Last weekend, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State overtly and shamelessly disobeyed a valid and subsisting Court Order by presenting his four purported emirs with appointment letters and staffs of office. In this piece, I contend that these acts did not, in the sight of law, take place and that Kano’s recent abysmal descent to anarchy should worry all of us.
To begin with, I deliberately chose, for personal reasons, not to directly comment on Ganduje’s purported law fragmenting Kano Emirate. But now that Ganduje has chosen to defy the court, I have no option but to get my hands dirty. No promoter of democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism can afford to remain reticent in this circumstance. Silence is no longer golden. It is complicity.
It is a matter of public knowledge that the Kano State High Court had made an order of interim injunction restraining the State assembly and government from taking any further step(s) on the law that seeks to fragment Kano emirate into five. In the meticulously crafted order, Hon. Justice Nasiru Saminu barred Ganduje and his co-travellers from gazetting or giving effect to the new law, appointing or recognising any purported emirs or presenting any of them with staff of office. The issuance of the Order became public knowledge immediately after its enrolment.
The very least one would expect in a democratic Nigeria is that Ganduje would halt the planned inauguration of his new emirs and fight his fight in court before proceeding as the court might decide. But no, he unsurprisingly followed his worst instincts. He chose the path of illegality. The path of disgrace and lawlessness. He went ahead with his show of shame and brazenly disobeyed the law. He presented letters of appointment to his court-halted emirs on Saturday and gave them staffs of office on Sunday. I cannot remember any time when Ganduje acted with such dispatch except when he shamelessly plotted to deny the people of Gama their constitutional right to choose who they want to govern them. Ganduje did his display of shame over the weekend for nothing but to satisfy his caprice and make the gullible believe that he is all-powerful, unsurmountable.
But the law is clear that his letters of appointment are worthless sheets that are fit only for the dust bin. The staffs Ganduje presented his emirs are comparable to the once used by Fulani herdsmen. In actual fact, the herdsman’s is better because its owner leans upon it, brings down leaves for their sheep and uses it to ward off danger. And they got this tradition from Prophet Mosses. Ganduje’s emirs got theirs from a contemnor. It confers on them neither power nor respect nor would it allow their conscience rest.
The law is settled beyond dispute that it is a plain and unreserved duty of every person against or in respect of whom a court order is made to obey it unless and until that order is discharged by the same or superior court. The rigid nature of this compulsion is shown by the fact that it extends even to cases where the person affected by an order believes it to be irregular or even void.
I verily believe Ganduje’s illegality over the weekend would not stand. It would be declared contemptuous, illegal, unlawful and null and void. The appointment letters he gave his victims would be declared valueless and their staffs useless. This shall happen as night follows day.
What is more, by his acts, Ganduje has committed a criminal offence. Disobedience of a court order is a serious contempt that is punishable with imprisonment or fine or both. Alas, he would get away with it because the framers of our Constitution have conferred immunity on him even though he does not deserve it in this case. That is why the provisions of the Constitution relating to immunity must be completely repealed or at least watered down to strip constitutional protection off persons who show wanton disregard of the Constitution as Ganduje did. My only consolation is that Ganduje’s immunity in this and his other illegalities is only temporary. He would someday dance to the music of the law. He would dance whether he likes the melody or not. And would not like it.
But there is a bigger point here. It is precisely with the likes of Ganduje in mind that the very idea of the rule of law was propounded in the first place and enshrined into our constitutions since independence. Rule of law a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. As H. R. Wade rightly stated in his Constitutional and Administrative Law, 8th edition, “. . . the rule of law expresses a legal doctrine of fundamental importance, namely that government must be conducted according to law and that in disputed cases, what the law requires is declared by judicial decision.”
By and large, rule of law dictates the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power. To check arbitrariness by those in position of authority, our current constitution, as did past constitution, created three distinct and co-equal branches of government, namely, the legislature, executive and judiciary, defined and limited their powers and made provisions for each to complement and check others. Thus, Sections 6 of the Constitution created the judiciary and endowed it with the power to review the acts and omissions of the executive with a view to determining their legality. The law knows very well that, unless checks are put in place, Ganduje and the like would be arbitrary, capricious and despotic. It is true that “power corrupts”, but when greed is added to power, destruction is the end result.
Ganduje has ridiculed and maligned our judicial system. His current acts and his open use of political thugs demonstrate that, if Ganduje’s satanic impulse left unrestrained, he would send Kano to anarchy. Because of selfish acts of politicians like Ganduje, our courts are gradually beginning to lose their integrity. Public confidence in the judiciary is fast eroding. Our democracy is becoming a charade by the day and the Constitution has been reduced by politicians to nothing except in provisions that serve those in power. The result of this is pure disaster.
As Hon Justice Saulawa, noted in the case of Alhaji Garba Mohammed Gadi v. Babayo A. Male & Ors. “. . . the alternative to a virile, courageous, fearless, incorruptible and visionary judiciary is anarchy i.e. a lawless society or nation where private self-help reigns supreme.”
That is exactly where Ganduje wants to take us.