Hon. Justice Taiwo Obayomi Taiwo (Rtd), speaking during the lecture. Flanked on the left is the Rt. Rev. (Dr), Babatunde F.R. Ogunbanwo, and on the right by Hon. Justice O.O. Odunanjo, representing the Chief Judge of Ogun State, Hon. Justice Mosunmola Arionola Dipeolu, (FICMC).
Rule of law as a catalyst for building a society has been emphasized by a former judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Taiwo Taiwo at the special day of tribute in honour of late Lt. General Donaldson Oladipupo Diya and the unveiling of the Odogbolu Lawyers’ Forum which took place on Wednesday last week in Odogbolu, Ogun state.
Taiwo said that this nation will be a better place if we put the rule of law in the forefront of our affairs and accept law and order as a prerequisite.
“All Nigerians matter regardless of the place of their birth”, he said.
The Justice harped on the need for rule of law to be taken seriously.
In his words:”We can see that the rule of law is very wide and if it’s principles are well articulated and put to practice, there will be economic development, positive moral development, unity rather than ethnic rivalry and growth in our country.
“The task of ensuring that the rule of law is strictly observed should be the main concern of all stakeholders in the states and communities.
“Infraction of the law is not healthy in a democratic set up. Law must not be nakedly seen to be broken. The impunity at which the government and the governed break the law these days is alarming.
In his words: “Drivers drive against the traffic with impunity. They are brazen in these acts because the security personnel encourage them directly or tacitly. When they have ‘an officer’ in their vehicle even though the said officer is only a rank and file.
“They drive past policemen who turn their eyes away from the naked breach of the law.
“There is a law against street trading but yet we have hawkers on the street. They even sell to security officials who are meant to ensure they are not on the street.
“Examples abound of disregard for the law and breach of same by many people. We also have executive lawlessness, which is not limited to failure to follow due process in the conduct of its affairs but also to the refusal to obey court orders.
Governments, especially security agencies have become laws unconstitutional unto themselves. They act not according to laid down laws, but in line with their whims and caprices,” he said.
Taiwo added that under the rule of law, the state is subject to the law so governments should respect the rights of the individual under the law and provide means for their enforcement.
Taiwo also observed that the main function of the judiciary is to protect the citizens from a wrong and arbitrary exercise of power, regardless of the source of that power.
He said, power that is unchecked is power that corrupts, therefore adding that it is important that the judiciary must be respected.
According to him, there must be trust and confidence in the entire system.
“Judges who give judgments on matters duly brought, should not be labeled as anti-government whenever they give judgments which the government finds unfavourable,” he said.
He urged that the cord of unity must not be allowed to break, saying that the hands of the judiciary must be strengthened by all of us not by our judges.
“I say this because if the judiciary is not truly independent of the executive and the legislature, it will be hard to get the type of society we want,” he said.
He also said that the integrity of the judiciary must be encouraged by everyone.
In his words:”The home of judges should not be invaded, and neither should they be treated as common criminals because the government or somebody in power does not like a decision of the judge or even his face.
He appealed to all security agencies of governments and other agencies that have power to investigate to respect the judges in the performance of their duties.
“Their power to investigate which is a cloak under which they hide, should not be deployed against judges whose judgments they didn’t like,” he said.
The justice also frowned at the government sponsoring people on religious trips.
According to him, the crisis all over the world, where some clamour for the enthronement of religious based government founded on holy books, our country inclusive, is a testimony to the fact that religion should be personal to those who practice it, while the society should be governed under a set of rules duly passed in accordance with the constitution.
In his words:”For me, I am of the view that various governments, the Federal Government inclusive have no business in sponsoring people on religious trips in the fulfillment of a personal decision to worship one way or the other.
“It is very glaring that the act of governments in settling pilgrims’ boards is an invasion of the freedom of religious association as stated in the constitution.
“Let us not deceive ourselves, religious beliefs should not be the concern of any government. If you want to go on a pilgrimage, you are on your own. Spend your money.
“The governments should use the resources from which they finance personal beliefs on infrastructures, that will benefit the entire society.
Taiwo also supported devolution of powers which he said there are many powers presently held by the Federal Government of Nigeria that should devolve to the states.
According to him, the policing of the country must be decentralised to ensure adequate monitoring of security.
“Policemen should serve in their states. They must serve in their various communities where their activities can be monitored and questioned by the community,” he said.
In his welcome address, the convener of the event, barrister David Fayemi admonished the fact that Odogbolu has over the years produced some notable iconic national giants in the life and history of this country.
According to him, in the history of the legal profession, Odogbolu has recorded some modest but remarkable strides to the envy of other towns of similar size and status in the country.
In his words:”For instance, one of our colleagues had the privilege of serving this state as Attorney General and commissioner for justice.
“Similarly, a number of our colleagues render stewardship to this country by serving on the bench of lower and superior courts of record in the land. We have also produced a colleague that served our state of Ogun as a military governor.
“The same colleague had the rare privilege of serving as the Chief of General Staff and the Vice President of the country, a record equaled only in part recently in Ijebuland by our next door neighbour, Ikenne through prof. Yemi Osibajo,” he said.
Fayemi commended the historic event, saying that perhaps for the first time in the history of Odogbolu, a community of legal minds is being convoked for a good cause “which I do hope will outlive this event,” he said.
He said further:”I mention in newspaper article written by me in the Guardian newspaper of Wednesday 29th March, 2023 that’ it is sad that many will still not appreciate and understand the sacrifice of this patriot, but I know posterity will be kinder to him.
“In that article, I called on all Nigerians, especially all Odogbolu indigenes irrespective of any cultural or traditional misgivings, to come together to celebrate this iconic ‘OmoOlu’. I believe I have walked the talk by convening this event today,” he said.
Speaking exclusively with The Guardian and responding to the question of how the family felt when he surrendered himself to military police on the suspicion of treason in December, 1997, the first son and spokesperson for the Diya family, Barrister Simisola Diya explained that their father expressed unhinged faith in God.
According to the son, his integrity and profound honestly saw him through with the help of God.
“Dad never felt bad for a single day during his detention. In fact, he was quite optimistic and very encouraging which also had a positive effect on us. His belief in God saw him through,” he said.
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