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‘Is that so?’ (For Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen)


Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (R) appears at the Code of Conduct Tribunal during his final judgement on corruption allegations in Abuja, on April 18, 2019. – Nigeria’s most senior judge resigned on April 5 after he was charged with non-declaration of assets that government critics said was politically motivated. The Code of Conduct found him guilty of false declaration of asset on April 18, 2019. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Once again, Justice Walter (Samuel Nkanu) Onnoghen (born 22 December, 1950) is on my mind. As you well know, dear readers, the Cross River State indigene I do not know from Adam, as the saying goes, was the Chief Justice of our country – until very recently when he was viciously kicked out of office.

The vicious kick was truly traumatic, disgraceful and humiliating (and still must be for him perhaps forever), to put it mildly. I have commented here in different guises on what befell the jurist, the really great one of our judiciary.

I thought I would stop dwelling on the matter pertaining to his plight and fate and put it to bed permanently after my previous series of comments here. But our almighty one (whom I once badly admired and badly loved as well) and his controlling cabal seem to be disallowing me from doing so. I hope, however, that this would be my last intervention on the matter.


First, before I open up on what has led me to the present engagement, let me state two or three pertinent observations.

Number one is the big, loud silence of our Vice President on the matter. Was he not the one who rightly transformed Justice Onnoghen’s temporary Chief Justice-ship to permanent, substantive Chief Justice-ship until, firstly, his suspension in questionable circumstances, and secondly, until his arraignment in a very inferior “court” called a tribunal (of sorts) to answer to his indictment – also of a questionable nature well programmed to that end by those who allegedly did not want him to be our Chief Justice for nepotistic and political reasons? Detractors may say what they may or must, but our Vice President’s inability – or seeming ability – to have a positive say on Justice Onnoghen’s predicament sent a message of at the same time comic and tragic proportions to my compositional thoughts. Maybe our VP rightly did what he had to do, but was over-ruled in the executive conclave of decisions, and he could not but keep quiet – and in obedience to his political chiromancy. One day we will know what we will know.

Number two. What truly happened to the Nigerian Judicial Council (or is it National Judicial Council? I nor be lawyer o) with respect to the now retired Chief Justice when the executive rode roughshod over our judiciary, our judicial arm of government? Of course, in view of all that transpired and of the little that came to public view on account of our deformed journalistic investigative habits, one could not but say that the NJC did not really do the rightfully rightful. As far as I am concerned, chill penury of courage repressed their judicial rage.


This brings me to my subject of “Is that so?” It is no more news that the executive has recently announced that Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen has been duly retired. In comic and tragic pains all I said to myself was “Is that so?” when the news found me. And not too long ago the NJC made an allegedly public statement commending President Buhari for the eventual retirement of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen. I chuckled, cackled, chortled, giggled, guffawed and grunted with my hoarse “Is that so?” bellow and yelp.

Now Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen and all those who have been plotted and lied against and betrayed and back-stabbed and disgraced and humiliated, viciously or not viciously, should read the following shortly short story from Asia bearing the title as given in my column today. I am quoting it verbatim because I don’t want all its nuances relating to meaning, colour and quality to be lost in my paraphrase or summary of it. It is from a compilation by Dr. Steve M. Cahn (Professor of Philosophy at City University of New York Graduate Center):

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life. A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him.

Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Haikuin. In great anger the parents went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he could say.

After the child was born, it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else the little one needed.


A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market .

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”

Dear readers, I need not say more nor help to give meaning to this very short and very short story that is an enchantingly enchanting Japanese story. But may Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen (and all of us who have been bruised and bloodied or yet to be bruised and bloodied for believing what we believe and for our righteous heart and will) have the patience to wait till the “mud settles and the water is clear.”

May we “remain unmoving/till the right action arises by itself.” So help him (and us all) O Law and Lord of Patience and of Justice! May prosperity that is more than prosperity attend to the needs of Chief Justice Walter (Samuel Nkanu) Onnoghen more than ever before so that he mustn’t lose touch with who he is.

(As for President Buhari himself, may he henceforth cast more than a wary glance at his cabal of curious web-masters and entranced entanglers, nepotistic nepotists, ethnic jingoists and regional ideologues. He must make himself to be loved and re-loved (again) nationally and nationally before it is too late for prosperous love to re-visit him. He must not allow himself to be tangled any more in his own contradictions). This is a perilous time to live for truth in our country. Is that not so?

Afejuku may be reached via +2348055213059 (SMS only) or via

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