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BY DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to continue with my Presidential race series today. It has become obvious that nothing else, but the lack of competent, visionary, detribalised, selfless, accomplished, exposed, urbane, capable, cerebral, determined and ambitious leadership, has been the root cause of our intractable problems and incredible backwardness especially where national development is concerned.

Even the things we used to excel at, like quality education, agriculture and exportable cash crops and more importantly, morality, decency and humaneness have long since eluded us and taken wings into far flung places. Our type of politics, of snatch, grab and grab, can never lead to any substantial progress and development unless we change how we’ve been doing things. All men and women of good conscience in Nigeria are in agreement that our country is in a big mess and that changing the baton of foolishness, recklessness and incompetence every four years, in a relay race of raw cash, brigandage, ethnicity and religion does not augur well for our dear nation. This cannot continue unchecked.

This is not about liking or disliking one President. It is about loving our dear beloved country, Nigeria, more. Our nation has become not only a serious embarrassment to itself but a source of considerable disquiet and discomfort to the African continent. True, however, that this calamity did not befall us under this government. It started when the first military putsch terminated the First Republic. Thereafter, we witnessed successive coup d’etats. Each coup maker advertised himself as coming to salvage and change Nigeria for the better but things got worse in many instances. The Civilian population also played an infamous role in this area by dancing for joy whenever the soon to become familiar refrain of the National Anthem followed by the haunting words “Fellow Nigerians” were announced on the airwaves.. We expected our military rulers to perform many miracles since they wielded the power of life and death but we were not so lucky.

The Republic of Ghana was perhaps luckier, by having a no-nonsense leader Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings (aka Junior Jesus or Judas, depending on which side you belonged). He came, cleaned the Augean stable, erected a superstructure, improved the infrastructure, instilled discipline, reduced a culture of waste and inculcated a new ethos of doing things with less greed and avarice. Many Ghanaians disagree with this effusive description of Ghana under Rawlings but to onlookers, Ghana came out of that revolution better and stronger than most African States. I know many Nigerians who wistfully longed for some version of JJ Rawlings here but ours were too selfish, egocentric and clannish.

Nigeria has tried many leaders, from sinners to saints, but there is no doubt that none of them has taking us to Eldorado. It has been a tale of “all sound and fury…” but no performance. Two of our former military rulers came back from retirement to become civilian Presidents. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who served from 1976 and retired as Head of State in 1979, bounced back 20 years after, in 1999, and served a total of eight years as civilian President, making him the longest reigning leader in Nigeria’s chequered history, with a combined total of eleven years. I will not bore you with the melodrama of that era. His Vice President from 1999 to 2007 was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who started nursing his own Presidential since 1993 when he was eventually out-manoeuvred by the enigmatic and redoubtable Baba Gana Kingibe. The relationship between the Obasanjo and Atiku was that of cat and mouse because the Vice President subsequently wanted to contest himself in 2003.

Around that same 2003, another retired military ruler, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, decided it was his own turn to collect the baton and return to power as civilian President. He had been the Head of State from 1984 to 1985 when he was unceremoniously sacked by Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. His fall attracted unprecedented relief and wild jubilations because of his draconian style and what many saw as the hypocritical and nepotistic disposition of his government. His 2003 attempt was like testing the waters. He was popular in the North but not in the South and the Northern Regions alone could never make him President without substantial votes and electoral spread from some parts of the Southern Regions. He contested and lost to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 2007, Buhari contested against his kinsman from Katsina State, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and lost again to him. He complained bitterly that the race was skewed against him and litigation followed in a jiffy but hit the rocks, ultimately. In 2011, Buhari became a serial contestant, throwing his hat into the ring for a third time. However, it was not third time lucky as the results claimed he lost ignominiously to Dr Goodluck Jonathan. He was so disappointed, frustrated and bitter, that he vowed never to contest again. But man proposes and God disposes, the ruling PDP was on a reckless binge of surfeit and megalomania and had to be stopped by all means. Buhari was approached to become the rallying force, in 2015, for all those who wanted PDP out, by fire and by force. Miraculously, he won as the whirlwind of “Change” swept away the rampaging PDP. The expectations of the people in respect of the Buhari Presidency were thus extremely high. The rest is now history.

Nearly three years have passed since Buhari’s triumphant comeback and the next election is already knocking. The general consensus is that the Buhari government has underperformed, even if his hard-core loyalists disagree very vehemently. They point to several salutary achievements in the area of security (particularly with regard to the Boko Haram menace), increased reserves, improved Foreign Direct Investment and an ongoing relatively successful fight against corruption. The Opposition and the generality of the people want more. They say that things have simply not changed. Instead they have become worse because, there is great fear and tension in the land. The disunity is there for all to see and corruption and nepotism seems to be the order of the day within government circles. The seething anger is palpable and it is like the country is a tinderbox, a nation sitting on a primed keg of gunpowder waiting for the fireworks of social disorder and violence to erupt. We continue to pray against such folly, but the government is simply not helping by the macabre dance, with ethnicity and religious jingoism, it seems to be engaged in.

By 2019, Buhari would be 76 years old. He has suffered health challenges. His style of governance has also been rated as too crude and sluggish. Some say he is not a President for 21st Century Nigeria because he lacks the physical and mental resources needed to crossover from the analog era of the 20th century into the digital age of the 21st century. Many of those who wished to support him to the end have become irritated and impatient. They simply cannot understand how the “People’s Messiah” frittered away such humongous goodwill and lost the chance to leave a glittering legacy for our people. His avuncular supporter, former President Obasanjo, has since jumped ship after releasing a most blistering attack in a very scathing open letter made public globally.

I have gone through this long preamble to remind us of why it has become imperative for Nigerians to pay more attention to who leads us henceforth. On my part, I have decided to speak to as many potential Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors, Senators, House members, State Assembly members, etc, as possible. Four years is a long time to waste on frivolities, in the life of a nation. Never again must we elect people based on primordial sentiments.

If President Buhari presents himself again, as it is his Constitutional right to do, he must be subjected to the most rigorous of tests. We must find out why he failed to become the change agent that we desperately wished for. He must know, that it is not sufficient to blame the unbridled corruption that characterised the previous government. That was enough to deal with lack of progress for one year, possibly even eighteen months, but for two years and counting, Haba! Regardless however, he still has a bit of time to demonstrate what a second term under him will look like, but if truth be told, he is fast running out of that time. His challengers must even face tougher tests. For them we look for physical fitness and mental alertness, freshness, transparency, accountability but above all, vision, innovation, technological savviness and adeptness, leadership and progressive action. We should never base our choice and decision on empty promises but practical roadmaps and blueprints.

There is no doubt that Nigeria is long overdue for a major overhaul, but it is not going to happen overnight. It may not happen in the next four-year sequence, but we must begin the journey in 2019. While the experiment being attempted by the COALITION FOR NIGERIA is desirable, every care must be taken to ensure that this does not make our situation worse. I wish to warn again, and do so repeatedly, that there are presently no saints to form a new Party or, indeed, force. APC would not have materialised if those PDP Governors and big moneybags did not throw their weight behind Buhari. It is gratifying to note that for now, the Coalition is making the right noises and saying that it is a pressure group. Given the fact that the period between now and the next elections is short and is almost upon us. What it seems would be most desirable to see, is members of the Coalition going back to the two main parties and taking over from them. Surely, the generality of the Nigerian public would back such a move by those seen to be a bit more principled than the rogues gallery that has held sway over our political lives for more than 40 years. However, this may not be feasible for now, since money continues to play a big part in politics and the ignorance and impoverishment of our people continues to be an impediment for such a civilian coup at the present moment.

Therefore, the best way to go, for now, is to have a coalition of forces and make them form a government of national unity that would draw its personnel and operatives from the different political Parties, including some of the fringe Parties. Indeed, it was my sincere hope that the configuration of the APC following the merger of the opposition Parties before the 2015 elections would have led to such government. It is sad that from the very beginning the Party embarked on fratricidal, internecine and suicidal warfare from which it has not since emerged.

In reality, I predict two options. The PDP may implode and dissolve into the old PDP and a new Party, or the coalition may form a third party and draw extensively from APC and PDP. The problem is that not much would have changed. Only the name, and nomenclature, perhaps, would have changed. The same characters would migrate into this potential third Party from both Parties and no one would reject them. It may be, that this is one of the failings of democracy as all views should be accommodated within the respective Parties. The inherent danger is it may help APC remain infallible, despite the fact that it would have been greatly weakened by the exodus of a few good men. The truth is that both principal Parties need to be shaken up. The Coalition for Nigeria may well offer an avenue for this to happen but we must be vigilant. We must not enter “One Chance” again! The Coalition must not become like the Trojan Horse, primed to lull us into a false sense of security, when the real motive is to spew its rotten guts into our polity and thus damage us even further. My concern stems largely from those who appear to be the conveners. I am not overly confident of their credentials to do the task that Nigerians expect of them. We pray and wait with trepidation.

Meanwhile, I plead with the conveners of the Coalition, again, to think through this risky adventure and not set us back several decades.
God bless 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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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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