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BY Frisky Larr

Today, President Muhammadu Buhari is in a position that no one can envy. His ride to power followed a rough terrain. He had critics including myself. He had admirers too. They were full of hopes in what his military-induced sense of obstinacy would bring to bear on Governance in a Jonathan-battered Nigeria. After all, Olusegun Obasanjo before him, had shown how easily a former military General could step on toes for the good of the country, at least, in his own perception. He also had haters and die-hard ones at that. His irredeemable haters will have nothing to do with his ethnic descent. They consider northern Nigerians as enemies of the country for their historical arrogance in leadership. Above all else, though, they naturally detest his military home-based attachment to the unity of Nigeria and that is what the minds that are endeared to his predecessor hated and still hate the most. Buhari was known for modesty and a measured lifestyle. Not known to be corrupt or encouraging corruption!

To make Buhari President, we the critics – and “we” were in the shadow of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka – had to make an about face on Buhari to see the back of Goodluck Jonathan with his destructive agenda.

Everyone, except the separatist-minded and non-patriotic Nigerians, was full of hope when Muhammadu Buhari became President. His phlegmatic inaugural speech was, however, everything else but revolutionary. It was the initial shot that struck momentum in the spine. It was soon followed by a long-drawn wait for a cabinet that bore the early signs of unpreparedness on the part of the new President. These negative surprises were willfully suppressed by an overwhelming audience of supporters, who were convinced deep down their heart that this President is, nevertheless, the messiah they envision him to be.

Early successes

And when cleansing started, he did not disappoint. He ordered the relocation of the central military command to the epicenter of insurgency and in rapid succession, the insurgents soon realized why the Nigerian Armed Forces had a regional reputation. The military was redeemed from the chain of battlefield disgraces that Buhari’s predecessor had subjected it to, in the aftermath of corruption, pillaging and willful decimation.

Henceforth, priority was given to the adequate funding and equipment of the armed forces with armory and no longer the arming of militants in the creeks.

In a parallel action, the President quickly turned his attention to the corruption that crippled the military and started from his own tribal kinsman, who served as the arrowhead of the National Security Advisory Team, Sambo Dasuki. He was arrested and his financial crimes credibly exposed. Today, he languishes in detention and hardly anyone has tears to shed for him in the light of the gravity of what he collaborated in. This has, so far, made it difficult for critics and haters to wear the President the cloak of tribal and ethnic bigotry. The battle against corruption was launched in earnest. Partial revelations began to make the round and it became apparent, who got what share of which bounty and at what point in time. Money was recovered in quiet domestic diplomacy and prominent arrests were made to signal to the larger audience that the government meant business.

Evil tidings

Unfortunately, however, it was becoming apparent, in the run-up to the inauguration of the administration, that the fiscal life of the administration was bound to be constrained by some money crunch of sort. The price of the economy’s mainstay had crumbled to a shocking depth in the global market. The economy was going to be cash-strapped and all the ambitious projects that were promised and predicated on a projected level of earnings were bound to run into trouble. A barrel of oil that has sold over several years, for an average of $100.00 on the global market suddenly fell to as low as $30.00. Recession crept in inevitably. While this made neutral minds and admirers of the President sad, it made his haters upbeat and elated. They wasted no time, hammering on what they characterized as the President’s inefficiency. They were promptly tagged “The Wailers” since there was nothing the President did or will do that they will ever appreciate in spite of obvious adverse conditions.

One after the other, problems multiplied for the President. As the noose tightened around efforts to recover looted funds and as former President Jonathan continued to feature prominently in looting-related confessions, calls grew, for the questioning of the ex-President. In the absence of sufficient proceeds of oil sales though, it became incumbent on the government to concentrate on recovering stolen funds. Then the enemies suddenly mounted a formidable front. Sabotage actions began to take hold and the saboteurs called themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. Oil pipelines were blown in succession and output fell dramatically in addition to the plummeting market prices.

From nowhere and seemingly, without warning, a new secessionist movement launched destabilizing activities in the East and was led by a little know anti-intellectual youngster of immense nuisance value.

It was difficult not to point accusing fingers at the President’s immediate predecessor in the face of the bitterness that trailed his ejection from power. A novum in the political history of Nigeria, where incumbents hitherto, never lost elections!

The President’s Health

One bizarre feature of President Muhammadu Buhari’s governance since inauguration, has always been his profound invisibility. Many times over, Nigerians clamored for reassuring public addresses by the President in puzzling times when the President’s authority was challenged or the sovereignty of the country threatened. One highly interesting development was noted when news emerged of acts of corruption perpetrated by the President’s inner circle. Most dramatic, was the charge of millions of Naira brazenly spent on grass-trimming. Insinuations emerged, of some elements in the government’s circle that have hijacked a part of leadership. In each of these cases, the President excelled in silence and inaction when the folks expected decisive and intimidating leadership to draw the line on errant adventurers.

Then, the President would often launch surprising actions to take corrupt officers unaware. Most notable was the attempted cleanup of the judiciary that is littered with corrupt judges. It was a cosmetic venture of one step forward, two steps backward that, in the end, virtually left the status quo largely intact. Nothing was followed through.

Everyone had problem, understanding what the driving forces of the President were. No reaction to credible charges of corruption and power-grab by his inner circle. No visible address to the nation to show that someone was in charge. In more than two years in office, the President has hosted just one comprehensive media chat.

Then, news broke out that the President had serious health problems (probably life-threatening) that required a long-drawn residence overseas for proper medical attention.

A few things but not all, began to make more sense. His shortage of appetite for and inability to wage an all-out war on the enemies of the country could be appreciated against the backdrop of his declining health.

Achievements

In the long period of his absence on medical leave, the President respected and honored all the relevant constitutional obligations to empower his deputy in his absence much to the chagrin of his inner cabinet, who would have loved to wield his powers. A novum in the country’s political history. A huge success and a serious problem at the same time since it became incumbent upon the President to address the obnoxious deal of a daring cabal.

In spite of his silence and health-induced absence, within which secessionist agitations thrived almost uncontrolled, he soon moved to restore the unity of the country upon recovery and return to the country much as he had wrestled down Boko Haram long before it. He had also resolved the Avenger’s challenge with visible ease albeit with non-transparent compromises.

The extent of damage that was done to the economy inherited by the President’s government is well known to the discerning mind. The worst single hallmark was the fact that the owing of salaries by government institutions simply became a routine affair over the years in the face of boom and plenty. At a point, the preceding government took to borrowing from banks to pay Federal employees. Pension allocations were simply stolen, and pensioners left to wallow in pains. Contractors’ fees were routinely owed till “thine Kingdom comes”. The foreign reserves that several governments had struggled to boost for the rainy day, were simply stolen and depleted in the understanding that a President from the Niger Delta, which ‘lays the golden egg’, was simply taking or stealing back what rightly belonged to him.

That a nation with a serious intention to grow and better the lot of its citizens cannot thrive on this pedestrian mentality to say the least of the practice of owing salaries and pensions, is undisputable to the discerning mind. On this note, President Buhari launched a fight against many adversities to rectify this basic requirement of fixing the economy, without which no progress can ever be made. The President has released bailout funds repeatedly, to help states return the payment of wages and salaries to normalcy while revenue inflow had dropped dramatically. Yet, some states resisted this blatantly and with impunity invoking their autonomy in the running of their states. The bailout funds were misappropriated, partly stolen while some states continue to owe salaries all the same, without outrage from the wider public – not even the employees that are owed. President Buhari has moved to reset the clock of routine and regular pension payments to normalcy, while revenue intake has fallen dramatically. The recession that greeted the government’s initial days in office with the crash of crude oil price and little reserves to fall back on, has long fizzled out.

The foreign reserves that are accumulated for the rainy day is now back on track and are being boosted once again. Infrastructural projects are reported to be quietly on course. Now, I hear that the construction of the second Niger Bridge to ease the traffic link of the East with the rest of the nation, has quietly made enormous progress.

Much as it counts as a part of the President’s weakness, the fight against corruption is also one of the President’s success stories. His daring attack on the corrupt judiciary was unprecedented. That will go down in history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t followed through to the bitter end.

That avowed enemies of the administration will have none of this should not change a thing in the perception of the obvious. In part, the enemies do not only live in denial, they take active steps to sabotage progress. That, practically, explains the recent surge in the kidnapping of skilled foreign workers in the country as one act of sabotage to scare off foreign investment, while pipeline sabotage now seems to have become a bit more difficult to execute. And thank goodness, the price of crude oil is bouncing back while efforts at diversifying the economy is quietly in progress.

Weaknesses

The greatest weakness of President Buhari and his administration has been his election as President. To make Buhari the President of Nigeria, the leading priority of many well-meaning Nigerians, was to see the back of a disastrous Goodluck Jonathan. Many forces teamed up and the forces were not homogenous in purpose. While some were “sowing seeds”, others were genuinely interested in the good of the country. One notable force that had and always has the good of Nigeria at heart was and remains former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

How much President Buhari is presently at the mercy of any of the forces who “sowed seeds”, who they are and where they are is largely unknown. But it is true that the very expensive campaign that he ran to win the Presidency was financed by someone. It is also true that his own wife has had cause to cry out repeatedly, that President Buhari is being held hostage by the elements. Many of the President’s supporters do this privately too.

The President has the ill-advised habit of avoiding dialogue with the country when it is most needed. Precisely then, his silence turns out to be poison. By now, the President is well aware of the presence of a cabal in his inner circle burning to usurp his powers and even doing so at any opportunity given. The role reportedly played by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to undermine Acting President Osinbanjo during the sick leave of the President is not forgotten. Cries of corruption in his inner circle are growing louder by the day and when action is taken, it is obstinately slow and largely cosmetic or too little, too late. Matters that should be referred to the EFCC for action are often referred to commissions of enquiry with reports that never see the light of day.

While it is incumbent on the President to choose his lieutenants and aides from amongst people that he can best work with, it is also a recipe for disaster to work covertly or overtly, to rekindle the age-old nostalgia for the northern dominance of political power. Even though I consider cries of the extreme northern dominance of the President’s team as superfluous and irrelevant, I still do not think that the cries should be obstinately ignored. This is now even termed ‘nepotism’ in some quarters. Here, President Buhari should have learnt a lot from the color-blindness of Olusegun Obasanjo in the tribal ordering of things. So far, President Buhari has stuck strictly, to the constitutional requirements of the Federal Character and is doing the rest in line with tribal dictates. Even though I have no problem with this at all since those northerners are Nigerians, many others would have followed my line of reasoning if performance by such people was unblemished and corruption was not involved.

In the fight against corruption, many steps have been taken. Yet, the real big bang is waiting to be seen. Aside the half-hearted incursion into the Judiciary, no intimidating, deterrent or exemplary case or cases has/have been recorded. No doubt, a lot of quiet diplomacy may have led to the recovery of stolen funds. Yet, it is, unfortunately, not the essence of fighting corruption. Fighting corruption, the Ribadu-style is the language that Nigerians understand best no matter how much minority deviants will preach one element or the other, of the rule of law. It must not be one-sided. But it must be spectacular to provide a semblance, at least, that no one is above the law. Disgrace the culprits openly and they are well known everywhere. Prominent prosecutions cannot be done for Nigeria only in England while James Ibori comes back to town to become a kingmaker and not warned sternly to take a back seat for being a discredited role-model. Again, Buhari failed to embrace this crucial lesson from the Obasanjo days and it boils back to the question, who the silent “seed-sowers” may be behind the scene. Even though this assumption of “seed-sowers” may be wrong completely, the fact alone that the President’s approach and attitude have encouraged this insinuation is serious enough as quality lapses and omission.

The reason that President Buhari still remains silent on the serious issue of the Fulani herdsmen and the troubles surrounding their activities is puzzling indeed and may have been the last straw for many observers. Thank goodness, the debate in public space has now served to provide information also, on the herdsmen’s own side of the story that the public had hitherto, known little about. The President has nonetheless continued to do what he does best, namely remaining silent. If the President had applied this obstinacy of silence to the open fighting of corruption and step on powerful toes stubbornly, no matter whose ox is gored, his solid public base would have forever remained reassured and prove battle-ready.

The Obasanjo Conundrum

Now, like every other observer, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is no doubt, also troubled by multiple developments, most of which the public may not even be aware of. I have, therefore, had reasons to be troubled by the reaction of a few intellectuals, to the recent open letter of the former President admonishing the incumbent on his performance and possible future ambitions. From my intellectual friends, I always expect more constructive caution. Social media road-boys for whom the forums represent an outlet for a limited scope of self-realization will always do what they do best, namely abuse and vilify the former President. That will not come as a surprise. The intellectuals, however, always owe a duty to separate the wheat from the chaff.

From my information so far, I have reasons to believe that the problems of the Fulani herdsmen that have been allowed to persist for so long, may have played a crucial role in the timing of President Obasanjo’s letter to the incumbent President. President Buhari’s inordinate and obstinate silence on the issue has not helped matters any bit.

While I feel very uncomfortable with President Obasanjo’s accusation of the incumbent President’s dismal performance on the economic front because I know the challenges that the Buhari administration has had to confront and the steps it has taken to solve the basic problems, without which progress can never be made, I am, nonetheless, very cautious because I do not know what President Obasanjo knows that is beyond my reach. Since I have the very rare privilege of direct interaction with the former President, I will hold my breath until I meet him personally for a very frank exchange that he always permits and learn my lessons from him in the usual fashion.

So far, Nigerians are aware of a marauding cabal in the President’s inner circle and the charges of corruption associated with them. Who knows the extent and depth of this malaise and how strongly they are impacting the President’s performance? Does former President Obasanjo know more? Does anyone know why President Buhari is not overhauling the engine of his government in spite of the loud outcry also from his own wife? Would former President Obasanjo lose confidence in the system completely and call for a coalition of well-meaning individuals without a serious cause? What simplistic self-actualization would the former President need at this point in his life that he has never had?

Till the present moment, the public has no clue, what President Buhari’s health challenges were or are. He is an old man that is not growing younger. His health dossier was never made public and Nigerians do not know the nature of the President’s health challenges. Who knows the extent and depth of these challenges and their possible impediment on the President’s capabilities?

President Obasanjo’s submission is impatiently predicated on “early recovery and substantial growth” in the economy. Would he say this unless he knows of a serious restraining condition on the President’s part?

While I also feel very uncomfortable that President Obasanjo is presently gaining applause from the wrong side of the fence, which he himself will not cherish, I fully understand that the Obasanjo conundrum will remain unresolved in the precarious Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, until the questions asked above are genuinely answered. For now, helpless separatists and irrational haters of the person Buhari, may seek comfort in the submissions of the former President as much they will, the fact will ever remain that President Obasanjo is principally driven by nothing less than patriotic, nation-building and never separatist or hate-based sentiments and precisely this makes the strictly fact-based reaction of President Buhari’s team and the APC a constructive move to make.

Frisky Larr is the author of “Lost in Democracy” (amongst others) advancing possible indigenous alternatives to democracy as a political system in Africa.

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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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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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