A human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN)Â in this interview, he speaks on the attack on a judges in Ekiti State, Nigeriaâ€™s judiciary since independece and other topical issues.
Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi was a lone ranger
I feel very good to have been honoured by the federal government. I have always been anti-government since 1981 when I was called to the Nigerian Bar as a lawyer. I have fought battles and I have won against impunity and tyranny, particularly, during the military era. I was detained for more than 10 years during the military rule. We were not more than 10 that fought the military with our bare knuckles with late Chief Gami Fawehinmi (SAN) our leader. It was later we discovered that Chief fawehinmi was a lone ranger and we decided to form the first human rights organization in Nigeria known as the Civil Liberty Organization. With the CLO, we were able to fight the military and enthrone democracy.
Those in govt since 1999 hid behind their wives during military rule
The only regret I have is that we had won the battle in 1998 but we did not know. We were still fighting and all of a sudden, those who did not. Fight with us came from nowhere to take away the spoils of office. Many of those in government now were hiding behind their wives when we were engaging the military. By the time we wanted to make a come back in 2003, those in government had consolidated.
The judiciary since independence
The judiciary has done very well in the last 54 years. Though, there are bad eggs but they have been fished out and dealt with. The judiciary is still the best arm of government. Even, during the military, the judiciary stood with the people.
The judiciary refused to bow to oppression. Even, when the military ruled with decrees, some icons of the judiciary were still able to interpret the law so creatively. I dare say that the judiciary, despite its challenges is still the best arm of governmnet since independence in 1960. The Legislature has been found to be very corrupt with all respect. There is no legislator that takes home less than N10million in a month. The entire budget of the National Assembly in a year is more than that of the judiciary in five years. We spend about 75 per cent of our National Budget on recurrent and overhead cost rather than using it for capital project and no nation can develop along that line. The Executive arm is made up of 42 ministers with each having a senior special adviser and the advisers also having their aides. You have one position in government that is geometrically built up.
Good governance is needed
We need good governance and we also need the civil societies to be resolute in demanding good governance. If you think democracy will be given to us on a platter of gold, you are making a big mistake. Even, the United State that gained her Independence in 1776 are still fighting for democracy till tomorrow. Democracy is an ongoing process, it is not a one-off thing. It is like a marathon race that requires resilience. We need to deepen it and we need to widen it. We must wipe out corruption because it has become the 37th state in Nigeria and has also become the richest state which has overtaken all the oil producing states put together. We need to kill corruption in this country before it kills all of us.
Judges were not beaten up during military rule
The drama in Ekiti can simply be decribed as one of the signs of the end time because even, during the military rule, judges were never attacked. Did you ever hear of any judge being beaten up during the military era? But now, we have seen hallowed chamber of justice being defiled by politicians. They now defecating in our courts in broad day light. It is a dangerous trend because the implication of what happened is that judges will no longer deliver judgement on the basis of facts and laws before them but on the basis of fear of being attacked violently. If we allow this to continue, then justice will not only be for the highest bidder but for the violent character who can take on judges at anytime.
culled from Leadership Newspaper