After Tanko Muhammad: Who’s the next casualty?

The recent resignation of Tanko Muhammad as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has continued to elicit mixed reactions. Media reports have it that he was caught in the middle of high-level intrigues that were long-planned but executed on Sunday night (June 26, 2022).

He was alleged to have been forced to resign by a high-level team of security and senior government officials. His deteriorating health condition as well as allegations of bad leadership made against him by 14 Supreme Court justices were offered as reason he left office earlier than his date of retirement.

Indications that all was not well emerged in the morning of Monday, June 27, 2022, with the absence of the ex-CJN at the opening session of a training programme on alternative dispute resolution for judges held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) Abuja.

Following Muhammad’s resignation, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, June 27, 2022, swore in Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the second in the Supreme Court ranking, as the acting CJN.

But he too is facing public condemnation over allegations that he falsified his age by an online newspaper. If this allegation is proved to be true, that would be another issue to contend with by the newly sworn-in CJN and which could abruptly end his appointment.

Muhammad’s sudden exit on Sunday, June 26, 2022, was as controversial as his appointment as acting CJN on January 25, 2019. To make way for his appointment Buhari suspended the then CJN Justice Walter Onnoghen who was accused of failing to declare some of his assets. Being the next on line, Justice Muhammad took over as acting CJN. The appointment was later ratified by the Senate.

Going by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, Buhari lacked the power to do what he did. The constitution says a sitting CJN can only be removed from office by the president after at least two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate had voted in support of such a move. That didn’t happen. Buhari claimed he acted on the basis of a controversial order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

In the three years he was in office, Justice Muhammad presided over a Supreme Court, some whose judgments were seen by many as controversial and against equity, fairness and justice. In clearer terms, many people were victims of some of the court’s decisions.

Read also: Kayode Ariwoola: Nigeria’s new chief justice

Few instances would suffice here:

1. Emeka Ihedioha: On January 14, 2020, a judicial coup was plotted and executed against the people of Imo state. Hope Uzodinma who came 4th in the 2019 governorship election in Imo state, was imposed on the people as their Governor, while the authentic winner of the election, Emeka Ihedioha was sacked via a supreme court judgement.

That judgment brought tears and sorrow not just to Imo State but the nation as a whole. People from within and outside Nigeria were pained by that judgment and prayed for its reversal. But that never happened. Today, Muhammad is no more on that seat, while Uzodinma had not found it funny presiding over the affairs of the state.

His tenure has continued to witness killings, destruction of lives and property, kidnapping and other crimes in the state. As a result, he hardly stays in the state capital.

2. Adams Oshiomhole: As National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), he presided over the injustice meted out to the people of Imo State. Shortly after the said judgment, he was booted out from office in the most disgraceful manner. Recall that it was Oshiomhole that upheld the fake result from a primary election that never held in Imo which was purportedly won by Uzodinma.

On January 14, 2020, Oshiomhole was everywhere in Abuja dancing and rejoicing that the coup against Imo people had succeeded. Shortly afterwards, members and leaders of his Ward in Estako, Edo State, expelled him from the party. On the strength of that expulsion, the court went ahead to sack him from office as National Chairman of the ruling APC.

3. Ahmed Gulak: The late former presidential aide was the chairman of the APC 2019 Governorship Primary Election Panel for Imo State. He arrived Imo State very late in the evening, met the stakeholders of APC to explain to them that the primary election would no longer go on as planned with a promise to conduct the election the next day. In the wee hours of the next day, Gulak disappeared and was later found in Abuja with a result from the same election that never took place. He had written the result singlehandedly and declared Hope Uzodinma the governorship candidate of the APC in Imo State. One year later, Ahmed Gulak met his untimely death in the hands of unknown gunmen on his way to the Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri.

4. Ismaila Isa Funtua: Funtua was alleged to be a member of the infamous Kaduna Mafia. He was also a powerful ally of President Buhari and member of the cabal in the Presidency. He was the person who deployed all the powers of Aso Rock throughout the process of upturning the mandate of Imo people and to bring in Hope Uzodimma. In July 2020, Isa Funtua died of cardiac arrest.

5. Abba Kyari: The former Chief of Staff to President Buhari was while in office feared and dreaded because of the power he wielded. To say that he was powerful was an understatement. He worked assiduously to see to the judicial infamy that brought in Uzodinma as Governor of Imo State. However, on April 18, 2020, Abba Kyari died of COVID-19.

Is it not ironic that the same day Justice Muhammad resigned his appointment, three of Governor Uzodinma’s political appointees resigned with all of them describing his government as evil? Now that Justice Tanko Muhammad has gone the way of the others, whose turn would be next? Time will tell.

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