I will begin this treatise with the words of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad: “The rule of law must be obeyed in all our dealings and we must impress it on the government at all levels to actively toe the path.
“The right of every citizen against any form of oppression and impunity must be jealously guarded and protected with the legal tools at our disposal.
“The judiciary will strongly uphold the constitution as the supreme law of the land and all binding court orders must be obeyed; and nobody, irrespective of his or her position, will be allowed to toy with court judgements.”
His words were put to the test only a day later, on September 24, 2019, with no consequence(s) of any kind. But I will return to this remark later as it is very germane in relation to some of the issues I intend to raise.
Whilst we continue to engage President Muhammadu Buhari on his open and blatant disregard to the constitution of our country, we must not forget that he is not alone in supervising the ongoing funeral of our democracy. He is firmly supported and cheered by members of the All Progressives Congress. Indeed, President Buhari’s anti-people policies enjoy the support of APC bigwigs, or their lips would not have been sealed in the face of the sustained attacks against our 20-year-old democracy.
Under the APC and Buhari regime, freedom of expression and the press, peaceful assembly and all other fundamental human rights have been roughly strangled with remarkable impunity. The regime has created a palpable sense of fear and intimidation across the country. Peaceful protests have been criminalised as placard-carrying protesters risk an arrest and a jail term for demanding a better country. The event of August 5, 2019 are well-documented in this respect. On that day, unarmed protesters were arrested, heavily brutalised, inflicted with a myriad of injuries and thrown into jail. In fact, any attempt to disagree with the regime attracts beastly consequences, in a democracy!
As Nigerians desperately look forward to an end to the Buhari regime in 2023, we must equally remember that it is some of his present backers in the APC, who will come to us in the next political dispensation to solicit for our votes with bogus promises that have no slight hope of possible manifestation – even if the people who make these promises spend a thousand years in office.
In May of 2019, Amnesty International published a report which it titled: “Nigeria: Human Rights Agenda”. The report had this to say: “The human rights situation in Nigeria is marked by serious human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, violence against women and girls, restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, mass forced evictions, environmental pollution and lack of accountability for human rights violations and abuses.”
Amnesty International’s remark is apt and could hardly be bettered. The APC/Buhari regime, with its remarkable genius for disrespect towards our constitution, is keeping Omoyele Sowore under illegal detention for daring to demand for good governance for millions of Nigerians, who were promised heaven and earth during electoral campaigns. He is being held in a Department of State Services dungeon against the will of the law.
Government places an obligation on its citizens to remain law-abiding at all times. But what becomes of a society where the government itself is at the centre of lawlessness and indiscipline like in the case of APC/Buhari regime?
Let me crave the indulgence of my readers to permit me to quote a reasonable portion of Prof Chinua Achebe’s 1983 essay: “The Trouble with Nigeria”, which explains the dangers that accompanies the misconduct of a leader.
He said, “The indiscipline of an ordinary citizen, regrettable as it may be, does not pose a fatal threat to society because it can be generally contained by his fellows or, at worst, by a couple of policemen.
“But the indiscipline of a leader is a different matter altogether. First, he has no fellows to restrain him, and the policemen who might have done it are all in his employ.
“Second, power, by giving him immunity from common censure, makes the leader the envy of the powerless who will turn him into a role model and imitate his actions of indiscipline.
“An explosion of such actions occurring all over the place at once brings the whole society under a climate of indiscipline.
“Third, and unfortunately, a leader’s undisciplined action can also incite anger and rebellion.
“It is not my purpose here to argue whether or not anger and rebellion are justified in these circumstances. They are! I only suggest that these eruptions having no selfish motivation cannot constitute indiscipline. At worst they are the price, sometimes exceedingly heavy, which society pays for the luxury of having a bad leader.”
Recently, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, granted an interview to BBC’s ‘Focus on Africa’ where he attempted in vain to justify the continued detention of Omoyele Sowore by the APC/Buhari regime.
During the interview, Mr Malami said, “What we have done is to present our case before the judiciary which enjoys independence and freedom to determine one thing or the other.”
Despite Malami’s claims that the Nigerian judiciary “enjoys independence and freedom”, Sowore is still being held in a DSS dungeon more than a week after a court of competent jurisdiction ordered his immediate release upon satisfying all the conditions attached to his bail.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, whose position I have already quoted at the beginning of this essay, is yet to institute any action against the Director-General of the DSS, more than a week after the agency flouted a court ruling, which ordered that Sowore be granted bail. Justice Tanko’s silence in the face of the ongoing attack against the judiciary clearly contradicts his public declaration that court orders under his watch must be obeyed by both the low and the mighty, and that the rule of law will be strongly observed under his watch.
The tragedy is that the APC/Buhari regime is selective about the court decisions it obeys. For instance, the regime gladly obeyed an order by Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo which condemned Sowore to a 45-day detention without presenting him an opportunity to be heard in an ex-parte application. The regime also obeyed and even celebrated a court judgment of September 11, 2019, which upheld President Buhari’s victory in the recent presidential election that allowed the regime to continue in power beyond 2019. The hypocrisy of the APC regime is unprecedented!
In all of this, and in spite of Justice Tanko’s impotent threat, what is amazing is just how the DSS are desirous to assume the position of both the judge and the prosecutor in a case they are directly involved. Never before have I seen a situation where one case, same defendants, same charges, same suit number are brought before two separate judges in the same court. I shudder! It is a situation, which cannot occur anywhere else in the world! That the recent judge decided to hear the suit despite it pending before another judge in the same court is a puzzle on a grand scale. When does abuse of “court process” gets invoked in Nigeria?
In an era that Justice Tanko has vowed to “jealously” protect the rule of law and the constitution of our country, why was Sowore arraigned without the knowledge of his lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN)? Could the DSS feign ignorance about not knowing Sowore’s counsels? The DSS legal team met with Falana in court on September 24, 2019 when Sowore secured a bail order that the DSS vehemently refused to obey, before resorting to dock him six days later without putting his legal team on notice. Why is it that the DSS did not inform any member of Sowore’s legal team about this arraignment? Assuming the arraignment was not planned, why is it that Falana (SAN) or any member of Sowore’s legal team was not contacted, so much so that Falana learnt of the arraignment in the media. What is the position of Section 36 of our constitution in response to DSS’s attempt to arraign Sowore in the absence of his legal representatives?
Meantime, it is a curious situation that the same DSS agents, who had become notorious for disobeying court orders could not waste any time in obeying a ruling by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, which condemned Sowore and Olawale Bakare (aka Mandate) to further detention for an additional five days. In fact, so excited were the DSS agents that they publicly manhandled Sowore when he attempted to speak to the press. These horrible images of DSS’s violent attack on Sowore, which have gone viral on the social media, are a monumental disgrace to the DSS and indeed Nigeria. The hostile conduct of the DSS confirms Sowore’s earlier assertion that he had been treated very badly upon his arrest in Lagos. Certainly, anyone who had seen the recent public hostility towards Sowore will not doubt his earlier remark. I could not watch that video the second time. Today, I am thoroughly ashamed of my citizenship! I did not properly understand when a friend, perhaps out of frustration, recently told me that he was ready to “sell his citizenship”, now I do. It is finished.
The DSS are so “effective” yet there are daily cases of kidnap and endless bloodshed of innocent citizens whose families had shed so much tears that their eyes had become a desert. Why is it that the DSS had not gathered enough intelligence report to arrest and manhandle these criminals so that peace is permanently restored in Nigeria?
In conclusion, since Nigeria has become a country where court orders are flagrantly disobeyed and crumpled with impunity like the APC regime had demonstrated on countless occasions, the President should immediately shutdown all the courts in Nigeria. We cannot claim to have courts in the country if their orders or judgments are not meant to be obeyed. Let us shutdown the courts at once.