By Amaechi Agbo
Borrowing a leaf from John Donne’s classic poem, “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning” written in the 17th century for his wife Anne before he left on a trip to Continental Europe,
“As virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;‘Twere profanation of our joys, To tell the laity our love.”
More often than not, the road leading to the exit path is filled with nostalgia. The entrance is not most as pronounced as the exit. Such that the pain and joy juxtapose to give a feeling of departure.
The pain and joy so expressed at the departure of a friend, colleague, mentor and an erudite doyen of the legal profession after concluding meritorious decades of years of service to the fatherland is such that leaves tears than joy but the reality must be faced.
In 1985, Hon. Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko, as a young Nigeria youth, had his Bachelor’s degree in Law from University of Maiduguri, Borno state and finished his Law school in Lagos a year later.
He joined the Nasarawa state judiciary in 1988 as a high court judge where he rose to become the chief judge of the state from where he served the state and the Nigeria judiciary system until December 2020 when he bowed out in glamorous fanfare but not devoid of tears and nostalgia.
Regarded and described as a dogged and fearless judge, for the period of 32 solid years, Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko established a personality, a legacy and a name so lasting to wish away in the Nasarawa State Judiciary.
He delivered astounding decisions in cases he handled and dared the untouchables in judgements he delivered.
It was not surprising therefore, that members of the bar and the bench of the Nasarawa State Judiciary in their numbers honoured Hon. Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko, the former state Chief Judge as he retired from active service in December.
He diligently served the state and honourably retired after reaching his mandatory retirement age as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), specified by the provision of section 291 (2), pegged the mandatory retirement age of a judiciary officer of a high court of a state at 65years.
The valedictory session held in his honour, witnessed large turnout of members of the Bar and the Bench, stakeholders in the judiciary as well as people within and outside the state. While bowing out, he also inadvertently made a new history as his retirement culminated in the truncation of the era of male dominance in the position of state chief judge in the state.
Shortly after the valedictory court session, a new female chief judge, Justice Aisha Muhammed Bashir was sworn in for the first time since the creation of the state, 24 years ago.
Dr Hassan M. Liman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in his goodwill message eulogised the sexagenarian and enumerated some judgments he delivered to include Ali Mohammed, and Jibrin Umar who were convicted and sentenced on the 30th June, 2015 by his lordship Hon. Justice Dikko in charge no. NSD/LE78C/2012 between state vs. Yusuf Sani and others for the offence of conspiracy and armed robbery.
The court of appeal Makurdi division in their separate appeals I.CA/MK/EP/160C/2015 between Jibrin Umar vs. state per Jummai Hanatu Sankey JCA delivered three separate judgments on the 21st December, 2016 dismissed the appeals and consequently affirmed the decision of Justice Dikko. Upon their further appeal to the Supreme Court, in appeal NO. SC/108/2018 between Jubrin Umar vs. state, the Supreme Court on the 18th December, 2020 further dismissed the appeal they filed and further affirmed the decision of the justice Dikko.
This and many more cases Dr Liman highlighted in the speech as he mentioned his personal experience on the rare occasion he had appeared as a counsel before his lordship Justice Dikko.
Describing the sexagenarian as patient and accommodating judge, Dr Liman posited that the position is no doubt the opinion of most lawyers who have practiced before the retired chief judge.
“The best of judges are the judges who listen more; his lordship is among this category. As a chief judge, he is indisputably reputed as the most accessible chief judge in the history of the state,” he concluded.
Justice Dikko served in various elections petitions tribunals across some states including Enugu, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Adamawa, Kogi and Imo between 2003 and 2006. In 2007, he was appointed chairman Election petition tribunal in Rivers state.
Justice Dikko haven performed wonderfully in his previous assignments, in 2009, he was appointed member of Re-run gubernatorial election tribunal in Ekiti state as well as serving as a member National Assembly Election Tribunal in Cross River state in 2011.
Two years later, precisely 2nd January, 2013, he was appointed acting chief judge Nasarawa State and subsequently confirmed as substantive chief judge on 18th Feb, 2013, he also doubled as chairman Judicial Service Commission Nasarawa State until his retirement on the 31st Dec, 2020.
No doubt Justice Dikko has recorded tremendous achievements since he became the leader of the judiciary arm of government in 2013, it is on record that his administration made provisions of vehicles computers and motorcycles to all magistrates in the state
Implementation of annual increment to all judicial staffs as well as purchase of generators, photocopiers, building of ultra-modern High Court complex, building of permanent site for the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) were among his mileages.
Purchase of laptops for all head of sections, functioning scheme service for judiciary, functioning condition of service for judiciary, building of upper area courts in Kwandere, Gudi and Toto, others are High Court 1, Mararaba Karu, High Court 2 Mararaba Karu.
He also embarked on renovation of the following court buildings: Chief magistrate Court 1, Lafia; High Court 4, Lafia; High Court 5, Lafia; Chief Magistrate Court Akwanga; Fencing of court in Wamba, Upper Area Court Keffi and all other courts in the state were either renovated or built during the era of Justice Dikko as the Chief Judge of Nasarawa State from 2013 to 2020.
Born on December 31, 1955 in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa state, Hon. Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko attended Junior Primary Ugya from 1961 to 1964; Senior Primary School, Toto, from 1965 to 1967. He went to another Senior Primary School in Nasarawa 1968 and completed in 1969.
Going further in his educational forage, he obtained his West African School Certificate in 1976 and General Certificate Examination in 1980 from the famous Government Secondary School Kagoro.
Still on the ladder of his educational voyage, in 1985, Justice Dikko had his Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State and between 1985 and 1986, he finished his Law school in Lagos.
His jurisprudential experience with the department of Customs and Experience, Kaduna from 1977 to 1982 and did his one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) with Atilade Ojo & Co. Ogbomosho Legal Practice from 1986 to 1987.