The unconstitutional illegal removal of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari is yet another bloodless coup on our presidential democracy. Nigerians are gasping for breath why Buhari should remove Onnoghen few weeks to the presidential elections. The issue is not why a corrupt justice or corrupt Nigerians should be removed from office, but the constitutional and legal process of how they are removed.
It is no exaggeration to say that Buhari might be the dimmest President Nigeria has ever had. The four-year presidency of Buhari convinced us that he primarily lacks sophistication, knowledge of the Constitution, of the world, and understanding of government, how it works, and a rudimentary grasp of economics. It is also an open secret that President Buhari doesn’t read, has no intellectual friends, and no knowledge of how a president, better still, a leader leads.
His tragic performance at the Town Hall Meeting two weeks or so ago, is a proof that he remains blissfully illiterate in all subjects. He surrounds himself with yes people who know little or nothing more than him. His behavior, utterances, and decision making portray Buhari as a neophyte, hopelessly unschooled and naive in the governance of a nation as diverse and multi ethnic as Nigeria. Throughout his presidency, Buhari didn’t read the Constitution, didn’t acquaint himself with the Constitution, didn’t see it as the law and ethical guide but as an inconvenient hindrance that must be ignored, disrespected, and trampled upon. Judging by the way he flouts the Constitution, it is evident that Buhari sees the presidency as his personal property where he can behave anyhow, and do whatever he likes or wants.
As an illiterate, President Buhari’s constitutional illiteracy is amusing. The appointment and removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is clearly stated in the Constitution. I’m not a lawyer. Many legal experts have written on the unconstitutionality of Buhari’s action. I need not bore you with legal jargon. However, references to some relevant sections of the Constitution will suffice. The CJN can only be removed from office by the recommendations of the two thirds majority of the senate. See sections 231 (1), 292 (1). The Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) is the only body that can discipline and suspend the CJN. See section 158 (1). The NJC hasn’t recommended the removal of Justice Onnoghen, nor has the senate acted on his case. Where then did Buhari gets his authority to fire the CJ? The illiterate President Buhari struggled laboriously albeit unsuccessfully, to justify the unconstitutional removal of Justice Onnoghen saying he was acting on the recommendation of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Mr. President, the Constitution does not say CJN can be removed by the president based on the order of a court, or CCT..
President Buhari has the reputation of picking and choosing which judgments to comply with. Long time ago, the Supreme Court ruled that he must publish names of thieves who looted our treasury, how much was looted, and how much was recovered. Till date, he’s yet to comply with the order. President Buhari has defied seven judgments of the high court since 2015 in the case of former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki that ruled Dasuki should be free on bail. Dasuki still held in jail. What’s wrong in granting bail to the accessed and prosecute him? A leader of Nigeria’s Shi’ite community, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife have been held by state security forces since 2015 in defiance of court orders for bail. Activist Deji Adeyanju continues to languish in detention without bail. Prolonged detention of Nigerians without trial is against the Constitution. It echoes Buhari’s days as ruthless military dictator.
As a primitive tribalist, President Buhari said he cannot fire Babachir Lawal over “mere allegations.” He argued that Lawal was entitled to presumption of innocence until proven guilty. He reluctantly removed Lawal from office. Lawal is a free man today and as a matter of fact, he’s one of major campaign coordinators of Buhari. He didn’t reprimand or repudiate Governor Ganduje of Kano who was caught stashing bribe proceeds into the pockets of his Babariga. Abdulrasheed Maina chairman Presidential Task team on pension reforms cart away N2B in the office of the head of civil Service of the federation. Maina fled to Saudi Arabia to evade arrest and prosecution. Maina was smuggled back to the country with the knowledge of Buhari and rewarded with a juicy federal agency appointment as director general. The case has since gone cold.
President Buhari’s caricature of federal appointments is a mirror to his presidency which accepts nepotism as the norm. His ‘physical blindness’ is a metaphor for his wilfull emotional blindness. His complete unwillingness to either face reality or accept responsibility for the travesty of justice, parochial and selective governance, continue to hunt and hurt his disastrous regime. It is leadership derailment at the cross roads of our history. Buhari’s only feeble justification for blatant nepotism in appointing service chiefs, directors of federal agencies, justices, etc, because they are the ones he “trust.” Whereas, he won the presidency by the votes of people he didn’t “trust.”
Nepotism is self-destructive imperative. Buhari is facing extreme criticisms from Nigerians because of his brazen nepotism, he’s losing their respects, their collective goodwill, their trust and confidence, and he’s seen as a weak, coward leader. Today, Nigeria is a national tragedy, a monument of collective shame. As February 16 beckons on us, it is instructive to remind Nigerians that nepotistic octogenarian Buharis and Atikus are incapable of providing unclouded vision that matches the oversize expectations of our poor people for a new Nigeria where justice, freedom, equality, and pursuit of happiness are guaranteed… Let’s go there!