By Olufemi Oluwaseye.
President Muhammadu Buhari obviously doesn’t trust Justice Walter Onnoghen. The distrust has very little to do with the Judge himself, but with the very man Buhari. Buhari either knows you personally, or, you are suspiciously corrupt. Its as simple as that. Buhari strangely, lives in a world of illusion. The illusion that almost everyone in Nigeria is corrupt. And except he can personally vouch for you, you are likely a bad person. If he had built an extensive network of people, his microcosm community would have likely been a fairly accurate representation of Nigeria. But Mr Buhari’s viewpoint starts and ends somewhere around Daura, and then a little into Kaduna. If you are not from those two places, or you have not been fortunate to cross his path somehow, then, you are a very corrupt person. Afterall, as he himself recently agreed to with aplomb, Nigerians are fantastically corrupt. All of them!
President Buhari is not a lawyer. Its actually not his job to know who is qualified to be the Chief Justice. That responsibility lies with the National Judicial Council. He may actually refuse their choice, constitutionally. But the new choice still has to come from them. So, it was shocking, that, months after the NJC forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the president, for a simple job of passing same to the national assembly, he did nothing. And there was an embarrassing silence from those who should know better: the bar.
Constitutionally, there are provisions for an “acting Chief Justice”, but that would be in most extraordinary of situations. There was nothing extraordinary about a chief justice retiring, and the next in line stepping in. Not that such a boring and predictable system of succession doesn’t have its own shortcomings, but altering that system, when finally, a southerner has the opportunity of occupying the post after over 28 years of northern domination, is wrong.
The claim from Aso Rock is that there is an ongoing investigation of judges by security agents. One arm of government investigating another! In other words, Mr Onnoghen is under investigation. And we know he would most likely be found guilty, a perfect excuse to dump him for another saint from Daura. Not remembering that when Obasanjo foisted the worst 2007 elections on us which produced Yar’Adua, Onnoghen was one of the three judges at the supreme court that voided the election in its entirety.
The constitution is very clear. President Buhari can either forward Onnoghen’s name or allow his three month tenure run out and allow the matter die a natural death.
When contacted, a source at the presidency, quoting Thisday Newspaper, (Jan 22, 2017), says the president is hoping Onnoghen passes the security agencies test. But if he fails, the unnamed source continues, then the President promised to appoint a replacement from the South-south of the country. Nonsense!
First, the Chief justice is the head of an arm of government. In as much as no one is above the law, its ridiculous to assume the NJC could all be wrong while DSS, a body headed by Buhari’s cousin, should be right. Its ridiculous to assume the DSS should determine the fate of the number one Judicial officer. Its ridiculous that since August, when his name was forwarded, the DSS hasn’t concluded investigations, knowing that he can’t be reappointed as acting CJN once his tenure expires early February.
Buhari obviously doesn’t love Onnoghen. Maybe it has to do with where he’s from more than who he is. But the truth is that if he thinks their marriage would be allowed to die quietly while he picks his new wife, he is mistaken. Buhari must tell Nigerians why he still hasn’t sent Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation. That in itself should be a formality. For it is ironic that our senate, populated by active and retired rogues should screen a rogue catcher. But, that is the law.
Buhari however must be honest to let us know the real reason is that Onnoghen is from outside his clique, where all the saints in Nigeria reside. Buhari must be honest to tell us he doesn’t trust the rest of us. Instead of hiding behind DSS and security reports which are mere attack dogs used by our despotic leaders to hound and oppress those they don’t like.
I can however assure Buhari. Rejecting Onnoghen for whatever reason would be noisy, and messy. And he wont be without bruises and painful scars of a needless grandstanding, after it. We wish him full and quick recovery in London.
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