APC: A nest of liars

 

 

Wole Soyinka once described the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a “nest of killers”.

That was at the height of PDP’s power when former President Olusegun Obasanjo held sway and prominent political personalities were gruesomely murdered in their bedrooms, on the streets and other unimaginable places.

Many, including the Nobel laureate, construed those killings, rightly or wrongly, as politically motivated. He was particularly incensed after the brutal murder of his childhood friend, Bola Ige, who, as the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, was the country’s chief law officer.

The lethargy that characterised the investigation of Ige’s murder didn’t help matters.

Soyinka is yet to put a sticky tag on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which he helped elect in 2015 by unreservedly endorsing its then presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a man he had had issues with since his first coming as military head of state on December 31, 1983.

I doubt if Soyinka will do so very soon, considering that he will be hard put explaining to Nigerians what has changed.

If the PDP was a nest of killers, the APC is a nest of liars. The party, like the swashbuckling Unites States President, Donald Trump, came to power by serving the people cocktails of lies, and it has sustained itself in office for 21 months by upping the ante, feeding the people more egregious lies.

That is expected. Unlike truth that stands on the parapet of facts, realities and evidence, and therefore needs no further propping, lies stand on nothing. And because lies stand on nothing, for sustainability, they must be hoisted on an effigy of more invidious lies.

That is the story of the APC. Truth is anathema to it. Its officials take pride in worshipping at the altar of mendacity.

Nothing illustrates this more than the stories the party and its government officials have been dishing out since Buhari proceeded on an impromptu 10-day winter vacation in London, his third in one year.

The vacation, which began on January 19 and was to end on February 6, was so sudden that Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the man Buhari temporarily handed power to, had to abruptly end his participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, to rush back home.

Yet, whatever was the matter with the president was so serious that he could not wait for the arrival of Osinbajo before leaving. It was that bad.

Nigerians were told he was going to rest after working so hard. For someone the Financial Times of London described last week as “the man supposedly in charge of the country” who has “been literally sleeping on the job,” hard work must have a new meaning.

Buhari was hardly airborne when the stories started making the rounds that there was more to the trip than ordinary vacation. And the lies started pouring in.

First was the picture of the president, with his leg on the table watching Channels Television (his favourite television network, we are told) and making a call. Yet, many Nigerians were still prepared to give the APC the benefit of the doubt, believing that the president was, indeed, resting.

But Buhari failed to come back. Instead, he wrote another letter to the National Assembly (NASS) on Sunday, February 5 seeking an indefinite extension of his leave. And the lies continued to pour in.

“Let me first say the president is hale and hearty,” Osinbajo told reporters in the State House on Tuesday, February 7. “I spoke to him just this afternoon and we had a fairly long conversation, he is in good shape and very chatty.”

House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, took his own turn at the altar on Thursday, February 9 when he claimed to have had a telephone discussion with Buhari the previous day.

“Buhari called me yesterday evening. He talked about what the executive/ legislature must do to ensure food security for all Nigerians,” Dogara disclosed.

On Wednesday, Information Minister (and Dean of the APC School of Lies), Lai Mohammed, upped the ante after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

“I can say without any hesitation that Mr president is well, is hale and hearty. No question about that,” Mohammed reiterated.

He said the fact that all ministers were working optimally was proof of his assertion. “Do you think we will be conducting our business like this if Mr president is ill?” he asked rhetorically.

“He (pointing at Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola) was in Anambra last week, I was in Kwara yesterday, all our ministers are busy doing their work. Mr president is well and is absolutely not in danger.”

Lies. Lies. And more lies.

If Buhari is hale and hearty, then what is he doing in London after his vacation? Has he absconded? If he is hale and hearty and yet refuses to speak to Nigerians or return to work, is that not truancy? Is he now governing Nigeria from London?

The goings-on in the country in the last three weeks are sobering. They remind us of the last days of President Umaru Yar’Adua. They make an unequivocal statement on the negative tendencies that have stultified Nigeria’s development.

The happenings bring to the fore our predicament as a people and why it is almost impossible to realise the dream of a Nigerian nation.

For a septuagenarian who, despite all protestations to the contrary, does not seem to enjoy the best of health, it is not difficult to fathom the reasons for the death rumour swirling around him.

Some people have asked why Nigerians are overtly interested in Buhari’s health. The simple answer is that he is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is the president.

I am saddened that some people seem to be bubbly about his health crisis. The way the death rumour swirls seems to suggest that some people actually think that they will be better off if the man is dead.

Maybe!

But Buhari is first a human being before being president. He has a wife, children, relations and friends who care for and love him and naturally want him to live. We should join them in prayers that God, the Ultimate Physician, should heal him and restore him to good health.

We all lose our humanity whenever we wish others dead, because the death of one diminishes all.

Nonetheless, the president’s health crisis has seriously incapacitated him and diminished his ability to govern although some believe, as the Financial Times poignantly put it, that dead or alive, Buhari makes no difference.

“The tragedy for Nigeria is that policy making has been so ponderous during the 20 months since Mr Buhari took office that, dead or alive, it is not always easy to tell the difference,” the newspaper wrote.

I totally agree that the biggest tragedy to befall Nigeria in recent times is the election of a man who has neither the mental/intellectual nor physical capacity to govern.

The result of our collective folly almost two years ago is that we have on our hands an administration gravely hobbled. At the best of times, Buhari is the archetypal definition of cluelessness. More so now because of his health challenges.

The government deludes itself that it can solve Nigeria’s problems by believing its own lies.

And by telling new lies to cover up old lies, it pretends, annoyingly, to be working very hard at tackling the myriad problems facing the country when it is now obvious that even if Buhari is hale and hearty, as the APC would want us believe; politically, “rigor mortis set in quite some time ago,” as the Financial Times put it.

But because this is Nigeria where lying is seen as an art of political sagacity, the same process that brought us to this sorry pass may be repeated in 2019. Shame!

 

 

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Okorocha sacks SSG, Jude Ejiogu

Rochas Okorocha, Imo state governor

Rochas Okorocha

The Principal Secretary to the Governor, Pascal Obi, who announced the sack in a statement in Owerri, said it was with immediate effect.

The statement directed the former SSG to hand over to the permanent secretary in his office.

It said the governor commended Mr. Ejiogu for his services to the state during his tenure and wished him well in his future endeavours.

Though no reason was given for the development, sources in the Imo State Government House say Okorocha’s action may not be unconnected with the Facebook post Ejiogu made on his wall concerning the much celebrated Shoprite Mall in Owerri which was opened today.

While Okorocha had flaunted the Mall as one of the big achievements of his administration, Ejiogu wittingly or unwittingly gave credit to Chief Herbert Chikwe, husband of Dr. Kema Chikwe, a chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

Ejiogu’s post which cost him his job reads in part: “Today, the long awaited Shoprite Mall was finally commissioned with His Excellency Owelle Anayo Okorocha OON doing the honour of cutting the ribbon opening the ultra modern shop for all Imolites to shop in as well as leading the way by being the first shopper at the Owerri Mall.

“I applaud this vision and brainchild of Chief Herbert Chikwe, husband of Ambassador Kema Chikwe, the National Woman Leader of the PDP and also commend His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha who not only created the enabling environment making this vision a reality but also as described today by Chief Herbert Chikwe, for clearing all the legal bottlenecks that had frustrated this project for so long and which led to what we celebrated today.”

The governor had all along claimed credit for the project and the fact that His SSG sent out a Facebook post which detracted from the claim was seen an affront on the governor.

Mr. Ejiogu was chief of staff to the governor in his first tenure and was made SSG in 2015.

 

A government in denial

My daughter’s nanny, Mama Ike, came to work early last week with a mischievous smirk on her face. I couldn’t figure out what the issue was but it was apparent she was excited about something. Then, she blurted out.

“Oga,” she quipped, “Is it true that the president had run away?”

“Which president?” I asked her, flummoxed.

“Our president, (Muhammadu) Buhari,” she riposted matter-of-factly.

“No,” I told her. “It is not true. “He is on a five-day vacation.”

I didn’t convince her as she held tenaciously to her piece of information, literally accusing President Buhari of going on AWOL.

“Oga, are you sure? They said the man has run away ooo! In fact, the story in my neighborhood this morning is that the man has run away. Some boys living in our area said they had never seen or heard of this kind of this before. That the president of a country would run away from office.”

I told her that it was not true but the incredulous look on her puckered face told me without any scintilla of doubt that she was not swayed by my explanation.

Of course, the president did not run away. It is unthinkable that such an impossibility could happen. But that some people would spread such an absurd tale and some others believe it about President Muhammadu Buhari barely nine months into his 48-month tenure shows how fast the confidence of the people on his ability to turn around for good their otherwise grim fortunes and the dire stress the country has found itself is waning.

And nothing exemplifies the dwindling reputational fortunes of the Buhari government more than the 2016 Appropriation Bill fiasco which the National Assembly has reasonably suspended until the presidency sorts out the mess.

Each day, it is becoming increasing clear that the president either does not have a clue (that word again) on what to do in office beyond fighting corruption or has been overwhelmed by the enormity of the mess the country is in. whichever is the case, the joke is on him, which was the exact lesson I took away from the false claim that he has run away. Yesterday, the joke was on former President Goodluck Jonathan. He was clueless, naïve, timid and ineffectual.

But no matter how hard the Buhari government and its supporters try, and despite their chokehold on the media (mainstream and social), the joke cannot be on Jonathan and his ineffectual government forever because the bulk, to borrow a cliché, now stops on someone else’s table – Buhari’s.

To continue reminding us, therefore, how deep the hole Jonathan dug us into is hackneyed. Nigerians knew that the former president was incompetent and weak and took the very decisive decision of terminating the social contract they had with him. They knew that had Jonathan remained on the driver’s seat, the Nigerian state was headed for a fatal crash and they took the wise decision of voting him out of office, the first time a sitting Nigerian president would be so humiliated. They voted instead for President Muhammadu Buhari because they thought he was everything that Jonathan was not – strong, decisive, effectual and an anti-corruption czar.

Moreover, Buhari’s doggedness in striving to actualize his presidential ambition since 2003 convinced not a few people that he knew where he was headed; he was focused and had a well-thought out agenda that will pull back the country from the depths of mediocrity and painlessness it has plumbed all these years.

But what has happened in the last nine years shows that Buhari laboured so hard for 12 years to become Nigeria’s president without any agenda. Before now, discerning analysts have averred that the leadership crisis that had always bedeviled Nigeria is that we have always had “unwilling presidents.”

Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, was seconded to Lagos when the real power behind the throne, Ahmadu Bello, preferred to stay back in Kaduna as Premier of the then northern region. Shehu Shagari, first civilian president was aspiring for the Senate in the Second Republic when the powers-that-be anointed him Nigeria’s president. Olusegun Obasanjo was in prison when the evil geniuses in the military (serving and retired) decided that he was going to be Nigeria’s president. The man was even quoted as having initially rejected being drafted willy-nilly, asking how many presidents his benefactors wanted to make of him in one lifetime. A sick Umaru Yar’Adua wanted to go back to the classroom and teach after serving as governor of Katsina State for eight years. When the likes of Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State, were crisscrossing the nooks and crannies of the country, buying support of traditional rulers and commoners alike and the likes of Nasir el-Rufai were embedded in Aso Rock in the debilitating succession intrigues, Yar’Adua was enjoying the scenic quietude of his bucolic Katsina environment. And Goodluck Jonathan would have remained eternally grateful to his benefactors and thankful to God for his good luck if he had served out his term as Governor of Bayelsa State. I am sure that before Obasanjo came calling, the idea of becoming the country’s Vice President, not to talk of President would have sounded like a fairy tale to him.

But Buhari is remarkably different. He wanted to be president and worked hard to actualize his ambition. He changed political platforms – some of which he joined, others he founded almost single-handedly and some with others.

So, is it likely that a man could aspire so fervently for a position for over a decade without a well-thought out programme of action that would have enabled him to hit the ground running? The answer, ordinarily would have been a resounding no. But that seems to be what is happening.

For a man who coveted the presidency for 12 years, it took him seven months to constitute his cabinet even when it became fairly obvious long before the elections that Nigerians were fed up with the bungling Jonathan Presidency and were not likely to reward his failure with a repeat performance (apologies to Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom). Buhari’s excuse for not appointing ministers was that they were noise makers and he was comfortable sorting things out with civil servants by working with the Permanent Secretaries. He told us that story in far-away France. When he got to the U.S. where he announced that he would appoint ministers in September 2015, the story changed. He was taking his time to appoint ministers, the president told us, because he was looking for the “saints” among us and did not want to make any mistake. When eventually he unveiled his long-awaited ministerial list, some of us wondered why it took him so long considering that there was indeed no surprise name in the list.

But Nigerians gave their president the benefit of the doubt even when it was becoming obvious that there was a creeping tardiness in the way the affairs of the Nigerian state was being handled by the Buhari presidency.

And now the huge budget mess. Even the most swashbuckling of the Buhari apologists has come to the inevitable conclusion that the 2016 Appropriation Bill, the first major assignment undertaken by the Buhari Presidency in fulfillment of the sacred and onerous act of governance, has turned out to be a blistering scandal. Almost every minister except, perhaps, Babatunde Fashola, former Lagos State governor and Minister of Works, Power and Housing, has disowned the budget. A month ago, it was the saga of the “missing budget,” now Nigerians are being regaled with sordid tales of how the Appropriation Bill was fraudulently altered, a situation which has compelled the National Assembly to suspend indefinitely its initial plan to pass the Bill on February 25.

Expectedly, the government and its agents are blaming everyone else except the presidency. Who did it? A “budget mafia,” they claim. Corrupt civil servants, others scream. Some disingenuously claim that the fact of the dubious Appropriation Bill proves that Buhari is fighting corruption. How? Mum becomes the answer.

What we have seen in the last nine months is the penchant by the government of treating serious problems as molehills using the fight against corruption as an alibi for all the failings of government. Any attempt from any quarter no-matter how well-meaning is dismissed as proof of “corruption fighting back.” The government using its well-oiled propagandist machine effectively manned by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, is living in denial.

The danger inherent in this is that sooner than later, such problems have the tendency of becoming volcanic mountain-range eruptions.

 

 

 

The fraud called Jega elections

Attahiru Jega, a professor of political science and immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is a very lucky Nigerian. He is one of those fluky human beings the Scripture tells us are blessed because their sins are covered. He remains the only INEC chairman to “successfully” organize two national elections – 2011 and 2015. For a job that has become the nemesis of most otherwise solid reputations, Jega left office with his intact. Today, he is hailed in some quarters as the best thing that happened to Nigeria’s democracy since 1999.

He left office on June 30, 2015, to return to his lecturing job at the Bayero University Kano, where he was a Vice Chancellor before his appointment in June 2010 by former President Goodluck Jonathan. That was after he had indicated in March that he would not accept tenure renewal. Had he wanted, perhaps, he would still be INEC chairman today.

Shortly after leaving office, the former national president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] was nominated winner of the 2015 edition of the Charles T. Mannat Democracy award, which was presented to him by the U.S.-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), administrators of the award, at an elaborate ceremony in Washington D.C. on September 29, 2015.

Every year, IFES, a pro-democracy organisation that advocates improved electoral systems around the world, recognizes accomplishments of individuals in advancing freedom and democracy by bestowing awards on them in honour of past chairs of its Board of Directors: Charles T. Manatt and Patricia Hutar, and Senior Adviser, Joe C. Baxter.

While Jega was honoured under the Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award category, it is instructive to note that his co-awardees were U.S. Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Republican Congressman, Ed Royce. Jega was chosen as the international figure for the award, according to the promoters, for leading INEC to conduct what they perceived as one of the most credible elections in Nigeria’s history, even in the face of alleged intimidation and sabotage by some of his own staff and officials of the past administration.

“Chairman Jega’s leadership was instrumental to Nigeria’s successful general elections in 2015,” said IFES President and CEO, Bill Sweeney.

But was Jega indeed the messiah he is acclaimed to be in Nigeria’s ever wooly and corruption-infested electoral process? Were the 2015 elections really successful or were they deemed free, fair and transparent simply because the opposition won? What made the two elections conducted under Attahiru Jega’s watch more transparent and credible than the previous elections?

Can available facts validate claims that the former INEC boss delivered on his mandate? If his mandate in the 2015 polls was to ensure a Muhammadu Buhari presidency, willy-nilly, he did excellently well. If that is what the praise-singing is all about, then, he deserves even more accolades. Anything short of that is sheer hypocrisy, Nigeria’s biggest undoing.

Why?

After Jega’s first outing as INEC Chairman in 2011, election-related violence in northern Nigeria left more than 1,000 people dead. The victims, according to Human Rights Watch, were killed in three days of rioting in 12 northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. The violence which began with widespread protests by supporters of the then main opposition candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), following the re-election of Jonathan, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also left more than 65,000 people internally displaced. The polls were largely riddled with malpractices, logistical deficiencies and procedural inconsistencies with voter turnout of about 78 per cent in the South-South and the South-East particularly in the presidential election, which analysts insist exceeded the national average by at least 50 per cent.

Yet, Corinne Dufka, then senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch claimed that “the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history” while grudgingly admitting that “they also were among the bloodiest,” even as she urged “the newly elected authorities to quickly build on the democratic gains from the elections by bringing to justice those who orchestrated these horrific crimes and addressing the root causes of the violence.”

Of course, nobody was punished for the heinous crime even as the presidential election divided the country along ethnic and religious lines.

Then fast forward to 2015. The elections that garnered world acclaim for Jega are coming out unstuck at the tribunals. As I write, 82 elections have been annulled and still counting. Even by Nigerian standards, this is quite staggering. And so alarmed was Jega’s successor, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, that he has decided to launch an investigation.

On Thursday, January 21, Yakubu said the commission will study the circumstances that led to the nullifications and evolve measures to tackle the issues.

“Now, we have 82 elections nullified by the Court of Appeal, two of which will still proceed to the Supreme Court. But in addition to the nullified elections, we have 15 other elections where petitioners were declared winners by the courts. The courts did not decide that we should conduct re-runs there. They said that we should issue Certificates of Return to those declared winners by the courts,” he explained.

The number of annulled elections in 2015 is 48 or 141.2 per cent more than the 34 elections nullified in 2011, while only 20 were cancelled in 2007. These are statistics coming out of INEC itself. A report in one of the electoral umpire’s news bulletin recently said INEC will conduct at least 78 re-run elections in 2016 based on verdicts issued by the Court of Appeal.

“A breakdown of the elections indicates that the commission will conduct 10 senatorial elections, 12 state constituency elections and 37 state assembly elections.

“Others are 17 federal constituency elections and two governorship re-run elections, subject to the verdict of the Supreme Court,” the bulletin said.

There would have been more annulments and rerun polls if Jonathan did what Buhari did in 2011, that is, reject the result of the election. Of course, 2015 would have been bloodier if Jonathan had joined his detractors on the scrap heaps of impunity and bloodletting.

Ironically, to conduct elections that resulted in the worst number of fatalities and highest number of annulments and rerun polls at very huge cost to Nigeria, the electoral umpire, INEC, got more money under Jega’s watch than any of his predecessors. Unlike former President Olusegun Obasanjo who starved INEC of funds inorder to blackmail it into doing his devious bidding, Jega’s INEC didn’t suffer such indignities under Jonathan.

Granted, the electoral tide seemed to have sharply turned against Jonathan before the 2015 elections and there seemed to have been a preponderance of opinion that the opposition may, indeed, carry the day because not only had the Jonathan Presidency become a huge joke, but also, many Nigerians had good reason to be concerned about being put in the cross-hairs over a potential Jonathan victory.

But the fact that the man most Nigerians seemed to have preferred was declared winner of the poll does not ipso facto make the election free and fair. Put differently, the possibility that in a free and fair poll, Buhari would have defeated Jonathan is no proof that warts and all, the 2015 elections passed the integrity test.

The incumbent INEC chairman is understandably perturbed and wants to find out why many elections were annulled.

Good!

But the answer, to my mind, is simple. The elections Jega conducted in 2015 were fundamentally flawed. Insisting, therefore, that he erected fool-proof electoral architecture which his successors only need to consolidate on is disingenuous and a disservice to this country. The consequence is that the first two post-Jega elections were inconclusive though they were stand-alone polls because they were predicated on fraudulent foundation.

Truth be told, Jega left behind no solid foundation that anyone can build on. To claim otherwise simply because Buhari, this time around, benefited from Jega’s electoral sleight of the hand is sheer hypocrisy. And the price a nation pays for getting addicted to a diet of hypocrisy is that at the end of the day, nothing changes, at least not for the better, as the recent Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls have proved.

 

 

 

 

Why Buhari must dialogue with IPOB, MASSOB – Nwabueze

Professor Ben Nwabueze, one of the 13 distinguished lawyers awarded the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1978 is today not only one of the oldest SANs in the country, in fact, he is one of the two still alive. The other SAN is Chief Richard Akinjide, the former Attorney General of Nigeria and Minister of Justice. The 1978 list included the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

In this interview with Ikechukwu Amaechi, the legal luminary who has retired from active legal practice though people still bring complicated cases to him says Nigerian Supreme Court justices are overworked and overwhelmed while insisting that President Muhammadu Buhari must dialogue with those agitating for Biafra

Excerpts:

You don’t seem to agree with the recent Supreme Court judgment that the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) has the constitutional power to try the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on alleged criminal offence

Yes, I don’t agree. In my article, “Matters arising from the judgment of the Supreme Court,” I set out very clearly the reason why I think so. The Supreme Court based its ruling on what it called the quasi-criminal jurisdiction, whatever that means. I don’t know what quasi-criminal jurisdiction means. But whatever it means, they tried to derive it from the Constitution as well as from the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.

Now, can you really derive that quasi-criminal jurisdiction from the constitution? The answer is no. Nowhere can you derive such from the constitution because it is so clear that the constitution in Section 36, Subsection 12, says nobody should be tried or convicted for any criminal offence unless that offence is defined and penalty therefore prescribed in a written law. And it goes on to say that in this subsection, written law means an Act of the National Assembly, a law of the State House of Assembly, a subsidiary legislation or instrument. That makes it very clear that the constitution is not one of the written laws. It is in accordance with the universally accepted notion of the functions or purpose of the constitution.

There is nowhere in the world that the constitution creates criminal offence. I happen to have looked at every constitution in the world, not for this purpose, I mean generally, and I have never come across such provision. It is in accordance with that that we have this provision in our constitution that the written law within the meaning of this subsection means an Act of the National Assembly, the law of the State House of Assembly, or subsidiary legislation or instrument. So that rules out the constitution. You can’t derive criminal jurisdiction, call it quasi or whatever, from the constitution. The constitution does not confer such a jurisdiction and how can our Supreme Court in its ruling say that quasi-criminal jurisdiction derives from the constitution? How can that be? It is inconsistent with Section 36 Subsection 12.

That is one. The other reason which is equally fundamental is section 6 of the Constitution and subsection 1 vests judicial power in the courts, the judiciary. And that is why I said our constitutional democracy may be in jeopardy as a result of the judgment of the Supreme Court. The constitutional system vests legislative power in the National Assembly and Section 4 vests executive power in the president. This is the framework of our constitutional system and it is that framework that this judgment undermines. Now, Section 6 vests judicial power in the judiciary and in subsection 5, it names the courts in which the judicial power resides. There are nine of them, listed by name and the CCT is not there assuming it to be a court at all, but it is not one of them.

And what is the significance of vesting judicial power in the nine courts named in the constitution. What is the implication? What are the incidents of judicial power? The High Court of Australia, the highest court in that country, speaking through Chief Justice Griffith in a renowned decision said that the trial, conviction and punishment of persons for a criminal offence appertains exclusively to judicial power and that it is only the courts in whom judicial power is vested that can try, convict or punish anybody in a criminal case. It is so clear. And our own Supreme Court has applied that principle in Sofekun versus Akinyemi during the time of the best justices we have had in this country led by Justice Fatai Williams who was then the Chief Justice of Nigeria in which they ruled that whenever any citizen of this country is accused of a criminal offence, he must be tried by court of law and that no tribunal, no panel, nothing else can do it. And that to allow that is to allow judicial power to be usurped.

Would you then say that the justices of the Supreme Court are not aware of these pronouncements or they merely gave political judgment?

It is possible they are not aware. I have some sympathy for these justices. I think they are overworked and overwhelmed. I was thinking about this sometime ago. You know I have retired from legal practice but occasionally, people still bring complicated cases to me and I see the records of Appeal to the Supreme Court – two volumes, not to talk about other papers not included in the records. Each of the volumes runs into well over 900 pages and if a Justice of the Supreme Court wants to be thorough, he is supposed to wade through the nearly 2000 pages plus other papers in the appeal, and this is just one appeal. This is humanly impossible within the time available to them. So, you find out that sometimes they give judgments, what we call among others, per incuriam. Judgment given per incuriam is judgment given in ignorance or forgetfulness of either relevant provisions of the constitution or statute or previous decisions of the court.

So, in more mature democracies, for instance in the U.S., each justice of the Supreme Court has attached to him what they call clerks. These are the people who do the research on an issue, who try to find out all the relevant decisions bearing on that case and analyse them and discuss it with the justice before he writes his judgment. We don’t have that here. Justices are left on their own and it is impossible for them to know of all the judgments, the decisions bearing on a particular issue. It is not surprising, therefore, that you find that a judgment is delivered without regards to relevant provisions of the constitution or statutes or previous decisions of the Supreme Court.

I have often suggested that we need attorneys to give such services to justices as it is done in other countries. Apart from that, I have suggested that there should be created within the Supreme Court a special Constitutional Law Division to be made up of judges who specialize in Constitutional law. This practice of a judge hearing a case on contract or land today and tomorrow he is hearing a case on maritime and yet on another day, he is called upon for adjudication on constitutional issue doesn’t make for specialization.

Constitutional Law is a complicated matter in the sense that the kind of complex intricate issues affecting society arise on a daily basis. Our constitution is based on so many concepts. To understand the issues means to read and read and read. It is not like mathematics. So, we are not being fair to our justices. We must remember that the Supreme Court is the court of last resort. After that you go nowhere else except the court of public opinion and public opinion in this country, you know, is almost non-existent. You journalists are doing your best but you are only part of that court of public opinion. The ordinary man and woman in the street is supposed to be part of that court but they have no idea what is going on. They don’t care. They have no time. Their primary concern is how to feed themselves. In this country, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to feed themselves. The increasing incidence of poverty is so much and ignorance of course. The level of illiteracy in this country is staggering. You won’t understand it until you come into contact with these artisans – the plumber, electrician, bricklayer, carpenter, etc. They are all semi-illiterate. Most of them are stark illiterate. This is what we have in this country. So, you can’t have public opinion or at best very little of it.

Senate President Bukola Saraki claims his trial is political, and that has given the impression held by some that the Supreme Court may have been blackmailed into giving the judgment they gave in order to be seen to be politically correct.

I will be reluctant to make a comment on that. It is a political issue as you said and I should not be the one making a judgment on that being a senior member of the legal profession. Today, Richard Akinjide and I are the oldest and most senior of the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). We belong to the first set of SANs awarded in 1978. There were 13 of us including Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Richard and I are the only surviving of the 13. I criticise the judgment on purely legal grounds which I am trying to explain to you. But for me to say that it is a political judgment will not be right.

What do you make of the ongoing war against corruption?

I am totally in support of the fight against corruption provided that the war is waged in accordance with the constitution. We must at all times apply and adhere to the constitutional limitations on power. You know, it is a question of do you want total war on corruption, disregarding constitutional limitations on power. That will be anarchy. I can tell you this. That the day you say to hell with the constitution and its limitations on power because of the war against corruption, then you are facing anarchy in this country because the constitution is the glue that holds all of us together whether you are Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa. That is what we have in common. And for anybody to come and say to hell with the constitution, because of the war against corruption, you are courting the end of this country as one. You are courting the dissolution of that glue. So, fight corruption by all means but please fight it within the framework of the constitutional limitations on power.

But some people will say that you have even called for a revolution in the fight against corruption. Which is more extreme?

I haven’t deviated at all from my call for a revolution in this country because I believe that corruption is only but one of the ills bedeviling this country. This country is rotten, thoroughly rotten. And I believe that the only way to effectively cleanse this country of the rottenness is a revolution. But are we ready for a revolution? I will support a revolution, not a fighting revolution. People always think that a revolution only means carrying arms. By revolution I mean social and ethical revolution led by a president who understands what it means, who is prepared to mobilize everybody’s support.

When you talk of a revolution, even social and ethical revolution, it means an end to the constitution, an end to constitutional democracy. Are we prepared for it? Is this country prepared for that? If you are not prepared for a revolution, then it means we have to stick to the constitution. Fight corruption within the constitutional framework if you cannot really mobilize this country for a social and ethical revolution, which is the only effective answer to our problems. Is this administration with the incumbent president prepared for that? Is it what he is doing? There is no point pretending that you are still a constitutional democracy and fighting corruption when you are doing the contrary. If you want a social revolution, come out openly and you will have my support. Come out openly and say this country is too rotten, let us keep the constitution by the side because we have to try to end all this rottenness of which corruption is only one.

Is there any evil in this country bigger than corruption?

Oh yes. There are too many evils. There is total decay of the moral values. Moral values are gone in this country. We no longer have values. Kidnapping, armed robbery, racketeering of every kind, all these things are there. They are worse than corruption. Our number one problem is not corruption. I have said so in a number of my write-ups. The national question is there. This country cannot be a nation until that question is answered. That is why it is called a national question.

What is that question?

How can you coalesce the 369 ethnic nationalities into one nation? That is the national question. There are 369 ethnic nationalities in this country, research has been done on this and published in Volume 3 of my autobiography. How do you coalesce all the 369 ethnic nationalities brought together by colonialism into one nation? Nigeria is a state created by the coercive fiat of colonialism. A state is not a nation. They didn’t make us a nation. How do you create a nation? People talk about national unity, nation building, are we making any progress? We have the north/south divide that dichotomizes this country into north and south. The north/south divide which also includes the religious divide is a bigger, more fundamental issue than corruption. How are we fighting that? Are we really serious about that? Do we really understand, from the statements the president has made what the issues are? Does he really understand what the national question means?

Do you think that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is fighting corruption?

I think he is. At least he is doing more than his predecessors. I will put it in comparative terms. Compared with the war against corruption under Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, he is way ahead. I think Buhari is more sincere, more serious about the war than these other people. Under the other presidents, the war was a façade, a make-belief. They were not fighting corruption and that was why corruption instead of going down blossomed. Under Jonathan and Obasanjo, the corruption graph was going up, not down. But I think Buhari is more sincere, more determined.

He has constraints, no doubt, because of the issues of seriousness and sincerity. The question is, is he prepared to withstand these constraints? When you talk about limiting the war to the immediate past administration of Jonathan, you are not showing sincerity. Jonathan’s is not the only corrupt administration. How can you justifiably say that you are fighting corruption when you are limiting it to just Jonathan’s administration and closing your eyes to the corruption under other administrations? But he is doing more than the others. Whether the war will succeed in eradicating corruption is the ultimate question. We must understand that corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria. It has eaten into the blood of every Nigerian, into the fabric of the Nigerian society. How can you eradicate it? You cannot eradicate it by sending one or two people to prison or by confiscating the assets of one or two people. How do you deal with the ordinary man who on a daily basis is committing corruption? Ninety percent of people in this country perpetrate corruption. You can’t get anything done in this country unless you are prepared to grease the palms of either public or private officials. And it has become, like I said, a way of life. You have to do this to get on. And that is where my call for social and ethical revolution comes in. How do you get this out of the mentality of the ordinary man and woman? You cannot except by social and ethical revolution.

Does Buhari understand this? Is he prepared to lead such a revolution? Has he ever thought about it? And he thinks that it is by all these probes by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? And what is the EFCC by the way? One of the most corrupt institutions in this country.

Really? That seems rather too strong and many Nigerians may not agree with you on that

What happened to all the money EFCC claimed to have recovered through plea bargain? You said many people won’t agree with me? Why has Buhari sacked Ibrahim Lamorde, the former EFCC chairman? Have you looked at the report on the sale of assets of Tafa Balogun and Diepreye Alamieyesegha forfeited to the Nigerian state. Have you looked at the report? What happened to the buildings? What happened to the money realized from the sale of these assets? There is a committee set up to investigate the sale of these assets under the former chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu. The report is there and you say many people will not agree with me.

Maybe, there is a new dispensation in the EFCC. Maybe! With the sack of the old people, Lamorde and co, you need a thorough overhaul of EFCC, thorough overhaul. The law setting it up – the 2004 Act re-enacting an earlier 2002 Act needs to be overhauled. The EFCC has become an instrument of terror which undermines our constitutional system. I have tried to analyse this in some of the writings.

The new EFCC chairman, Magu, came down heavily on lawyers and judges the other day pointedly accusing them of frustrating the fight against corruption and in fact profiteering from corruption. Shouldn’t lawyers defend those alleged to be corrupt?

I don’t think his statement is in relation with defending those alleged to be corrupt. He should tell us the relationship between the EFCC and lawyers it engages to prosecute corrupt persons. . That is where the corruption is. Not lawyers defending alleged corrupt people. No! They are briefed by accused persons and they charge their fees. Where the loot comes in is between EFCC and the lawyers it engages to prosecute accused persons. Go and investigate. So many EFCC lawyers are multi-millionaires. This is on record. There is evidence that those lawyers share the so-called fee with officials of EFCC. One of the most profitable areas of legal practice in Nigeria today is to be a lawyer to EFCC for prosecuting those accused of corruption. That is one of the most profitable. They have amassed so much money. So many things go on unnoticed by the public. They should tell us. It is more or less an exclusive thing to become lawyer of EFCC. They fight to get appointed as EFCC lawyer. If you get appointed as EFCC lawyer, then you are made.

Few months ago when we came to interview you, you were of the opinion that despite the change mantra of the APC, Buhari may not be the messiah Nigeria needed. Nine months down the road, how would you assess his government? Have you changed your mind?

No! I haven’t. I said it at the beginning that Buhari does not have what it takes, he does not have the academic and intellectual credentials to rule Nigeria. No, he doesn’t. From School Certificate to the army. Does training in a military academy adequately equip anybody to govern this country, knowing what it takes, what it means to govern Nigeria? Can what you are taught in a military academy without a university background prepare you? No! Today, many of them go to the university before joining the army but many in the Buhari generation they went from School Certificate. Do you know what it means to govern this country? The complexity of the Nigerian society, the sheer intellectual complexity of the Nigerian constitution. How many Nigerians understand it? How many have read it? We don’t have a reading culture. Have you asked yourself that question? How many Nigerians, even among the politicians read the Nigerian constitution and how many of those who read understand. And Buhari is one of them. Does he read it? Does he understand it? Is he prepared if he understands at all to abide by its commands and directives? That is part of the problem.

So, the shout of a change mantra does not bring change when those who govern do not understand the basic instrument, the basic charter of governance in our country. You can’t govern.

The man is a very big mistake that we all made by electing him, knowing that he doesn’t have the credentials. Should we have done that knowing our experience under Obasanjo? They lack the experience to govern and if we were not suffering from amnesia, we should not have elected another former head of the federal military government. We shouldn’t have repeated the same mistake. We have ourselves to blame. Expecting the man to do what he is not equipped to do. He is not equipped to do this neither by his intellectual nor academic qualifications nor by his antecedents as former head of the federal military government. He was trained and there was a certain mentality implanted in him, mentality of giving orders and expecting the orders to be obeyed. They today call him the Sheriff. This is a fitting title. He is ruling as a Sheriff, giving orders. Saying one thing today and another tomorrow. The ministers are there waiting for him. Have you heard any of them make any intelligent statement? They are all scared waiting for the Sheriff to give orders which they will carry out. If you go against his orders, you are in trouble. After all, he said ministers are only there to make noise.

The agitation for Biafra by MASSOB and IPOD is getting bloody …

Is it still getting bloody? It was getting bloody before but I thought the violence had stopped.

Not quite sir because recently, security men were accused of killing some youths holding a prayer vigil for the detained leader of IPOD, Nnamdi Kanu, in Aba.

My position on all this is that the cause of the agitation must be traced to the government – Buhari’s government. It is a protest against the appointments Buhari made initially, 31 of them, strategic appointments he made before constituting his cabinet. Before that he made 31 strategic appointments. None of those appointees was from the Southeast. Of course, that created the feeling of alienation and exclusion among the people of the Southeast. Injustice! A feeling of not being recognized as belonging.

At that time I warned and wrote about the development but nobody listened until eventually it broke into all these protests.

The government should recognize that these people have legitimate grievance, that their protest is a result of a feeling of alienation and exclusion leading to a feeling of disaffection. Shooting people is not a way, in my view, of solving the problem. Shooting people is not the answer. Engage them in dialogue. There is need to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. We need it as it was done in South Africa and other countries – national reconciliation. We are not trying to do that. This government since it took over power on May 29, 2015 has not recognized the need for national reconciliation.

Not only that. We are not engaging these people in dialogue with a view at reconciliation. We disobey the orders of the court. Kanu was granted bail. Has been released? No, he is still in detention in spite of a court order granting him bail. I don’t know where this will lead us. We need to recognize the need for national reconciliation, reconcile the various interests involved. We all need one Nigeria but it must be one Nigeria that recognizes the diverse interests of all its people.

 

 

 

 

 

EFCC, Nigeria’s most corrupt institution – Nwabueze

 

*Says agency’s lawyers promote graft

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the agency set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to eradicate the cankerworm of corruption in Nigeria, has been described as the most corrupt institution in Nigeria.

This is a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted.

Making this assertion in an exclusive interview with The Niche is Professor Ben Nwabueze, Nigeria’s foremost constitutional lawyer and anti-corruption crusader who has called for a social and ethical revolution as the only way to eradicate the malaise.

Nwabueze said President Muhammadu Buhari’s belief that he will win the war against graft with all the probes undertaken by the EFCC will remain a mirage because according to him, “The EFCC is one of the most corrupt institutions in this country.”

The erudite lawyer said those who believe, like Buhari, that the EFCC is the solution to the problem of graft in Nigeria should first find out what happened to all the money recovered from looters or realized from sale of their assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

Told that many Nigerians may not agree with his assertion, Nwabueze countered.

“What happened to all the money EFCC claimed to have recovered through plea bargain? You said many people won’t agree with me? Why has Buhari sacked Ibrahim Lamorde, the former EFCC chairman? Have you looked at the report on the sale of assets of former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyesegha, forfeited to the Nigerian state?

“Have you looked at the report? What happened to the buildings? What happened to the money realized from the sale of these assets? There is a committee set up to investigate the sale of these assets under the former chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu. The report is there and you say many people will not agree with me.

“Maybe, there is a new dispensation in the EFCC. Maybe! With the sack of the old people, Lamorde and co, you need a thorough overhaul of EFCC, thorough overhaul. The law setting it up – the 2004 Act re-enacting an earlier 2002 Act needs to be overhauled. The EFCC has become an instrument of terror which undermines our constitutional system.”

Reacting to recent allegation by the acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, some lawyers and judges are frustrating the fight against corruption by profiteering from corruption proceeds, Nwabueze said the EFCC chairman should look inwards rather than disparaging lawyers who are discharging their legal and constitutional duties and making legitimate earnings therefrom.

He accused lawyers hired by the EFCC as prosecutors of conniving with the accused persons to evade justice and sharing in the loot thereafter, insisting that the most lucrative legal practice in Nigeria today is to be lawyers of the EFCC.

“He (Magu) should tell us the relationship between the EFCC and lawyers it engages to prosecute corrupt persons. That is where the corruption is. Not lawyers defending alleged corrupt people. No! Those ones are briefed by accused persons and they charge their fees.

“Where the loot comes in is between EFCC and the lawyers it engages to prosecute accused persons. Go and investigate. So many EFCC lawyers are multi-millionaires. This is on record. There is evidence that those lawyers Magu is accusing share the so-called fees with officials of the EFCC.

“One of the most profitable areas of legal practice in Nigeria today is to be a lawyer of the EFCC for prosecuting those accused of corruption. That is one of the most profitable. They have amassed so much money. So many things go on unnoticed by the public. They should tell us. It is more or less an exclusive thing to become lawyer of the EFCC. They fight to get appointed as EFCC lawyer. If you get appointed as EFCC lawyer, then you are made.”

Nwabueze who says he supports the war against corruption, however, says it must be fought within the ambits of the law,

“I am totally in support of the fight against corruption provided the war is waged in accordance with the constitution. We must at all times apply and adhere to the constitutional limitations on power. You know, it is a question of do you want total war on corruption, disregarding constitutional limitations on power.

“That will be anarchy. I can tell you that the day you say to hell with the constitution and its limitations on power because of the war against corruption, then you are facing anarchy in this country because the constitution is the glue that holds all of us together whether you are Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa. That is what we have in common.

“And for anybody to come and say to hell with the constitution, because of the war against corruption, you are courting the end of this country as one. You are courting the dissolution of that glue. So, fight corruption by all means but please fight it within the framework of the constitutional limitations on power.”

He, however, is wary about how far the war as presently waged can go in eradicating corruption, insisting that the country is far too submerged in the cesspit of graft for an ordinary war to make any meaningful impact.

For him, nothing short of a revolution will do but he doubts President Muhammadu Buhari’s ability to undertake such.

“I believe that corruption is only but one of the ills bedeviling this country. This country is rotten, thoroughly rotten. And I believe that the only way to effectively cleanse this country of the rottenness is a revolution. But are we ready for a revolution? I will support a revolution, not a fighting revolution. People always think that a revolution only means carrying arms. By revolution I mean social and ethical revolution led by a president who understands what it means, who is prepared to mobilize everybody’s support.

“When you talk of a revolution, even social and ethical revolution, it means an end to the constitution, an end to constitutional democracy. Are we prepared for it? Is this country prepared for that? If you are not prepared for a revolution, then it means we have to stick to the constitution.

“Fight corruption within the constitutional framework if you cannot really mobilize this country for a social and ethical revolution, which is the only effective answer to our problems. Is this administration with the incumbent president prepared for that? Is it what he is doing?

“There is no point pretending that you are still a constitutional democracy and fighting corruption when you are doing the contrary. If you want a social revolution, come out openly and you will have my support. Come out openly and say this country is too rotten, let us keep the constitution by the side because we have to try to end all this rottenness of which corruption is only one.”

 

 

Buhari has no intellectual capacity to govern Nigeria – Nwabueze

 

*Says Jonathan, Obasanjo promoted corruption

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

 

Nigeria may not extricate itself from the woes bedeviling it soon because those at the helm of its affairs have no capacity to govern.

This is the submission of Nigeria’s foremost Constitutional Lawyer and one of the oldest Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Professor Ben Nwabueze, who spoke in an exclusive interview with The Niche.

The erudite professor of law said Nigeria may continue to wallow in socio-economic and political wilderness because the man they elected president last year, Muhammadu Buhari, has neither the “academic nor intellectual credentials” to govern the country.

He said the election of Buhari was a big mistake, accusing Nigerians of suffering from amnesia and refusing to learn from the mistake of electing President Olusegun Obasanjo 16 years ago.

“I said it at the beginning that Buhari does not have what it takes, he does not have the academic and intellectual credentials to rule Nigeria. He just went from School Certificate to the army. Does training in a military academy adequately equip anybody to govern this country, knowing what it takes, what it means to govern Nigeria? Can what you are taught in a military academy without a university background prepare you?”

Nwabueze said while many of the contemporary Nigerian soldiers go to the university before joining the army, many in the Buhari generation joined the military immediately after their School Certificate examination. He sees that as a huge problem and situates President Buhari’s seeming inability to grapple with the numerous challenges facing the country in his lack of capacity.

“Do you know what it means to govern this country? The complexity of the Nigerian society, the sheer intellectual complexity of the Nigerian constitution. How many Nigerians understand it? How many have read it? We don’t have a reading culture. Have you asked yourself that question? How many Nigerians, even among the politicians read the Nigerian constitution and how many of those who read understand,” he asked rhetorically.

Grouping the president among those who may not have read the Nigerian constitution, he asked. “Does Buhari read the constitution? Does he understand it? Is he prepared if he understands at all to abide by its commands and directives? That is part of the problem.”

Nwabueze said no one who does not understand the basic instrument, the basic charter of governance in a country (constitution) can govern that country.

“The shout of a change mantra does not bring about change when those who govern do not understand the basic instrument, the basic charter of governance in our country.

“We all made a very big mistake electing Buhari president knowing that he doesn’t have the credentials. Should we have done that knowing our experience under Obasanjo? They lack the experience to govern and if we were not suffering from amnesia, we should not have elected another former head of the federal military government. We shouldn’t have repeated the same mistake.

“We have ourselves to blame for expecting the man to do what he is not equipped to do. He is not equipped to do this neither by his intellectual nor academic qualifications nor by his antecedents as former head of the federal military government. He was trained and there was a certain mentality implanted in him, mentality of giving orders and expecting the orders to be obeyed.

“Today, they call him the Sheriff. That is a fitting title. He is ruling as a Sheriff, giving orders. Saying one thing today and another tomorrow. The ministers are there waiting for him. Have you heard any of them make any intelligent statement? They are all scared waiting for the Sheriff to give orders which they will carry out. If you go against his orders, you are in trouble. After all, he said ministers are only there to make noise.”

But Nwabueze, one of the two surviving Senior Advocates of Nigeria from the first set in 1978 that included Obafemi Awolowo and Richard Akinjide, says Buhari, unlike his predecessors, Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, has shown more sincerity and seriousness in waging the war against corruption.

“I think Buhari is more focused in the war against corruption, at least he is doing more than his predecessors. I will put it in comparative terms. Compared with the war against corruption under Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, he is way ahead.

“I think Buhari is more sincere, more serious about the war than these other people. Under the other presidents, the war was a façade, a make-belief. They were not fighting corruption and that was why corruption instead of going down blossomed. Under Jonathan and Obasanjo, the corruption graph was going up, not down. But I think Buhari is more sincere and more determined.”

He, however, said that limiting the war to Jonathan’s administration detracts from the sincerity.

“Buhari has constraints, no doubt, because of the issues of seriousness and sincerity. The question is, is he prepared to withstand these constraints? When you talk about limiting the war to the immediate past administration of Jonathan, you are not showing sincerity. Jonathan’s is not the only corrupt administration. How can you justifiably say that you are fighting corruption when you are limiting it to just Jonathan’s administration and closing your eyes to the corruption under other administrations? But he is clearly doing more than the others before.

“Whether the war will succeed in eradicating corruption is the ultimate question. We must understand that corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria. It has eaten into the blood of every Nigerian, into the fabric of the Nigerian society. How can you eradicate it? You cannot eradicate it by sending one or two people to prison or by confiscating the assets of one or two people.

“How do you deal with the ordinary man who on a daily basis is committing corruption? Ninety percent of people in this country perpetrate corruption. You can’t get anything done in this country unless you are prepared to grease the palms of either public or private officials. And it has become, like I said, a way of life. You have to do this to get on. And that is where my call for social and ethical revolution comes in. How do you get this out of the mentality of the ordinary man and woman? You cannot except by social and ethical revolution.”