• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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BusinessDay

Buhari crosses the rubicon

Muhammadu Buhari

I have written many times in this column about the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari’s inclinations are not to govern as a civilian democrat but to rule as a military dictator. That inclination was manifest right from the moment he was sworn in as president on May 29, 2015-he did not want to be burdened with a civilian cabinet contrary to the prescriptions of the Nigerian constitution but wanted to rule in conjunction with civil servants and security officials. Indeed, Buhari refused to appoint a cabinet for seven months and was heard to argue that civil servants really did the work and not civilian ministers.

Throughout his three-and-a half years in office, the evidence has mounted in favour of the fact that Buhari, rather than the reformed democrat he promised Nigerians he had become, was really an un-regenerated military ruler!

His disdain for judicial pronouncements whenever they contradict the wishes of his regime soon became very clear-the government of Buhari has since simply ignored court judgments which ordered several persons detained by his emerging junta to be freed (Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, the Nigerian Shiite Sect whose members were also mass-murdered by the regime’s military; and former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki have both remained in detention in spite of court orders to the contrary, much like persons detained under the notorious Decree 2 Buhari promulgated as a military dictator. In substance rather than form, General Buhari has, in effect, re-issued Decree 2, and may yet issue additional de facto, if not dejure decrees abrogating or constraining more of citizens’ rights when he gets the second term that he current seeks.

Right now, Deji Adeyanju is imprisoned in a jail in Kano for no reason! An accusation was conjured against him, and in spite of a higher court’s grant of bail, the young activist sits still in prison.

The Buharian era acts in blatant defiance of democratic norms-no other civilian government in Nigerian political history has appointed virtually all its security chiefs from one part of the country! Right now, the Chiefs of Army and Air force, DG of the Department of State Security; DGs of the National Intelligence Agency and Defence Intelligence Agency; National Security Adviser; Heads of Customs, Immigration and Prisons etc. are all Northern Muslims! When Acting President Yemi Osinbajo appointed an Acting DG of DSS from the South, Buhari promptly removed him and replaced him with yet another Northern Muslim. It is significant that not even military regimes with the exception of General Buhari’s which had nine or so out of 12 Supreme Military Council members from the North was so unbalanced in its composition! The same pattern has now fully reflected in the judiciary as President Muhammadu Buhari has now forced out the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen and replaced him with a Sharia Law expert from Bauchi State!

With the unconstitutional and undemocratic removal of Justice Onnoghen, Buhari in my view made the final transition from elected civilian president to dictator who is under no constitutional restraint and who can do whatever he wishes. We can all be certain that if Buhari gets his second term, he will rule fully in that second coming as a full-fledged dictator free to execute an agenda that is evidently ethnic, regional, religious and sectarian!

It was clear to everyone including the US and UK governments who expressed concern that the unusual efficiency and speed with which the illegal processes by which the CJN was in effect removed on the orders of a junior tribunal, the Code of Conduct Tribunal just three weeks before a presidential election in which the Supreme Court may end up adjudicating is not a mere coincidence but part of the steps towards fixing the outcome of the elections. It was curious but not surprising that Justice Tanko Mohammed, Buhari’s illegitimate choice as CJN’s first task on his first day in office was to announce 250 judges to serve on election tribunals! The precedents we have had in virtually all elections conducted under Buhari especially in Osun, Ekiti and Kogi suggests the outcomes of the 2019 general elections may be a forgone conclusion. But then perhaps, man proposes, God disposes!

Unfortunately Nigerian civil society has been completely destabilised since 2014-2015 when civil society consummated and formalised its merger with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and it is no longer possible for most voices who may have risen in opposition to a looming dictatorship to speak out based on conscience and national interest-the regime can depend on a Professor ItseSagay SAN to defend its every atrocity; Femi Falana can be relied on to quickly come on (what everyone now regards as the APC TV) Channels TV and speak from both sides of his mouth (!); the NBA cannot act firmly and with conviction; Professor Wole Soyinka will attack former President Olusegun Obasanjo instead! And General Buhari will have his way-at least for now!

Opeyemi Agbaje