Last week, the President suspended the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen. In a very elaborate and detailed piece, released by the Presidency, the President argued ferociously that the suspension was necessary, following the allegations of corruption, on the basis that the CJN did not disclose his full income and assets as required by the law. The suspension is a culmination of a very depressing two weeks for Nigerians and the rule of law.
Before the suspension there were three dimensions to the story. The first is the allegation of non-disclosure of incomes against the CJN. The action of the Code of Conduct Bureau, according to press reports, followed the petition by Dennis Aghanya who is a former aide of the President. What followed was a battle of legal wits that was obviously fought on party lines.
The second dimension is the response of the Presidency to the allegations. In suspending Justice Onnoghen, the President said he relied on the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal directing the suspension of Judge pending final determination of the case. The president further appealed to the conscience of the nation when he argued that “the nation has been gripped by the tragic realities of no less a personality than the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself becoming the accused person in a corruption trial since details of the petition against him by a civil society organization first became public about a fortnight ago”. There is no doubt in my mind that the Presidency expected a backlash, but it would have been surprised at the scale of the backlash.
The third dimension is the international angle to the story. I am not one of those that think, nor believe that the international community has a greater love for Nigeria than those in government. But the context in which the Presidency is arguing that the international community should not interfere in the affairs of the country is misplaced. There is something that has become very clear in international relations – it is that injury to a nation’s democracy, wealth, and long-term income dynamics also has consequences for other nations. It is the context in which the same international community actively supported the Presidency in 2015, for which they saw nothing wrong at the time.
Now, there are many things that Nigerians can be accused of, but you cannot successfully argue that Nigerians are fools. In this case, and in the response provided by the President, there are too many ironies that point to political calculations by the President. First is that the Presidency actually want foolish Nigerians to believe that it is an unknown, unfunded, and altruistic non- governmental organisation that filed the allegations against the CJN. Second, that the code of conduct bureau is so efficient that it had arraigned the CJN within two days of receiving the allegations. Third, as suggested by the President in his address, that the case would have been quickly concluded by the CCB. That would have been the first time that a case is swiftly dealt with in Nigeria. The Presidency also wants us to believe that it had not interfered in the code of conduct suddenly recommending the suspension of the CJN, and using the same basis for the suspension. Haba, even Nollywood does better story lines these days.
We must not forget that this is a President that takes delight and joy in claims that he is slow. It is the same President that took six months to appoint Ministers that everyone could have predicted. Same president that loaded his cabinet with all sorts of nephews, nieces, in laws, brothers, and sisters. The same presidency that loaded the entire Nigerian security positions with those from the North, and swiftly followed, after the suspension of the CJN, by another predictable appointment.
Oh yes, is the CJN guilty as charged? Probably so, and many neutral Nigerians see a genuine case against the CJN. But the swiftness from the allegations by an unknown NGO, through the swifter arraignment by the CCB, and the swiftest suspension by the President smacks of the greatest hypocrisy of all generations.
In conclusion, historical analysis of the corruption allegations leveled against the supporters of the President or those that support the APC show that it is either the President is deaf to those allegations, or only mutters the possibility of investigation after two or six months, just as Babachir’s case is only due now two weeks to election, or the Presidency simply ignores Nigerians. In the case of herdsmen, the Presidency ignored Nigerians too until too many thousands of Nigerians lost their lives. Just so it is on record, the record of the President on dealing with corruption does not fool Nigerians, no matter the English language and the Nollywood characters used. Nigerians know better and they have simply given up hope.
I thank you.