Top Niger Republic jurist Mrs. Fatimata Salifou Bazeye accepted the Daily Trust African of the Year 2011 award in Abuja last night by declaring that she had been guided in her judicial career by the philosophy of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who once said, « You should, therefore you can. »
Mrs. Bazeye received the award, the 4th in the series, at a colourful ceremony presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher. It was held at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel. She also won the prize of $50,000 which was donated by the United Bank for Africa (UBA).
In her short acceptance speech, Mrs. Bazeye, who spoke in French, said « the quest for justice and affirmation of truth is a challenge in many ways. Where constitutional and electoral matters are concerned, the lawyer is faced with such a challenge on a daily basis. Indeed, each time a case is referred to a lawyer, he or she should keep in mind the issues that may arise from the expected decision. »
She added, « Because of that, he or she should size up his or her responsibilities. Being fully aware that social peace and public tranquility may be dependent on this decision should not be a reason for adulteration of his judgment. Quite the opposite. It should give him or her more strength to respond in accordance with the call of duty and general interest. His or her duty is to be a loyal servant of his society and country and champion of democracy and rule of law. »
Mrs. Bazeye, a former Chief Justice of Niger Republic, also said, « In the fulfillment of my duty, I often came across difficulties, having to do with the very nature of electoral cases. Each time I came across such tests, I never compromised between acting, as is recommended by my professional ethic or turning a blind eye on truth. » She said she made the option of saying « not what is gratifying to others but what is or should be. In this attitude, I was governed by the philosophical thought of Kant who said ‘You should, so you can’. » She also said a family education which put the focus on the fight for truth, colleagues who were aware of their duty as well as the support of her countrymen all assisted her in her duties.
The citation for the award, which was read by South African professor of Political Science Tandeka Nkiwane, said every year the Advisory Board of the Daily Trust African of the Year looks for Africans who have made outstanding contributions to the struggle for the rule of law and democracy in Africa. She said Mrs. Bazuye was chosen for the 2011 award because of her outstanding contribution as an individual and also for her contribution to the rule of law in Africa.
Nkiwane said, « Her court rulings rejected a proposal to amend the constitution and extend the rule of President Mahamadou Tandja, who then sacked in 2009 and dissolved the Constitutional Court as well as the National Assembly. Following the coup of 2010, she was restored as head of the Consultative Assembly, which guided Niger Republic back to democratic rule. »
Nkiwane also said Fatimata Bazeye « did not seek to be a hero. She did not stand before a tank. She only did her job and was loyal to the constitution. For that she paid a personal price, but she also changed the course of history. »
Chief Justice Dahiru Musdapher, who chaired the ceremony, expressed delight that this year’s award « honours a citizen of Niger Republic, a country in close proximity with my hometown of Babura in Jigawa State…This is an illustration of one of the unifying factors that exists amongst us Africans. » He also said, « Notwithstanding the sentiments that are usually canvassed in the court of public opinion, judicial officers, as custodians of the court of law, must remain overtly committed to dispensing justice at all times without fear or favour. I am proud to say that the committee has examined her record of accomplishments and found the Honourable Justice to be an incorruptible judicial officer who resisted the government’s decision to transfer some striking magistrates. » He said her choice shows « there is a better appreciation of the selfless service being rendered by the Bench as a vital leg of the tripod on which a government stands. »
Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman/CEO of Media Trust Limited Malam Kabiru Yusuf said Daily Trust African of the Year award recognizes Africans who have done something special. Since 2008, he said the awards have been won by Congolese doctor Dr. Dennis Mukwege, the late Nigerian activist Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem and the South African sports administrator Danny Jordan.
He said the award committee decided for the first time to announce the 2011 award after it met in Nairobi, Kenya last month and did not wait for last night’s award dinner. It was partly because the chairman of the Advisory Committee Dr. Salim Ahmad Salim of Tanzania has a long scheduled medical appointment in California and could not attend last night’s event. He thanked the Chief Justice and other jurists who turned out in force to witness the award to a fellow African jurist.
Mr. Dan Okeke, Executive Director, North of UBA Group who represented the managing director Mr. Phillip Uduoza, said UBA was supporting the award for the fourth year running « because it aligns with our own orientation towards Africa. » He said YBA is a pan-African bank that operates in 19 African countries and « we are impacting on the lives of the people with many products such as Africash, Afritrade etc. » he quoted former UBA boss Tony Elumelu as having said that « nobody will develop Africa but Africans » and urged all Africans to lend a hand to develop Africa.
Among those who attended the ceremony were Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, Supreme Court Justices Sulaiman Galadima, J.A. Fabiyi, Olu Ayoola, Saifullahi Muntaqa Coomassie and Justice Mbuta, Acting President of the Court of Appeal Justice Dalhatu Adamu, Chief Judge of the FCT Justice Lawal Gummi, Grand Khadi of the FCT Justice Mohamed Shehu.
Also present were chairman of Bullet International Alhaji Samaila Isa Funtua, Vanguard publisher Uncle Sam Amuka Pemu, the awardee’s husband Mr. Adamou Salifou and the Algerian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Hater.
Written by Mahmud Jega & Suleiman Bisalla Thursday, 26 January 2012 05:03 (http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/)