Yesterday, I was in Court…

By: Deji Yesufu

Recently, a phrase began to make the rounds among Nigerian youths on social media. They will say “adulthood na scam”. What these young people are saying is that adult life, particularly in Nigeria, is not the rose and petals that they had envisioned it to be growing up. The kind of evil going on in Nigeria is on a momentous scale, and the best summation to it all is this: adulthood is a scam. Also, and not too long ago, Wole Soyinka referred to the Peter Obi kind of politics as “Gbajue” politics. He meant that just as the “419” phenomenon has eaten into the life of every sector in Nigeria, gbajue (which means deception) has crept into Nigerian politics. Kindly keep the concept of scam and gbajue as you read this essay.

Those who know me privately know that I have been involved in a court matter for a little over two years now. It was this court case I attended yesterday. Thankfully, the matter has been adjudged, and the guilty party pronounced. I’ll gladly avail you the information that the person I supported in the case lost and everything, as far as we behold the matter on the surface, looked prim and proper, except for the ever present “gbajue” Nigerian factor. And because I do not have the resources for another extended legal battle, I’ll keep names out of this essay. Yet, there are lessons to be learnt from the whole ordeal. First, I would look at the matter from face value.

The court, a magistrate court, is situated in a rural area in Nigeria. The judge, lawyers, plaintiffs, and accused accessed the court house on motorcycles. The building is a near dilapidated structure. It is not painted, and some of the inner roofing is torn down. Everybody, except the judge, sits on a bench. The case had gone on for two years, and the judge was going to give his verdict today. My personal observation of the judge was that of a man of excellence, making the most of his profession amid very lean resources.

The lawyers were also very professional, except that I suspect they will make more money working in Lagos than in a rural setting like this one. The judge reads his judgement. He is professional to the core. He gave an overview of the case and then presented the position of all witnesses, including that of the accused.

He then extrapolates the key arguments in the case and renders his humble submission on each point. He defends his verdict with a case or two from the past, explaining why and how he reached his conclusion. The judge appears to be an amiable fellow and very humble. He does not carry around the aura of a man of authority, one that could weild the powers of his office whichever way he likes. He appears to understand that he is a lower court and that the matter, open to appeal, can still be examined by his superiors in a higher court.

Long and short of the matter: my friend is convicted of the crime. Before sentencing him, the judge, quite magnanimous in his approach, asks my friend, now a convict, to speak for himself. My friend, the convict, utterly shaken and still bewildered, gathers himself and appeals for leniency. He prays the court to consider his wife and very young son. Amid tears, he asks the judge to temper justice with mercy. The judge then passes his sentence. The prosecutor reminds the judge that the crime has a maximum of ten years in prison. The judge gives my friend two months – and considering that his time in prison will be counted day and night, he should be out of jail in one month. The court rises, and the day’s case was concluded.

I, however, have not been able to overlook the gbajue factor in all of these. First, from the evidence in my possession, this case should never have gone to court at all. The real underlying factors here are not the matter of a crime committed but of certain moral failures on the part of some parties involved in the case. In the bid to cover their moral failings, these individuals instituted the case against my friend. My friend, quite green to the way and manner things proceed in Nigerian courts, allowed the matter to go to court, and he was worsted for it.

Second. I followed the case carefully from onset and was happy with proceedings throughout 2022 – much of the testimonies then favoured my friend. In January 2023, however, the magistrate was reassigned to another part of the state to work. If he left the case, a new judge would be appointed, and the matter would start from ground zero. To avoid this, the counsels agreed that the magistrate would continue the case.

However, who will pay for him to travel the long distance from his new place of assignment to the old court house? My friend’s lawyer said that his client could not pay for his own prosecution. In the end, the prosecuting team paid the expenses of the judge every time he came to court. And since this happened, my friend’s case began to suffer in court. An obvious case of he who pays the piper dictates the tune. The result is the judgement I witnessed yesterday. Of course, it can be argued that the judge was objective. Except that objectivity is very subjective in Nigeria.

My friend wants to appeal the case. I have pleaded with him and his family not to. I have asked him to swallow his pride, do the time, and pay the fines levied against him. Incidentally, the matter on the ground is something that involves men who believe the Bible. There are judges on earth, and there is a greater Judge in heaven. You can employ gbajue on earth, but you can not employ the same with the God of the whole earth. Very soon, all of us will be standing before him to give an account of our time on earth. And the only people who will enjoy any clemency on that great Day will be those whose sins have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Let me end this essay by thanking that judge.

Yes, while I hold the judgement suspicious, I cannot but comment on his graciousness. He reminded us that my friend was a first-time offender and deserved clemency. In a one hour break, I saw how the life of a man hung on the verdict of another. Judges are powerful. Yet, whatever else we do on earth, we must keep in mind that there is a Judge in heaven. God will judge the living and the dead. His righteous standards will be based on what you and I did with the gospel of Christ. God will condemn all men to hell but will again save the elect by the testimony of the blood of Jesus. Those who will go to heaven will go there not because they have no sin but because their sins have been forgiven.

It is this gospel reality that informs my life and dealings with all men: all of us have sinned. Because of this, I must be gracious to those who have sinned against me so that God might be gracious to me. In the aforementioned case, all parties had their guilt, and this should have informed the out-of-court settlement I counselled at the onset of the case. As Christians, I even expected that the brothers involved would be gracious and forgiving of each other. Instead, pride, ego, and a bid to cover up sin dictated the actions of both parties. One person was convicted, and the other party is celebrating.

Except that God is not mocked.

Deji Yesufu is the pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church, Ibadan. He is the author of HUMANITY.

Posted by Deji Yesufu


  1. This is so sad, so help he’ll be away from his young for one month…????????????


    1. Yes. It was his greatest pain. He should, however, thank God. It could have been one or two years.


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