Since Justice Raliat Onaolapo Elelu-Habeeb bowed out of active service in 2012 as the first substantive female Chief Judge and Chairman Judiciary Service Commission in Kwara State, another woman is yet to attain such noble height. And, there seems to be no indication as to when the pendulum would swing in favour of a female judge.
Some legal practitioners in the state have however posited that chances are bright for a woman to attain the exalted height in the next dispensation, despite the preponderance of senior male justices in the state.
The first Chief Justice in the state was Hon. Justice Saidu Kawu who was in office between 1975 and 1984, afterwards, four others held the position namely; Justice Timothy Oyeyipo who served from 1984 to 2005, Justice Saka Yusuf also had a short stint between 2006 and 2007, Justice Elelu resumed office thereafter and served from 2008 till 2012. Justice Bamigbola equally served in 2014 while the current serving CJ took over the mantle in 2014. This account shows that Elelu was the first and the only female among the past Kwara CJs.
It is on record that during her time in office, Elelu braced up to many odds and surmounted challenges, to have her name registered in gold letters in the state High Court.
Lending a voice to the issue, a senior member of the Bar, who does not want his name in prints, said going by hierarchy, a female judge may be favoured as the next CJ. “Our honourable Chief Justice Sulyman Kawu has proven over the years to be a man of repute and high standard, who shuns all forms of bigotry, I always doff my hat for him over the wisdom with which he pilots affairs of the court. In fact, he’s one of the best CJ Kwara state has produced.
“Also, going by what the state judiciary experienced during the time of former Justice Elelu, one would want that type of woman who can weather any storm. She is brave and tough. We can always wish that a good judge succeeds my lord, Justice Kawu. In fact, we want someone like him, and don’t care about gender. ”
But the question remains, who succeeds Kawu among the 16 judges of the state High Court? Until November 14th, the judges are hierachically ranked as follows; Mary Folayan, Matthew Adewara, Titi Daibu, A. A Adebara, Hannah Ajayi, Mahmud Abdul Gafar, Ibrahim Babatunde Garba, I.A Yusuf, Salman Haleeman, S.M Akanbi, E.B Muhammed, S.T Umar, Sikiru Oyinloye, S.T Abdulkadir, A.O Akinpelu, and A.L Ishiaq.
Folayan who was next to the CJ bowed out of service at the age of 63 on 14th November; a development which shocked most people in the state judiciary who believed she was next in line as the state Chief Judge.
Findings by this medium also revealed that Adewara would retire from service in upon attaining the statutory retirement age for judges 65 years in two years time. Going by this calculation, some members of the Bar who spoke to this medium, noted that Justice Daibu would fill the vacuum after exit of the present CJ.
A senior member of the bench who spoke on the basis of anonymity with this medium, said that Daibu’s ascension to the position of CJ is realistic. “My Lord, Justice Kawu is in his late 50s, he still holds the power and that is why we can’t be affirmative about who is next in line…,” he submitted.
A top ranking judicial official also affirmed the possibility of Daibu becoming the Chief Judge given her ranking among top members of the bench in the state.
“Kawu will be retiring in less than 10 years, that is when he will be 65 years of age and by then, Daibu’s will have less than three years left to her retirement. This shows that she will get to the exalted seat but may be there for a little time. The matter is simple; in fact, to me, it’s automatic because it is about who’s next in rank.
“But except in some special cases like if my lord is called to the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, but I don’t think he is interested in that because his name is not on the list of recommended judges that was released about a week ago. But for now, Daibu is next…
“The state will equally enjoy her leadership because she has made discipline, thoroughness and faithfulness her watch word. She is a judge who cannot be bought over or manoeuvred in any way, though she is very social and sociable,” ” he divulged.
A serving magistrate who spoke to this medium in confidence also expressed optimism that Daibu will be the next CJ, adding that, ” It will be a thing of joy to see a woman holding that position. She said if she is able to make it to that position, she would use her office to advance the good course of courts and address some welfare issues of members of staff in the judiciary.
“I’m sure she will know where the shoe pinches having been in the system for decades,” she submitted.
Cause list in view of some of the State magistrates and High Courts
Magistrate Nurudeen Adedoyin C.O.P Vs. Sunday Abifarin coming up on 12 December, 2017
Alhaji Olayinka Olateju Vs. Yakubu Olateju coming up on 12 December
C.O.P Vs. Mumini Isah coming up on 13 December.
M.T Ayeni Vs. Mr Jimoh David coming up on 13 December, 2017
C.O.P Vs. Olayinka Olugbenga and 2 others coming up on 13 December, 2017
C.O.P Vs Oladipo Oladejo coming up on 14 December, 2017