“Are you saying I don’t have any power at all, no power as the Head of State? What do you mean by that?” The voice of General Idi Amin boomed over the telephone.
The person he was addressing was the Chief Justice of Uganda, Mr. Benedicto Kiwanuka.
“I’m saying, Your Excellency, that we are not under emergency, we cannot just throw an innocent citizen into jail, the law will not allow…”
“Stop! What rubbish are you talking? You know whom you are talking to don’t you? I am the Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, the Great Conqueror of the British Empire, the King of Scotland, the Leader of Africa, the Lord of the Sahara Desert and the Power over all the animals, fishes and other creature in the Atlantic Ocean, I am his Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Alhaji, General, Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE! Are you saying I don’t have power to jail a common man?
“Well, If you refuse to do what I asked you to do it, I will get back to you!” the self-styled emperor-for-life threatened.
He indeed got back to the CJ, sending troops to forcibly arrest him right there in the premise of the highest court of the land on September 21, 1972. Four days later, Kiwanuka was shot dead at State lodge Nakasero by President Idi Amin.
That is how things are often done under dictatorial regimes which unfortunately have been the lot of most parts of Africa at different times.
What inspired this line of reflections in this writer was the widely circulated and hugely disturbing report of the assault on one of the stoutest pillars of democracy, the Judiciary, on Thursday September 25, 2014, by some agents of anarchy. It was reported that some political thugs physically assaulted, humiliated and tore the cloths of a judge of the Ekiti High Court, Justice John Adeyeye.
This development came barely three days after another attack on another court presided over by Justice Isaac Ogunyemi (of the the same Ekti State Judiciary), shortly after he delivered a ruling assuming jurisdiction to try a case involving the question of eligibility of the Ekiti State Governor-elect, Mr. Ayo Fayose, to contest the governorship election.
This appalling news constitutes an exceedingly shameful slur on our vaunted practice of representative democracy. It is a dishonourable onslaught on the administration of justice and integrity of our political culture.
When Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, the general hope then was that we were effecting a radical break with the past and laying the foundation of sustainable civil rule anchored on tenets of rule of law, constitutionalism, checks and balances, legality, due process et al.
Although, we have wobbled and fumbled along on our democratic path since 1999 with a lot of strange happenings consistently putting a critical question mark on the authenticity of our democracy, but nothing makes a crueler mockery of our system than this latest vile attack on a judge who is an icon of judicial authority.
The doctrine of separation of power which clearly apportions powers among different organs of government and reconnects them through the principle of checks and balances has been bastardised!
This odious development is not an embarrassment to the Judiciary alone, it redounds to the embarrassment of the whole nation and highlights the reality of governance failure. It is an evil prognostication for democracy in Nigeria.
I think it was the former South African apartheid leader, Mr. Pieter Botha, who theorised that Africans are by nature incapable of self-rule as they are bestowed with mental capacity too inferior to grasp the intricacies of the art of governance.
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