👤 Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D, Notes from Atlanta
President Buhari has always been a dyed-in-the-wool, thoroughgoing, knee-jerk autocrat who has a stone-cold contempt for democracy.
He forcibly terminated our democracy in 1983 and has been stealthily terminating our re-emergent, imperfect but nonetheless existing democratic order piecemeal since 2015 using the instruments of civilian rule. This year, he will officially murder and bury it without apologies.
The impending, unexampled trial and planned ouster of Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Onnoghen is the crowning of Buhari’s totalitarian designs against our democracy. As I’ve pointed out several times, Buhari and his minions know it’s demographically and mathematically impossible for them to win a second term in a fair contest, so they made several sneaky attempts to undermine the electoral process. But they’ve found out that even their sly maneuvers won’t save them from the inexorable certainty of a humiliating defeat in February.
Now they’ve been unambiguous about their plans to intimidate voters and massively rig the election. On October 26, 2018, Chief of Staff to the President Abba Kyari, one of the three-man cabal that controls the Buhari presidency, summoned INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu to his office in the Presidential Villa and had a closed-door meeting with him. That’s unprecedented, in-your-face meddlesomeness. The office of the Chief of Staff to the President does not exist in the Constitution.
So what authority did Kyari invoke to summon a supposedly independent, constitutionally protected INEC chairman? What did they discuss behind closed doors? Of course, it’s obvious that the INEC chair was told how to conduct (read: rig) the election in favor of Buhari. SGF Boss Mustapha unwittingly confirmed this yesterday while campaigning in the predominantly Christian southern Gombe State. He assured his audience that APC had already “won” the election. “We are only waiting for the announcement of the results,” he said.
This isn’t rhetorical hyperbole; it’s a classic Freudian slip, the type APC chair Oshiomhole committed when he said, in the aftermath of APC’s INEC-assisted rigging in Osun, that democracy can only thrive when the opposition is ready to accept the “pain of rigging.”
But Buhari realizes that stealing the election in February won’t be the end of the story; a judicial challenge to his planned electoral heist might overturn his fraud. That’s precisely why he is going after the Chief Justice of Nigeria who not only comes from a part of Nigeria Buhari disdains, but who has also shown some judicial independence. A government that took forever to fire Babachir David Lawal (and still hasn’t prosecuted him more than a year later), that didn’t act on Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate forgery until she voluntarily resigned, that has ignored Okoi Obono-Obla’s WASC forgery, that has turned the other way over Communication Minister Adebayo Shittu’s NYSC scandal, that pretended not to see Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje’s kick-back-taking videos, etc. processed the petition against the CJN in less than a week!
There is no doubt that Buhari is setting the stage to neutralize the judicial challenge to his planned rigging by removing the CJN and replacing him with a pliant alternative. Recall that in his interview with AriseTV, Buhari confessed that he rewarded 83-year-old retired Justice of the Court of Appeal Sylvanus Nsofor with appointment as Nigerian ambassador to d US because he wrote a “minority report” in his favor when he challenged his loss at the polls in a previous election. That, right there, gives you a window into PMB’s backward, totalitarian mindset.
He wants a CJN and Supreme Court Justices that mirror Nsofor. That’s why he is determined to exploit loopholes to remove an unpredictable and independent Onnoghen. But that would sound the final death knell for all our pretenses to democracy.