Homage to truth
In war, it is often said, truth is the first casualty. It can be observed that it is the same in a situation of near war, when chaos and confusion sweep through the land. Take the EndSARS Panel Report and White Paper on it by the government for example. There was cacophony of voices even before the White Paper was out. Festus Keyamo, SAN and Minister of State for Labour and Employment, threw the first salvo after the state government lawyer on the pnnel washed his hands off the Report. Mr. Keyamo attacked the very foundation of the report what some might call the jugular of the whole exercise. He spoke from the high pedestal of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He dismissed the Lagos Judicial Panel of Enquiry on Restitution for Victim of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters as “illegal and a waste of time.” The one and only, the irrepressible Honourable Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, followed on the heels of Festus Keyamo, saying the Report was a pack of recycled Fake News and tales by moonlight. He said it was shocking that the Panel to investigate police brutality merely compiled same allegations made by Nigerians and submitted them as a report. In his words, “It is an intimidation of the majority by a minority.” He said the report is a sham, full of errors and cannot be acted upon.
If the Panel headed by a retired justice, Mrs. Doris Okuwobi, was illegal and a waste of time it means there was no panel and if there was no panel, then there could be no report. The two ministers spoke in a manner to pre-empt the Lagos State Government position and action on the Report. Could the State Government throw out of the window the report of a panel it set up?
A young lawyer, Festus Ogun, said to be barely five years old at the Bar, courageously took on Festus Keyamo. “With due respect, the position of the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is grossly misleading and suspiciously misleading and does not reflect the true position of the law. The Lagos EndSARS panel was constituted within the ambits of law and its investigative powers are neither overreaching nor beyond the scope of the 1999 Constitution.”
Mr. Ogun went on: “First, Section 1 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, Cap T7, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, confers power on the Governor of Lagos State to constitute the judicial panel to investigate ‘any matter in respect of which in the opinion an inquiry would be for the public welfare.’ Instructively, it is settled law that the Federal Government lacks power and authority to constitute judicial panels or tribunal whatsoever for state governments.
“With a clear understanding that the Federal Government lacks the constitutional vires to constitute tribunal for states, the National Economic Council, NEC, last year directed the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry to investigate complaints of police brutality or related extrajudicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) and other police units.”
Mr. Ogun did not stop at that. He referred to the case of Fawehinmi v. Babangida in which the Supreme Court said: ‘The National Assembly cannot enact a general Law for the establishment of tribunals of inquiry for, and applicable in, the Federation of Nigeria. The power to enact such a law has become a residual matter for the States in respect of which Houses of Assembly can legislate for their respective States by virtue of Section 4(7) constitution.’ Mr. Ogun argues that flowing from the decision of the Supreme Court, “it is clear like crystal that the Federal Government of Nigeria can only set up Tribunal for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and not for States of the Federation.”
He wondered if Keyamo would have maintained the same position if the panel’s report and recommendations had absolved the Federal Government. “I dare say that the opinion of the honourable Minister is calculated to discredit the valid reports of the panel. Too late. The truth is in the open and no attempt to thwart the genuine efforts of the EndSARS panel will succeed.”
Although Mr. Keyamo and Mr. Ogun did not delve into the content of the Panel’s report, Mr. Lai Mohammed did in a language that was clearly disrespectful of the panel and Justice Doris Okuwobi who chaired it. While Lai Mohammed said the report cannot be acted upon, Activist Femi Falana, however, said the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, “cannot reject the report, summary of evidence and findings of Okuwobi Judicial Commission in any material particular.” Speaking at a Town Hall meeting of the Guild of Editors in Lagos last week, Mr. Falana (SAN) said: When the Government set up a White Paper committee a fortnight ago; I questioned its legal validity. It was my view that since the committee is unknown to law, the members of the white Paper committee did not have the opportunity of taking evidence from the witnesses who had testified before the commission.” He referred to a case (William v. Dawodu) to back his viewpoint, arguing that although he is not unaware that governments issue a white Paper on the report of a commission of enquiry, but “since there is no provision for a White Paper under the law the Lagos State Government is bound by the findings and recommendations of the Panel.
Where does all this leave us? Where lies the truth of this all important matter? What is truth? In discussions at which all manner of opinions are expressed—for or against, we seek the truth. It is either one party is right or the other is wrong. But each party holds on to its standpoint as the truth, the gospel truth. Can a man be a hero to his people and a villain to others? Is he a hero or not? It may even so happen that he is neither a hero nor a villain at the end of the day. Usually also attacked with the truth is the purveyor who may be wounded in the process, mortally wounded for that matter: “Carry your truth go,” it is often heard said. The Yoruba people of South West would say: “Olooto kii leni.” This is roughly translated to mean, No provision of a mat on which to sleep is made for a man of truth. The truth itself cannot be wounded. It can be veiled, swept under the carpet, assailed or vilified. Despite seeming tribulations it may have suffered, it triumphs eventually.
Jakande LKJ was wont to say: “In the contest between truth and falsehood, who has heard of truth being worsted?” The reason is not farfetched. It is because Truth is Life and is eternal. It is absolute, and all activities are measured against it to know whether they are right or wrong. It is within reach of all, the lowly or the high, educated or not educated. Such is its majesty that it is unaffected by upheavals, revolutions, grudge or plot, recognition or non-recognition, love or ill-will. All that swings against it collapses. This means that concepts, ideas or deeds which may run counter to it must collapse. Thoughts precede deeds, which may manifest in the building of institutions, setting up of organisations or forming associations. That being so, systems are preceded by thoughts and ideas. To the extent that systems crumble, it demonstrates that they do not accord with truth, either in concept, actualisation or application. Are the reinforcements enough to keep the high-rise building standing? It is everyone, nay every creature, that needs truth if its actions are to endure, if it is to know joy, peace and prosperity.
For ages, efforts have been made to discover truth. Socrates, Aristotle and many more opened the eyes of the world to the imperative of pursuit of truth. Finding it elusive, researchers appear to have thrown up their hands in resignation, and have come to the conclusion that truth is relative. In the higher knowledge spreading on earth in these times, we learn that actions are carried out not in the absolutism of truth, but in observation and limited recognition of its effects. Institutions were set up in ancient times in pursuit of truth. Scholars are deemed to live by such pursuits. They pored over writings in its pursuit of truth. Huge grants were given and still are by governments and foundations in pursuit of truth.
Progress has been made in partial understanding of the effects of truth. Air inhaled for example is identified as and named oxygen, exhaled, carbon dioxide. One is healthy for the body, the other is not. It is known that a farmer who plants guava can never harvest mangoes. That truth must go beyond scientific inventions. It must be the same in Zurich as it is Nairobi, and the same in Ontario as it is Rio de Janeiro as it is in Accra, Aberdeen or Lagos. What lies behind this Truth that is so universal, and beyond the avarice and calculation of man, what human craftiness cannot touch, whether be he Black or White, American, Afghans, French or African? The truth under contemplation must be all embracing and valid in all lands and for all peoples. It must be dripping with logic and must find accompaniment in reason.
Since it is universal, it can only be beyond anything devised or thought out by human mind. Take reputation or name as an example. In every culture care is taken that it is not tarnished and a man can go to any length to reclaim his name. It is simply because a man is the name he bears. It is his fate—nomen est omen. Shakespeare’s Othello has had to say: “Good name in man and woman …is the immediate jewel of their souls.” The truth under contemplation must, apart from being universal, be all embracing.
Since the qualities ascribed to truth cannot be found among human beings, it should follow we have to look for it somewhere else high above us human beings. In other words it can only be shed from Above. Splitting of it had reached down to human beings over the millennia in accordance with their maturity and absorptive capacity—first by servants and later by Truth Itself who brought Absolute Truth, the Lord Jesus Christ. But all the splitting has been dimmed. Human beings distorted them and used them to bargain for position, power and influence. If Truth comes from Above it means the liveliest activity prevails high up there, and experiencing truth is stronger and richer there. Reception of it will then necessarily depend on how higher each goes. Thus richer, joyful secure, fulfilled life depends on how much man appreciates and lives by truth.
How do we then relate with truth and relate it to crisis which is spreading from one country to another, engulfing the world, the most obvious being the unrelenting pounding of the world by coronavirus pandemic? We can relate with it only upon recognition of Truth as Life, Will and Power. It Power lies in Life which does not require anything to make Live because it is Life Itself! The Will is manifested in the eternal principles that govern life. These principles which indeed are more powerful than the combined will power of all human beings on earth. The Laws of Nature are the direct agents of the Will of the Most High, who is Life, and being Life, is Power and Truth.
The question that stares all in the face is what does truth say about human beings? About family, death, about changing climate, family life and family bond, child upbringing, purpose of life, the task of every human being and his goal, business relationship and relationship with government? The answers to these can only be found in Truth shed from On High.
What bearing does all this have on the EndSARS report and its aftermath? Has it not been said that truth knocked to the ground will yet rise? The truth about the EndSARS protests will not be withheld. We are in the Age of Enlightenment with its Rays animating and encompassing; and all truths are revealed. It is the duty of each person to seek enlightenment.