By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, the way events happen at the speed of light, in our dear beloved country Nigeria, is unbelievable. I flew out of Lagos yesterday on a few hours flight to Sierra Leone but within that twinkle of an eye, a monumental development had occurred back home. Thanks to social media, cyberspace was awash and agog with the story of President Muhammadu Buhari literally firing the Chief Justice of the Federation, Honourable Justice, Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen GCON, with automatic alacrity, even though the President claimed that his action was merely a suspension.
I’m not a lawyer but I’m knowledgeable enough about the Constitutional supremacy, rule of law, fair hearing and judicial process. For now, I will not go into the rights and wrongs of the allegations against the CJN, Honourable Justice Onnoghen because the matter is subjudice as it is still being dealt with by the courts. The President’s actions yesterday would seem to belie this crucial fact. The case against CJN Onnoghen may later turn out to be unassailable, but until then he should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to enjoy his right to be presumed innocent until declared guilty by a court of law. It is for him to choose the path of honour and resign, but it is also entirely his discretion, knowing the strength of his case and the conviction about his innocence, to insist on remaining in position until the outcome of the case against him is known.
Without jumping to any conclusions yet, I took time to read President Buhari’s speech dealing with the swearing in of the newly appointed Acting Chief Justice of the Federation, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed. I was alarmed by what I read. The rhetoric seemed to me to be even worse than it has been in the past. The dictatorial and strident tone and toga of the President in his first speech as Military Head of State was all too palpable for me. I am certain that this speech will go down in the annals of Nigerian history as one of the epochal speeches that shaped Nigeria. Whether for good or ill, only time will tell.
The speech read to me like a coup day speech, with all the preaching and pontificating, especially as it was littered with huge dollops of self-righteousness and moral indignation. The President sermonised in a holier than thou manner with the trenchant rectitude that has now become the hallmark of this administration particularly in the twilight days of this first term. President Muhammadu Buhari turned himself into a real four plus four. He became the Investigator, Prosecutor, Judge and Executioner in one fell swoop.
From that moment, Nigeria immediately transfigured, and migrated, to full blown dictatorship. The President, with one stroke of the pen, instantly abolished the principle of separation of powers as enshrined and entrenched in our Constitution. He more or less abolished any notion of the independence of the judiciary and checkmated the legislature with which he shares the joint responsibility for the suspension or removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Indeed, the President’s action is an abrogation of the supremacy of the Constitution, a document which he has given short shrift and practically turned to toilet paper. To all intents and purposes, that is how worthless our Constitution is right now!
One thing is sure, the President is no longer in the mood for the niceties or nuances of Democratic tenets and concepts, but is firmly in the autocratic power mode that militocracy so generously offers. I weep for Nigeria and I cry for the President and his gang of powermongers who have refused to read the history of Nigeria, and, if they did, have refused to learn anything from it.
I heard and read of many Buharideens shouting, jumping and jubilating that the President has done the right thing by summarily sacking the CJN. I don’t blame them, but I wish to let them know that the ozone layer they have entered is too dangerous for anyone to contemplate.
Anytime it seemed Nigeria has been conquered, the conqueror is usually defeated by the resilience of our long-suffering people. The tragedy is, I see many lawyers in this government who are all keeping mute in the face of tyranny, just for them to remain in power, by fire by force. As I wrote to our dear President not too long ago, man shall not live by power alone.
God has been very kind to President Muhammadu Buhari. He became Head of State about 35 odd years ago and was sacked in 1985. Anyone would have thought it was over and finished for him. In less than a couple of years, many Nigerians who hailed his emergence as Head of State were jubilating on the streets when his military government was toppled in a palace coup by those close to him. But God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, brought him from the shadows of death and restored him back to even greater power and glory in a democratic setting, after making several amazing shots at the Presidency.
Holy Moses! No one would have thought Baba would blow his second chance and shatter it into smithreens in this manner. Since 2015, it’s been obvious that President Buhari is only different from Major General Buhari in terms of change of nomenclature and uniform. He must feel a sense of nostalgia for those days when he didn’t have to share powers with the legislature and Judiciary, and now craves a return to that time he was alpha and omega.
But truth is whatever victory he hopes to record, by playing for broke yesterday, can only be pyrrhic. Nothing more. When tomorrow comes, like it would come, sooner rather than later, he would look back with regrets and ask, why did I do that which may have been needed, but totally unnecessary.
I have no doubt in my mind that whatever happens, it shall be well with Nigeria and this too shall pass away.
Dear compatriots, stay strong and resolute. The best is yet to come. God bless our great country.
- This piece was written by Dele Momodu/Thisday