In recent times, there has been this perception that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja could be engaging in the misuse of judicial power.
Judges are known to be in positions of extraordinary power and prestige, but they must not be allowed to escape public accountability as an overly activist judge, which Ekwo is apparently becoming, which could threaten the public foundation of the Nigerian constitutional system.
From the point of legal psychology, which refers to psychologically related actions that are directly pertinent to the law and legal issues, Justice Ekwo has gone too far. For example, in a recent court ruling, he permitted a discriminatory Nigeria Police Force Regulation that singles out potential or active female police officers from getting pregnant simply because of their marital status.
Ekwo has gone too far when an employer like the Nigerian police force retains single male workers who have fathered out-of-wedlock children yet allows for the termination of single pregnant females.
Ekwo has gone too far when he undermines Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, which is about the guarantee of the privacy of citizens, their homes, in their relationships and correspondence, communications remain protected.
Ekwo has gone too far when he paves the way for gender discrimination, especially regarding females who may be single by choice or circumstance in our current social world.
From his ruling on single female police officers, Ekwo has gone too far when he appears to be sending the message that single women are characteristically worse off than men of every status and married women simply because they are unmarried. Even if that female has always wanted to be a police officer because of her interest, skill, and competence.
Ekwo has gone too far when he opens the path where a female must be discriminated against just because she had sex, got pregnant while single, which may be due to a lack of quality men, or traumatic experience from a relationship.
Ekwo has gone too far when he concluded as a man that females who dare get pregnant are apparently promiscuous women by their conduct of not being married, are apparently sexually immoral as such, they lack respectability and should not earn a living from something they chose to do.
Ekwo has gone too far when he, in his own words, notes that a single pregnant female’s conduct promotes the old age negative stereotypes that single women should be ranked at the very bottom, below single men.
Ekwo has gone too far when he does not understand the demographic reality of the supply of men who are suited or well matched for today’s unmarried women and that we are no longer at the age where a female must marry even if the single man is more likely to be unemployed, and financially fragile.
The judge needs a little lesson in gender psychology. In today’s world, more than one in every two women is unmarried—there are not enough men out there, unlike in the judge’s time.
Ekwo’s judicial activism raised its ugly head when he ruled to stop the National Assembly from amending the new electoral act.
From the lens of legal psychology, Ekwo has gone too far when he fails to comprehend fully that the power to make laws is within the purview of the legislative branch alone; and the courts have no constitutional right to do so. Here again, Ekwo appears to be undermining the Constitution’s separation of powers, regarding performing its legislative duties.
Ekwo has gone too far when he forgets or refuses to understand that the Nigerian Constitution and Presidential system of government, which is somewhat defectively modeled after the American constitutional system of presidential governance, frowns at judges who refuse to respect the separation and exercise of powers.
Ekwo has gone too far; he appears to be telling the executive arm of the government, the presidency, that it should not border on asking the legislature questions on amendment issues. A type of judicial activism that involves dealing with both executive and legislative authorities at the same time is very risky.
In a clear display of judicial activism, Ekwo went too far when he fired a governor (David Umahi of Ebonyi State), his deputy, and several lawmakers for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
When he ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately receive from the PDP names of persons to replace the Governor and his Deputy, or conduct a new gubernatorial election in Ebonyi state, Ekwo went too far in its activism without restraint.
Ekwo has gone too far in his failure to recognize that the Nigerian constitution borrowed heavily from the constitution of the United States of America, particularly in terms of one’s constitutional right to movement and expression. The switching of parties by politicians is part of the presidential constitutional reality.
Ekwo has gone too far for not reading widely, as he could have known that in America, whose system of government Nigeria adopted, Governor Jim Justice of the State of West Virginia began his political career as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party a few months after taking office as a Democrat Governor in 2017, and declared his support for the now-former President Donald Trump, a Republican.
In 2009, the immensely popular and powerful Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched from the Republican Party after 40 years in the Republican Party to the Democratic Party during Barack Obama presidency.
Along the same line, Bello Muhammad Matawalle the current Governor of Zamfara State, Nigeria, contested under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to become governor. He later defected to the All-Progressives Congress.
Switching political parties, or switching from one political party to another, is, to some extent, a breach of faith for one’s original party, but it is fundamentally about one’s conscience, conviction, and interests as an electorate member.
Ekwo has gone too far for not abiding by the order of life, which includes the alienable rights of expression, association, and movement. Opening one’s mind to different points of view, which might give the person a purpose and change their lives for the better, is not a crime.
Ekwo type of judicial activism amounts to saying ‘let’s crucify him or her for holding onto a female’s rights, as with the police female’s right to motherhood and entering any job she likes, the legislator’s right to do his or her parliamentary duties without interference, and the politician’s right to switch to any political party at any time.
Justice Ekwo should learn from the psychology of judicial restraint that encourages judges to be prudent in enforcing their views of the meaning of the Constitution.
No one, no lawyer, no politician, and not this psychologist, is telling Ekwo and other judges how to arrive at their views, but the judge should be aware that an all-out judicial activism deeply opposes the principle of democracy.
Judicial activism or politicking is bad for any growing democracy. Judge Ekwo must not engage in it continuously.
I suggest if the judge chooses to remain a true activist, he should be on the side of more freedoms, but he should try to exercise self-restraint meaningfully to avoid being seen as a pusher of mob justice. Judge Ekwo remembers the history of Nigeria type deployment and redeployment of officials that includes emotional transfer, sentimental transfer, or calculated transmission of government officials, including judges, from one state to the other. Good luck, my lord.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional, and Career Development. He is a former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings In 2011, he introduced State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. Currently, a Virtual Behavioral Leadership Professor at ISCOM University, Republic of Benin. Founder of the proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien Open University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, and Openness. Founder of Psychoafricalytic Psychology. Over forty academic publications and creations, at least 200 public opinion pieces on African issues, and various books have been written by him. He specializes in psycho-prescriptive writings regarding African institutional and governance issues.
Prof. Oshodi wrote in via [email protected]