The Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, has extolled the virtues of Hon Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye, describing him as a good man, professional, erudite, wise, upright, even incorruptible and a fierce defender of the independence of the judiciary as an arm of government.
Governor Bello, who spoke at a book launch in honour of Omolaye-Ajileye, who retired Wednesday from the Judiciary of Kogi State as a High Court Judge.
The governor was ably represented by his deputy, Chief Edward Onoja.
“I testify that His Lordship is one of those jurists of whom you have no qualms whatsoever in classifying as professional, erudite, wise, upright (even incorruptible) and a fierce Defender of the Independence of the Judiciary as an arm of government,” he said.
The governor alluded to the reality that, in our present day society, merits are often sacrificed on the alter of nepotism, but lamented that “these systemic evils have permeated, not just the judicial fabric but the entire textile of our national existence”
Full text of the governor’s speech below.
“I welcome each and everyone of us who have made the herculean effort to come out today in honour of our own Honourable Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye.
I use the word ‘herculean’, because it takes an inordinate degree of suspense to leave where you are to go anywhere else in these days of contrived fuel and cash shortages in order to be with anyone, anywhere outside your comfort zone. It also requires an atrocious amount of expense, and you often have to spend money you went through hell and high water to acquire.
I am therefore further persuaded in my assessment of His Lordship, the Author, as a good man by this crowd of quality people who have turned out in support of him. Especially when you have been invited, not to wine and dance, but to spend more of your hard-earned money (hopefully) in launching his book.
I am here in a dual capacity – as the Governor of Kogi State, albeit represented by my able Deputy, His Excellency, Chief Edward Onoja but also as Yahaya Bello, who dares to presume himself a friend of the author (I do hope the feeling is mutual, Milord!).
For those of you who may not know, His Lordship, Honourable Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye retired from our Judiciary in Kogi State this week. In fact, we held his valedictory court session in Lokoja just 2 days ago. I testify that His Lordship is one of those jurists of whom you have no qualms whatsoever in classifying as professional, erudite, wise, upright (even incorruptible) and a fierce Defender of the Independence of the Judiciary as an arm of Government.
My Lord’s commitment to the loftier ethos of his profession was very evident at his aforesaid valedictory court session where he walked the audience through a well-considered speech which, in my opinion, could even pass for a judgment – or at the very least a timeless obiter dictum! In it, he x-rayed the process of appointing judicial officers in Nigeria and identified four main systemic evils embedded in it, to wit: One, that the entire process is shrouded in sinful secrecy and avoidable clandestineness. Two, that the objective recommendations of candidate jurists by peers knowledgeable about their professional expertise and even authorities which scrutinize them for offices which they have earned do not count.
My Lord further said the third evil is that the process has become so marred by cronyism that who a candidate knows or does not know matters more to his chances.
Fourthly and finally, that nepotism, especially where a person comes from and how he worships tends to count more than what a candidate truly merits or deserves.
I have gone into His Lordship’s speech in detail because I want to concur that it is nothing but the truth, while raising a lament that these systemic evils have permeated, not just the judicial fabric but the entire textile of our national existence.
One of the most grievous ills under the sun in Nigeria today is that good men and women who have served their nation faithfully and for long are routinely subverted to make way for less qualified and less committed opportunists who are better connected or have the accidental benefits of what they call the right tribe or religion.
I am however of the opinion that Change Begins With Me.
My Lord and the entire Judiciary in Kogi State will bear me witness that I do not rank among the leaders who have traded in nepotism, cronyism, religionism, tribalism or any of what the late sage cum musician, Bob Marley, called ‘ism-schisms’, that is, the ‘isms’ that cause ‘schisms’ in any society.
I have had the privilege of working with 5 Chief Judges since I took over as the 4th Executive Governor of Kogi State with the current Chief Judge of the State, my Lord, the Honourable Justice Josiah Majebi as the 5th. In each and every instance we made sure that the process of succession was seamless and that the former Chief Judge is succeeded by the next most senior judge of the High Court of Kogi State as required by law.
This underscores my belief that a man should be judged by the content of his character and his personal accomplishments rather than by such parochial and shameful sentiments as where he comes from, what language he speaks or how he chooses to worship his Creator. We have not interfered to undermine or exclude any candidate for any reason at all as long as it has been his meritorious and professional due.
‘Emilokan’ is a more respected principle with us when determining the equity, fairness and justice of the situation, as long as the factual and prevailing circumstances also support it. It is therefore not a surprise that we have enjoyed excellence and support from our Judiciary in both the administration of justice and overall good governance in our State.
This is why I firmly I believe that if I were to stand trial before milord, but more importantly, before my God, for the ills which I have outlined herein from the Author’s valedictory speech two days ago, I shall be discharged and acquitted – not because I have been perfect but because I have made all the efforts known to me to lead Kogi State away from the horrible miasma of tribal, religious, gender, and class divides which I inherited on 27th January, 2016 when I was first sworn in as the Governor of Kogi State.
It is my duty today to inform this audience and by extension Nigerians at large, and in particular the younger demographics which are coming up and wondering how they will thrive in the cesspits of corruption which the older generations of Nigerian leaders and citizens have nurtured, that things cannot continue this way.
We have our eyes on the emergence of a Nigeria built on Security, Unity, Prosperity, Egalitarianism and Reconciliation (SUPER). I call it the ‘SUPER NIGERIA’ and it is what we are working for with all our strength, even now.
Of course, I am committed to be the Change that I want to see and I am certain that Justice Omolaye-Ajileye will bear me witness that in my little corner in Kogi State, I have done things differently. I want to add that the New Direction Agenda which I have championed in Kogi State is beautifully on display here today.
Our Chief Judge, His Lordship Justice Josiah Majebi is an Ebira man from Okene LGA and he has led a pantheon of lawlords to this memorable event. This book launch is organized by a Committee chaired by my brother, Barrister J.S Okutepa who is an Igala man from Idah, the traditional headquarters of the Igala Nation in Kogi State. All of us are here to honor and support Honourable Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye, an Okun man from Ekirin-Ade in Ijumu LGA of Kogi West Senatorial Zone. This is the Kogi state my team and I have worked so hard to build in the last 7 years and we are still hard at work. It is a yet emergent Kogi State, but I am intensely proud of it already.
I conclude by commending to our Judiciary all over Nigeria, the words of Justice Ajileye that it can be a healthy judicial system again, and a positive changemaker like in the days of yore, with a reputation for integrity and competence.
According to him: ‘They can do this if they exhibit, at all times, requisite judicial character. The qualities of courage, firmness, integrity, uprightness, patience, open-mindedness, understanding of the law, compassion, humility, and courtesy should be inseparable from the (judicial persona or) personality.’
NB: The words in brackets are mine. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here for Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye’s book launch. His Lordship’s book, In The Interest of Justice – Excellence In Writing Judgments is no doubt a quantum leap forward in legal scholarship and juridical practice in Nigeria. Be rest assured that as a State we shall definitely support him handsomely to put it into the hands of lawyers and judges across the country and beyond.
I also urge all of us here to do so too.
We thank my lord again for his transformational service to our people and State on the benches of the Kogi State Judiciary. Thank you!
Governor of Kogi State