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Pendulum: The Battle of The Nigerian Generals

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I once wrote an article about the Nigerian Mafia on this very page. Yes, Nigeria is a Mafia nation and there are a few Mafia families in play. Some are peopled by civilians, whilst some are a group of military men comprising retired soldiers. There is also a mixture of civilians and soldiers like the Kaduna Mafia comprising Northern elites from both the civilian populace and the military. Apart from the Generals’ Mafia which includes General Olusegun Obasanjo, all of these Mafia families usually consist of men of Northern extraction. There were only two visible Mafia families in the South, namely the Awolowo and Zikist Mafia. However, the latter’s influence diminished long before the Owelle Of Onitsha, Chief Nnamdi Azikwe, who was the arrowhead, passed away, whilst the former has had its glory days dulled by the fractious disagreements which broke out between the acolytes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, The Odole of Ife, after he exchanged mortality for immortality.  This got exacerbated and became open internecine warfare after the revered sage’s wife, the Yeyeoba of Ile-Ife, Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, who had kept the shop together with adroit wiles and guile, died just over 3 years ago. However, the Tinubu Mafia has grown in competition with the Awolowo Mafia in recent times, but even the influence of their effervescent overlord, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Asiwaju of Lagos, may be facing challenges at the moment from rebels within and outside. These coming elections may well be a true test of how efficacious the influence and control of this great and astute politician remains.  

 It is interesting that while the influence of the Italian Mafia seems to have waned over the years, that of the Nigerian Mafia, particularly the Generals’ Mafia appears to have skyrocketed in recent years. There are warlords now spread across our country. And the godfathers and their godchildren litter the landscape of Nigeria. Since the return to civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria has remained under the firm grip of the military class, no matter what the civilians may say or think. It is therefore the Generals’ Mafia that remains in the ascendancy for now. Former Army General Olusegun Obasanjo, incidentally, the Balogun of Owu – a traditional warrior chief – came back from retirement as a former military Head of State and governed majestically for eight wonderful years. When he left, Umaru, the brother of a former Army General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua replaced him, largely on the basis of his relationship to the deceased brother, who was a firm favourite of General Obasanjo, who singlehandedly handpicked him and foisted him on a pliant nation despite his well-documented health challenges. He died in office and his Vice President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also head-hunted by Obasanjo, took over to complete their first term. Thereafter, Jonathan was endorsed by Obasanjo, leading the Generals’ Mafia for his own first term. Unfortunately, things fell apart, when the falcon no longer hearkened to the falconer, and mere anarchy reigned upon the land. Meanwhile, all this while, Major General Muhammadu Buhari never stopped contesting serially, from 2003 to 2011 by which time he was expected to give up on his dream and ambition. He never did. 

 Buhari returned to contest for the Presidency a record fourth time in 2015 and won resoundingly with the support of the almighty Generals’ Mafia. But since then, he has not been able to hold the centre together and he has fallen out of grace, and out of favour from the super Generals. Some may want to argue otherwise but the proof is easy. He could not win on previous occasions until the powers that be joined him. 

Who are these super Generals, the last men standing, you may want to ask? Let me oblige you, even if you know some or, indeed, all of them already. A few of them are quite visible while others are not, either deliberately or otherwise. The Nigerian Mafia in their totality are predominantly under the control of a few Generals who are members of a very select, privileged and exclusive club of high achievers in the Nigerian military and the Nigerian state. Let me start with the first and the reason he is probably the most powerful and influential.

 General Olusegun Obasanjo remains the most visible and voluble member of the Nigerian Mafia. His official date of birth reads May 5, 1937, but many feel he is older, considering the age of some of his friends and schoolmates. He schooled in Nigeria and continued his military education in England and India. Fearless and brutal, he became famous and was idolised for his fairy-tale exploits during the Nigerian civil war. Though different accounts have claimed that his role was exaggerated and overhyped, even his worst critics admit and agree that he is an extremely intelligent and brave soldier with a no-nonsense attitude who seldom takes prisoners. He shot into prominence when his boss, General Murtala Muhammed was killed in a military coup in 1976 and as second in command, he was catapulted to the number one position of Head of State against his will. He and his team of the Supreme Military Council performed great feats until they handed over power to a civilian government headed by President Shehu Shagari. The fact that he stuck to his terminal date despite the fact that he had reasons to elongate his tenure endeared him to the international community. He acquired avuncular status on the continent of Africa and was much sought after globally. His detribalised nature also helped to place him on a higher pedestal in Nigeria. The man he and Murtala Muhammed sacked from power, General Yakubu Gowon was in exile in England for a long period of time and when he returned his amiable, gentle and religious disposition meant that he was no longer really relevant in the polity and this placed Obasanjo in a prime position to assume the leadership of the Nigerian Generals’ Mafia. Gowon is only sometimes wheeled out when it is time to plead for patience and peace in the land, but the truth is that he is often just left alone to enjoy his retirement! Obasanjo’s stock rose even higher, and that is indeed the frightening reality of the stock of this colossal statesman, when he returned to power for 8 years in the latest civilian dispensation. His bid to perpetuate himself in power through an abortive third term agenda crashed spectacularly. However his power and headship of the Generals’ Mafia remains solid and incontrovertible.       

 Lt. General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi (CFR GCON) remains a veritable member of the Nigerian Mafia. Born in 1940, he rose to prominence and the peak of his military career when he became Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from 1981 to 1983, in the Nigerian Second Republic, under the Shagari government. Wushishi joined the Army in 1961 and received his military training in Kaduna, Nigeria and later at Aldershot in the United Kingdom and finally at the United States War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He had a meritorious service till he rose to the rank of a Lt. General. He was well respected as a very disciplined officer. Now, guess who took over from him as COAS? General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), popularly described as the “evil genius”, and “Maradona” for his deft political and Machiavellian moves when he was President.

 Babangida was born in 1941. After enlisting in the military, he had his military training in Nigeria, India and the United Kingdom. A very brilliant and sociable man, he rose quickly and became a Major General within 20 years, from a Second Lieutenant in 1963 to a Major General in 1983 and a full General in 1987. Babangida participated in all the successful military coups from July 1966 and actually toppled Buhari unexpectedly in 1985. The story of how he successfully achieved a feat nobody thought possible at the time is the stuff of legends and myths and is a story to be told another time! Babangida was the opposite of Buhari. He made many friends but was accused by his critics of introducing favouritism and corruption to our body polity. However, his network of friends is second to none and this has contributed to the vantage position he continues to maintain in the Nigerian Generals Mafia. But for the grave error of annulling the best, freest and fairest election ever held in Nigeria, history might have been extremely kind and gracious to him because he assembled one of the brightest men and women to join him in government. As it is, he is forever remembered by this singular misadventure.

Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma was born in December 1938. Notably, and unlike his senior colleagues in the Generals’ Mafia, he completed and passed his Higher School certificate examinations and was admitted to study History at what is now the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1959. A keen sportsman in his secondary school days and captain of the School Cricket team, Danjuma opted out of University education to join the Nigerian Army in 1960. The rest, as they say is history, for this quintessential gentleman soldier, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General and Chief of Army Staff before retiring in 1979. Since his retirement from the Nigerian Army, Danjuma has been an esteemed and respected member of the Generals’ Mafia. He is a consummate politician who was Minister of Defence during Obasanjo’s first term as civilian President, astute billionaire businessman with interests in shipping, oil and gas and telecommunications where he sits as Chairman atop a myriad of companies, and above all a major gracious and significantly benevolent philanthropist, unlike his peers. It is claimed that his lack of support for President Buhari’s re-election bid stems from the refusal to renew his oil mining licence and a hefty tax bill which his gigantic oil company, South Atlantic Petroleum Limited (SAPETRO), naturally disputes. A man of very few words in public, the spate of senseless killings of his people recently forced him to issue harsh words which instantly brought him on collision path with the Buhari Government. 

General Abdulsalami Abubakar was born in 1942. Like Babangida, he hails from Minna in Niger State. He completed his secondary education and went on to study at Kaduna Technical College from where he enlisted into the Nigerian Air force in October 1963. He undertook military training in the then Western Germany, but on his return to Nigeria in 1966, he was seconded to the Nigerian Army. He rose to the rank of General in the Nigerian Army and was Chief of Defence Staff for over five years during the regime of General Sani Abacha. He was entrusted with the mantle of leadership of the military junta upon the death of Abacha in June 1998 and became the country’s Head of State. Like Obasanjo, he set up a time-table for an early return to civilian rule and remarkably kept his word by organising elections and surrendering power in less than one year. He handed over to his leader and senior Don in the Generals’ Mafia, Olusegun Obasanjo, thereby continuing the trend of the Generals’ Mafia dictating the political leadership succession in the country. He is an international statesman who is acclaimed for returning the country to democratic rule in the shortest period of time. His reputation is however blighted by the death in his detention of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, the man who won the June 12 Presidential election, an election victory that has now been validated by President Buhari.

Lt. General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau completes the list of senior members of the Generals’ Mafia. This quiet, unassuming and self-effacing gentleman soldier was born in 1943. He has on diverse occasions been Director of Military Intelligence, Director of Defence Intelligence Agency, Director-General of NSO and  Coordinator on National Security. He was National Security Adviser under Babangida, Obasanjo and Jonathan in that order becoming the only man to have held this position under three different Heads of State. He was briefly Chief of Army Staff, under the Interim National Government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan, thus following in the illustrious footsteps of some of his fellow dons in the Generals’ Mafia. He was also Minister of Defence in the Government of President Goodluck Jonathan. He is nicknamed the ‘Spook’ because of his secretive nature and his long stint in the intelligence service. He is reputed to have a dossier on all the major actors in the Nigerian military and political scene and is much respected and feared. He deliberately avoids public occasions and avoids controversy. It is fabled that the troika of Babangida, Abacha and Gusau had a pact that all three would become Heads of State and whilst Babangida and Abacha succeeded, Gusau failed in his ambition despite spirited attempts. Indeed, it was Abacha who retired Gusau from the Army when he took over the reins of power from Shonekan in 1993. Nonetheless, Gusau remains a veritable and trusted member of the Generals’ Mafia.

By virtue of his previous positions, President Buhari is also a member of the hallowed club of dons in the Generals’  Mafia. However, until 2015 when he contested elections for the Presidency yet again, he appeared to be an outcast in the Club who was merely tolerated. However, the gang opted to back him in 2015, but for whatever reasons, personal, altruistic or national they appear to have withdrawn that support. It remains to be seen whether lightning will strike twice on the same spot and the Generals’ Mafia which outflanked and outfoxed Buhari in 1985 will succeed in truncating his regime once more. 

Or will it be the case that Buhari has the element of power and surprise and will to outmanoeuvre his fellow Dons this last time.

The elections of 2019 may likely herald and signal the sound of the ‘The Last Post” for this super elite club of Generals. The Presidential election is expected to be remote-controlled by these men and their civilian allies, meaning Buhari has a tough battle in his hands. It is not clear how many of these Generals he has on his side but he seems to have lost most of them which is likely to make the election tougher than necessary. Obasanjo and Babangida have not hidden their disdain. They have spoken publicly against the re-election of Buhari who may be taciturn but is also known to be a deadly fighter. According to insiders in APC, Buhari no longer needs them because he totally controls the apparatus of power and coercion. The palpable fear is for the Generals not to plunge Nigeria into an orgy of violence and for Buhari to execute a free and peaceful election. Many pundits believe Buhari may not hand over power with the kind of equanimity Jonathan displayed. Worrisome.

The President’s supporters believe the Generals have outlived their relevance. Theoretically, this sounds easy but the old foxes must never be underrated. There are interesting days ahead… God save Nigeria.

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COLUMNISTS

Presidential Debate: between Buhari and Atiku

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By Jude Ndukwe

The much talked about Presidential Debate scheduled to hold on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, has come and gone but not without its dramas that have kept Nigerians wondering and talking about so many things including why the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, shunned the debate, and why his closest challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, excused himself from it after realizing that the incumbent was not going to be in attendance.

The debate was supposed to be a Presidential Debate. Such debates world over lose their essence and savour once the incumbent is not present, and it is unthinkable that the incumbent in the US, for example, would miss out on such a debate since the debate is designed to scrutinize the performance of the incumbent/his party and extract commitments from the contenders.

It is therefore sad and unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari did not see it fit to seize this all important opportunity to engage his challengers in particular and Nigerians in general through the debate. His absence totally vitiates the importance of the debate and obliterates its essence just like a well advertised world heavyweight boxing match is scuttled by the absence of the reigning champion. No matter how well publicized the match is, it does not even matter if the tickets were sold out and the arena packed to the rafters, the excitement, the anticipation and expectations of those following developments both at the venue and other places dissipates at the speed of light once the reigning champion chooses to stay away from the match for whatever reason. Such a disappointment cannot even be assuaged or compensated for by the challenger no matter how much he tries to entertain the crowd with shadow boxing and showboating which is what a Presidential Debate without the incumbent is.

In fact, in developed democracies, presidential debates are usually organized for only the top contenders, and in the case of the US, between just two, the Democrats and the Republicans. While there are usually dozens of other political parties fielding candidates for the presidential elections in the United States, only candidates of the two major contending parties feature in Presidential Debates after the parties’ primaries.

Although candidates of the other parties have always been in the contest, their chances of victory are very slim and insignificant to the extent that the debate feature only the top two contenders. If it was in the US, the Presidential Debate would have been strictly between the top two contenders, in this case, President Muhammadu Buhari and his closest challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The verdict, based on what happened yesterday, would have been that the Debate would not hold since Atiku turned up but Buhari was nowhere to be found near the venue. In fact, he was in far away Plateau State, showing total disregard for the debate, as always.

Just like in Nigeria, apart from the major political parties, there are also such parties with considerable influence in the American political system but who are not invited for Presidential Debates. The wisdom in this is that it allows the contenders with the realistic chances of having ample time to scrutinize one another. For example, former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson, was the presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party (LP) at the 2012 US general elections. Johnson had votes in every state in America except only for Michigan and Oklahoma. His total votes in the election were over one million.

Again in 2016, the LP fielded Gary Johnson, and this time round, he received over four million votes in the presidential election.

Another party with similar strengths as the Libertarian Party in the US is the Constitution Party. The strength of this party can be measured by the fact that its gubernatorial candidate at the Colorado election in 2010 actually came second with 36.4% of total valid votes cast, beating the candidate of the Republican party to third position.

It is noteworthy that despite their strengths, only candidates of The Republicans and The Democrats tango in the US’ Presidential Debates. If the debate was to be in America, the debate would have been strictly between Buhari and Atiku, and the natural and correct thing to do when the incumbent is not present is for the organizers to call it off and or for the top contender to excuse himself as he cannot debate against himself. One is not saying that the other contenders are not important, it is just that having narrowed the contest to two major contenders with the most realistic chances of winning, they need time to scrutinize each other and marshal out their points.

Atiku was absolutely right in excusing himself from that Presidential Debate after seeing that the other major contender, Buhari, was absent. Debates are not just addresses or rallies, they are ultimately a stage where “opposing arguments are put forward” by the debaters. In fact, another dictionary described it as to “argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner”. One of the synonyms for debate is to “dispute” on an issue. At this stage of our national life, we can no longer be taking certain things for granted. If it was a debate on critical national matters, who would Atiku be debating or disputing with on this matters?

Does Kingsley Moghalu know why our soldiers are being killed on a regular basis by a ragtag Boko Haram despite trillions of naira budgeted and spent on the military in Buhari’s almost four years tenure? Can Oby Ezekwesili provide answers to why the Buhari presidency keeps making excuses for those who murder our fathers, rape our mothers, wickedly rip out the unborn from their wombs, maim our children, sack communities and forcefully take over other people’s lands without any repercussion or even as much as a challenge from our security forces under Buhari as Commander-in-Chief? Could Fela Durotoye have been able to provide answers to why Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world under the Buhari administration with all its known inefficiencies, gross incompetence and blatant ineptitude? Who among them could have explained why the fight against corruption under this administration has been turned to a fight against opposition? Who among them would have been able to provide answers on why appointments are lopsided and why Nigerians have been so bitterly divided along parochial lines under the Buhari presidency based on the words and actions of the president and his officials?

Critical issues and questions of national importance would have come up at the debate to which only the incumbent would have answers to. But what is the essence of a debate of presidential candidates when the one to give answers to those issues plaguing us as a nation is not there to either defend himself and his administration or give explanations as to why certain things happen under him which have left Nigerians bewildered.

Such disputing on the podium would then give all the candidates including the incumbent chance to put forward what they would do differently going forward. This is why a debate is between the forces for and those against. It is not a narrative exercise, it is an argumentative one, and when one critical party to the salient points to be raised at the debate deliberately makes himself unavailable, it rubbishes the very essence of the debate.

This is the reason why the other contenders should have also insisted that they would not participate in the debate if Buhari was not going to be there. What was the essence of all they said about the precarious situation of the country when the man at the helm of affairs was not there? Who were they disputing with? Or, rather, who were they debating with? The truth is that all the other candidates who chose to go ahead with the debate did not do so because they are comfortable with the fact that Buhari was not present or that they love Nigeria and Nigerians more than Atiku, but only seized the opportunity of rare free live television coverage provided by the occasion to speak of their ambition and have their faces on camera. That is the hallmark of desperate politicians who would compromise standards and rightness just to further their own personal interests which they masquerade as national interest.

But Atiku is not a desperate leader. His ambition is obviously about Nigeria and not about his person. He shows this by insisting that the right things have to be done by all irrespective of status. He has willingly engaged Nigerians at different forums where he was subjected to grueling questions agitating the minds of the people. He was fully prepared for the debate despite his long trip and the hectic schedules arising from it, yet, he moved straight from the US to the debate venue, but alas, the president, the most pivotal factor of such an exercise chose to stay away.

Buhari’s absence is surely not unconnected to the mindset of his presidency as stated by one of his acolytes, Prof Itse Sagay, that the presidential debate was designed for “political dwarfs”. Until Buhari comes out of his shell of “political dwarfism” even as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, those who go to presidential debates without him there as president have only succeeded in cutting their own average heights just to fit into “political dwarfism”. As for Atiku, it is obvious he is not ready to reduce his towering heights in order to satisfy the conditions for being a “political dwarf”. Certainly, it is time for political giants in the mould of Buhari and Atiku to square up in a debate. This is the real deal and when could this be?

—jrndukwe@yahoo.co.uk; Twitter: @StJudeNdukwe

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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: Why Atiku’s US Trip is a Super Coup Against APC

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BY DELE MOMODU 

Fellow Nigerians, this season of jolliness and bonhomie has not been the best of times for the ruling party, APC, and certainly not for its Presidential flagbearer, President Muhammadu Buhari. It may not be unfair to say that this has been one of the worst weeks since the President returned to power on May 29, not May 19, 2015. The President has come under a barrage of social media attacks for series of gaffes on his part in recent time. The first was the interview he granted the Editors of Thisday newspapers and their sister station, the fast rising, Arise News Channel. That amateurish video production was so dire and awful that had it not emanated from the Presidency it would have been condemned immediately as trash. As it is, it seems symptomatic of the malaise currently dogging the President and his team.

The story was told of how the President’s handlers insisted they must handle the recording themselves and hand the tape over to Arise News Channel. That is fine, no problem, but the production turned out to be beneath acceptable standards of journalism and certainly belied the efficiency and perfection one would expect from the Presidential Team. The audio and vision were not the best, not to talk of the meat of the interview itself. The President came across as someone not too sure, or confident, of himself, and what his job entails. The unfortunate display which was avidly circulated by social media aficionados did not compliment the President at all.

As if that was not bad enough, there was yet another interview, in quick, rapid-fire succession, organised on the government-owned NTA. This one was a total PR disaster for President Buhari despite the fact that the cerebral Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was co-interviewed by one of the best television personalities in Nigeria, and beyond, Kadaira Ahmed, and in his inimitable intellectual, charismatic and charming manner, the Vice-President tried to limit the damage being done by his boss. As much as the interviewer tried to be mild-mannered and pleasant, unlike her usual combative style, the interview just didn’t flow in the right directions. Opportunities were missed and justifications and explanations were stilted. There were just too many negative soundbites which ignited cyberspace and in no time went viral globally.

As they say, when it rains it pours, and this was the case for APC, two days ago, when The Boss, a popular online newspaper, broke the news of Atiku Abubakar’s trip to the United States of America. For over a decade Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had not been able to obtain a US visa talk less of travelling in that direction. It was one of the nagging questions I posed to him when I got an exclusive session with him in Lagos, long before he won the PDP ticket. His answer became a major point of controversy, as he told me, candidly, that he had applied for American visa and was yet to be granted. Naturally, his political enemies went ballistic and taunted me and him endlessly about his inability to enter the US, as if I was his spokesperson and more importantly as if a visit to the US was indeed a precondition for winning the Presidential election. Many swore that he would never surmount that obstacle, matter-of-factly. They stubbornly rejected the notion that if Atiku was afraid of America, he would never have attempted to apply for a visa, in the first instance and, that, if America wanted him so badly, he would have been granted the visa so that he could be snared and entrapped, or in the absence of that, he would have been put under International Police (Interpol) watch, and he would have long since been picked up on one of his frequent trips abroad. Truth is logic no longer knows logic in our climes.

So, it was assumed that Atiku and America were on permanent divorce, due to irreconcilable differences. At a point, even the ruling party warned the United States not to be swayed or tempted to issue him the much sought-after visa, and everyone wondered if it was their business to dictate to America. Now, let’s fast forward. Atiku won the Presidential ticket of PDP and went about his business. His victory was dismissed by the APC as a non-event and its supporters even boasted, openly, that Atiku will never defeat Buhari. They never forgot to end by adding, “a man who cannot attempt to enter America.” But the ways of God are not the ways of man. The men of power began to flex muscles and subjected Atiku to subliminal attacks. A Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for eight years, from 1999 to 2007, some courtesies that used to be extended to him were suddenly withdrawn. His plane was frisked, and he complained about being searched, more than usual, on return from one of his foreign trips, but the gentleman bore it all with equanimity. In no time, thereafter, rumours began to fly about the seeming and perceived intimidation of his supporters. His campaign found it tough to raise needed funds. No one wanted to fall into the hands of Buhari’s goons. But Atiku remained defiant and trudged on, like the old Roman soldier. His campaign was dissed as lacklustre, and not able to match Buhari’s fire-power and razzmatazz.

 

All seemed tight and tough for Atiku but he maintained a steady focus. His campaign started at a slow but steady pace. Surprisingly, he kept packing the crowds, while the Director General of The Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign and The President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, remained uncharacteristically upbeat. He was dancing so much at rallies that many began to wonder the source of his sauce. He constantly lit up the campaigns. Saraki and former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, stewed so much as they danced Shaku Shaku style and tried to compete with our best choreographers. We didn’t have to wait long for answers to the posers. It landed, without warning, at my desk Thursday afternoon. I was on a flight from Monrovia, Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria, and was in transit in Accra Ghana, when it landed, thunderously. Scoops are the best meals of journalists. It won’t be wrong to call them our opium.

Before we took off, I quickly drafted an urgent press release which I fired to our Editors. Their initial response was that of incredulity, but I told them to shoot immediately. No other media group should beat us to this. You only get such exclusives once in a green moon.

By the time we landed in Lagos, I rushed to put on my phone and ran to open my biggest addiction, Twitter, something I share in common with President Donald Trump. I was happy our story was everywhere but sad our mainstream media seemed unable to confirm the biggest story of the year, or too scared to take a risk because they felt it was an impossibility.

As soon as we disembarked, and I climbed into my waiting car, I zoomed to work on my phone, frantically. I called some impeccable contacts who gave me the blow by blow account of how Atiku left Nigeria, unannounced, and obtrusively, on his most important journey ever, the game-changer any politician would wish for, exactly one month to the biggest election of all time. I called the Editors and fired some more authoritative gist. We did an update on how Atiku left Lagos, in company of Saraki and Senator Ben Murray Bruce and others. Then my phones began to buzz. I was told Daily Trust has debunked our story based on an interview granted them by Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe. I simply ignored the talk of the story being fake. I expected Paul to avoid being so categorical but… We moved on knowing news bomb would soon explode and expose whoever was right or wrong.

Shortly after, I saw the story on Cable News, owned by my dear Brother, Simon Kolawole, and I said now we are inching closer to an eventful evening. Then, at The Boss, we did our last update before everywhere finally exploded. This time, it was how Atiku’s plane filed a flight plan to London, from where it changed and headed to Washington. All this while doubters, and APC supporters, were on my case, flashing the Daily Trust story at me, but I remained unperturbed.  I saw a Punch story that the Nigerian Embassy said it was aware of Atiku’s presence in the US. I smiled to myself, knowing very soon, they will know by which technology he navigated his way to America. Soon, and very soon, we shall see the Wazirin in America. I already queued up for the first pictures. And it came.

That was how in one second, Atiku, or the Atikulated campaign, took off with uncommon favour and fervour. My dear friends in APC went quiet, a few threw the usual tantrums. I had expected them to pretend a little, but they couldn’t hide their shock and, possibly, disappointment in America. By yesterday, my big Brother, Alhaji Lai Mohammed came out of the grove to declare, majestically, that if Atiku likes, he can pick up a green card in America and stay there for as long as he wants. Wow, he was not done. He became an instant Prosecutor, or Minister of Justice, EFCC boss or Supreme Court Justice, when he pronounced Atiku guilty of bank fraud and malfeasance, and that he should be ready to answer questions about the collapse of Bank PHB, upon his return. This coming after about one day gone in the United States, and one month to the start of the general elections. Lord have mercy.

Why is APC fighting on all fronts? Who is misleading my friends and, once upon a time, fellow Buharists. Are they not tired of this commotion, tension and confusion. Not too long ago, the Senate President and the legislature; more recently, the CJN and the Judiciary; now the leader of opposition, Atiku Abubakar. My prediction is very simple and straight-forward.

It seems to me that APC needs a miracle to win the next election, if it continues to follow this destructive path. APC has inflicted these difficult times on itself. I am not sure that some of the distinguished party faithful are not working directly against the interests of the party and its presidential candidate.  There are apparently Fifth Columnists abroad! Otherwise, the only other thing that can be said is that the party appears to be hell bent on following the PDP template for rejection and failure that the same APC constantly and serially condemned just before the last elections.

All the party’s antics now smack of great desperation and panic attack as they seek to land the plum job of President of Nigeria. The senior members should have summoned the courage to advise the President to serve only one term, especially after his health failed so spectacularly two years ago. His amiable, cerebral and inspired Vice-President would have taken over and unified the country. But hell no, they didn’t see the need. How on earth, and at this time and age, did APC expect Buhari to run a serious campaign and manage a big and complex country like Nigeria, given all that seems to be wrong? At least the President was honest enough to acknowledge this when he ceded leadership of the campaign to the irrepressible Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The only problem is that this gambit itself appears to have backfired as the President has made more appearances on the campaign trail and hustings than the appointed leader of the campaign.

I’m wondering if APC remembers the promises made to Nigerians to make the economy better, corruption exterminated, the Naira stronger and security tighter. In good conscience, have they delivered? This, will be answered hopefully next month, when the people troop out to vote.

Congratulations to Atiku on what is turning out to be a good trip for him both at home and abroad. The APC is jittery and this alone may be worth the medal for Atiku. Meanwhile, we await your arrival and looking forward to your trial …

God help Nigeria.

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COLUMNISTS

The Trials of a Chief Justice: Justice And Buhari’s Aberration of Due Process

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By. Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq.

On Monday, January 7, 2019 a petition by one of President Buhari’s pally was filed against the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Two days after, said petition had made its way to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) Chairman’s desk. In uncharacteristic manner, the petition was expedited with charges dated the 10th of January 2019, filing and service of charges were effected on the Chief Justice on the 11th of January, 2019. Effective legal system? Think again.

Trial was hurriedly fixed for the 15th of the same month in what must be the nation’s fastest legal system process in living and late memory. It won’t be surprising to see the kangaroo tribunal produce a ruling or judgement still within January. Everything absurd is possible under this government.

Of course one may make the mistake of applauding the process while failing to discern that the pace is not so much from a quest for justice but a rush to score a political advantage over perceived non-loyalists of the APC-led government. So desperate was the set-up that its facilitators, as usual of them, failed to properly follow or respect laid down principles at law in such cases.

Mr. President’s legal advisers are regrettably slow, inadequate or simply pressured by their principal’s desperation to cut corners in due process where it serves their shallow whims. They’ve demonstrated such woeful interpretation and awareness of the laws of Nigeria to indict their relevance to the country. For the avoidance of doubt, the Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen may only be tried by a Tribunal if (and after) the National Judicial Commission through its own constituted investigative committee finds him culpable of any offence and sanctions him. The above due process/principle was emphatically laid down in the decided case of Nganjiwan v. Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The decision to try the country’s Chief Justice at the Code of Conduct Tribunal without due process on charges of false declaration of assets brings once more to the front-burner the question of the real intent of executive rascality on the judiciary. Is it truly a case of justice in operation or oppression?

I would happily concede, of course, that no one is above the law and that the Chief Justice does have a duty at law and morally to clear himself of the allegations levied against him. What, however, offends my sensibility as a concerned citizen is threefold; firstly, the apparent readiness of this government to prosecute non-party members of the APC while sleeping on their responsibility where the accused are members of the APC, secondly the opportune timing is much too convenient to not be suspicious given the elections are but a few weeks away and elections tribunals are anticipated by products of said selection. Thirdly, and perhaps more instructive, is the identity of the leveler of the claims against the Chief Justice.

Is it truly the case that APC members are beyond reproach? Is it truly the case that the APC would readily pardon conformist party-members for gross allegations while sounding the war-drum where the accused is from opposition parties, or simply non-loyalists of the APC. Babachir Lawal presents an ever perturbing insight into the working of the minds of the Buhari government who, till date, refuses to prosecute or try Mr. Babachir in court for his involvement in swindling the government of at least N250 Million naira to cut grass. Let’s not forget that Mr. Babachir continues to play a prominent role in the APC even after his resignation (rather than outright sack) from office.

Abba Kyari has severally been indicted by substantiated claims of using his position to defraud unsuspecting individuals while pocketing kickbacks from government contractors. The APC National Legal Adviser was indicted for paying questionable sums of money to a judge to influence a decision but that is a matter that has long grown cold. Okoi-Oblat continues to seat as a Presidential Adviser on persons to prosecute while himself indicted for forging his certificate and by implication bereft of the qualifications he claims as a lawyer.

There is of course Senator Omisore who has long since had his traveling documents returned to him and his EFCC case ‘forgiven’ given his role in helping steal the people’s gubernatorial mandate in Osun state. Lest I forget, there is of course Chief Uzor KANU wanted ( and declared wanted by the EFCC) but publicly galvanising at APC rallies without reproach. I could go on but I believe my point is made. I leave Nigerians to consider if these individuals become saints once their loyalty shifts to the APC.

With the elections in view, it has been suggested that the harassment of the Chief Justice may be strategic given Buhari’s reservations about a Chief Justice from the south. Should the Chief Justice be successfully driven from office, the next in line from the apex post is a Northerner, a convenience that must greatly please Mr. President with his demonstrated strain of nepotism.

But more than that, the identity of the individual who made the claims against the Chief Justice lends greater credence to the suspicion that removing him is a strategic play by the APC. Hiding under a fictitious organization, Mr. Dennis Agher, a former aide of President Muhammadu Buhari wrote the petition against the Chief Justice. The accelerated preparation for the trial of the Chief Justice only goes to confirm that justice in this country is selective and politically strategic. Mr. Dennis is but a pawn employed to destabilize the judiciary to perhaps pave the way for the executive to exert themselves on the judiciary. To believe the contrary would be to exhibit an unforgivable naivety that may very well empower the gradual dismantling of the non-negotiable features of a democracy; rule of law and separation of power.

Only recently, the APC unveiled it’s campaign logo and slogan, NextLevel and retracted it when it was made public that both the logo and slogan were plagiarized. It wasn’t the first time this government would be caught stealing other’s ideas from a lack of originality on their part, neither was it the last. Just last week, their Website put up a copied speech promising to ‘make America great again’ !

This aren’t things to be trivialized as these are pointers to the general cluelessness of this government. If they’ve spent their time copying speeches and slogans, their ruthlessness as an oppressive government is actually inherent in the personality of their principal head- President Buhari, a one time military head who abrogated the constitution and disregarded the judiciary.

This is Buhari 202. Let’s hope we never experience Buhari 303. To Get Nigeria Working Again, Buhari simply has to go.

Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq., is the Principal Partner at Pelumi Olajengbesi & Co. Law Corridor.

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