I was ruminating on how to hit the National Judicial Council (NJC) over its aggressive investigation and decision on the concocted allegation of judicial misconduct against the Court of Appeal President, Justice Isa Salami, when it ordered one of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s counsel, Barrister Ajibola Bashiru, to appear before it and establish the call-log saga allegation he made against the Justice Thomas Naron-led Election Petitions Tribunal and Mr. Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN), one of the lawyers to the disgraced ousted governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
When the NJC quickly swung into action and set up a panel to investigate the petitions forwarded to it by the acting Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in Osun State, Mr. Sunday Ojo-Williams and the ousted governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Segun Oni, alleging that they had in their custody, the call-logs of telephone conversations between Justice Salami and some Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leaders and lawyers, to compromise the judgments of the appellate court on Osun and Ekiti governorship tussles. I suspected a foul play and connivance between the NJC and the PDP. I don’t know whether anyone else suspected the same.
My suspicion arose, not because the NJC was investigating the allegation, but because a similar petition was pending before the council and not investigated since 2009 if I am right. Ojo-Williams and Oni, battling the euphoria of their defeat at the appellate court, cooked-up a fake call-log against Justice Salami, and the NJC swung into action immediately, while another earlier petition was left unattended to.
There were calls on the NJC to take up the matter and investigate the allegation, but the council seemingly turned deaf ears to the calls, until it set up a panel to investigate the matter penultimate week.
Some people might be wondering why so much interest in the allegation against Kalejaiye and Naron, but I must tell you that with the alleged misconduct, Nigerians, including myself, were directly or indirectly affected. Though, the call-log saga still remains mere allegation, but inspite of the hues and cries on the matter, neither Kalejaiye nor Naron denied the allegation. Can we now say that they admitted to the allegations?
In case you have forgotten what transpired then, and for the purpose of those who did not follow the case, I will take you around it and you will decide whether to show interest in it or not.
Before I dabble into the matter fully, it is important for me to appreciate the President, Oranmiyan Group Worldwide, Prince Felix Awofisayo for hosting the entire members of Staff of OSUN DEFENDER newspaper recently. The reception was in honour of myself for my election as the Chairman, OSUN DEFENDER chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Sola Jacobs for her election as the state Chairperson, National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and Goke Butika for his appointment as Press Secretary to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
Baba, thank you for being there for us; we are proud of you. This is not your first time you would be doing this kind of things in our honour and we pray that God Almighty would also honour you. We promise that we will not let you down but rather strive harder in our pursuit of the truth, fairness and service to the people, which you also stand for.
Back to the issue, Kalejaiye was the lead counsel to Oyinlola during the hearing of the petition filed by Aregbesola against the doctored declaration of the ousted governor, before the Justice Naron-led tribunal that first presided over the legal tussle. Few months after the inaugural sitting of the tribunal, the story started changing for the then opposition Action Congress, now ACN and its members that were eager to see the manifestation of substantial justice, which later turned to ‘judicial frustration’. The tribunal no longer saw anything good in the case of the petitioners.
The then opposition members, who hadall along been suspecting foul play, were eventually vindicated, when The News Magazine published a complete call-log of telephone conversations between Kalejaiye and Naron. Subsequently, Kalejaiye made empty threats to sue the magazine for libel and up till today, neither the lawyer nor the judge had taken any step to sue the magazine or deny the allegations.
When the call-logs of the telephone conversations between the duo during court proceedings were unveiled, it was actually a national disgrace. The judicial misconduct attracted reactions from all over the country and beyond. Activists staged protests, demanding investigation into the matter; lawyers kicked, politicians reacted and the electorate cried.
The allegation was further established when the Court of Appeal that sat in Ibadan, Oyo State accused Naron-led tribunal of bias, having denied the petitioners fair hearing in the petition and ordered the retrial of the matter. What a conviction!
Unlike the fake call-log presented to the council by the PDP, the one obtained from the Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) by the ACN against Kalejaiye and Naron-led tribunal was authenticated by the telecommunication company and certified. That tells us which of the call-logs is real and which one is fake.
It is interesting to note that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has investigated and got to the root of the matter and subsequently indicted Kalejaiye in the call-log saga between him and Justice Naron. The NBA panel had recommended the prosecution of the legal practitioner after his indictment. However, if the NJC is actually serious about this case and determined to get rid of judicial misconduct in the nation’s judiciary, the NBA report can assist the council in getting to the root of the matter.
Findings had however revealed that when it was published in the national dailies penultimate week, that the NJC had set up a panel to probe the call-log saga against Kalejaiye and Naron, and directed Aregbesola’s lawyer to furnish it with evidence, the impression of bias against the NJC was changed, as those that followed the matter had been wondering why the council neglected the earlier petition for the one that came later.
However, now that the council had set up a panel to look into the matter and started the hearing, it is worthy to note that it is not enough to see that the matter is heard, but the most important thing is to see that the matter is properly investigated, heard and justice done as done in the petition against the Court of Appeal President. What gives so much concern to the people is that, since justice in the matter had been delayed, would the maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” not take effect in this case? This is one of the things that people expect the council to work on, to see that justice is not denied.
In deciding this matter, the jurists in the NJC panel, should put it at the back of their minds that Nigerians are watching and are eager to see where the pendulum will swing, because expectations are high. The integrity of the nation’s judiciary is at stake here. They should remember that the matter had travelled far and wide.
Nigerians hope that once again, the judiciary would indeed be reformed and the council will do us proud over this matter.
See you later.