I watched on AIT the first clips of the interview of the then substantive CJN and now CJN of Nigeria in the Person of Justice Tanko Muhammed, just the initial part of it when he was introducing himself and how due to his height he was denied the opportunity to start school with his peers in those days, that when they observed that his height did not increase and he answered the questioned the was asked “satisfactorily” those in charge of enrollment had no choice than to let him enroll.
This clips was the portion that was used for the initial breaking news announcing his successful screening until it started trending both on social media and real media of how he goofed when he was questioned by Sen. Aberebe on how come technically became the ground upon which the supreme court based its judgment on the Osun election outcome between Sen. Adeleke and the Incumbent governor. His answer by all professionalism and honesty fell short of what would have been expected from a person of his caliber, but what is more gory is the reactions of many Nigerians mostly those who abinitio has nursed ill feelings about the administration and the circumstances that lead to the removal of the former CJN and the emergence of the current one. It also further reveal to a large extent how many Nigerians reasons, some genuinely ignorant, others allowing their sentiments and bias to becloud their sense of reasoning. “Only a fool judges the competence of a person by just a spontaneous response because not everyone is gifted with spontaneity in life”
A word can be said to be ambiguous if it has more than one meaning and can be used to mean two different things at different times, e.g “FAST”, means abstinence from food for a while, it also means the state of moving in a high speed, it can also mean standing at a spot. Another example would be the word “SEEN” it means sighting something within view, it also means to comprehend a thing, and so on. Just like the two examples given above phrases can also be ambiguous i.e having two or more interpretation, and most times in a spontaneous situation the brain tries to provide the quickest safest interpretation to such questions so as not to put itself in a tight situation. I will touch further on this but before that I will share an experience I had when I was in SS2. I walked into the classroom while the Biology classes was going on only to find a classmate of mine seating on my seat, I asked him to move so I can take my seat quietly but he was bent on causing a scene that day so in the course of confronting him I drew the attention of the teacher, since I was the one standing she naturally just felt I was responsible for the distraction. She said young man why are you distracting my class? Of course she was already pissed off, so was I and I guess a lot of other classmates that felt distracted too.
I told her this guy was seating on my seat and would not move, obviously; she was not interested in whatever explanation I have to give, so she asked me a question, what is accommodation? There was a moment silence both from me and everyone in the classroom; of course it was secondary school everyone wants a thing or two to laugh about. I knew since that was not an English class accommodation must mean something different, but just so I don’t appear totally stupid, I gave her the English definition of accommodation and related it with plant and animal. The entire class busted into laughter and the biology teacher looked at me and shook her head and said “ you have a long way to go”. This lady is also my church member, so she must have known how active I was in church but academically backward, my thoughts anyway.
Two weeks later it was exams, I wrote the exams and submitted like every other person, and after few days our scripts were given to us, but mine was there among those released. I saw the teacher walked in and said “there is a script in my hand I could not trace the name so I am unable to record the person score, if you have not gotten your script come and check” from afar I saw it was my tiny fowl scratch handwriting that was on that paper, I went there and said “ma, this is my script, this is my writing” she said “you? It cannot be you, how did you manage to score 57/70 in my subject?” in responds I said “ I manage ma” she saw in my notebook that I was up to date, I scored high in her test then she became my friend.
It is a general knowledge that every field of discipline has its jargons that is associated with it especially if such field has the perception of is a professional field. so one’s ability to use these jargons especially when occasions present itself is what tells how much of the school that went through him and not him passing through school only, the same way it is seen in any field of disciple one is fully engaged in.
Judging from the high standard of professionalism that the judicial system practice and are held in Nigeria, it will be unimaginable to thing that before a person grows through the ranks to get to the enviable position of a CJN in Nigeria he can just sleepwalk into such a position. What is more is that someone with that much academic qualification would not be mentally sound enough to answer a simple direct question as was posed by the distinguish Senator is unthinkable. It is true that some people find it difficult or out rightly unnecessary to use professional jargons, personally I don’t fancy the use of the jargons associated with my field (political science) but it is totally foolish for one’s academic competence to be judged by one response to a question.
Like I earlier stated, when a question is asked that has two or more possible answers the brain response from the point of caution, the first possible response of the brain is be safe. This safety is mostly the response that one has naturally to one fear or another. I am very sure that were this question asked the CJN on a friendly chat or casual interview his response may be much different, comprehensive and academically “satisfactorily” but under and interview situation one cannot help but cut him some slacks. The antecedence of his rise to the supreme court indicated that he has at some point or the order grew through the ranks, make some sound judgments and pronouncements that have expounded our jurisprudence over time, in fact it will be difficult for sound legal practitioners to question the competence of Justice Tanko Muhammed, and this is not out of fear or respect but out of knowledge of who the man was before his time in the red chambers, and if the Judges and the NJC finds no fault with him then it is inconsequential what other non-legal practitioners feel about his response that day.
Technicality or no technicality if the prejudicial view that many Nigerians have held about the competence of the president to rule and also his bias in political appointments was never nursed the answer of the CJN to The question of the Senator would have not trended, but because they have maintained of notion that the president is not academically qualified, the same eyes they use to asses those that he appoints for various political offices. Nothing makes a person judge stupidly like passing a judgment before hearing the matter, or adding sentiments to how a matter should go before it is heard.
I am not in any way justifying the poor response to that question, on a very good day I will wonder on what side of the bed did he wake up that warranted his giving such kindergarten answer to a straight forward question, but of course the reason is best known to him. It is possible he was trying to put himself in a tight corner, so he deliberately decided to sacrifice academic correctness for more diverting problem that may come as a result of answering that question as most people had expected it to be, but that is just it, but judging his competence simply by that action is very ridiculous.
Going forward I hope that our way of reasoning generally will be without bias, and emphasis at all-time should be placed on variable records and achievement of a person to judge competence and not just impressive performance during a one off interview, be in political appointment, internships, normal job interview and even examinations. Records should speak better than spontaneous responses if productivity can be achieved in any given field. Examination is not a true test of knowledge, but facts from records of a repeated pattern can form a good base upon which qualitative informed decision about a person or a thing can be achieved.
Ufuoma writes from Abuja