Of Presidential Spokesmen and Buhari’s Utopia

Posted by News Express | 7 October 2020 | 1,139 times

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The harsh experiences of the last five years tell us only one thing: 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 regimented life, it is not so easy to ‘de-radicalise’ a military officer to a point 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 accustomed to the regimented life of Order is Order or Obey Before Complain will find it almost impossible to adapt to the democratic regiment of doing what the electorate wants, because the voters and the rest of the citizens are the owners of the Sovereignty of Nigeria; it is from the people that those in positions of authority get their legitimacy to exercise authority.  This is the difference between what late President Umaru Yar’Adua called ‘Servant Leadership’ and the experience we have been crudely subjected to since 2015. There is a sharp contrast, which is loudly passing the wrong message that the President is above any kind of correction; since in the warped imagination of some uninformed spin-doctors masquerading as media spokespersons, 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 the government of the people, by the people and for the people – emerged when against all constitutional safeguards, President Muhammadu Buhari, supervised the disobedience of several  court orders and proceeded to keep erstwhile National Security  Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki, and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, back  in detention for years, since early 2015 when he assumed office. Dasuki recently regained freedom, but the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and his wife, including dozens of his followers, are still 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 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 the President amply 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 judgments 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 judgment or ruling delivered is presumed to be correct until set aside by a competent court of appeal. While an appellant is free to contend in his ground or grounds of appeal that a judgment 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 judgments 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 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 behavior.”

The Supreme Court Justice continued: “A Government in a democracy which fails or refuses to obey court orders and judgments 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.”

That was 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 the Presidency that President Buhari is beyond reproach, and cannot be put under democratic pressures to take steps to promote more 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 country?

Two principal characters have emerged within Buhari’s Government: both 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 Buhari and are his spokesmen – the Special Adviser on Media and Senor Special Assistant on Media – namely, Mr Femi Adesina and Mr Garba Shehu. The two have been firing unintelligently and blindly from all cylinders and, thus, are creating the perception that the Presidency is such an Utopia that Nigerians should not 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 demands 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 our 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 Nigerians – whose 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 and Garba.

In the recent times, such persons as the Bishop of Sokoto, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, and other revered Nigerians whose main reason for speaking out is for the common good of Nigeria are being attacked by the President’s spokesmen. The way these two uncultured errand-boys 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 mildly, very irresponsible.

What did Pastor Enoch Adeboye say? 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 to prevent 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, Most Rev Matthew 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 Omotosho, 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 do the philosophical words of such a respected person like Professor Wole Soyinka offend any known principles of democracy? The elder 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? Is it not true that some sections of Nigeria feel that they are not fairly treated and, therefore, necessitating such calls by 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 Shehu will suffice 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 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 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, if his agenda is for nation-building devoid of ethno-religious interests. President Buhari should call his academically ill-equipped media assistants to show respect when men and women of letters are speaking for the common good.



•Onwubiko, head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, blogs@www. huriwanigeria.com, www HURIWA.blogspot.com

Source: News Express

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