The Coordinated, Calculated Attempt To Destroy Walter Onnoghen

If he serves out his term, Justice Walter Onnoghen would bow out as Chief Justice of Nigeria on December 22, 2020, when he would clock 70. There are forces, celestial and terrestrial, that are hell bent on seeing that Justice Onnoghen does not last that long. In fact, if they have their way, the CJN would not last one more day in office.

Justice Onnoghen, the fifteenth indigenous Chief Justice, and the first non-northener since 1987 to ascend the exalted office, has courted trouble from the very day his predecessor, Justice Mahmud Mohammed retired, in 2016. What had till then always been a culture of seamless process of handover to the next most senior associate Justice, suddenly became a complicated power tussle once Justice Onnoghen was primed to become the next Chief Justice. The straightforward process, which allows that the National Judicial Council nominate the CJN, for the president to forward same to the Senate, was frustrated. The body language of the “powers that be” was that Onnoghen was not going to be an ideal choice. Onnoghen was CJN in acting capacity for a prolonged period until Prof Osinbajo, president, then also in acting capacity, did the needful, and ended the unfortunate logjam.

So, the onslaught to suddenly oust Justice Onnoghen is not without precedent. The question is : why?

To attempt answering that question is to delve into conspiracies. For example, there are claims that the APC is quite uncomfortable with several Supreme Court judgements that has not favoured the party. Whether the APC assumes the Supreme Court, of all courts, can dance to the tunes of politicians is not known. What is known though, is that none of the judgements of the Supreme Court not the least, on the last elections, went contrary to common sense.

Why the APC assumes the top court in the country is sympathetic to the opposition party is strange. The body language of the president also suggests the judiciary is an unwilling partner in the fight against corruption. It has been sounded loud and clear in many quarters that the judiciary is a cesspool of corruption, where judgements are bought at will. A “sting operation” two years ago led to the assault on some Supreme Court judges on allegations of Corruption. Maybe the APC has concluded that they can’t compete against the PDP in bribing judges, or they believe the judgements that favoured the PDP were outrightly bought. The APC must have resolved that they are to fight dirty if they are to ever “win over” the judiciary. Now, the gloves are off, and Justice Onnoghen is the first target.

There is no pretence about the desire of the APC-led government to get rid of Onnoghen. They believe as the head of the Supreme Court, and by extension, the judiciary, he is critical in their plans to see their fortunes change. He has to go.

The case against Onnoghen at the code of conduct tribunal smacks of desperation. The CJN is accused of failure to fully declare all of his assets, an offense punishable under the law. The speed with which the petition was filed, and charges were also filed, was unusual. No one still knows how the petitioner, Dennis Aghanya, a known ally of President Buhari, laid his hands on the assets declaration forms of the CJN. In less than a week, from the date of petitioning, the CJN was dragged to the tribunal, for a national shaming process.

Many senior lawyers have argued for, and against the trial of the CJN. Both arguments make sense, but it only requires looking beneath the surface to see what is going on. The case has little to do with the assets declaration form of Justice Onnoghen, which in reality he may be actually guilty of; but just about getting rid of him.

Consider that the attack in itself is multi-faceted. The government, while prosecuting Onnoghen at the CCT, has also proceeded to freeze his assets, while also approaching the court to compel him to step down pending the determination of the case.

The government is probably aware that the chances of prevailing against Onnoghen at the CCT are slim, considering the fact that even the more watertight case against Senator Bukola Saraki eventually fell flat. So, the attack is well Coordinated. If it misses from one angle, then it should hit from another.

The tragic thing about it is that the process involves the assassination of the character, and destroying the name and life, of an eminent Jurist, whose only crime is that he is the Chief Justice.

Late last year, when President Donald Trump of the United States nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh into the US Supreme Court, politicians who felt his stance against their ideology would affect his judgements, launched a bitter smear campaign against him. He was accused of everything under the sun, from raping girls while in high school decades ago, to getting blackout drunk; allegations that turned out to be false when thoroughly investigated. In fact, some of his accusers were eventually found to have simply manufactured the accusations, and were playing a political script. Some of them are now being tried.

Unfortunately, the same scenario is playing out in Justice Onnoghen’s case. The campaign against him is not worth his career. His life is being systematically ruined because some politicians are uncomfortable with his dispositions. The media onslaught against him, and the media trial to which he has been subjected should be condemned. A man who rose through the ranks to reach the very top of his career should not be destroyed because of politics. The Supreme Court is not for political cases alone.

And for those who claim the case against the CJN is a welcome one as is a proof that no one is above the law, they cannot be more wrong. This case in itself is an entire abuse of the law, due process and commonsense, the rape of the judiciary and the public shaming of a fine Judicial officer who has chosen to not look at the faces of politicians.


The Weaponization of Poverty in Nigeria

A popular leadership maxim says : “never let a crisis go to waste”, that is, always take advantage of whatever problems you are confronted with, as a leader. Great leaders always attempt to take full advantage of whatever crisis they face, and history is full examples of leaders whose reputation increased after being faced with difficult problems. Depending on how they handle the problem, exceptional leaders have always had their approval rating soar after having to confront difficulties. A clear example is President George W. Bush of America. The election he won in late 2000 was so bitterly divisive and contentious that many saw his presidency as illegitimate. His approval ratings were naturally poor, until September 2001, when terrorists struck at the heart of America.

The way President Bush handled the extremely difficult situation was so reassuring that his approval rating soared dramatically, reaching heights that hardly were reached at that stage of any presidency. He rode the momentum and became one of very few presidents to achieve a gain in number of party congressmen at the midterm elections a year later.

Critics of President Bush always pointed at the 9/11 attacks as the greatest gift his presidency ever got. Bush was able to use the tragedy to rally the entire country together regardless of party affiliation, and he sure used it to his own party’s advantage! Smart.

In Nigeria, our political class have also discovered a goldmine. A goldmine that, if properly managed, can keep them in power for as long as they want. That goldmine is poverty. By some stroke of luck, politicians have suddenly discovered that poverty can actually be a very good thing. Over the years, they came to the conclusion that, whereas poverty is a problem that every reasonable government should tackle, it has always been the greatest weapon for retaining power.

It is to the eternal advantage of our political class to keep the people poor, and defence-less. That way, the people can be easily bought over for much less, and they can be controlled for as long as possible. Regardless of whatever policies our politicians churn out, the end game has never been to break the shackles of collective poverty, but rather, to keep the people alive- alive enough to vote at the next election.

If politicians were really serious about tackling poverty, they would have revamped our educational system from the primary to tertiary levels, for an educated mind is poverty’s worst foe; they would have tackled the issue of power supply, so that businesses can at least, thrive; they would also have focused on infrastructure that would ease transportation and housing.

Nigerians are not actually asking for too much. All many need is constant power supply, and they’re good to go. But no. Rather, successive governments have become experts in social intervention programes, almost like a replica of what humanitarian organizations do in war-torn countries, to internally displaced persons.

The latest, the distribution of N10,000 loans (we’re hearing banks actually deduct N500 from it) to ‘petty traders’ to help them “kickstart their businesses” is a mockery of common sense. When critics of “TraderMoni”, as the scheme is called, called out government on the illogic of the idea, they responded by claiming the programme is targeted at the poorest of the poor. Whereas, the easiest way to help the poorest of the poor, is to liberalize the economy, to create jobs and stabilize power. When the economy is in itself booming, jobs are created, and the poorest can find alternatives. Traders sell more, laborers are engaged, and purchasing power is increased. Real economic liberation flows from the top to the bottom, that’s how it works. Never by sprinkling cash here and there to the downtrodden. It would neither solve their problems, nor open up the economy. And government loses money too. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Often when governors are chastised for not paying salaries, they claim that government workers only make up a negligible fraction of the entire population. They forget that if workers are not paid, many petty traders can’t sell, many landlords aren’t paid, many school proprietors can’t be paid, who in turn won’t be able to pay their own workers. By simply failing to pay salaries, the chain reaction is one of the things that has entrenched poverty in the land. Instead of simply rectifying the problem, they often embark on wild social intervention programmes that they claim should lift the poor people out of poverty. Which programmes in themselves are nothing more than mere conduit pipes for corrupt officials.

The government has spent billions of naira on its school feeding program for example. The least achievement of such a sweeping policy should be more enrollment in government primary schools. However, statistics show that number of out-of-school children, especially in the North, has actually skyrocketed. In some instances, some children walk into the school close to meal time, and walk out afterwards. The quality of the meals should be a topic for another day, but we’ve seen instances of pupils being served on pieces of paper! Whatever happened to making the country work for parents so that they can conveniently feed their own children themselves?

The money spent on many of these programmes can be used more effectively in solving the power problem. The government still spends billions everyday to subsidize petrol whereas every business model suggest it is a policy that would never work. It won’t guarantee cheap, available fuel, and it would drain the country brutally.

Nigeria today has the highest concentration of poor people in the world. Nigeria is the global poverty capital. In actual fact, Lagos alone has more extremely poor people than the whole of China. For effect, Lagos has a population of around 20 million, while China has over a billion souls. Latest statistics show that China has only 10 million people in extreme poverty.

Nigeria presently is not even one of the ten top economies in Africa! Texas, in the US, has more Nigerian doctors than the entire northern Nigeria combined. Nigeria is hugely indebted that it spends more paying its debts than on building roads and schools. ASUU is still on strike over money that our politicians would rather spend on frivolities. The war on Boko Haram, despite costing billions, is still looking long from being concluded. I can go on and on. The bottom line is that, Nigeria, as is being presently run, is definitely not working. And the results show it. Unfortunately, we keep running it the same way.

There can only be one explanation : those running it prefer it to be so. Instead of investing in education as ASUU has been screaming since 2009, they will spend money on ‘lifting petty traders out of poverty’ . Instead of investing in power supply, they will do “conditional cash transfer to poor families”. Instead of building hospitals and paying health workers, they would feed school children. They target the vulnerable, and throw crumbs at them, not because they love them, but because they can reach so many of them with much less, who in turn can easily vote for them. It’s smart. It’s called, the Weaponization of Poverty. It guarantees to keep the poor poor, because there’s no way one could ever escape poverty with a loan of $35. At most he’ll be able to survive for a while. But whatever gains he make would still be taken by the larger system , which has been left to rot. So he’s back to square one pretty soon.

Policies that will lift Nigeria out of poverty would definitely be unpopular. For one, our economy would never stabilize as long as oil subsidy is still not courageously dealt with. But it’s a policy that would likely cost votes. And it’s expensive too. So, why not rather leave the people and the country poor, while offering them government lottery services, also known as social interventions?

ISI: Religious Fanaticism Would Ruin Our Schools!

The International School, Ibadan, one of the most outstanding secondary schools in Nigeria, was thrown into needless crises days ago, over a ridiculously bizzare issue: allowing female Muslims adorn the hijab over their uniform. In a normal clime, such an issue would have been resolved by nothing more than a memo, released by the school management, stating or restating the stand of the school, by which all parties should abide. But Nigeria is a clime less sane. So, such a simple issue led to the closure of the school indefinitely, disrupting the academic calendar of students.

The University of Ibadan, which runs the secondary school, is understandably quite proactive. During the tenure of former Vice chancellor Professor Olufemi Bamiro, a subtle religious crisis, which could have enflamed the school was quelled by his prompt action. A Christian undergraduate had infiltrated the University mosque during Jumat prayers, and had screamed at the top of his voice to shocked and bemused muslims: “Repent, and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior…”, right inside the mosque. The provocation was unprecedented, and enraged muslims who were ready to unleash their fury on him and his supposed backers. Indeed, the fire of the crisis was already gathering momentum before the vice chancellor, who was forced to suddenly shelve a trip, was able to bring the situation under control. Of course, he needed the help of security agencies and religious leaders to do that. Later on, it was discovered that, but for the quick action of the University administration, that little trigger could have led to a chain reaction, which had the potential of not just consuming the school, but the entire country at large.

It is therefore understandable, when the university decided to shut the ISI, so as to prevent whatever crisis may be in the offing. Methinks the shutting of the school, nevertheless, was an overkill. The management, which runs the school, shapes the policy of the institution. It is therefore quite unfortunate, that the school can sheepishly succumb to veiled threats from some disgruntled parents by closing the school. Doing that gives some form of legitimacy to their demands, which runs contrary to the school’s regulations.

The demand by some Muslim parents to allow their female kids adorn the hijab is in order. However, the school’s position should be immediately clear, on why the request would or won’t be granted. Refusing to grant their request, the Muslim parents also have a right to express their grievances. But by doing so in a way and manner that would disrupt academic activities is unfortunate.

If the school decides on how it wants its students to dress, then it is imperative for parents who still want their children there, to comply. It is called “Uniform” for a reason.

The ironic thing about this needless drama is that it is being instigated by parents, and not the students themselves. There is no proof that any Muslim student of ISI felt victimized by not being allowed to wear the hijab in school. There is no proof that the academic performance of any Muslim student was negatively affected because the hijab was not part of her uniform. There is In fact no proof that any Muslim student felt less a student, or less a human, because she was denied the use of the hijab. The students were probably fine with their own school uniform. But their parents were not.

The problem of allowing religious sentiments into education is that it further divides the students. Religion is perhaps the greatest divider in Nigeria. Whereas education is supposed to bring us together, allowing religious sentiments into our schools would further widen the cracks that already divide us. Allowing it among people as young as secondary school students, is not only unfortunate, but immoral. It is simply taking advantage of them to further drive our religious Fanaticism.

While Governor Rauf Aregbesola was enacting his sweeping reforms in the education sector of Osun state, perhaps his greatest challenge was on the issue of hijab. The crisis that broke out over the issue nearly engulfed the entire state. It reinforced my belief on the issue that religion and education should never mix. While education is mainly acquiring knowledge to make us better persons, religion is a set of beliefs we accept as the truth. The two should normally not be mutually exclusive. But in Nigeria, where we are naturally more catholic than the pope, some tenets of our religious beliefs contradict other values.

The proper thing to do whenever our religious values go against other laid down conventions is to be circumspect. Because rules are made to maintain order, not to despise anyone; neither were rules made with religious considerations in mind. Rules see everyone as equal, and before the law, we are all human beings. Laws don’t recognize religious sentiments, and whenever a law goes against our religious beliefs, we are still held accountable to the law first.

That is why the protest by Muslim parents is hypocritical. There are many other schools that would gladly allow students wear the hijab. If a school refuses it, and there is no proof that it was done deliberately to spite any religion, then they can take their children elsewhere. When the students graduate and are able to gain admission into higher institutions, the parents would realize that in reality, no one cares however a person chooses to dress.

Muslim girls would still have the opportunity to wear the hijab all their life, without harassment. But if the rules of a secondary school mandates students to have the same uniform, without religious attachments, it should not be misconstrued as a violation of a religious sentiment.

Perhaps the Muslim parents were buoyed by the recent decision by the Lagos State government to allow the hijab in it’s schools after a protracted court case with Muslim rights advocates. Whereas the case is still in court, the Lagos State Government decided to allow the hijab for reasons best known to it. It doesn’t mean the decision is best for the schools, or the Muslim students. It only means we have chosen to allow religious sentiments too much space in our rather secular life. Thereby further dividing an already bitterly divided people.

The Curious Case Of The Nigerian Soldier

“Christmas Eve, 1975.

A Nigerian Army soldier goes missing in the village of Ugep, today’s Cross River State.

Soldiers go wild, raping women, and killing 65 people.

The missing soldier was eventually found.

An autopsy showed he got drunk, had an epileptic seizure, and died” – (Cheta “chxta” Nwanze, on Twitter)

The above quote perfectly summarizes the behavior, mindset and disposition of the average Nigerian soldier. One of ultimate brutality, absolute authoritarianism, and ridiculous power-drunkenness. If it was not strange that this attitude persisted through the dark days of military rule, we should be appalled that, nearly twenty years into our democratic dispensation, the mentality of the Nigerian soldier is still so fundamentally flawed.

The soldier is always worthy of honour. He practically puts his life on the line for the peace and security of the country. He defends the territorial integrity of the nation, often paying the Supreme price, with little or no recognition; and is bound to obey the call of duty at anytime, to anywhere, and for however long his superiors deem fit. So, a soldier’s life is all about sacrifice, and for that, we all should be grateful to them. Their many sacrifices largely go unappreciated, while politicians often use them as political pawns. While many of them are brutally killed by insurgents, government rather choose to often paint a rosy picture of the theater of war. The abject living conditions of many of the soldiers battling the terrorists is downplayed, and they are often left to fend for themselves.

However, despite the way our government, or even citizens treat our armed forces, we know the misbehavior we see from them has nothing to do with that. It is rather an unfortunate culture that has been imbibed into the very fabrics of every soldier. It is almost like a creed, a code of conduct, or a behavioral ethic; that suggests that every soldier must be desperately wicked toward civilians, or non-soldiers. For example, it has already been agreed that it is a norm, for soldiers to raid a locality or community, and massacre its residents, once a fellow soldier is attacked, or killed there. Whatever led to the said attack, is never the issue. If I dedicate this essay to rendering examples of soldiers’ reprisal attacks, which said attacks are always an overkill; then I could fill a thousand pages. Zaki Biam and Odi are the most notorious examples. We know however, that there are countless of other examples we see often, of brutality of soldiers.

It is strange that we have come to accept it as normal. We rather pray not to cross their paths. We already have accepted the animalistic attitude, of subjecting civilians to gruesome torture or casual death, for silly offenses, as normal. In actual fact, they are not.

By law, soldiers have rules of engagements. In fact, many of what soldiers do to civilians in Nigeria, are forbidden even in a theater of war. For example, most of the killings carried out by soldiers are extrajudicial. Again, most of those killed for sundry offences, actually were killed while holding no weapons, or while practically surrendering. What’s worse? Soldiers kill many innocent people.

Few days ago, more than twenty people were killed by soldiers in the so-called clash with Shi’ites. The problem with that clash was that the casualties were only on one side: the Shi’ites. According to the army, the Shi’ites were unruly, and had attacked their arms-bearing convoy with rocks. They had no choice but to respond with superior firepower, not bigger rocks, but bullets. Live bullets. The video, which trended on social media, showed Nigerian soldiers hounding citizens, by which time, no one could differentiate between a Shi’ite, and a law-abiding passerby, whose only crime that day, was to be caught up in the unfortunate melee. In one horrific scene, a soldier was seen locating a man hiding in the gutter, and gunned him down right there, in the gutter! Just around there was a woman hiding behind a vehicle. Providence saved her as the officer was too impatient to search thoroughly.

That wasn’t the first time soldiers were clashing with Shi’ites though. In 2015, they had massacred 347 of them, an outrageous number by any standard, because the Shi’ites had blocked the right of way of the convoy of the chief of army staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai. The Shi’ites may not be the best persons to defend in issues like this, because of their own many excesses, but the law is the law. Are soldiers right to kill people for blocking a convoy? No. Or for attacking them with rocks? Still no. Yet, are Shi’ites right to block the convoy of the army chief? No. Just the way it is absolutely a horrendous folly to attack an armory with rocks. But soldiers should know better.

Its almost as if soldiers deliberately want to put civilians in their place, which to them, is infinitely beneath them.

But that is not what soldiers are meant to be. Soldiers should serve with humility. The fact that our past was abused with military incursion in governance, doesn’t mean we must live under fear of soldiers all our lives. The slippery slope of power and leadership is that leaders often get power drunk. That’s why there are checks and balances. But no one checks or balances our soldiers. They are a law unto themselves. They hardly pay bills because they are hardly approachable. Their terror, which should have been reserved for enemies of the country, are unleashed on hapless citizens.

When we travel out of the country, and see how soldiers and armed officers behave, with lots of courtesy and humility, especially when we consider that some of these soldiers are the best trained in the world, then we wonder who taught our own soldiers to equate brutality with competence.

Why Atiku Must Stick With Peter Obi

The emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party has been well received, probably more than the candidate himself, of the ruling party, the APC, envisaged. There was a sudden aura around Atiku that couldn’t be immediately explained, considering the fact that he wasn’t even the most likely frontrunner ahead of the poll. There was the PDP governors’ favorite, Aminu Tambuwal, and Senate president Bukola Saraki, who was whipping trending anti-Buhari sentiments. His candidacy was particularly popular among the youths who were driving the social media campaign to oust Buhari. But Atiku won, and the rest, like they say, is history.

Perhaps the greatest immediate concern for Atiku, on being named the candidate of the PDP, was the disposition of his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. But luck was smiling on Atiku. So, four days after his dramatic landslide victory at the primaries, Obasanjo was publicly standing by his side, to endorse him against the incumbent. Not only did Obasanjo assure Atiku of his support, he forgave him completely for his past “sins”. Things couldn’t have been better. Or so we thought. Until news filtered in that Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state, had been selected as his running mate.

The reaction to the news of Obi’s selection was unprecedented. Even Atiku’s fiercest critics acknowledged that Mr Obi was an excellent choice, others outrightly calling it a masterstroke. It was. Because Peter Obi ticked all the boxes that made for a fantastic administrator. As governor, he ran perhaps the most unique administration we had seen in a while. He was prudent, efficient, knowledgeable, competent and effective. His speech at “The Platform” a popular Christian programme two years ago, still make for interesting references. There, he spoke of interesting challenges he faced as governor, especially in reducing costs of governance. His speech represented a huge paradigm shift in leadership perspectives, as it rekindled hope of responsible leadership in Nigeria. I must confess, I had been secretly rooting for a Peter Obi Presidency or Vice Presidency since I heard that speech. That was why I was excited when I heard the news of his choice. Interestingly, I wasn’t the only one.

On most social media platforms, the reaction to Peter Obi’s choice has been overwhelming and positive. It was well received, indeed, more well received than the news of Atiku’s emergence himself. It represented an exciting prospect, a very inclusive and dynamic idea, that someone from a region that has always complained of marginalization, and who is himself, a monstrously competent man, would be on the ticket.

But, news that his emergence had not been well received by Igbo politicians started filtering in soon enough. The claim was that they as Igbo leaders, were not carried along in the choice. I was like, wait a minute, what exactly do we have here? My initial reaction was to assume it was a rumor. But the fact that there has actually been no official confirmation of the Peter Obi news by the Atiku campaign council called for concern. Peter Obi had also not been publicly presented to the press officially. There are indeed pressures by Igbo leaders on Atiku to drop Obi, “for a Yoruba man”. The allegation is that if an Igbo man is vice president for four (or eight) years, then the possibility of an Igbo president immediately afterwards is a near impossibility. Strange!

Igbos leaders need to be asked what they really want. An Igbo presidency or Igbo development. Because it sounds really awkward that Peter Obi, a fantastic choice by all standards, may be dropped from the VP slot because Igbos want an Igbo presidency afterwards. Leading the onslaught, according to reports, are Igbo governors, many of whom are desperately eyeing the presidency after Buhari.

The truth however is that what is at stake is beyond mere politics. The future of Nigeria, Igboland inclusive, is at stake. While not writing off the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket, any ticket that has a Peter Obi on board is definitely a fantastic one. To deny him the opportunity of serving his country, at a time his services are desperately needed, simply because his region wants to produce the next president, is unfortunate.

Atiku Abubakar doesn’t need the permission of Igbo governors to pick a competent Igbo man as his running mate, especially if same man commands wide acceptability everywhere, and is renowned for his discipline and competence. And who says Peter Obi can’t succeed his boss if he is elected vice president. We know that’s the fear of Igbo governors. They’ve been promised by politicians that they’ll succeed President Buhari. They fear a Peter Obi Vice presidency would change all that. It’s about their selfishness, for which they are willing to throw away a bird in hand, for two imaginary ones in the bush.

Atiku should stick with Obi. Because he is competent. And, general consensus, even in Igbo land, is that Obi is a good choice. If Igbo leaders reject him, it’s not because he would cost Atiku votes, it’s because the so called Igbo leaders, out of envy, don’t want him to steal their thunder. Pathetic lots.

FRSC to bear arms? Perish the thought!

For some time now, the idea that the Federal Road Safety Corp officials need to bear arms in order to effectively discharge their duties has been flying in the air. As their duties often require law enforcement, and are mandated to deal with all manner of drivers, many of whom are tough and brutal themselves (partly due to the fact that a little bit of madness itself is required to even drive on our roads), it has been propounded that FRSC officials need to be armed to be able to carry out their mandate appropriately.

That should have been a straightforward argument. Except that this is Nigeria, where nothing is straightforward.

In Nigeria, the gun is seen as the ultimate symbol of power. With it, soldiers have taken control of government several times; with it, “bloody civilians” have been harassed, oppressed and suppressed. There are in fact two classes of Nigerian civilians: thoses protected by men with guns, and those persecuted by men with guns. Whereas, all Nigerians are suposed to be in the former category, the truth is that that rarely happens.

We live on a country where those who are supposed to protect us see us as people to be exploited. For months, citizens groaned and cried to the government about the excesses of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, an outfit of the police meant to prevent and attack robberies. SARS promptly turned itself into a monstrous agency oppressing the very people it was meant to protect. Because the squad was given a wide range of sweeping powers, all in the bid to make it brutally effective in dealing with robbers, who themselves are almost always brutal, SARS got power drunk. They molested at will, killed at will and went away with it. It was only when the outrage against the abuse reached alarming levels that the government felt something should be done.

Nigeria raises monsters against its own citizens. In developed democracies, the armed forces remain the citizens’ best friend. In Nigeria, no worse fate can befall a person who crosses the path of an armed official. When their vehicles approach behind ours, we swerve out of the way. When we mistakenly offend them, we’re made to frog jump and profusely apologize. I witnessed some armed officers slapping a man in the presence of his wife and kids. His offence? He didn’t make way for their vehicle soon enough.

Armed officials do not see themselves as below the law, but above it. From the military to the police, from DSS to NDLEA, from Customs to NSCDC, once you’re given the gun, you suddenly become above the law. You are permitted to drive against traffic, disobey all traffic laws, ignore financial obligations, and even until recently, refuse to pay electricity bills. A simple notice of “Military Zone, Keep Off” is all you need to ward off all those intruders.

To make matters worse, those who are supposed to change the unfortunate behavior of our armed forces towards civilians are the greatest beneficiaries of the system. They are delighted when their hoardes of security aides scare the hell out of fellow road users. They are happy when their officers hold horsewhips and apply same on citizens who are just going about their duties, all in the bid to “clear road for oga”. They like it.

So, when I heard the FRSC is about to be added to the list of gun- wielding officers, I sighed. Because I know there can only be one end to it, and it won’t be good. Without weapons, the FRSC is already a fearsome unit. They have this unique way of instilling discipline, even if temporary, into even the harshest drivers. Whatever their strategy, which makes them even more feared, sometimes more than policemen, on the road, should be maintained.

We know the argument from government would be that the privilege won’t be abused, or that the lives of FRSC officers on duty are always at risk without weapons. But the issue is that we would only be creating more power drunk officers. And civilians, unfortunately, would be at the receiving end.

Is Buhari Holding Us Down?

Since President Muhammadu Buhari travelled out of the country for a two week vacation, two major decisions have been taken by his deputy, who has been acting on his behalf. First, he promptly fired the then Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura, a powerful member of the famous inner circle, (or cabal), of the presidency. That action was perhaps the swiftest reaction to any issue in particular, that we have witnessed so far from the Buhari administration. Daura had reportedly ordered an invasion of the national assembly unilaterally. He was fired, although we were all made to believe he was hitherto untouchable. And, he was fired on the day the alleged atrocity was committed.

Secondly, Osinbajo ordered a complete overhaul of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. According to the statement released by the spokesman to the vice president, he practically only stopped short of completely dismantling the squad altogether. For months, Nigerians had screamed for a reform or the scrapping of the SARS unit. On social media, the hash tag #EndSARS trended endlessly, with videos of many atrocities of SARS attached. The outrage was in vain. Until now.

While it is not known how much of an input President Buhari made into the two actions taken in his absence, the general consensus is that Lawal Daura would probably still be in office if the president was around. And SARS would remain untouched. That skepticism is not farfetched.

For example, this is not the first time the DSS would be used to carry out rogue missions. As a matter of fact, it was the DSS, under Daura, that produced a damming “security report” which the Senate relied upon in rejecting Ibrahim Magu’s nomination for the chairmanship of EFCC; not once, but twice. The DSS broke into the homes of judges in gestapo fashion in what was ridiculously tagged a sting operation. Daura’s DSS has arrested dozens of people without charges levelled against them, keeping them indefinitely. A certain journalist, Jones Abiri, has been held for over two years without even being taken to court. All these actions took place while president Buhari was at home. No action whatsoever was taken against Daura.

Although it is believed that the invasion of the national assembly without authorization was a step too far, there is little evidence Mr Daura would have been as severely reprimanded, if it wasn’t Osinbajo that was in charge. We were made to believe the President actually sanctioned the sack, but very little suggest it was, abinitio, the initiative of the president.

President Buhari once openly admitted that the Inspector-general of police, Ibrahim Idris, disobeyed his orders. It was a strange anticlimax to realize that the IGP simply walked away unscathed from such unbelievable insubordination. Not even a rebuke followed. As a result, Mr Idris grew a thougher skin, and rode roughshod over all whom he willed. He ignored the President’s orders anyway, so when the Senate had reasons to summon him, he casually ignored them, not once, nor twice, but thrice! Would Professor Osinbajo have tolerated such reckless abuse of power? I doubt it.

When Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole decided to whip an errant minister into line, he accused the president of tolerating insubordination from his appointees. He painted the picture of a president who had no control over his own cabinet.

When eight law makers, led by the impeached former speaker in Benue decided to do the unthinkable by suspending twenty two other lawmakers, and also serving an impeachment notice on Governor Samuel Ortom, they did so with the backing of a strong detachment of police and DSS operatives. The officers were so brazen, that they practically prevented the lawmakers loyal to the governor from accessing their chambers, while at the same time, offering protection to the eight rogue lawmakers. The condemnation was resounding. However, while the president absolved himself of any blame in the illegal drama that played out, he didn’t take any action against the police or DSS which supervised the mini coup.

We cannot say yet, whether president Buhari is all out in support of the illegalities perpetrated by some of his appointees; or is actually unaware of them. We do not know whether the president is the real director of the show, or is just a spectator. What we do know, however, is that, under President Buhari’s watch, wrong things have happened, and nothing has been done to correct them. Till today, we still don’t know who ordered the reinstatement, and promotion of Abdulrasheed Maina, a man convicted and sacked for corruption in 2014. We still have not got a reply to allegations of graft and nepotism levelled against NNPC’s GMD, Maikanti Baru, by Ibe Kachikwu. Kemi Adeosun, minister of Finance, was accused of forgery. Neither the minister, nor the presidency, has even attempted responding to the allegation, two months after. All these have happened right under the nose of the president. And the perpetrators have simply walked away.

Perhaps, the words of the president himself, is instructive at this point. He had warned that his age would likely limit his performance. But it seems too many people are taking advantage of that. If truly the president can’t move at a faster pace, then he must be aware that his slow mien hasn’t necessarily helped the nation. Infact, it has slowed us down. For example, it took the president six whole months to constitute his cabinet. Boards of parastatals took almost forever to be filled. At a point, two ministers who were already screened by the Senate waited for months before being sworn in! There seems to be a general disdain for urgency in the activities of the President. He may believe his style works for him, but he must know that it has no positive effects on the country. In fact it seems to hold us down.

That’s why it always seem there is a new lease of life in the government whenever the president goes on an extended vacation. Whereas, as the father of the nation, it is from him that we’re all supposed to draw our inspiration.