Hon. Justice Patricia Mahmoud: Righteousness in the Kano judiciary

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EARLY this week, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state, swore in Honourable Justice Patricia Mahmoud as the Acting Chief Judge of Kano State. It was as historic as it was a most deserved appointment. Patricia is the wife of our old comrade, A.B. Mahmoud (SAN), and in her own right one of the genuinely decent and progressive daughters of our country.

Patricia has been part of the progressive movement in our country from the ABU days of the 1970s and she had met her husband in the course of a life of radical engagement for the building of a progressive Nigeria. It was indicative of her progressive life of engagement that she was for many years the Kano State Coordinator of Women in Nigeria (WIN), even as she built her professional career in the Kano state public service, having joined the Ministry of Justice in 1983. She was similarly active in the Association of Women Judges.

State of origin

Patricia’s husband, AB Mahmoud (SAN) was a one-time Solicitor-General and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Kano State. They had met in 1979 at the Nigerian Law School, and were both posted to Rivers state to do their National Service. They eventually got married in 1983.

Now the issue is that Patricia is Idoma from Benue state while AB Mahmoud is Fulani from Kano. On two occasions she had faced discrimination on the basis of her state of origin, which stopped her elevation to the Court of Appeal. She was not able to accede to the superior court because she came from Benue state.

Her case underlined the basic discriminatory challenge which Nigerian women face, on the basis of marriage, especially outside of their states of origin, when they have to compete for positions. Patricia’s case was particularly poignant and her daughter, Zubaida Mahmoud, also a lawyer, had written a most emotional and defiant piece about the discrimination that her mother faced, in March 2014. Zubaida wrote: “My mom is Idoma, from Benue state while my father is Fulani from Kano state. They met in 1979 when they were both at the Nigerian Law School…They got married in 1983 and settled in Kano State. My mom joined the Civil Service that year-worked in the Ministry of Justice. She was appointed a judge of the Kano State High Court in December 1991.

She has served Kano State for a period of 31 years, 22 of which as a judge. She has been nominated at least twice for elevation to the bench of the Court of Appeal. But ‘disqualified’ on the basis that she is not an indigene of Kano State and cannot, therefore, be considered under Kano quota”. The reason is that using Federal Character Commission Guidelines, “a married woman shall continue to lay claim to her State of Origin for a purpose of implementation of the Federal Character Formulae at the National Level”. Zubaida went further to expose the absurdity of this position: “This, of course, implies that for my mom to be elevated to the Court of Appeal, she has to be nominated by the Benue State Judiciary, the State she has never served. How will any reasonable person expect them to skip their own judges and nominate her?!” And she was not!

But her elevation by Governor Kwankwaso as the Acting Chief Judge of Kano State rights the wrong done to Honourable Justice Patricia Mahmoud. She eminently deserved her elevation because of her qualification and her human decency. It was also a marker of the progressive propensity of the Kwankwaso administration and the ability of the governor to operate within the long tradition of Kano’s history. In over a thousand years of history, Kano became the cosmopolitan center of trade, culture and learning because of its ability to absorb influences and draw peoples from near and far. Patricia was therefore following an old and very successful historical process; but she didn’t only serve Kano and our country professionally but has been an activist and a progressive intellectual from her days in university and has stayed true to her convictions as a Nigerian patriot.

With Justice Patricia’s elevation as Acting Chief Judge of Kano State, a significant amount of righteousness has been done within the judiciary of Kano state. In the lives of AB Mahmoud and his wife Patricia, we see a practical example of the success of the campaign to build unity across the fault lines of our country. And when man and wife are as progressive and patriotic as they are, the example for nation building is even on a stronger platform. Congratulations our dear sister, friend and comrade, Honourable Justice Patricia Mahmoud, Acting Chief Judge of Kano State!

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