Buhari, Onnoghen et al and their common DNA
Except the unabashed pretenders to the throne of equity and transparency, Nigerians need not be shocked by the murkiness and ravenous appetite with which the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has been identified. If the alleged fraud of Onnoghen centres on his not claiming what is his, a greater tragedy is the Nigerian state and its leaders claiming what is not theirs. In that case, how could it be strange that the chief judicial officer allegedly pleaded amnesia to mitigate his culpability when the entire fabric of the Nigerian nation is steeped in fraud? It was fraud that actuated the cobbling together of Nigeria in the first place. The people of the Niger Delta did not sit together with others in 1914 and agree that they should have a common country where in the future they would be the ones producing the wealth of the country but suffer immiseration at the hands of the rest of the population who luxuriate in opulence. This forced togetherness has been worsened by the constitution of 1999 that prolifically sires misgovernance and inequity.
So, the wonder is why we are surprised that the people that this nation has produced cannot be weaned off fraud. It is because our political leaders have accepted that fraud is an inextricable part of the national life that every measure proposed to stymie it is easily rebuffed. Thus, President Muhammadu Buhari who claims to possess anti-corruption credentials is not fit to recommend himself as the indisputable incarnation of the age of transparency in the country. Here is the president who became part of the nation’s leadership through nebulous educational qualifications. When he was asked to clear the haze over these credentials, he declared that they were with the military authorities. But there was the counter from the military authorities that his credentials were not with them – here, we must locate the forebear of the amnesia that Onnoghen pleaded. Buhari responded to the persistent demand for his educational qualifications by electing to hire a plethora of senior advocates to defend his case. It is because Buhari considers fraud as the eternal DNA of his nation and its people that he has been opposed to the clamour for restructuring that is considered capable of breaking the nation’s entrapment in sleaze and launching it into a comity of nations where there is development underpinned by transparency, equity and justice. Since Buhari emerged as the nation’s president, he has been unrelenting in perpetuating this state-sanctioned fraud by entrenching nepotism. He has filled almost all agencies of government with his fellow northern Muslims. This fraud also finds expression in his skewed anti-corruption fight that is targeted at his perceived or real enemies. Buhari and his co-travellers in the All Progressives Congress (APC) so strongly believe that corruption in Nigeria cannot be eradicated that the party’s chairman Adams Oshiomhole has declaimed that once any corrupt politicians defect to the APC, their sins are automatically forgiven. This is why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which easily loses its sight before the members of APC has refused to probe the N100 billion fraud allegation against Alpha Beta reportedly owned by Bola Tinubu who is the chief campaigner of Buhari. When the petitioner expressed his outrage at his claim not being investigated, the EFCC ludicrously resorted to asking him to give it a reminder.
Again, the Nigerian state has been defrauding some segments of the people. Take the case of the people of the Niger Delta. Their oil resources produce the revenue that sustains the nation. But while they bear the ecological depravations, the rest of the country gets a disproportionate part of the wealth. This wealth has been used to build Abuja from nothing. Worse still, agencies that are responsible for managing the oil revenue are filled with people who are not from the Niger Delta. In essence, it is outsiders who are meant to speak and think for those who are affected by oil exploration and exploitation about how to stop their pains.
It is part of the national celebration of fraud that while the citizens cry for help against Fulani herdsmen, Buhari looks away. Again, we see this fraud ethos in the opportunities that are open for citizens. A citizen from one section of the country who scored seven per cent in a qualifying examination would get admission into the university while a citizen from another part of the country who scored 60 per cent would not. Even after the second citizen has managed to secure admission into the university after so many attempts, he would not get a job while the first citizen has been ensconced in a government job managing the resources derived from the backyard of the second citizen.
Onnoghen is a product of this ethical flux. Yes, he has not been prosecuted in a law court and found guilty of the charges against him. But if he is found guilty, it should not be a surprise since his environment is not meant to replicate in him a Chief Justice John Marshall. He cannot be a Marshall because Onnoghen like his compatriots – all products of a fraudulent and materialistic milieu – has allegedly been preoccupied with acquiring dollarised bank accounts and mansions. He is not interested in the intellectual and legal profundity that made Marshall to be credited with rewriting the American constitution. Consider this: Marshall was once asked who most influenced his judicial opinions. He was not bogged down by the anxiety of influence; he did not declare that it was jurists before him. Rather, he declared that it was Alexander Pope. His judicial philosophy and entire worldview were mediated by Pope’s . Marshall lived in an age when Pope’s Essay on Man was a favourite with scientists and philosophers, including Emmanuel Kant. It was an age when judges and their compatriots in other spheres of life were reminded that man is “ placed on this isthmus of a middle-state, a being darkly wise and rudely great…Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled; The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!”
Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was known to be fond of quoting this. No wonder he had the presence of mind to confront the grim challenges of his days, especially those of the Second World War, that but for his genius, would have made Europe a vassal of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Do our leaders seek to improve their minds? Does Buhari read? Even though an unimpeachable example had been set before him by Gen. Yakubu Gowon who left office and pursued education up to a doctoral level, has Buhari been inspired by this example? If Buhari attempts to find succour in the laughable argument that Gowon went to school to break the boredom of exile, there is a ready counter to him in this regard in Olusegun Obasanjo. In the short time of his leaving the presidency, Obasanjo has acquired his master’s degree and a doctorate. Buhari has only been fixated on acquiring power and its privileges. It is not surprising that he cannot appropriately respond to the nation’s problems.
It was in this ethical hiatus that Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed strove to snatch the apogee of his career from the ordeal of Onnoghen. Mohammed lacked the courage not only to appropriately advise the misguided president but to reject the offer to be the CJN even though he knew that the step he was about taking was patently fraudulent. The continued survival of the likes of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar is dependent on this state where the corrupt, the fraudulent defines the collective trajectory of a nation’s life. There has been a N10 million bribery allegation against him. He has not resigned. Yet, he is the one who is trying Onnoghen for corruption. It is thus not surprising that he was bound to issue a fraudulent order that Onnoghen should be suspended.
Thus, in an attempt to create the impression of sanitising the judiciary, it is not only Onnoghen that should be forced to quit his high office. Mohammed and Umar must suffer the same fate. And if Onnoghen must go to jail, Mohammed and Umar should also join him there. They are all products of a nation that abhors the law and its concomitants of transparency, justice and equity and the urgent need to engender a fresh phase of life through restructuring and the abandonment of a warped constitution.