By Akanimo Sampson
Former Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, the home state of former military President Ibrahim Babangida, says re-election seeking President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will lose this coming February presidential election.
He was speaking as the governors of the oil bloc in Southern Nigeria were urging the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, to ignore the summons issued to him by the Code of Conduct Tribunal to come and defend the false assets declaration charges levelled against him this Monday.
Aliyu said the critical stakeholders who contributed to Buhari’s electoral victory in 2015 had all deserted the ruling party. According to him, “what happened in 2015 is what some people would call a Northern revolution. We can also say that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) really gave Buhari and the APC the victory because if you recall, the G7 was made up of seven serving governors; five of them went to the APC and the current Senate President also went to the APC as well.
“That was what gave the APC victory and now, all of them that joined the party have all returned to the PDP. As far as I am concerned, the APC has no chance in 2019 election because we in PDP are not going to make that mistake again.”
He said the opposition was aware of alleged plans by the ruling APC to rig the election, having lost the goodwill of the people, claiming also that the PDP has devised a counter strategy to stop the rigging plot and ensure that the votes of the people counted.
“We are not surprised by the intimidation and harassment which we are witnessing from the ruling party. We have been telling our members that one needs not be afraid of a party that sees itself being defeated. We are also designing a counter-strategy to make sure that nobody is intimidated.
“Election is about people. It is about development and honesty and not about so called cult building around an individual. It is about number and since we have the number, they will not stop Nigerians from electing Atiku Abubakar as the next President”, former Governor Aliyu said.
Already, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN) are some of the prominent citizens who have, condemned the Federal Government for instituting the charges against the CJN.
While warning against rubbishing the judiciary. they said the haste with which the Federal Government acted on the petition against Onnoghen was suspicious.
The oil governors after an emergency meeting at the Bayelsa State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, said the CJN should shun the summons.
Present at the meeting included the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson; Nyesom Wike, (Rivers State); Ben Ayade, (Cross River); and Udom Emmanuel, (Akwa Ibom). Delta and Edo states’ governors were absent at the meeting.
Dickson, who read the communique, said while they were not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law. “We call on the CJN to ignore this so-called court summons from the CCT and the provocative call for his resignation in some quarters. While we are not opposed to a genuine fight against corruption, such an action must always be anchored on the rule of law.”
According to them, the action will not only undermine confidence in the judiciary, it would also erode confidence in the electoral process in view of the pivotal role that the judiciary plays in the process of electoral adjudication, pointing out that they believed that Buhari had a constitutional responsibility and moral obligation to defend the nation’s democracy.
The governors, Dickson said, considered the step to arraign the CJN as directly aimed at humiliating the nation’s highest judicial officer and a prominent son of the geopolitical zone. Onnoghen’s trial, he noted, “is totally unacceptable to us as it is reflective of the endless story of the marginalisation and intimidation of the South-South.”
He cited the removal of a former acting Director General of the Department of State Services, Mathew Seiyefa, and his replacement with a Northerner to back his claim. Dickson said the action against the CJN further reinforced the perception that the Buhari administration had no regard for the rule of law and the sentiments of Nigerians in general and those of the people of the Niger Delta in particular.
The oil governors are alleging that the Buhari administration had a penchant for flagrant disobedience of and disregard for legitimate and valid court orders, adding that they expected the president to know that democracy could not survive without respect for the constitution, strict adherence to the rule of law, and separation of powers.
“The meeting deliberated on the recent happenings at the Supreme Court involving Justice Onnoghen and resolved that the action against him constituted a setback to the gains of the nation’s democratic experience of 20 years. We note that under Section 158(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council has ample powers to deal exhaustively with matters pertaining to allegations of misconduct and discipline of judicial officers.
“Specifically, the NJC has the powers and clear procedures for investigating allegations, and recommending appropriate sanctions or disciplinary measures against judicial officials as a matter of first instance before any further step. The judicial pronouncements in the cases of FGN Vs Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court (January 9, 2018) and Justice Ngajinwa Vs FGN 2017 at the CCT have given validation to the express provisions of the constitution on this issue.
“We note that the attempt to drag the CJN to the CCT is also a grave and dangerous escalation of the assault on institutions of state including the National Assembly and the Judiciary. We strongly believe that the regrettable development at the Supreme Court at this critical time, when preparations for the general elections are wobbling (with serious concern about INEC and security agencies) is capable of causing avoidable anxiety, tension and possible breakdown of law and order in the country.
“We affirm President Buhari should know that the continuous assault on critical institutions of state is a defining feature of a dictatorship, and that the President is obliged to live up to his word that he is a born-again democrat, as he assured Nigerians in 2015.”