The Righetousness of Dissent

By Obi Nwakanma

No one tells the deaf that there is a stampede in the market” – Igbo proverb

On May 29, a handover ceremony should take place, with a parade at the Eagles Square, to inaugurate a new, elected President of Nigeria. That date would end the eight disastrous years of Mr. Muhammadu Buhari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I do emphasize the word “disastrous.” Buhari is a very tragic figure of Nigerian history.

History beckoned twice to him to govern. First as a military Head of State. Second as a civilian president of Nigeria. In both instances, he was a failure. In the unfolding annals of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari will be recorded as the worst leader ever to rise to leadership, at least so far.

Whatever else happens, he would be recorded among the worst plagues to befall Nigeria. Should Nigeria manage to survive and hang together as a nation, the story would be told of a Muhammadu Buhari who was offered the opportunity for greatness but squandered it over pettiness, ignorance, provincialism, and the corruption of the institution of state.

He would be known as Buhari, the religious fanatic, who, in the end, was abandoned by God. He would be known as Buhari, the hypocrite, who came promising to end corruption, but supervised the most corrupt government thus far in the annals of Nigeria. Until Buhari, no one ever heard about a nepotistic Nigerian head of state. You could accuse those who came before him of many things, but they always rose above their narrow provincialism.

But Buhari made nepotism an official character of Nigerian statecraft. The administration under Buhari took Nigeria from one of the most prosperous countries on the rise, to one of the extremely impoverished, hopeless, nightmarish, and very suicidal nations on earth.

Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world under him. That is a very record achievement. His most signal achievement in fact. Nigeria became the brazen killing field for terrorists – both officially sanctioned state terrorists under his command, and non-state terror groups.

For the first time in the history of Nigeria, it became impossible to travel and to conduct exchange nationally. How can a country without ability to move goods and human beings conduct trade and exchange; and feed itself? Farmers were running from bandits. Trains were derailed and Nigerians publicly kidnapped. The Nigerian Military Academy was brazenly attacked and cadets and officers killed.

Buhari made certain that Nigeria was on her knees. This administration, of all its greatest sins, have borrowed Nigeria into economic slavery with nothing to show for it. Nigeria became a looters’ haven. I’m not sure Nigerians appreciate the tragic extent of this yet. This is a national emergency. Buhari knows it and is in a hurry to hand over power, and run. Nigeria is in a sticky end. Investors – both local and foreign, have fled from Nigeria.

Nigerians are fleeing like a herd on stampede. They call it “Japa.” Those who are fleeing are young, talented, and virile Nigerians. They are giving up on Nigeria as never before. It used to be that Nigerians had hope: they would travel, but they always hoped to return.

Today, under Buhari and his APC disaster, young Nigerians are dusting their heels at the doorsteps of Nigeria. They do not hope to return. There is nothing left for them in Nigeria. It is a dark and nightmarish place to be born, and this has been made so very stark for them under the APC administration. So, President Muhammadu Buhari wants to quickly handover and leave on May 29, 2023. He says, the handover date is “sacrosanct.”

Nigerians are still debating whether the Buhari who is in a hurry to run from Aso Rock on May 29 is the exact Buhari they elected in February 2015. This Buhari seems far too loopy. With that fixed, sheepish smile constantly on his face, he seems very clearly out of touch with everything.

Saying things that are out of this world, including statements in his Salah message, claiming to have conducted the freest and most peaceful elections in the history of elections in Nigeria, which is, to the administration, one of its “proudest achievements,” adds to the mystery. It is of course a lie that the elections were free or peaceful.

Every report about it – both from international and local observers – with concrete evidence, emphasize the opposite. Only Buhari, Lai Mohammed, the APC and INEC, are the only ones selling the lie of a free and peaceful elections. It is in fact one of the most laughable polls ever conducted in Nigeria.

Billions went down the drain in the guise of technology which the electoral body under this administration claimed would be a game changer, but which suddenly developed a “glitch” just as the presidential results began to trickle in. Someone deliberately rendered all that billions spent on electronic technology for the polls absolutely useless.

It is treasonable waste of national resource. If it were in China, all those who conducted such a sham election, with the vast incidents of open corruption, would be publicly shot. But this is Nigeria. Here, corruption and impunity against the state has replaced patriotism and high moral conduct.

Today in Nigeria, it is considered immoral to be too moral. That is the legacy of Buhari. But back to the elections. The claim that the handover date to a new president on May 29 is sacrosanct is bogus.

The key question is, if these elections were true, fair, and peaceful, and the results broadly accepted, why are there no celebrations? Why is it only the government and a handful of APC partisans justifying the results? Why are the results very seriously disputed and the challenges still in court? Why is there disquiet on the streets? Why does Nigeria seem like a bomb about to go off? Why is Buhari trying to run away quickly and hand over hot charcoals to somebody with whom he has very clearly made succession deals?

Why did Datti Baba Ahmed’s very eloquent and fearless declaration on National TV warning against that handover and its consequence spook this administration and its fellow travelers? Let no one deceive Nigerians. May 29 handover is not certain.

It should, in fact, not be. Datti Baba Ahmed is quite correct: to hand over power to Mr. Tinubu, whose election is under serious dispute before an election tribunal would be illegal and unconstitutional. It would delegitimize the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It would amount to the end of democracy and the tossing of Constitutional government.

It would shred the constitution of Nigeria and establish a precedent which would legitimize power by heist. It would therefore best serve the interest of Nigeria to constitute the election tribunal very quickly, and get it to dispense quick and informed judgment, as the legal luminary, Olisa Agbakoba, has suggested. It is no rocket science. If the courts could do it cleanly in Kenya, there is no earthly reason, other than self-indulgence, why the Nigerian courts cannot do the same.

And if the Nigerian election tribunal cannot adjudicate this matter in time, and this is where I disagree with Mr. Agbakoba, there are grounds to establish, under the constitution, a transitional government, pending the inauguration of the President. Buhari can go. Indeed, Buhari must leave on May 29.

But the institution of state remains. The president of the republic is not the institution of state. He is just head of state. But Nigeria has a protocol list. That protocol list was established for a reason. Whereas the current President and Vice-President must leave office constitutionally on May29, and a vacuum exists because the courts have not declared an elected President as is required by law, the President of Senate can be sworn in as Acting President to lead a transitional government, pending when the courts will declare a president duly elected.

A president does not need to be inaugurated on May 29. That date is not sacrosanct. It is only a conventional date. A president of Nigeria can be inaugurated on October 1. If the National Assembly is in abeyance, the Chief Justice can swear in the Secretary to the Federal Government as acting President of an interim government and Administrator of the Republic, pending the adjudication by the courts and the declaration of a duly elected President of Nigeria.

The doctrine of necessity will apply in this case, and the established protocol for state succession in the event of vacancy as we are about to experience it, must equally apply.

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