The connection between the Supreme Court’s mindset on the moral vs legal justifications of its ruling on the Amaechi Vs Omehia case might be hard to spot. But it exists, and it matters.
However, to the apex court, the real concern may have been what it considered the proper role of the judiciary in the nation’s political system and the limits of the recklessness by select individuals in our electoral process to be.
Since the Supreme Court ruling that restored the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship ticket to Chibuike Amaechi there has been floods of what ‘informed’ legal and illegal luminaries felt would have been the apex court’s consideration in its ruling in the case between Amaechi and Omehia/PDP/INEC.
This emerging school of thoughts and their respective mindsets could be rightly said to be the elixir on which the disgruntled cabal in PDP are trying to derive inspiration to challenge Amaechi’s candidacy in the last April governorship election in Rivers state.
Different legal experts have their opinions hinged on the fulcrum of loyalty rather than sincere and/or neutral academic/legal adventurism. Whatever the case may be, in many ways the decision of the Supreme Court in Amaechi vs. Omehia brings us close to the crucial role the judiciary has to play in nurturing to maturity the nation’s sinister electoral process.
In a plain language the sterling message contained in the Supreme Court ruling was that the political class must conform to the dictates of our laws or face the wrath of the Third Estate. As was rightly pointed out by legal experts, the fact that the judgement has been widely acclaimed was an indictment of a political class that has lost touch with an electorate that is yearning for change.
In application of obtainable laws, sometimes strict interpretation is follow but most times interpretations or applications are laced with a dose of morality so that the law does not loose its moral content which in itself constitutes a serious threat to the society. The Supreme Court seemed to have weighed both the legal and moral arguments before giving its ruling on the Amaechi Vs Omehia case.
To say that the Supreme Court verdict on the case was a big plus in our democratic experiment is and understatement. The few cabals who think they can do whatever they feel like and get away with it are being reminded that with the Nigerian judiciary, it is no longer business as usual. The exaggerated arrogance of the PDP godfathers and party lords in the Amaechi Vs Omehia case dared the judiciary to do its worst.
Truth be told, the judgment was a welcomed increase of values in merit and fair play. The lesson for politicians was that they must act in accordance with the laws of the land and the Constitution. The era of lawlessness is gone for good with the Obasanjo administration.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria and that of most common law jurisdictions are not just courts of Law but also courts of Equity. In British medieval jurisprudence which our legal system was modeled after, the earliest courts were delineated into two broad categories – courts of law and courts of equity, in terms of the nature of relief issuing from them. Under such dispensation, there were rulings based on justice according to equity and good conscience, rather than according to law’
While courts of law can very well proceed with the strictest interpretation of the law even when that portended absence of appropriate remedies, courts of equity were the ones that went beyond the black letter laws and resolved cases in accordance with equity and good conscience.
This means that you can still go to a court of law with the expectation that equitable remedies are also available to address your injuries where the letter of the law is constrained to go far enough
The picture painted in a media report by Prof Odinkalu, a world acclaimed legal luminary aptly captured the situation when he explained that “Having found that Celestine Omehia was not a candidate in the elections, the Supreme Court panel in this case must have wrestled with what orders to make.
Ordering a re-run would have unwound the clock interminably on electoral disputes. Faced with a choice between the finality of imperfect justice and the lingering uncertainty of judicial Puritanism, the court easily chose the former option. It cannot be criticized too harshly for doing so.”
Lawyers like Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), had no quarrel with the decision of the Supreme Court that nullified the election of Omehia on the ground that he was not the appropriate candidate of that party. However he expressed his disagreement with the court’s order that Amaechi should be sworn in as governor of Rivers state.
Those who are against the Supreme Court judgement belong to the Austonian school of jurisprudence- That law is law and must be followed strictu sensu. But in reality, there are other factors that guide judges in arriving at a particular decision.
Whatever the shade of legal opinion from any quarter, the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land and it has spoken. It is the final court of appeal and justice and their decision has to be complied with and has already been complied with. What ever is being said now could best be described as sterile academic
The supreme court ruling has come and gone and the state has a governor in place who most important should focus his energy on alleviating the sufferings of the battered people of Rivers state who for about nine years helplessly watched the reckless squandering of huge resources supposedly meant for their welfare in terms of provision of basic amenities.
The pronouncement of Governor Amaechi after the Supreme Court victory gave an indication that the new helmsman was fully aware of the handicap or rather dilemma of the people of the state. “Our differences revolved around our different perceptions of what would be best for Rivers people. That does not make anyone less of a patriot.
We must accept that just as we love Rivers state and believe that our ideas would be best for moving our state forward. Those who disagreed with us also love Rivers state. This administration will initiate a process of genuine reconciliation with all aggrieved parties and interest groups.”
For now, this is the crucial and urgent assignment for Amaechi. However, he should watch it because there seems to be some obvious mischief that is being packaged at this reconciliation platform.
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