With the unconstitutional suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) by President Muhammadu Buhari, the world has been served with notice that Nigeria is now a full-blown dictatorship. This did not come as a rude shock except to those that have been blind to the gradual but progressive erosion of democratic values in the polity as President Buhari’s Government has never hidden its disdain for the rule of law.
We have watched in disbelief as the Government recklessly deploys institutional prerogatives; routinely flouts the rule of law; subverts and assaults democratic Institutions; refuses to accept opponents as legitimate; suppresses citizens civil liberties(especially those of opponents) and trample underfoot the media. In short, the Government’s tyrannical and authoritarian credentials are loathsomely legendary.
No provision in Sections 157 and 292 of the 1999 Constitution as amended supports the President in purporting to suspend the CJN or swearing in an acting CJN. The whole idea of a limited government is that the President’s powers is limited by law and it is ultra vires his powers to act in the absence of explicit legislative authorization. That is representative democracy at its best which our 1999 Constitution as amended guarantees.
It is instructive to note that our Constitution does not contemplate or presupposes a situation whereby the Judiciary will have a suspended CJN and an acting CJN at the same time. Therefore, it is right to posit, as some have done that the President now has his own Chief Judge to do his bidding while Nigeria has a sitting CJN until he is removed in line with the provisions of the Constitution.
The awfully crude annexation of the judiciary by the President in violation of his oath of office and the Constitution cannot be for any other reason except, as alleged by so many, to prepare the judiciary ahead of time for the purpose of conferring some aura of legitimacy to the contraption that the 2019 general elections may after all become.
I therefore call on the President to remember that he has no better legacy to bequeath other than a good name: which cannot be achieved without honour, character and integrity. Honour and integrity demand that he upholds his oath of office by reversing this assault on our Constitution and following the manifestly clear and unambiguous constitutional procedure for the removal of the CJN if he must be removed. Anything short of this demeans all of us.
To our citizens, we must now head the warning of the Irish lawyer cum orator, John Philpot Curran who said, “the condition upon which God had given liberty to man is eternal vigilance: which condition if he breaks, servitude is at once the consequences of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt”. Despotism can only prosper in Nigeria if good men and women do nothing.
I also call on all lovers of freedom and democracy all over the world to rise to the occasion and demand of this Government and the President to halt the march to anarchy and bedlam: which dictatorship promotes. The world has an experience in this and it must not allow this unmitigated disaster on Nigeria before it acts to restore sanity.
As of today, Nigeria is now Germany in the wake of the 1933 Reichstag fire. Our democracy is on fire; ignited by the very people who swore to protect and defend it. That this fire must not convert the Chancellor to Fuhrer as it happened in Germany in 1933 depends on our collective response and that of the international community. We must not bow our knees to dictatorship: not now, not ever again.
Long live federal republic of Nigeria!
Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara
Speaker, House of Representatives
Federal Republic of Nigeria.