A look at the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola’s resume will unlock the intimidating record of a well-trained and roundly nurtured bencher. He is from the same political zone where the first Nigerian lawyer, Sampra Williams comes from. Of course, the likes of Nigeria’s first chief judge, Justice Teslim Elias, Richard Akinjide, the irrepressible human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, not forgetting the Hague International World Court guru, Prince Bola Ajibola, the election case expert, Wole Olanipekun and even the Great Rotimi Williams, as well as many others who contributed immensely to the growth and development of the country’s judicial system, especially its “legalise” as well as jurisprudence, were of Yoruba extraction.
Ariwoola’s controversial and contradictory trajectory is horrendous when considered against the backdrop of his outings as a judge of the Supreme Court. Surely, most Nigerians, who are not yet a victim of the malady that late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu described in his book, ‘Because I am Involved’ as selective amnesia, can easily remember now that this acting CJN had a hand in the controversial January 14, 2020 Supreme Court judgement that ruthlessly sacked then Imo State governor, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha and installed Senator Hope Uzodimma. That judgement and its subsequent installation of Uzodimma as governor is at the root of virtually all the misfortunes that have bedevilled Imo State ever since.
Afterwards, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Ihedioha went back to the Supreme Court and asked the justices to review the January 14 judgement, claiming that it was established that there were more than 100, 000 overvotes in the disputed 388 polling units. Again, Ariwoola was among the judges that said the highest court in the land could not reverse itself and on that grounds, said the review appeal lacked merit.
That judgement ought to have served as a reference point to all other cases pertaining to reviewing or reversing any case at the hallowed throne of Nigeria’s Supreme Court. Sadly, it never was and will never be.
In a manner that defied legal explanation other than personal or group interest, a plea for reversal, like the famed phoenix, variegated and bearing hydra headed complications, but standing simply came knocking once more at the doorsteps of the Supreme Court justices. It was the much discussed, historically documented and well celebrated case of the Guarantee Trust Bank against Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited. It was purely a case of a dog eating its vomit. It was a bait put forward against the apex court by unseen gods and other elemental forces. The snare was never dislodged without harvesting a gem.
Shockingly, the Supreme Court that stood down PDP and Ihedioha’s reversal appeal, acrobatically reserved itself. In January this year, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier dismissal of an appeal by Guarantee Trust Bank against N2.4 billion judgement given to Innoson Motors Nig Ltd by the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, Oyo State.
In a judgement delivered by a five-man panel and headed by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the apex court held unanimously that the Supreme Court erred and must reverse itself on the ruling of the February 27, 2019. The five justices upheld that the Registrar misled the Justices by failing to promptly bring to the notice of the panel that sat on the case that GTB had already filed its applicant’s brief of argument. The justices said they relied their judgement on Order 8 Rule 6 of the Supreme Court. What a joke. What a country. What a law.
Two different rulings on the same reversal plea: the first failed, the second went through. Can you now see the controversial metamorphosis of Ariwoola? His penchant for contradictory judicial pyrotechnics is really truly awesome, even philosophically entrenched.
The acting CJN can still prove his critics wrong by toeing the path of honour and integrity. He has all it takes to instill professionalism and orderliness, as well as restore the people’s confidence in the apex court. Anything short of this, Ariwoola will only end up confirming the fear of the citizenry
By Martin Ori