Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo
There is no doubt that since May 29th 2015, when Muhammadu Buhari assumed the reins of governance as Nigeria’s President, little has happened to convince me that he is the Messiah Nigerians have been waiting for. From his remarks of 95percent and 5percent in respect of political patronage according to the voting pattern during the 2015 general election to his caustic and acerbic triumphal display of wrestling power from the “infidel”, Buhari has, at each turn displayed revolting tendency for the absurd. Goaded by his cheer-leaders and coterie of hangers-on, Buhari has engaged the reverse gear to crush everything we have gained in the past 17years all in the name of fighting corruption.
In Igbo folklore, we have this story of Eze-Onye-Agwanam, the despondent and stiff-necked king, who will never listen to the voice of reason. He was reputed for his stubbornness and puritanical pretensions, his many moral burdens notwithstanding. On his installation as the king of his community by disgruntled persons who hoped to use him to get to the community’s patrimony, in defiance of prophetic warnings by well-meaning indigenes of the community, Eze-Onye-Agwanam set out to cleanse his kingdom of every “vermin” and “miscreant”, both real and perceived.
His cheer-leaders goaded him on. Nobody dared to call him to order for fear of being labelled and dealt with. Having subdued all around him, on one occasion he excused himself to the john in the middle of a ceremony. Pressured into coming out from the convenient room to continue superintending the rituals of the ceremony, he could not clean himself very well such that his flowing robes got soiled by the excrement. His cheer-leaders saw it but could not call his attention to it. Who would tell the king? The king knew everything! He was never wrong. With swarm of flies all over him, his soiled robes fouled the air and his guests abandoned him in the middle of the occasion. Buhari has become Nigeria’s Eze-Onye-Agwanam. He has become the lord of the manor; a roaring beast of prey seeking both flora and fauna to devour. His mantra is fight against corruption and leading the cheer group are charlatans, scammers, and rogues who have robbed this country blind but who today have become anti-corruption evangelists.
There was a time in the Jewish history when they fell into apostasy and evil leaders mounted the throne of David. This reign of impunity continued even to the time of Jesus Christ with the perversity and dubiety of the Pharesean aristocracy. This prompted Jesus to ask the Pharisees some searching questions: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39). These questions are apt to our situation in Nigeria today.
A situation where proven looters of the Nigerian state have ganged up to determine who is guilty of corruption or not; superintended by a melancholic religious zealot, who himself is stained with the perfidy of corruption, amounts to the blind leading the blind. The destination is the large and deep pit of destruction. Nigeria is on this road of doom. We have become like the proverbial glutton whose house was on fire but he was busy pursuing rats. We have become so enamoured with the phantom of “war on corruption” while everything in Nigeria has collapsed. Our economy, education, social cohesion, our institutions and our security have all collapsed at the altar of “war on corruption”. The cheer-leaders are many both within and outside the shores of this country.
The latest clamp down by the Buhari administration on the nation’s judiciary, on the pretext of fighting corruption, appears to me to be the last death knell on Nigeria’s coffin. The justification of this brazen act of executive recklessness on grounds of “fight against corruption” is not only lame and pedantic; but also indicative of the bourgeoning atmosphere of democratic dictatorship that the Buhari administration has birthed in Nigeria. I have listened to and read many mischievous reports suggesting that it is “corruption” and not the judiciary that is on trial. Nothing can be more insidious and ridiculous than this.
No matter how anybody or group tries to rationalize this executive aberration, it does not retract from the truth that the sanctuary of justice has been desecrated by the Buhari administration. Is it now that Muhammadu Buhari realized that the judiciary is corrupt? During his first sojourn as a military dictator, Buhari set up special military tribunals; hand-picked judges and instructed them on what to do. If this kind of arm-twisting and executive directive to pervert the course of justice is not corruption, then we need a redefinition of corruption.
Whatever is happening in the judiciary today took roots during the various military dictatorships we had in this country, Buhari’s military dictatorship being one of them. It was due to institutionalized corruption in the system that the judiciary under Buhari’s military regime showed no respect for judicial sanctity by ordering the continued detention of the likes of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Pa Michael Ajasin and Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, even when the various Special Military Tribunals set up by Buhari then did not find them guilty as charged.
That in 2016, Muhammadu Buhari could reinvent the fascist mechanism of 1983 with all its contradictions bespeaks of leadership ineptitude for which Nigeria is famous. For crying out loud, this is supposed to be a democracy with all the trappings of separation of power. Regrettably, the current Buhari administration has demonstrated a galling ignorance of the principle of separation of power. The meat of this principle is that different body of persons should administer each of the three arms of government. The guarantee of liberty in any given society is anchored on the entrenchment and respect of separation of power. This principle implies that the three arms of government should be superintended by different bodies of persons; and each arm must be limited to its own sphere of action; and within that sphere of action should be independent and supreme.
Despite its many loopholes, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes separation of power as a fundamental article of faith, which spells out the roles, duties and jurisdiction of the three arms of government. There is not a provision in the Nigerian constitution that subordinates one arm of government to another. Even when it is given that each of the three arms of government must work in a coordinated form to ensure the smooth operation of government, the constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary and not as an appendage of the executive arm of the government.
That the Buhari administration should, in utter violation of this constitutionally enshrined provision, unleash its secret police to arrest senior members of the Nigerian Bench on naive excuses of “fight against corruption” is a comedy of tragedy signposting the death of a nation. The regulatory organ for the discipline and sanctioning of judges and lawyers is the National Judicial Council (NJC). The principle of due process is that if there are conclusive evidence of corruption against any judicial officer, such evidence must be availed the NJC for action. Buhari has abandoned all known rules and respect for due process simply to give the impression that he is working when in fact the roof is leaking. This unilateral arrest of judges cannot atone for Buhari’s litany of failures or the crushing hardship to which his administration has subjected Nigerians.
A few months ago, I had alerted Nigerians on the dubiety and hollowness of Buhari’s war on corruption. I am convinced that Buhari is not fighting corruption. Rather he is using the cover of war against corruption to picket his real and perceived opponents in a bid to cower them into submission. I have, in my several writings recently, shown that Buhari’s corruption war is a hoax; or at best a vindictive process of silencing the opposition. For instance, if you take a critical look at all those that have been reined in by the EFCC on charges of corruption, you will notice a disturbing trend. No member of the APC has been quizzed by the anti-graft agency, despite the avalanche of hard and factual evidence linking many known members of the APC; even ministers serving under Buhari, to corruption.
This same selective pattern can be gleaned from the judges so far arrested and released by the DSS and EFCC. Curiously, almost all the arrested justices are those who have given one judgment or the other against the interest of the Buhari government. For instance, Justice John Okoro of the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of three Anambra serving senators when he said that the “dispute on whether the Certificates of Return should be withdrawn from the serving lawmakers and given to the list of candidates of another PDP faction in Anambra State (a faction that is predisposed to defecting to the APC), was not an issue before the court and that the lower court never made any pronouncement to that effect.
Justice Ngwuta, also of the Supreme Court is being targeted for his lead judgment in the disputed governorship election in Ekiti State that upheld the election of Ayodele Peter Fasoye. Justice Ademola Adeniyi’s sin is his ruling in the case of defected PDP lawmakers to APC, where he gave an order of perpetual injection restraining the lawmakers who defected to APC from effecting any leadership change in the Federal House of Representatives. He was also involved at some points in the Anambra Senatorial election case but most fundamentally is his crime of granting bail to Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB.
Truth is that I am scarcely surprised by what Buhari is doing today. From 1983 till date, Buhari has always demonstrated a nauseating penchant for fascism and tyranny in any leadership position he finds himself; but I must add quickly that these are indeed very dark days, not just for our judiciary but also for our democracy. I have always maintained that, under Buhari, Nigeria has manifested all the indices of a failed state. Incidentally, certain persons have called for my head because I dared say that Nigeria is a failed state. But that is the truth of the matter and you can take that to the bank. A country that depends on one resource for revenue generation cannot be said to have an economy. Nigeria does not have an economy because it falls within this category. Nigeria hardly produces anything. We import even toothpicks from China. The question I have always asked is: what economic policy can Nigeria under Buhari formulate and implement to turn Nigeria into a top exporting country in the near future? If there is any, this government lacks the capacity to implement such policy. A country that has crippled its manufacturing sector cannot grow economically. Time was in the past when we had a truly strong economy; when our naira exchanged for one naira to one dollar.
Regrettably, that Nigeria has been destroyed by several decades of military dictatorship in Nigeria prominent among which was Buhari’s military rule. Back then we had a thriving economy. We were top exporters of timber, cocoa, palm produce, rubber, groundnuts etc. Whatever happened to our car assembling plants like Peugeot, Volkswagen, Anamco etc? Then there was respect for the rule of law. The ordinary man could go to court and hope to get justice. Today, we bemoan the eclipse of this nostalgic past.
Yet in the deluge of our difficulties, the only thing our government can think of is to do the unthinkable- arrest judges. It is not as if there is any reasonability in the arrest and incarceration of judges by Buhari; but I think he derives some level of psychological compensation for such recklessness in the sense that even the stark illiterate who, due to the distortions of our system has been foisted on us as president, can use the apparatus of state, albeit in its crudest form, to taunt and intimidate those who lay claim to high academic achievements.
Today, Nigeria has effectively become a lawless country. A society where the government wakes up in the morning and orders the arrests of judges is a lawless society. A society which professes secularism, but allows and encourages Islamic fundamentalists to recklessly murder Christians in cold blood is a lawless country. A country where the presidency unilaterally concocts police reports to rope in the leadership of the National Assembly on trumped-up charges is a lawless country. A country that has no respect for the rule of law is a lawless country. A country where the system encourages selective justice; where even renowned treasury looters define the boundaries of justice is a lawless country.
Nigeria manifests all the foregoing forms of lawlessness and more. I am not an alarmist but I must warn that Nigeria is a tragedy waiting to implode. For the avoidance of doubt, a tragedy is a dramatic or literary genre in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances. I think, in all honesty, that Buhari personifies all the foregoing attributes of tragedy; he has derailed irredeemably and should resign.
Much as I do not and have never encouraged corruption, I have always stated that neither Buhari nor those around him possess the physical or intellectual capacity to drive the change needed in Nigeria. I agree that the judiciary, like every other sector in Nigeria, is a victim of corruption. There are specified procedures to deal with this type of issue; but to simply wake-up and order the arrest of serving judges is the height of official recklessness and corruption. Muhammadu Buhari must understand that the judiciary is not a parastatal of the federal government. It is an independent arm of government. The federal government must, as a matter of urgency, refrain from this assault on the judiciary and save Nigeria the agony of the looming doom. One word, they say, is enough for the wise.
Dr Nwankwo is the Chancellor of the Eastern Mandate Union