Dr Kenneth Okonkwo pleads with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Onnoghen to resign.
The famous Nollywood Actor cum Lawyer made this plea in an open letter he addressed to the CJN. See the details below:
AN OPEN LETTER TO JUSTICE WALTER ONNOGHEN, THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA DATED 28TH JANUARY, 2019
BY DR KENNETH OKONKWO.
1. I write with a heavy heart as an admirer of your person and your modest contributions to the advancement of our judiciary.
2. For the avoidance of doubt, on the day of your Senate confirmation, I was at FOCUS NIGERIA IN AIT (African Independent Television), to defend ferociously why you must be unanimously confirmed by the Senate. I took this position because of your bold judgements against injustice and corruption in the past. You made history in Nigeria on April 11, 2014 when you, alongside some of your colleagues, made a landmark pronouncement in the case of two Igbo women, Gladys Ada Ukeje and Maria Nweke, who argued that they should have equal access as men to the inheritance of their parents. In Igbo culture, women had been disinherited for ages as a result of tradition. You ended this. You also upheld the death sentence meted out to Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, known as “Rev. King”, the general overseer of Christian Praying Assembly, who was accused of murdering a member of his church in 2006. Futhermore, it was your Lordship, who annulled Yar’Adua’s election in December 2008 and called for a fresh one, after the then Gen. Buhari argued that the election was rigged. This shows that you transcended traditional, religious and political sentiments in your approach to the search of Justice. It was on these bases that I argued that you should be confirmed by the Senate and you were unanimously confirmed.
3. When you took office, you publicly declared your support for the fight against corruption and matched this declaration by suspending and approving for sacking and prosecution some judges that were found not to be living above board. You did not allow technicalities and tactics employed by us, the Lawyers, to derail this your mission of ridding our judiciary of corrupt elements. I applauded you all the way.
4. However, in a democracy, everybody is under watch as the same law applies to all. So when the news of your non declaration of some of your assets broke, I was not scared about it because I know you would do the right thing and tow the path of honour. I was not disappointed when you boldly, in your written response, admitted that you mistakenly forgot to declare those assets you were alleged and accused of not declaring. However, one sentence was missing in your response and that is, “as a result of the foregoing paragraphs, I hereby resign my position as the Chief Justice of Nigeria in order not to throw the judiciary into panic and confusion and to pave way for the orderly resolution of my apparent and mistaken non declaration of those assets”. This is the path of honour that would have perfected the preservation of the integrity of My Lord and prevented further escalation of this avoidable judicial imbroglio.
5. There are lots of precedents by men of integrity like yourself who towed this path of honour in the past. A case in hand was that of Tai Solarin, who was the Chairman Public Complaints Commission. He was driving along the road when he was stopped by the police who demanded for his driving licence. He discovered to his chagrin that he “forgot” his driving licence and explained to the police who let him go. He went back and resigned his position arguing that his action did not live up to the level of standard expected of him. Not even the persuasion of the then Head of State could make him change his mind. On the foreign scene, in United States of America, the Secretary of Justice, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from Russian meddling investigation because he felt that he was also alleged to have been in contact with the Russians. Being the Chief Law Officer, he personally took this decision without consultation with his appointor, the President of United States, Donald Trump. He did this for the love of country and not even the threat of losing his job could dissuade him. He eventually lost his job but came out taller in the eyes of the world.
6. My Lord, I have no doubt in my mind that you contemplated towing this path of honour from day one but was prevailed on not to do this by the same agents of corruption who are now painting you in the guise as if you are one of them whom they want to use to pervert the course of justice in the forthcoming 2019 election which they have lost and they know it.
7. Sir, as you can see, I did not delve into the merits of the case against you as that will be subjudice, neither did I refer to the absurdities of unfortunate court orders flying over the place in which courts of coordinate jurisdictions issue contradictory and confusing orders stopping each other from sitting. I did not also refer to the suspension issued against you by the President because as a Lawyer, I am trained to be able to argue from both sides. I am rather worried that you have become a pawn in the chess game of dubious politicians and lawyers, who are hellbent on tarnishing your image and remoulding you in their own image of corruption.
8. It is worthy of note that nobody is defending you on the substance of the accusations since you have admitted to them but those who are encouraging you to fight on want to use you to forment the anarchy which they have been craving for to derail our democracy and elections which they have lost but are desperately shopping for excuses to explain their loss. They are basing their arguments on technicalities and procedure. I sincerely believe that when a Judge is advised to live above board, it is that his conduct should be seen to be above all technicalities and procedure. His conduct should be weighed on the scale of Justice and if he is found wanting, he should tow the most honourable path of honour to resign.
9. For the avoidance of doubt, even if the government should go through NJC as some of the Lawyers argue citing Nganjiwa’s case, you will still be asked to step aside from being the chairman of NJC while the case lasts, just as you did during your appointment and confirmation period, when you stepped aside and allowed the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court take over proceedings during the meetings of NJC because you cannot be a judge in your own cause.
10. My Lord, it’s obvious that from every perspective one will look at this situation, it will culminate in your stepping aside either honourably or dishonourably. I can guarantee you that the longer you hang on to your office, the more your personal and private life will come under greater microscopic scrutiny and may probably lead to more revelations which will further bring your name to disrepute. It is for these reasons that I appeal most passionately to your Lordship to resign your position as the Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria immediately and save yourself and the judiciary from further attack and confusion. Only the people that love you will tell you this.
As I await your favourable response to this my passionate plea, be rest assured sir of my highest regards and esteem.
Dr Kenneth Okonkwo