The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has debunked media reports that he made political statements in support of the rebelling five Governors of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, otherwise known as the G-5 Governors.
It was reported that the CJN had at a recent event that was organised by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, said he was happy that his home state Governor, Seyi Makinde of Oyo state, was a member of the G-5 Governors, now christened the “Integrity Group”.
Justice Ariwoola allegedly endorsed governor Makinde’s membership of the PDP group, at a State Banquet organised as part of events that followed the commissioning of two Judiciary projects that were done by the Rivers state government.
The PDP had since issued a statement, cautioning the CJN, being the number one judicial officer in the country, to stay clear from partisan politics.
It will be recalled that the G-5 governors, led by the Rivers State governor, Wike, had listed some conditions they said must be met, before they will throw their weight behind the candidate of their party, PDP, in the 2023 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
They had among other things, demanded the resignation of the National Chairman of the Party, Iyorchia Ayu.
Meanwhile, in its first official reaction to the reports, the Supreme Court, described the statements credited to the CJN as the handiwork of “purveyors of misinformation”.
In a statement that was signed by its Director of Press and Information, Dr. Akande Festus, the apex court, said it was not shocked that such false remarks were attributed to the CJN by those it said would want to take advantage of every opportunity to score cheap goals.
It said the CJN had at the event, merely expressed his surprise to see his governor, Makinde, and the other PDP G-5 governors in Rivers State, not long after he also met them at a reception that organised in his honour by his state government in October, 2022.
“Our attention has been drawn to a publication with the above caption making the rounds in both conventional and social media.
“We wish to state unequivocally clear that the CJN, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, GCON had never at any point said such during his brief remarks at the State Banquet organised as part of the events lined up for the commissioning of the two Judiciary projects undertaken by the Rivers state government.
“Issues bordering on misconceptions and misrepresentations of this nature are not always strange in times like this when the country is preparing for general elections, as some people may want to take advantage of every opportunity to score very cheap goals.
“As we all know, this is the era of aggressive and even unconventional politicking, so, there’s nothing that will not be heard or seen at this crucial time, especially between now and February 2023, when the general elections will be conducted.
“People say whatever they choose to say, just to please their selfish interests and inordinate desires.
“We can’t really pinpoint where such barefaced falsehood is coming from; and certainly, we don’t also know at what point the CJN said he was happy that Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State was a member of the now christened “Integrity Group” or “G-5 Governors.”
“Everyone knows that the CJN, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, GCON, is a Judicial officer and not a politician, as such, would never directly or remotely make such comments or innuendoes.
“We wish to set the record straight by making it clear that the CJN and other senior Judicial Officers drawn from different parts of the country were in Port Harcourt on Thursday and Friday, being the 24th and 25th days of November, 2022 to commission the two buildings to accommodate the Federal Judicial Service Commission’s South-South Liaison Office and the Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili Judicial Institute, that were conceptualized and constructed by the Rivers State Government.
“Even at the State Banquet organised as part of the events, the CJN made it clear in his brief remarks, that he (CJN) was not in Port Harcourt for the State Banquet but simply to commission the two projects as a mark of honour for the Judiciary and Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili, CFR, JSC, Rtd and later go back to Abuja thereafter.
“Similarly, he said he was very surprised to see the “G-5 Governors” (“Integrity Group Governors”), just as he equally expressed the same surprise when he saw them in Ibadan, Oyo State, during the reception organised in his honour by his state government in October, 2022.
“His surprise particularly stemmed from the fact that he saw his own State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde (who incidentally is a member of the “G-5 Governors”) at the Port Harcourt occasion.
“He equally stated jocularly that being that HE Engineer Makinde married from Rivers State and is equally very close to HE Nyesome Wike, he would be able to replicate the developmental strides of the latter in Oyo State for the good of the citizenry.
“This, of course, is a comment that, ordinarily, ought to elicit applause and not myopic misrepresentations, as governance is all about positive comparisons and healthy competitions.
“Anyone or group of individuals making these unconscionable assumptions and pervading the misinformation are by implication, creating the impression that it is now a crime for the CJN to have come from Oyo state, which coincidentally, has a member of the group, Engineer Seyi Makinde, as the Governor.
“Let it be noted that anything said, assumed, presumed, reported or placed in the public domain outside the above facts, is simply a mere figment of the imagination of such authors and don’t in anyway represent what the CJN said in Port Harcourt, as we are not ready to join issues with such purveyors of misinformation”, the Supreme Court stated.