COURT’S VERDICT ON KOGI PDP PRIMARY: OKUTEPA’S REASONING A SAD DEVELOPMENT FROM A SENIOR ADVOCATE

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Opinion
By Com. Abdulsalam Muhammed
Reactions trailing the recent decision of the High Court of Justice of Kogi State nullifying the gubernatorial primary election conducted by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to pick its candidate have further testify to the fact that litigants appearing before Nigerian courts are often only interested in winning their case before the court.
Understandably so, judgement of politically-related matters, like the one in question, attracts more controversy and condemnation by unfavoured politicians.
In this case however, while it would have been taken as one of those things if negative reactions came from members of the PDP, Barr. Jubrin Sam Okutepa, SAN, joined the foray as an active party in the matter.
When matters of national interest of this nature demands the statements or comments of legal professionals such views expressed are expectedly weighty particularly when they emanate from one of the pinnacles of the Bar, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
But the elucidation by Barr. Jubrin Sam Okutepa, SAN, via the social mediaas a Senior Advocates, conflicts with the ethics, principles and the expected standard of the legal profession thereby putting the integrity of the court and that of his profession at stake simply on the platter of political partisanship.
A Senior Advocate’s trade, unlike other professionals, is peculiarly ensconced in an enclave that agrees and accepts transactions with his colleagues on one hand and the Judge, who is a co-traveler in the mission to exerting justice in the society, on the other.
In league with the judge therefore, and in the hallow chambers of the court, the court dispenses justice in conjunction with practicing lawyers whose professional pinnacle is becoming a Senior Advocate who is also expected to promote justice at all times.
But reading Barr. Okutepa, SAN’s article on social media, upon the proclamation (the judgment) by one of his partners, a Judge of the Kogi State High Court of Justice, he contradicted the ethical values of the legal profession.
He was too quick to qualify the judgement stating that the “judgment is political judgment that does not have legs to stand”.
Where this classification falls in the principles of law is not only understandable to him alone its import on the conscience of his profession may require his further clarification of his intention and what he sought to achieve.
Going further in his insinuation of a compromise, he adduced the color of the decision of his partner the judge in the Temple of justice thus: “It was delivered to secure political amusements for those sinking politically.” It is pertinent to wonder if he has turned the judge to a jester andwore him a political garb with which the Judge is even sinking politically.
This direct and personal denigration of a Judge of the High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the height of institutional disrespect by one who should ordinarily be the shining and guiding light to both professionals and the general public.
While those who are not conversant with the reason for the Advocate’s vituperation may be guessing why he took a direct swipe at the integrity of his colleague the Judge, it is better stated again that the Judge only made a pronouncement over the conduct of the PDP governorship primary held towards the conduct of the 2019 Kogi gubernatorial election.
The Judge, Hon. Justice Richard Olorunfemi, nullified the party’s primary. One of the contestants, Abubakar Muhammed Ibrahim, had approached the court seeking that he, instead of the party’s candidate during the election, Engr. Musa Wada, be declared the party’s candidate.
The court however found the conduct of the entire primary election unsuitable for a democratic process and declared so. But our Senior Advocate who is obviously demented on legal research unfortunately found the development strange and said this about the Judge:
“It was strange for the learned trial judge who found that the claimant Abubakar Mohammed Ibrahim did not prove his case and he dismissed it to turned (sic) round to hold that the 2nd Defendant Engr.
Musa Wada did not lead evidence to prove how he won the primary.”
Being qualified to have knowledge of what was placed before the court, Barrister Okutepa SAN probably caved in to mischief when his listening or reading public, was unethically misled through the social media with the misinformation that “that was not the issue before the court.”
According to him, “No question of there been (sic) no primary elections was in issue. The claimant case was that he won the primary and he should be declared.”
He said “that claim was dismissed” and wondered “how the issue of there been no primary arose (which to him) is a judicial question raked outside pleadings”. This is indeed unfortunate considering numerous decisions already taken by courts of cognate jurisdiction on similar matters across the country with affirmations by the appellate courts.
The cases of Rivers State and Zamfara State aptly come to mind.
To further mislead the public, he said none of the parties were “given opportunity to address” on the matter! Yet he is aware that positions were canvassed before the court by counsel to the parties in the matter as he stated above.
Also, adjournments were granted on different occasions since 2019 when the matter was instituted up to the delivery of judgement. Who could have taken the dates for adjournments were these counsel absent throughout the case. This is a clear case of mischief and deliberate attempt to mislead and corral the public against the Judge and his court.
That a Senior Advocate of Nigeria can descend this low portends a serious danger to the survival of the judiciary as an impartial arbiter. Any matter that is brought before a court must be settled in favour of one the parties without fear or favour, regardless of who is involved, and Barr. Okutepa SAN is very much aware of this.
That is why we are glad that his partisanship was exposed when he patronized his emotions. Hear him:”Gentlemen put your minds at rest. Put your acts together and let the battle begins (sic).
There is no jurisdiction in any court to raise issues suomotu and based its decision on it.” It must be emphasized here that he is being viewed as a legal practitioner even though he has clearly stated here that he is one of those unfavoured by the court’s decision as a politician.
Here we are forced to ask if Barr. Jibrin Sam Okutepa, SAN, has become an appellate court who is impatiently impatient for this matter to be brought before him to pass a ‘damning verdict’ on both the Judge and his judgment.
That a Senior Advocate could still resort to the social media to make this disparaging comment about a Judge of the Kogi State High Court and his judgement, despite the recent Supreme Court’s decision on the call by aggrieved parties for the court to review its earlier decisions which it refused todo makes it unthinkable that a Senior Advocate in the country could still be this driven by inherent political sentiment.
That he is not moved by the fact that the Supreme Court subsequently fined very Senior Advocates of Nigeria who asked for the review of the matter heavily should have indicated to Okutepa, SAN that even the courts are uncomfortable that Nigeria’s democracy is being clearly threatened by seemingly unending political litigations.
That he made no derogatory comment like the one in review when the Supreme Court took this decision which favoured his party, the PDP, is a clear demonstration of the desecration of the Temple of Justice by those who should ordinarily be its custodian like him.
If for primordial sentiment a Senior Advocate could take a Judge and his judgment to the cleaners and even went ahead to incite the public, then the attention of the Privileges and Ethics Committee of the legal profession must be drawn to it in order to forestall further damages to the profession.




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