Judiciary should bring to heel ‘Grand Mullah’

Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi during a past court session.

Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi during a past court session.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Abdullahi treats the entirety of the Judiciary, starting with the Supreme Court down, and the legal profession, like they are his camel herdsboys.

Senior lawyer, publisher of my old organ, The Nairobi Law Monthly, and big blogger Ahmednasir Abdullahi has been disinvited to a meeting of High Court judges in Mombasa. 

From what I have been gleefully reading on Twitter, the judges had extended an invitation and asked him to submit a paper for presentation. His choice of topic for his 20-page contribution was: “CJ Koome, grand corruption and judicial impunity: The toxic trinity bleeding the Judiciary to death”.

In it he says, among others, that “the Judiciary poses an existential threat and is the biggest national security threat facing Kenya” and that “CJ Koome is clueless and incompetent and must resign immediately”. He had many juicy points that he wished to make but this is the headline. 

That is like going to an AGM of witches and attempting to demonstrate that the spells and potions of the head witch don’t work. You would be considered to have got off lightly if you get away with two mouths and a line of ears growing down your back.

Mr Abdullahi volunteered that the Chief Justice has ordered the Judiciary’s Finance Officer to release Sh15 million for use on social media and mainstream media to fight back. This is completely clever. It is mining the path and undermining whatever fightback the Judiciary mounts because it will likely be seen as a corrupt, tax-funded defence of the CJ. 

It reminds me of a de-snaking procedure in Makandune. We know snakes love cream, so we are supposed to grind fine glass and fill balls of nice, fresh cream with it and spread it around the suspected lair. The cobra will come out and enjoy a big hearty meal but, after a few days, it will start to feel poorly and look like the fast-weathering husbands of Kabete when they finish building the flats.

For the longest time, Mr Abdullahi tweeted about “Office of the President editors” at the Nation who were allegedly doing the bidding of the Uhuru regime. He wouldn’t identify them in his tweets, nor would he reveal which arm of the Office of the President they were working with. Was it the bureaucracy at OP the shadowy dirty tricks and blogging arm? Was it the police, especially the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, or was it the National Intelligence Service? 

These allegations sunk into the general consciousness to the extent that colleagues started referring to editors as the “Deep State”. It was a reputational gut punch for editors and their institution.

The lawyer also wrote about a Supreme Court judge who was paid a big bribe and the famous four-dollar billionaires in the Kenyatta Cabinet, again without substantiation. Classic McCarthyism, in my view. It damages reputations, it breeds fear and it is supremely unfair because even those who have nothing to do with anything are tarred with the same brush.

Editors shouldn’t sue, shouldn’t defend themselves, shouldn’t become the story and should let their body of journalism speak for them. But their work and character are often judged against expectations and a view of journalism which exists only in the mind of one guy.

Premium target

A newsroom is an information-gathering operation. It infiltrates institutions—hospitals, airports, government departments, companies...everywhere. A premium target for a good news organization is other information-gathering organs such as the police and research institutions. 

News gathering is only five per cent showing up at the press conference; the rest is stuff nobody is calling a press conference about. It is simple-minded to assume that the reporter is influenced—or being paid—by the source by the mere fact of association, or by the fact that the source is providing information.

We always have to remember that every story is leaked by someone and 99 per cent of leakers do not act altruistically. So, if is true, if it is in the public interest; if the public has a right to know, it does not matter why you leaked it. And it is nonsensical to argue that the reporter is being used; it is symbiosis.

I admire Mr Abdullahi: He is bold, totally takes no prisoners, is a first-class lawyer, one of the finest (hell, he is likely a better lawyer and legal scholar than the Chief Justice) and gives back to society generously, from what I hear. He is also quite powerful now with the ear of influential national security figures and quite probably is President Ruto’s consiglieri. 

But he treats the entirety of the Judiciary, starting with the Supreme Court down, and the legal profession, like they are his camel herdsboys—with scant respect. And they are all utterly frightened of him, GM, GM-ing him like poodles.

I know we should have taken him on over that Office of the President business, but that’s a fight he has won: He boasted that we would be bundled out and we were. But I think the Judiciary should grow testicles and either confront and bring him to heel or formally welcome him as its rightful commissar.