. As James Hadley Chase once succinctly captured it, it is THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES.
•Dazang, former Director of Voter Education at INEC, wrote from Abuja
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