By Ikechukwu Amaechi
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a Nigerian not to be despondent these days. Unless he does not care that the country is in dire straits.
Politicians are crisscrossing the nooks and crannies, presumably canvassing for votes, without saying how they will pull the people out of the quagmire.
Yet we are clapping and dancing. A paradox!
Nigerians are living, literally, in the state of nature where life is “nasty, brutish and short” as described by Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English philosopher, in his classic, The Leviathan.
The days the locusts ate are back in full force – with a government that only speaks to the base instincts of its cheering mob, scorns the rule of law, and resorts to self-help without qualms.
A slippery slope to anarchy
Montesquieu, the French judge and political philosopher, who articulated the theory of separation of powers, said: “There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”
Last week, under the shield of law, President Muhammadu Buhari bared his tyrannical fangs by suspending the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen. He swore in Justice Adamu Muhammed as acting CJN.
Lawyers hardly ever agree on any issue of law. But on the Presidency-induced crisis rocking the Nigerian judiciary, there is almost a unanimity of opinion that Buhari was characteristically scornful of the Constitution in suspending Onnoghen.
Chima Nnaji, a lawyer, has, in my view, the most profound take on the saga and I crave your indulgence to quote him.
“The conclusion that the CJN should have recused himself, or indeed resigned, is legally unjustifiable. It has been widely and validly canvassed that the charges, arraignment and subsequent malicious suspension of the CJN, is legally unjustifiable and unconstitutional.
“That being the case, it follows that the allegation that led to the aforesaid actions are also legally unjustifiable and palpably unconstitutional; having regards to the clear provisions of the Proviso to S.3 of the CCT Act which exempts from any prosecution under the Act, any person who has made a written admission of breach of any of its provisions.
“By such admission, such a person shall be required to make the necessary corrections in an administrative manner under the Bureau, not the Tribunal! That written admission was reported to have been made by the CJN, who was widely reported to have said he made a mistake. This provision is statutory, not whimsical.
“Therefore, to insist, conclude, or even expect, the CJN to have recused himself or indeed resign, would yield dangerously to the political mischief that is driving this process; it would also set a dangerous precedence where, to destroy a public officer, all you need would just be an allegation, no matter how spurious, and its media orchestration!
“The CJN has not been accused of money laundering nor has he been positively accused or charged with corruption. All the government has done so far has been to publish his said undeclared bank accounts, without more, hoping, as has happened, that the public will insinuate corruption as the source of the monies therein.
“While law and the judicial process could be subject of public opinion, informed and uninformed, the day law and the judicial process become subject to the whimsical and capricious public opinion, that will mark the end of modern society that we all cherish and hope for.”
Buhari is pushing Nigeria to that very precarious point. He has been doing that since coming to power on May 29, 2015, using the bogeyman of anti-corruption war.
Knowing the depth of public disdain for corrupt people, the president and his confederates would rather haul their potential victim before the court of public opinion than follow due process and expect the mob to do the lynching.
That is unfair. It would have been bearable if the Buhari government engages in these vile acts solely to fight corruption. It is not. The anti-corruption mantra is a smokescreen for a bourgeoning dictatorship propped by a hegemonic philosophy.
This is the colour of tyranny. No man can give what he does not have. Buhari is not a democrat. He can never be. This tyrannical reflex is an inexorable component of his political DNA.
Nigerians must remember the admonition of Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman, that: “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
A sentiment echoed by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, when he wrote that: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”.
Buhari is fighting hard to conquer Nigeria and bend the people to his frightening worldview. Destroying the two other arms of government as he is trying hard to do is sheer power grab.
It will not augur well for the country. Nigerians must resist this tyranny.
As Jeremy Bentham, the English philosopher, once noted, the measure of right is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Buhari cannot claim to be right when the majority of Nigerians are living in misery.
He must be stopped before he wreaks more havoc. He has done terrible harm to our national psyche with his unprecedented bigotry and an in-your-face nepotistic inclination.
On Thursday, January 24, when Anambra traditional rulers took him up on the marginalisation of the South East, particularly in the military, and his overt Northernisation of federal security architecture, he said he appointed the heads of the security agencies purely on competence and merit.
The most potent chink in his armour is his inability to resist the temptation of ethnic profiling and political chicanery.
A president of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Nigeria who does not see anything wrong when 17 of his 19 security chiefs come from only the North, to the exclusion of the South East, is a danger to the country.
It is even more so when he tries to justify the nepotism by lying. How and when did Buhari arrive at the conclusion that the only competent people in the military are from the North?
What is the yardstick for measuring competence and merit in Buhari’s Nigeria? Is it academic qualification, physical fitness, discipline?
It is one thing if your philosophy of governance is winner-takes-all. But to insult those holding the wrong end of the stick by implying that they are excluded from the table because of incompetence is adding insult to injury.
For those nudging Buhari, we have been here before. They did it to Ibrahim Babangida; they sang the praises of Buhari’s alter-ego, Sani Abacha; and they ululated for Olusegun Obasanjo.
They will do it for the next strong man.
But it will be good if they remember the wise words of Bentham, who said: “Tyranny and anarchy are never far apart.”
Buhari is slowly but inexorably pushing this country to the precipice. If the house collapses, it will fall on all of us.