Nigerians wanted a messiah. They got one, or so they thought. His coronation was loud and boisterous. In faraway countries, people danced in joyous rhythm and celebratory backslapping. It was supposed to be a new dawn premised on change. The emotion was infectious, as people lost in momentary covetousness suspended their reasoning. Some trekked long distances in celebration of Muhammadu Buhari’s victory. Where are the trekkers now? Many even called him god. It was as much a celebration of the people’s power to change a leader they were fed up with and an occasion befitting the hopes and expectations that heralded the new dawn. He had adopted an amenable persona of a reformed democrat that lured many to believe he had truly come to save the people, but a darker side not discernable to many was shielded with an odious incorrigibility mien.
The former was magnified by desperate power buccaneers to hoodwink a gullible nation with the sweet promise of change and restructuring of the country when they had no intention of actually doing so. It is obvious they merely used it as a vote-catching gimmick.
As I have stated time and again, restructuring is the only pathway for Nigeria if it will not remain a forever-potentially great country. There is simply no alternative to restructuring this country. Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and his fellow travellers can continue to delude themselves for as long as they wish on this issue.
It did not take long after President Buhari assumed power for the real menacing man to bare his teeth; their hero started trampling on our diversity, the rights and freedoms we all once knew. And enchantment gradually gave way to disillusionment. Even more worrying is the incompetence oozing from him has moved to the “next level”. To insult us further and to the utter consternation of many, the man, who was advertised as the champion of anti-corruption, has since shown a remarkable lack of transparency in the running of the country’s affairs, appointing people with serious corruption allegations hanging over their heads to the cabinet.
His new cabinet nominees with the exception of a few, which took him five months after his purported re-election and two months after taking the oath of office to put together, is a constellation of “my corruption allegation is bigger than yours”.
Same goes with the National Assembly and its phoney leadership. It is now a huge home for suspected looters. Imagine Senator Aliyu Wammako, who is under probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged N15bn fraud, was named the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes. With his role, Wammako and other members of the committee will carry out oversight functions on the EFCC! We all saw the joke called ‘Screening of Ministerial Nominees’ the Senate conducted. After watching clips of the nonsense, I realised why Buhari and the All Progressives Congress chose Ahmed Lawan to lead the Senate. The so-called screening was one of the biggest testaments to Nigeria’s descent into ignominy.
A shameless display of how unserious we are as a people. Many Nigerians were broken and filled with righteous anger. Words aren’t enough to describe the feeling of melancholy about the screening. The senators who were supposed to do the people’s work by asking the nominees the right questions to ascertain their fitness for the job based on their records, were laughing at Nigerians. They were mocking us and having a good time at our expense. Their demeanour and attitude were generally lackadaisical. Senators – oh suspected treasury looters took turns, showering praises on fellow suspected thieves even calling them patriots, nationalists, etc. explaining why there shouldn’t be a rigorous interrogation of the ministerial nominees and that they should be asked to “just take a bow and go”.
It was a shameful spectacle beamed live on television. It was one of those moments you would want to punch the television in a desperate bid to reach those jokers for insulting our collective intelligence, honour and dignity. Our country has been captured. Which way Nigeria?
The country is dying in slow motion and the person responsible for its gradual demise is the president and his supporters. Nigeria is choking as the noose is tightening around its neck. But the ruthless hangmen aren’t about to end the pain and agony. They are watching, laughing, grinning and patting themselves on their backs.
The atmosphere is saturated with fear and anger. People feel so vulnerable and insecure. And no one is to blame other than Buhari. But some supporters of the architects of this tragic and desperate state of affairs have been dancing and popping the champagne corks since their so-called success in the 2019 general election. They don’t give a hoot about the poor governance of the country, the lacklustre leadership of the country, the insecurity and gradual descent into anarchy, the indifference of President Buhari to the virtual breakdown of law and order, the enablement his government is giving to “herdsmen from neigbhouring countries” to come into the country and kill Nigerians, burn down communities without consequences, etc. It is just beyond comprehension.
The questions some of us are asking are, why did Buhari come back from retirement to contest elections? Why? He contested every presidential election since 2003 and failed three times before succeeding in his fourth attempt. One would have thought he came prepared to change things for the better. Well, if he came prepared, it sure wasn’t for the good of country. He plunged the economy into recession a few months after he took office. He approaches everything with such indolent pace that you would think he was the one that created time. He refused or neglected to appoint a cabinet several months after assuming office in 2015. Throughout his first term, the country struggled like a chicken that perched on a string in high wind. After scrapping through four years and creating such major rift in our body politic, why did he seek another term? Was it to impoverish Nigerians the more and destroy the country altogether? What was his motivation for seeking a second term? Because I really don’t understand.
We had been inundated with Buhari’s good intentions about our beloved country by his apologists. We were told he was destined to turn things around for the better and “build the Nigeria of our dreams”. Has he? He was described as a born-again phenomenon by no less a person than Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka himself at a time the danger signals had become ringing handbells. Is he?
To defenders and apologists of such line of thought, intentions matter only insofar as they cause you to take actions that make the lives of the people better. Your actions and the consequences are more important than your intentions because the highway to even hell is paved with good intentions. From the gathering clouds of frustration and public unease about his government, such sermons are destined to fail. When he was declared winner of the February election by an electoral umpire that did its job with a great deal of cunning, there were hisses of frustration and suspicion from well-meaning Nigerians. The generality of the population wore mournful look, it was as if a requiem mass had been declared.
Just two months after he took the oath of office for a second term, many Nigerians are already tired of him and are gloomy about the country’s future.
Resentment they say infects, hunger fuels the people’s anger. But crippled by self-destructive arrogance, this government is not about to accept responsibility for the majesty of its failure, rather it is consumed by suspicion and fear of the word “revolution”. Anyone, who criticises it is suddenly a marked man, and faces the possibility of being hit with charges of terrorism, if not treason. The person is brought before a bendable judge ever so willing to grant obnoxious orders to give legitimacy to human rights abuses, impunity and violation of the constitution of Nigeria.
Bizarrely, some of those, who sacrificed their hard-earned reputations to support him in 2015 and even did everything in the book to undermine the opposition against his re-election, are suddenly questioning how he could have won a re-election in 2019. Others including some people that supported him in 2015 are mobilising protests across the country against his poor leadership and sheer ineptitude. Their actions are direct consequences of hope deferred. Elections it is said have consequences.
Since Buhari mounted the saddle, Nigeria has been in decline, accelerated partly by clannish policies, incompetent appointments and putting square pegs in round holes, bigotry, feudal mindset of conquest and a colonising mentality, a lack of decisiveness on matters requiring urgent attention, general lethargic decision process, etc. The economy is in a shambles today for no other reason but poor leadership. Unprecedented level of poverty, insecurity and a near-complete breakdown of law and order is a telling indictment of the president. Short of the civil war, at no time has Nigeria faced such daily human carnage caused by kidnappers, herdsmen, terrorists, bandits and other non-state actors. And never before have we seen such feeble responses from a government and a president.
A party that rode to power on the back of protests, scalding and unrelenting criticisms of the previous government, a party that was guilty of the most shameless politicisation of the insecurity in the country when it was in the opposition, has suddenly become intolerant of protests and criticisms.
Now let us look at the reasons for the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore’s arrest. He called for protests against this government’s poor leadership under the banner headline: RevolutionNow! He was immediately arrested by the Department of State Services. The police immediately declared that his call amounted to treasonable felony. How?
Then a judge granted his detention for 45 days, half of the 90 days the government had applied for. What was that? Where did the judge derive such powers to curtail a man’s freedom for that length of time when the condition precedent had not been met by the government?
I have often said impunity under any guise will be minimal if judges have the courage to rise to their true calling – the protection of the weak from the over-reach of the powerful. But from what we have seen and will continue to see, the judges are now part of a conspiracy against the vulnerable, contrary to the provisions of the constitution.
In Sowore’s case as in many other cases before them, judges are being used by government to exert unmerited punishment on individuals it targets over political disagreement. By granting DSS a 45-day detention order, Justice Taiwo Taiwo exercised powers above his legitimate scope. He has displayed a willingness to be used to legitimise impunity and tyranny of the powerful. In other words, Justice Taiwo has already sentenced Sowore through the back door to 45 days in prison, renewable for another term of 45 days on fresh application, even before being formally charged with a crime. The judge should have known better about protecting human rights and upholding the constitution. Under the Terrorism Act 2011, under which the request to detain Sowore was made and granted, an accused is allowed to be detained for a total of 90 days at first instance, but with conditions precedent. One of which is that the security agency seeking to hold the individual must show that the individual is a member of a terrorist organisation that has been proscribed.
The questions we should all naturally ask Justice Taiwo are: did the DSS meet this important bar? Is Sowore a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation? If yes, which terrorist organisation does he belong to? Why did the judge ignore this fundamental requirement and condition precedent to grant a 45-day renewable detention order?
It was the high probability of abuse that the law enforcement agencies could put the Act to, as a pretext to keep people in detention for extended periods that led human rights groups to mount a spirited opposition to the 90-day detention approved by the Act. Now those fears are coming to pass. The Sowore detention debacle is an opportunity to actually test the constitutionality of such sweeping powers contained in the Act, which clearly breach the constitution of Nigeria which says an individual cannot be detained beyond 48 hours without being charged to court. Please note that Sowore has not even been charged yet.
Also under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, sections 293 to 296, the court is empowered to grant law enforcement agencies extended detention of a defendant for a total of 42 days broken into 14 days per application. One is at a loss why the court granted DSS 45 days in one fell swoop.
You see, Decree No. 2 of 1984 has clearly reared its ugly head in another guise. The government is now using the courts to legitimise its fantasies of human rights abuses, impunity, oppression of the people, violation of the rule of law – which the president once argued albeit, perversely must be Subject To The Supremacy Of National Security, As His Government Deems Fit.
Shaka Momodu is an editor with thisdaylive.com