The brouhaha over the allegations of corruption against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, his suspension from office and the prompt swearing in of a substitute has polarized even lawyers more than it ought to unite them. As labourers in the temple of justice, lawyers are well versed in the issues that are already in the public domain and for which all manner of persons have become emergency and uninformed commentators.
Arguments about the proprietary of critical political decisions often dovetail into contentious issue of what should prevail in the contest between law and morality. This avoidable distraction takes the shine off what should be the gain from a dialectical engagement. Nobody wins in a contest between law and morality because both principles are too close to call and what separates them is emotion which determines every standpoint. With law and morality, there can hardly be a winner or a loser. And that is what politicians feast on.
While lawyers quote various sections of the law and express divergent opinions ironically in defence of the law; and laymen highlight moral points of view, the politicians strike mortal blows to the system confident that there will be enough cacophony to douse the effect of an unpopular but suave political decision.
So, Justice Onnoghen is out and Justice Tanko Mohammed is in. And while we await the outcome of the National Judicial Council’s seize of the matter, Onnoghen is not in charge anymore and Mohammed will continue to act as being in charge while the political puzzles are fitting properly.
In this debacle, the Nigerian youth remains a poor spectacle. The protests for and against the suspension of Onnoghen were carried out by youths, some without adequate understanding of the real issues for which they were called out to the streets.
Some of the protesting youths said Buhari was a dictator while others said Onnoghen was suspended because he was caught-red handed with dollars.
The prevailing scenario more like a debacle has offered a window for opportunists to express themselves and their convictions and even earn something that can put food on the table for a while. But this is the sour point. Youth do not raise vital and critical questions about anything anymore. They only seek to rent their services to the highest patron. This apparently explains why the fight against corruption should intensify with few weeks to the general election, when allegations of corruption against people even in the president’s cabinet have remained mere allegations.
It remains a curious subject that despite petitions against the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, he remains the director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said President Buhari has given approval for the prosecution of Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to Government of the Federation, yet Osinbajo had said that the president did not know about Justice Onnonghen’s arraignment. The list of accusation is too long and in the public domain.
With youths making up over 55% of Nigeria’s population, the desired impact of their vantage position as critical stakeholders is infinitesimal. Rather youths have formed a wide circle of jesters that are expending their great potential in comic relief. Inappropriate use of youth energy has serious implications for economic and social development. It misled our president to declare that the youths are lazy. It has also created a groundswell of ready footsoldiers for political thuggery and various forms of criminalities.
A trending post in many Whatsapp platforms is the story of youth in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. All the frontliners in the anti-colonial struggle were youth. They mobilized themselves into a united front as they focused on their goal. There were excuses around but they elected to ignore them.
In the face of daunting challenges, the predilection to substance abuse has intensified. Over 14% of persons between the ages of 15 and 64 are addicted to cannabis, tramadol and other narcotic substances.
Nigerian youth are strong and resourceful, and should bring their immense courage and creativity into the social mix, to put an end to the political game that treats them as pawns and touts and savages.
The elections may be at the heart of the ongoing political struggle that seem to pitch Nigerians against one another in various circles; but the youth must rise above political patronage and challenge the institutions that seek to undermine their capacity and progress.