Wednesday 30 January 2019


Editorial ;Voxpopulid

There are 2 presidents in Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guiado. While Maduro is recognized by Russia, Mexico, Turkey and China: Guiado is recognized by US, UK and Canada. The simple reason is because there are 2 Supreme Courts( one court in exile) each recognizing one of the rivals and not the other. Does that sound familiar to what is currently evolving in Nigeria? The Tuesday meeting of the NJC was chaired by Justice Umar Abdullahi, a secondary school classmate to President Buhari. They obviously don't see eye to eye. Buhari would recently refer to Abdullahi using the most uncomplimentary terms when he hosted his Dodan Barracks aides last week at the Villa. The law is however supposed to be blind to sentiments. Or is it not in political cases? On 10th of June 10th 1993, the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) pleaded to an Abuja High Court that the presidential elections scheduled to take place 2 days ahead should be halted. The presiding judge was Mrs. Bassey Ikpeme who had previously served as an intern in the law offices of then serving AGF Clement Akpamgbo. Her choice by then FCT Chief Judge Dahiru Saleh was therefore curious. Justice Saleh would claim the case was so politically sensitive that Ikpeme despite being a "rookie judge" presiding over her very first case on the Bench was "ethnically neutral". The Chief Judge justified his decision on the basis that he refused to appoint "Justices AFD Kuti and AA Kolajo because they were Yoruba like the SDP presidential candidate Chief MKO Abiola. He did not appoint Justices SD Bage and MI Bukar because they were Kanuris like Abiola's running mate, Babagana Kingibe, and the NRC candidate Bashir Tofa. He also declined to appoint Justice Onojeme because he was Igbo, like Tofa's running mate Chief Sylvester Ugwu"
It is against such a complex background that President Buhari recounted as earlier mentioned (when he was thrashing Justice Abdullahi in public) how a particular "Igbo Christian" judge in contrast delivered a minority decision in his favor at the apex court during the Daura warlord's 12 year journey to Aso Rock Villa. Buhari mentioned how he compensated the judge as Nigeria's ambassador to the US. Simply put the president is implying that there are rewards and sanctions for the members of the Nigerian Bench depending on the outcome any particular ruling – would such baiting now split the NJC? Why Mr. President would make such a politically reckless statement in the public domain just before suspending Onnoghen is shocking. It is obvious President Buhari does not listen to advice. Or if he does doesn't understand the importance or understanding is just feeling politically suicidal.
While acting CJN Tanko Muhammad was sworn-in in broad daylight Justice Ikpeme delivered her judicial ruling to stop the June 12 elections by night at 10 pm. It did not stop Justice Moshood Olugbani of the Lagos judicial division to deliver a counter ruling the next morning that the elections should proceed. With such contradictory judgments the battle moved to the chambers in the same Aso Rock Villa where President Buhari announced to the nation the suspension of CJN Walter Onnoghen. The then military president, IBB after careful reflection and much to the consternation of his brother officers overruled the court and directed the National Electoral Commission (NEC) under Prof. Humphrey Nwosu that the June 12 elections go on unhindered. The American embassy would nevertheless play a critical role in IBB's decision. Mike O'Brien the embassy spokesperson had publicly warned that after Ikpeme's ruling that "We are awaiting the Federal Military Government's reaction to the high court's decision. However any postponement of tomorrow's election is unacceptable to the US government". Fast forward to Garba Shehu's scathing statement in apparent reply to the same embassy among others including the British High Commission over concerns over the CJN Onnoghen debacle when the spokesman rallied against "foreign interference into the nation's affairs, capable of creating apprehension, distrust among citizens or undermining the transparency and acceptability of outcomes of the nation's electoral process". But didn't President Buhari previously praise the US government for their role in the 2015 elections? Lest we forget the US openly interfered against the political interests of Goodluck Jonathan back then. What about when President Buhari directly interfered in the Gambian presidential elections that Adama Barrow won but Yahya Jammeh rejected the outcome? Can the center hold in the NJC? If it doesn't Nigeria might end up with 2 Supreme Courts which by implication might mean 2 presidents after February 16.
If President Buhari had known that suspending Onnoghen would resurrect Justice Abdullahi as the interim chairman of NJC he would have been more circumspect. The June 12 crisis started with just one wrong move in the judiciary. The ABN having failed to stop the elections from taking place returned for another injunction restraining the full declaration of the results. The rest is now history. What would happen if the NJC defies the FG and returns Onnoghen? What of if it does not due to more security reports indicting the suspended CJN? Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.

1 comment:

  1. It is rather unfortunate that one who prides himself as one with integrity would abuse process and procedures and equally refuse all calls to be reasonable and retrace his steps.