By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefo, Charles Kumolu, Emman Ovuakporie& Jonhbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, yesterday, teamed up with other eminent Nigerians to give President Muhammadu Buhari a robust defence after the president came under criticisms for insisting that the Federal Government would not release former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd), and the founder of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, despite several court directives to that effect.
Senate Leader, Sen Ali Ndume, former Minister of Transport and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chieftain, Chief Ebenezar Babatope and retired Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav argued that President Buhari was not dictatorial. They said he was only being serious minded, while the Attorney General said the president was just being a promoter of public interest and not a tyrant.
Speaking with Vanguard, yesterday, in an exclusive interview, Malami described as laughable, allegation by some Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari is a tyrant.
He said that those making the allegation against Buhari were oblivious of the national interest, which the President was protecting. The minister said that what was at stake was a conflict between public and private interest, insisting that there was no way any right-thinking leader would allow individual interest to override the national interest.
It will be recalled that the Nigerian Bar Association had on Monday lashed out at the president for not heeding two court judgments directing the Department of State Service, DSS, to release both Col. Dasuki and Kanu, who also runs the Biafra Radio and Television.
But Malami said that in all democracies around the world, national interests are always given top priority over individual interests, especially when such individuals had committed heinous crimes against society.
The minister pointed out that both Dasuki and Kanu, who were recently admitted to bail, had committed very serious crimes against the nation and its people and should not be made to appear as victims of any state victimisation.
Malami said: “These people compromised national interest leading to multiple loss of lives and property of innocent Nigerians and are now crying foul that they did nothing wrong.
“Here, when you weigh national interest against individual interest, the latter must naturally give way.
“Are we now saying that the collective national interest should give way for the individual interest of a few people who are working hard to cause more havoc?
“There is no basis whatsoever to profile Mr. President as a tyrant given the fact that what he is doing is rooted in public interest and to advance the well being of the majority of Nigerians as opposed to the protection of a few privileged and powerful individuals.
“What the president is doing is to end the unfortunate regime of impunity which some of these people used to perpetuate injustice, corruption and lawlessness in the land and that does not amount to tyranny,” Malami said.
According to the minister, Buhari’s actions so far derive strength from Section 15 (4-5) of the Nigerian Constitution, which is to fight corruption holistically and give the nation a new lease of life and has nothing to do with tyranny or oppression.
Section 15 (4) says: “The State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the federation to the extent that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties. Sub-section 5 states that “the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”
Others who came to the defence of the president argued that the president was not dictatorial but a serious minded person who is very focused while he has also been very fair to the opposition. They added that Buhari’s stern commitment towards ensuring probity in the polity was being misconstrued.
He is focused, serious minded—Ndume
Ndume said: “It is not possible to be a dictator in a democratic environment like ours where you have a vibrant opposition. But I will agree if people say President Buhari is a very serious President. We have a very serious President which is a far departure from the past where we had a very funny, unserious and weak President. Now we have a serious President.
“If you accuse him of being a serious President, I will agree with you, but not as a dictator who does not respect rule of law.”
On his part, Datti a close associate of Buhari said the President has not violated any law through the non-release of Dasuki and Kanu.
He said: “Dasuki’s first arrest was based on illegal arms possession before the issue of monies he shared to his PDP cronies came up and some people are saying that Buhari violated the rule of law
“It is only in Nigeria that people will commit heinous crimes of this magnitude and then a few will be calling our President unprintable names”.
“As For Kanu his crime is simply treasonable felony. Releasing him is dangerous as the man needs to be taught a lesson.
“The man imported gadgets into Nigeria using it to destabilise the polity at the same time calling the President a terrorist and you expect the man to be released?
“If his elders can’t teach him a lesson then he should remain where he is to learn better lessons as he was not properly brought up by his parents.”
He has been fair to the opposition —Babatope
Similarly, Babatope said: “With what has been happening regarding the court orders, I will not say he is a dictator. He has been fair enough to allow the opposition have a say at any given time.”
“It does not mean that we should not encourage Buhari to obey court orders because obeying court orders is submitting to the rule of law. And the rule of law is one of the cardinal points in a democracy.”
Buhari is not a dictator—Tsav
Also speaking, Tsav said: ‘’The statement the President made to the effect that Dasuki and Kanu will not be released is unfortunate. As a matter of fact, if I were him I would not have commented on that because some might think that he is interfering with the process of the court. Apart from that he has allowed the courts to do their jobs. Same applies to other institutions of the state that have been performing their duties without interference. Therefore, I don’t think the perception of him having dictatorial tendencies holds water. People don’t know that sometimes some suspects are jailed in their own interest Mr. President is not a dictator.
No one should be above the law—Shettima
Shettima on his part differed saying: “We should not encourage what is happening. If Buhari as the President can undermine the judiciary, it gives me a lot of worry and concern. He should not be seen to be higher than our institution, what we should be looking at is for our institutions to be strengthened. Due process must be followed. If a court of law gives an order, that order must be obeyed. Investigations must be carried out and if the court finds anyone guilty such a fellow must be convicted.”