After the swearing-in of Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria on June 27, 2022, pictures of the past CJNs during their swearing-in resurfaced on social media. The pictures showed the senior Justices of the Supreme Court with leather-like tan bags hung on their right shoulders as they took the oath of office.
This has caused an unusual curiosity on social media and left many wondering: What really is contained in this ‘mystery’ bag and why has it become a regular feature of the swearing-in of Chief Justices of Nigeria? Is it for fashion? Is it a must-carry item during swearing-in?
First, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe, in a social media post, wondered what was in the ‘special bag’ the current CJN carried as he took the oath of office.
A similar bag was spotted when the immediate past CJN, Tanko Muhammad, was being sworn in, in 2019. Retired Justice Aloma Mukhtar, the country’s only female CJN, who served between 2012 and 2014, was also known for carrying a similar bag.
Aloma’s successor, retired Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who served as the country’s 14th CJN, was not left out in the tradition of carrying a small leather bag.
But Mohammed’s successor, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who was in office between 2017 and 2019 when he unceremoniously left, appeared to be an exception in the CJNs’ tradition of carrying the small leather bag.
Curious Nigerians, who have forever wondered why the CJNs carry the leather bag and what it contains, have tagged it various funny names.
In reaction to Igbokwe’s post, some Facebook users labelled the bag ‘hunter’s bag’; while some others said it was a bag used to ‘swag up’ the white-on-black outfit usually worn by lawyers.
However, some others attempted to suggest what the content of the bag is and its significance.
For instance, @ZeeEsq wrote: “The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ariwoola Olukayode. My Lord is fresh and with his picky blender cap, nice suit, classy glasses and a shining handbag. Why do they always carry handbags? I think it is for the Bible or Quran and other documents. Plus na swag!” (sic).
Also making an attempt, a Facebook user Enwerem Emeka, wrote: “They don’t want to carry the Bible or Quran in the hand the usual way, so they hide it, which, however, makes the oath ineffective.”
Another user, Ayodeji Awonuga, wrote: “The bag contains honesty, honour, decency, decorum and justice.”
Baba Ali Najo, another user, wrote: “It contains messages such as, ‘Thou shall not cheat!’ and ‘Thou shall be just, fair and must love and help your neighbour (Muslim or Christian) in whatever circumstances!’ and ‘Thou shall forgive and shall protect the lives and property of your neighbour!’”
Expressing curiosity, a tweep, Baba Orirede, wrote: “I wonder what Chief Justice of Nigeria is doing with this bag.”