The harsh experiences of the last five years, tell us only one message – that erstwhile military dictators from our clime are not suitable to lead a constitutional democracy and that no matter how long a former tyrant stays out of the confines of the regimented life of the military, it is not so easy to ‘deradicalize’ a military officer that he can mount the rostrum as an elected national leader, and be subjected to critical scrutiny and constant Civil society-led pressure and evaluations.
A military General who is acclimatized to the regimented life of ORDER IS ORDER or OBEY BEFORE COMPLAINTS, will find it almost impossible to adapt to the democratic regiment of doing that which the electorate want since the voters and the rest of the citizens are the owners of the Sovereignty of Nigeria and it is from the people that those in the positions of authority get their legitimacy to exercise authority. This is the difference between what the late President Umaru Musa Yaradua called ‘SERVANT LEADERSHIP’ as a sharp contrast from the experiences we have been crudely subjected to since 2015 which is loudly passing the wrong message that the President is above any kind of correction since in the warped imagination of some uninformed spinspin doctors masquerading about as media spokesperson, the President is all knowing.
A major sign that an elected erstwhile military despot will inevitably find it difficult to wear a new toga of a democrat ready to practice the trade of democracy which states that democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people, emerged when against all constitutional safeguards, the occupant of the number one national office in the person of president Muhammadu Buhari, Supervised the disobedience of several court orders and proceeded to keep erstwhile national security Adviser colonel Sambo Dasuki and the leader of the Islamic movement of Nigeria Sheikh Ibrahim Elzakzacky back in detention for years since early 2015 when President Buhari assumed office. Dasuki recently regained freedom but the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria as well as hìs wife and dozens of his followers are languishing in different derelict prisons for simply wanting to freely worship the way they are used to without harming the society.
Also, the ARBITRARY ARRESTS of civilians protesting some of the policies of the current administration show that President Muhammadu Buhari is not cut out for the practice of constitutional democracy as it were.
However, the gross undermining of the sanctity of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental principles of SEPARATION OF POWERS by President Muhammadu Buhari is that which inevitably benchmarks the gravity of the crisis of governance that the 2015 inauguration of the government created.
Let us now read the position of the law regarding the action of the president to disregard the binding judgements of the competent court of law as espoused by the then justice of the supreme court of Nigeria, Justice Niki Tobi, (Con).
“With respect, it is difficult to agree with the Supreme Court on the first reason it gave for disobeying court order. It is trite law that a judgement or ruling delivered is presumed to be correct until set aside by a competent court of appeal. While an appellant is free to content in his ground or grounds of appeal that a judgement or ruling is wrong on ground of lack of jurisdiction that cannot or should not be accepted until ratified by a court of appeal after due process of the appeal. Therefore, an appellant cannot, or should not be given the almighty power to determine unilaterally or suo motu that the order is disobeyed because it was made by the court without jurisdiction and therefore not worthy of obedience. Jurisdiction is a very wide and amorphous concept in the judicial process. The legal consequences of lack of it by the court approximates to a bulldozer in terms of the complete destruction or annihilation of the entire case or procedure however competently handled by the court. Accordingly, it is unfair to a court of law to vest in an appellant the power to determine the lack of jurisdiction on the part of the court as basis for disobedience of the court order.”
“The following principles of law emerge as consequence of disobedience of court orders and judgements in the light of the two cases examined above:1. An appellate court cannot, while an applicant is in disobedience of a court order, equitably consider an application for stay of execution;2. Once a court is seized of a matter, no party has a right to take the matter into his own hands 3. Nobody (including Government) is entitled to take the law into his own hands 4. The grant of stay of execution is entirely within the discretion he must bring his conduct within the legitimate scope of the exercise of the discretion. Hence, where he is in continuing disobedient of the order of a court of law, it is not legitimate to consider the exercise of the discretion in his favour. The contumacious behaviour is more egregious and censorious where the applicant seeks that discretion of the court to endorse such behaviour”
Niki Tobi further Said: “A Government in a democracy which fails or refuses to obey court orders and judgements is not a friend to democracy. But rather a foe. Such a government is working at cross purpose with democracy. It is not a civilised government capable of functioning in the 21 century Nigeria operating a vibrant democracy. Such a Government behave in that way.”
That was the vintage Justice Niki Tobi. Aside these observations by the reputable jurist, many other actions that have happened that shape the opinion of most analysts that the current administration has undermined the constitutional principles of separation of powers are too numerous to examine within the context of this article.
This piece is to examine the impressions being created by some officials of president Buhari’s office that the President is beyond reproach and cannot be put under democratic pressures to take steps to promote greater openness and ensure rapid law-based nation building processes. These TENDENCIES are not just injurious to the essence, significance and symbolism of constitutional democracy but they are ABSOLUTELY ANTITHETICAL to what the Nigerian Constitution says or are these media officials of Government out of tune with the extant laws of the land including the Constitutional norm that obliges all citizens to partake in the day to day running of the administration of their native land?
Two principal characters have emerged within the Buhari’s government who have the unlearned and unpolished habits of continuously assaulting the Sensibilities and sensitivities of critical segments of the Nigerian society.
THESE anti democratic forces surrounding President Muhammadu Buhari and acting as his spokesmen are the special adviser on media and senor special assistant on media – namely Mr. Femi Adesina and Mr. Garba Shehu.
Both of these men have been firing unintelligently and blindly from all cylinders and thus are creating the perception that the presidency is such an utopia that Nigerians cannot subject to critical analysis.
Their naked show of crude forms of intoxication of political powers and abuse of office shows that they are operating like a TABULA RASA that are absolutely unaware of the qualities and attributes of constitutional democracy and the pivotal role of pluralism and plurality of opinions in the evolution of real constitutionalism. To have such reactionary forces near the seat of power is perhaps the most tragic phenomenon to have befallen our modern day democracy and this is why Nigeria rather than advance rapidly in all aspects, is rapidly being destroyed by these characters holding strategic policy making offices.
Some of their opinions are even directed at very patriotic Nigerians who are not politicians and whose only interests are for the preservation of Nigeria. These iconic Nigerians whose words of wisdom ought to be adopted by the President for pur common good, are men and women that do not feed Mr. President with lies only for what they can get as pecks and pecuniary offers from the corridors of power.
These great persons whose strongly principled opinions are being met with crude and totally uninformed diatribes of Femi Adesina and his co-traveller Garba Shehu are accomplished men and women who are not government contractors or errand boys like Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu.
In the recent times, such persons as the Bishop of Sokoto Dr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, the General overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God Reverend Enoch Adeboye and many other revered Nigerians whose main reason for speaking out, is for the common good of Nigeria are being attacked by the spokesmen of President Muhammadu Buhari. Watching these two uncultured office holders to then unleash venomous attacks on these iconic Nigerians and other Civil rights groups for voicing their opinions on how best to promote an open society is to put it wildly, very irresponsible.
What did the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye said when he only just added his voice to the national issue of restructuring.
Speaking at a symposium to mark the 60th Independence anniversary put together by the RCCG and the Nehemiah Leadership Institute on Saturday, Pastor Adeboye said restructuring Nigeria must be done as soon as possible prevent a disintegration.
The cleric, as quoted by the media said: “Why can’t we have a system of government that will create what I will call the United States of Nigeria? Let me explain. We all know that we must restructure. It is either that we restructure or we break, you don’t have to be a prophet to know that one. That is certain – restructure or we break up.
“Now, we don’t want to break up, God forbid. In the restructuring, why don’t we have a Nigerian kind of democracy? At the federal level, why don’t we have a President and a Prime Minister?”
Adeboye also added that the place of traditional rulers must be re-evaluated as they are “the actual landlords” that “control the respect of their people”.
On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, had described the Nigerian government as “Islamic fundamentalists without bombs.”
The Bishop’s view was made available to Vanguard in Owerri by the Diocesan Director of Social Communication, DDSC, Rev. Fr. Chris Omotosho.
According to the DDSC, the Bishop, who was apparently angered by the seemingly endless waste of lives, equally reasoned that “the only difference between the government and Boko Haram is that Boko Haram is holding a bomb.”
Making reference to the beheading of 10 Christians by Islamist militants in Nigeria which has sparked worldwide condemnation, the Bishop accuses the government of “using different methods to achieve the same goal of Islamic dominance.”
Kukah, who was particularly irked by the Christmas Day attack by loyalists of Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, as well as an attack by Boko Haram terrorists on Christmas Eve, also expressed disgust with the Federal Government, when he spoke to members of Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Bishop Kukah also accused the Federal Government of “using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam, which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence.”
These very top quality words of the prominent Nigerians, have not in any way gone out of the expected roles that such respected statesmen should from time to time play to redirect the steps of government officials towards promoting and protecting the principles of rule of law and to preserve the unity of Nigeria or how does the philosophical words of such a respected person like professor Wole Soyinka offend any known principles of democracy only because the statesman made few remarks urging the president to arrest the rapid decline of national security?
is it not true that Nigeria is witnessing some of the worst case scenarios of insecurity and instability? it is not true that some sections of Nigeria feel that they are not fairly treated and therefore necessitating such calls by Pastor Adeboye, Kukah, Soyinka and others for Fundamental reforms and restructuring?
Why then should the duo of Adesina and Shehu be allowed by president Buhari to continue to unleash misdirected venomous verbal violence against well meaning citizens in a constitutional democracy whereby the plurality of opinions must be tolerated and respected?
A brief look at some diatribes of Adesina and Garba will surfice to show that they may be living in a fantasy world
Adesina claimed that some people had wanted to use the suspended strike as an opportunity to take a pound of flesh, which they calculated would weaken the government so much, and influence the 2023 elections.
He described those who fell under the category as enemies of the country.
The statement read in part, “Since organised labour toed the path of sense and sensibility last week, seeing reason with the imperatives of fuel price adjustment, and opening a further window of dialogue on the service-based electricity tariff, some groups of Nigerians have been dolorous, disgruntled, and disconsolate.
“They had apparently perfected plans to use the strike by the labour unions as smokescreen to unleash anarchy on the land, fomenting mayhem and civil disobedience.”
Garba Shehu then followed with these disastrous words: “THE Presidency responds to the recurring threats to the corporate existence of the country with factions giving specific timelines for the President to to do one thing or another or else, in their language, “the nation will break up.”
“This is to warn that such unpatriotic outbursts are both unhelpful and unwarranted as this government will not succumb to threats and take any decision out of pressure at a time when the nation’s full attention is needed to deal with the security challenges facing it at a time of the Covid-19 health crisis.
Repeat: this administration will not take any decision against the the interests of 200 million Nigerians, who are the President’s first responsibility under the constitution, out of fear or threats especially in this hour of health crisis.
The President as an elected leader under this constitution will continue to work with patriotic Nigerians, through and in line with the Parliamentary processes to finding solutions to structural and other impediments to the growth and wellbeing of the nation and its people.”
THESE functional illiterates of Constitutional democracy must stop denigrating Nigeria’s great men and women just for short term political and pecuniary gains. The truth is that the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must be subjected to constructive criticisms and the President is obliged to listen that is if his agenda is for nation building devoid of Ethno Religious interests. President Muhammadu Buhari must call his academically ill equipped Media assistants to show respect when men and women of letters are speaking for the common good.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)
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