Last week, we commenced our discourse on the above topic. We dwelt on Dr. Obadiah Mailafia and his undenied statement about a sitting governor being a Boko Haram commander. We also saw this government’s frequent gaffes in appointing dead people into MDAs, when the living have not secured jobs.
On July 7, 2018, when news broke out that Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, then Minister of Finance, had illegally obtained a forged NYSC Exemption Certificate to get her ministerial appointment, there was national angst and hoopla. Rather than apologise to Nigerians, some funny government apologists and deity-worshippers, including PACAC, urged Buhari not to sack her. As usual, they argued it was “corruption fighting back,” for Nigerians to dare demand the sack or resignation of one of Buhari’s “best ministers” who was driving the economy. However, decent, well-educated and exposed Adeosun saw through the shenanigans of these grovelers and fawners. She shocked them by quietly resigning her ministerial appointment and jetting out of Nigeria. Matter closed. Bootlickers, where art thou?
Whenever uncompromised international observers of elections criticise our elections as being substandard and marred by irregularities, violence, killings and ballot boxes/votes snatching, government spokespersons descend on them, telling them to shut up. When John Kerry, 68th US Secretary of State, visited Nigeria in January 2015, shortly before the presidential election, he not only with President Goodluck Jonathan but also met with President Buhari at the US Consulate. He thereafter phoned Attahiru Jega, then INEC chairman. He said America would only “do more” in helping Nigeria defeat Boko Haram, if there was “full measure of credibility, accountability, transparency and peacefulness of this election.” And there was. He also held series of meetings with the opposition (now the present government). America was then hailed as good and democratic. When the same America and European Union countries warned the Nigerian government to ensure free, fair and credible elections in the run-up to the February 2019 presidential/NASS elections, they were promptly told to mind their business, because Nigeria was a “sovereign country” that would not brood any “external interference” in her internal affairs. I have never seen or read about a more narcissistic government, except, perhaps, Uganda’s Idi Amin.
Rights violations before Mailafia
The following serial breaches show a government that is so edgy and intolerant of opposition about criticism that it is almost now afraid of its own shadow.
Rights activists, journalists, the press and others
There are many instances where this government has unduly clamped down on journalists and the press. A few examples: On 19th January, 2019, Premium Times’ publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, was arrested and detained by the Nigeria Police. His Defence correspondent, Samuel Ogundipe, was detained for three straight days from August 14, 2018, for publishing a story concerning the siege on the NASS by the then IGP, Ibrahim Idris. Premium Times editor-in-chief, Musikilu Mojeed, and its Education correspondent, Azeezat Adedcigba, were also briefly detained by the police at the SARS headquarters in Abuja.
Bayelsa-based journalist, Jones Abiri, editor and publisher of Weekly Source newspaper, was earlier detained by the DSS for two years after being arrested by the DSS in a gestapo-style operation, for carrying out his legitimate job of journalism. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, upon hearing his subsequent fundamental rights application, ordered his immediate release and slammed N10.5 million damages against the DSS. He was only released September 2018, due to sustained public outcry. Even then, he was again rearrested by the DSS. Are we operating a police state?
Deji Adeyanju, outspoken fiery human rights activist, was detained by the police for daring to protest at the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja. He had merely urged the police (by placards) to ensure transparent 2019 presidential/NASS elections. I personally fought tooth and nail for his release. He was later rearrested in November 2018, and kept in Kano police dungeon for another 78 days on trumped-up charges. He was only released in March 2019, after the presidential election had taken place. It was clear to all that he had been plucked out of the system to allow the “mago-mago” that characterised the said election.
Mr. Monday Ubani, fecund lawyer, former NBA second national vice president and fearless rights activist, was detained by the EFCC in its dungeon for weeks, for merely standing surety for a client whom the EFCC had later caused to escape for her dear life when it invaded her house on an entirely unrelated matter. I fought and got Ubani released from EFCC’s clutches. Standing surety is not a criminal offence. It is purely civil. The law merely requires the surety to forfeit the suretied sum, if the suspect refuses to show up. Finish. But EFCC criminalised it for Ubani and unjustly detained the senior lawyer. Why? He is an avowed critic of this government.
On January 6, 2019, about two dozen soldiers in five vehicles, invaded Trust Newspaper premises at Utako, Abuja, in a Gestapo-like manner, for writing about military operations in North East. Computers were carted away and the premises securely locked. It was only opened and the siege relaxed due to public outcry. What of Shiites leader, Elzakzaky, and his wife? This couple arrested since December 14, 2015, are still languishing in detention. All court orders for their release have been wantonly disobeyed by this government. Impunity reigns!
The same fate met Col. Sambo Dasuki, former NSA, who was detained for over five years. All court orders for his release on bail, including that of the sub-regional ECOWAS Court, were ignored by government. Impunity reigned supreme. Dasuki was later reluctantly released at their pleasure.
Boko Haram that was said to have been totally or “technically defeated” since 2017 is on the rise, like a phoenix from its ashes. A government (which as opposition in 2014) urged the international community not to supply arms to President Jonathan’s government, because the arms were allegedly being used against defenceless citizens, is today lamenting that the same international community is starving it of arms. It is literally begging them for succour. How times change! Government’s faux pas keeps increasing by the day.
What has gone wrong? Imagine President Buhari telling a shocked nation that, if he and APC had not been kind and benevolent enough during the 2019 elections, they could easily have used the Army to overrun and claim states won by the PDP. Was this a Freudian slip? Was that what actually happened in places like Kano, Nasawara, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Osun, Lagos, Niger and Kwara states? I don’t know. Do you? Do we still have credible electoral process? Guns, bombs, rigging are the order of the day.
The anti-corruption farce
When tested genuine patriots like me humbly intervene and advise government about how to fight corruption and win it, and to halt selective anti-corruption fight, it simply shrugs its shoulders and fires back with the usual chorus “corruption is fighting back” through “defenders of corrupt politicians” and “enablers of corruption.” They want all Nigerians to sleep on the same bed, facing the same direction. No dissent. No criticism. No critique. This is simply absurd in a constitutional democracy!
The anti-corruption war has since been bastardised by strongmen, rather than driven by strong institutions. High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi was invited with a mere phone call by the former Acting EFCC chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu. As his lawyer, I encouraged him to go (even without a formal written invitation). I sent a junior lawyer to accompany him. Pronto, he was clamped into EFCC dungeon. I fought tooth and nail through the law courts to get him out on bail, on the eve of Christmas 2015. The trial is still on, with the prosecution delaying and making series of amendments to the charges. Why would you detain a suspect (presumed innocent until proven guilty – section 36, 1999 Constitution), and who voluntarily submitted himself to you without resistance? Why would EFCC first detain a person and then throw a wide net into the wide ocean, fishing for evidence to nail him/her? Why would suspects be tortured to make involuntary and self-incriminating confessions, or forced into plea bargain? Is that how to fight corruption?
Former Osun State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, left office on October 15, 2018. He promptly reported himself to EFCC headquarters in Abuja, as he had promised. I personally accompanied him as his lawyer. He wore a T-shirt which screamed, “EFCC, I AM HERE.” Yet, Fayose was promptly clamped into the EFCC gulag. The unfolding gallery play was meant to satiate the palate of the lynch mob section of the society. After all, corruption was being “dealt” with. The trial is still on, with EFCC petitioning against the former judge, after over 12 witnesses had already testified. Why not simply seize Fayose’s passport, grant him administrative bail, with responsible sureties? No. The government must be made to know that corruption war was being fought by humiliating the former Governor who had no firearms and offered no resistance. Why would EFCC be forum-shopping from one court (deemed unfavourable) to another (deemed favourable)? Why should government institutionalise a policy of “Name-and-shame”, against innocent persons not yet arraigned, tried or found guilty by courts of law? Why EFCC’s media trial of mere suspects?
Senator Dino Melaye, the 8th NASS intrepid thorn in government’s thin skin, was chained to a hospital bed like an animal, even while sick and unresisting. He was driven to court from Abuja to Lokoja, on a hospital stretcher, in an ambulance. I was able to get him bail through the Lokoja High Court (rest in peace, courageous CJ, Justice Nasiru Ajanah). This was after weeks of humiliation, intimidation and unwarranted societal opprobrium. Not done, the police, in December 2018, laid siege on Dino’s Maitama home in Abuja, for weeks. They cut off his electricity supply and water. Dino insisted that I must be physically present before he would give himself up, as he believed they would kill him, and turn around to argue that a stray bullet did it as he was allegedly attempting to escape. I was forced to leave my country home at Iviukwe, near Agenebode, Edo State, where I was already spending the Christmas vacation with my family and community, to come to his aid in Abuja. I removed Dino from police siege, and into police hospital. Even at that, it took weeks for me to get him judicial reprieve through a court bail. Guess what? I have since gotten this case dismissed and Dino discharged and acquitted.
(To be concluded)
Thought for the week
“I don’t believe in this idea of, ‘That’s hate speech’, stop it.” (Louis C.K.)