By Gloria Mabeiam Ballason Esq
He could hear the crowd approaching the little rise that ushers into the panoptical lobby. Marcus Pontius Pilatus, the fifth Governor of the Roman Province of Judea had no idea he was about to preside over a matter that will alter the course of his life, and indeed, history forever.
Hardly did he have the time to process what was going on when a mob, without let, pushed the door open until it creaked and hissed in revolt. His chief of staff raised his hand and the grumbling began to die down. ” His Excellency requests that there be no noise and that the spokesperson for this delegation present the issues concisely and with decorum”.
“This man undermines law and order. He forbids the payment of taxes to Caesar and sets himself up as Messiah-King! Imagine the audacity of a flat-broke son of a carpenter!”; a man who looked like the head of a beard gang dynasty said.
‘Do you understand the charges levelled against you young man?’ Quiet. ” How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty? ” Silence. ‘Is it true that you are the king of the Jews?’
“Those are your words not mine” the Accused replied. It gave Pilate a bit of relief to hear the Accused speak. Like any accused, he was entitled to a right to silence and did not have to say anything that could be incriminating. Yet, the allegations were too weighty and Pilate hoped that he would say something – anything at all so he could use the Law to exonerate the harmless looking man who had been levelled with ridiculous charges.
The day was aging. All the proofs presented could not ground a conviction. Most of the evidence were either uncorroborated or hearsay and hearsay could not be admitted. Hard as they tried, they could not reach the evidential threshold of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
This is the ruling of the court, said Pilate: ” …having evaluated the evidence before me, it does not prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt neither is it sufficient to ground a capital conviction. Consequently, I am inclined to discharge the accused…”
The mob broke into a fierce protest. “He stirs up the people in Galilee and its surroundings…”
‘Galilee?’ Pilate asked, ” I have no territorial jurisdiction over this matter. I hereby transfer this case for trial under Herod’s jurisdiction “. Herod reviewed the transferred case but found as spurious the vehement accusations. He was more amused than amazed that a pauperized Galilean should seek to be King over the Jews and was particularly struck at how the young man betrayed no emotions. Herod therefore sent him back to Pilate after a mock trial in which he had the Accused clothed in one of his royal robes. The charges and the evidence were at best, ridiculous and at worst laughable.
At the resumed session, Pilate called aside the chief priests and leaders of the mob. He explained to them his dilemma: the trouble of convicting a person to death without any evidence to support a capital sentencing. He reminded them that even Herod had validated his earlier ruling but he was willing to concede to a plea bargain. The Accused could then be whipped, warned and then released.
The crowd was insatiable and went bunkers. ‘Death to Him! Death to Him!! Release Barabbas to us!!!’ In the midst of the rancour, an aide hurried up to His Excellency with an urgent note from the First Lady: ” Sweetheart, have nothing to do with the death of that man. He is innocent. I have had a revelatory dream. We will be doomed if you sentence him to death. He is innocent.”
He was now soaked in sweltering sweats. He took a deep breath and assessed his surrounding, a riot could break out but his security squad could quell it with minimal damage. Truly, the man before him was totally innocent. The only problem was, his popularity rating would dip. Low rating would have no corresponding effect to his earnings but then again he liked to be popular and remain in the good books of the people.
” If you let this man go, you are not a friend of Caesar!” Caesar? For a long time, he had longed to be an ally of the King. In a matter of hours, the old rift he had with Herod was repaired over the case of this intriguing man. What would he lose if he threw him under the bus in exchange of elevated social capital with Caesar? The voices of the people prevailed over his weak, vacillating personality. He made one more attempt to get the Accused to at least, incriminate himself: ” Tell me, are you the king of the Jews?” This time around, the Accused put the words back to him: ‘ You say that I am a King? Those are your words. I came to this world to bear witness to the truth.”
‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked. Unwilling to wait for an answer lest he changed his mind, he turned his senses to the cry of the people which grated on his vulnerability until there was nothing left to inhibit him.
He then called for a bowl of water and in the full glare of the people, Marcus Pontus Pilatus washed his hands: ‘ I am innocent of the blood of this just man, do with him as you see fit’. His soldiers yanked the Accused out of court, lashed him and gave him away to the mob knowing they could kill him by crucifixion.
THE COURAGE OF TRUTH.
It takes great courage to stand with truth that is unacceptable to the times. #I Stand With Pastor Chris is an example. How does a person who has been taught by a pastor with 13million followers across five continents find the courage to admit that the charts designed by pastor to validate a preposition that 5G technology is linked with Covid-19, is in fact, an old wife tale? How does a Common Wealth of Zion Assembly member who sees his pastor as a preacher with uncommon prophetic insight into the Word accept, even for the purpose of examining the facts, that the rape allegations by Ese Walter, Franca or Busola Dakolo may be deserving of objective scrutiny?
It takes strength and courage to admit the truth in a room where people unanimously agree to maintain a conspiracy of silence. Yet for the one who seeks to act in harmony with good conscience, it should never be a task to acknowledge love for a person and still admit the error in his ways.
It is not only the ecclesiastical community that is yoked with the burden of truth. The Judicature in Nigeria has in that regard, its dangerously emerging story. In 2011, it felt embarrassing to admit that a Chief Justice of Nigeria could have been corrupt and so the National Judicial Council in its finding admitted that CJN Aloysius Katsina-Alu ‘acted outside his constitutional powers’ in the Sokoto Gubernatorial Appeal but that ‘he acted in good faith’.
The timidity of the National Judicial Council in that case may have ushered in a flood gate of executive overreach by succeeding governments for by 2016, the Department of State Security raided the homes of senior judges and usurped the constitutional powers of the NJC for appointment, discipline, dismissal and exercise of judicial control as provided in part 1 of the third schedule of Section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
By January 26,2019, the President of Nigeria found the audacity to announce that he had suspended Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen in what he claimed was in compliance to exparte orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad was then sworn in as acting Chief Justice. The appointment of Chief Justice Muhammad stood in stark contrast with how the NJC had previously treated Judges who lent themselves as tools of executive recklessness in Abia, Plateau, Rivers, Ekiti and Kwara where Governors swore in acting Chief Judges without the input of the NJC. The consequence was that these judges who lent themselves to constitutional infraction by the executive arm of government were forced by the NJC to proceed on compulsory retirement as sanctions. In the case of Kwara where Justice Raliat Elehu-Habeeb was forcefully removed by the then Governor of the State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the matter went up to the Supreme Court and on February 17,2012 , the Supreme Court established a standard procedure when it juxtaposed sections 153 and 292 of the Constitution and held that the removal of a head of court must accord with the spirit of checks and balance as stipulated by the Constitution.
As it stands, the NJC and the Supreme Court have made a 180-degree turn with the existing order at the country’s apex court. The question is: Which of the organs will bell the cat? The Nigeria Bar Association? The National Judicial Council which has the CJN as Chair or the Supreme Court which has a validly existing judgment that is as recent as 2012?
THE LEGACY OF TRUTH.
Every day we write a legacy in what we do or fail to do. In doing nothing, Pilate washed his hands but not his conscience. He effectively did something by nothing when he looked away while Jesus, an innocent man, was seized and dragged to Golgotha. The nails that were driven into the hands and feet of Jesus were as a result of Pilate’s indifference. When his tissues broke down and his central nervous system unplugged from pain, it was all because Pilate stood by and did…nothing. Every time we refuse to raise our voices against injustice, we fail woefully to seize the opportunity to not partake in a lie. May we use the power in our lives as a force for good. Have an amazing Easter celebration.
Ballason is the C.E.O. House of Justice and E.D. Molluma Medico-Legal Centre. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org