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Buhari’s administration a tale of woes for Nigerians –Obayuwana

Dr. Osagie Obayuwana is a Human Rights Lawyer and former Attorney General and Commissionner for Justice in Edo State. In this interview with FRANCIS OGBUAGU, he bares his mind on the 2023 general election and other burning national issues

 

We are coming to the end of President Buhari’s eight years administration, how do you rate him in terms of economy, security and the rule of law?

I think that the record of the regime is a sad experience across the board for Nigerians, for a regime that people place a lot of hopes on. People referred to the President as Mr. Integrity, many people had expectations that unfortunately has been dashed, and I know that the President knows this, he just have to be allowed to go, he was so anxious to serve that as a young military officer, he circumvented the electoral process and system of administration of justice after the 1983 elections, one of the reasons he gave for sizing power illegally was that the elections were not free and fair, so we want to wonder who is General Buhari to rely on that as a basic of sizing power, but he did ,and we saw the double standards at that time.

We have talked about the international abduction of Umaru Dikko; we saw those that were publicly executed in application of retrospective laws, we saw journalists jailed, even if what he was saying was true, but subjectively, just because the Head of State or any of the governor does not like what he published. But, somehow he was kicked out of office and the regimes that came in were progressively worse, of course they were fought by the Nigerian people, the fact that the article of your trade is guns does not mean that you are the most patriotic or have the noblest idea.

I have come to notice that in terms of corruption that was a regular refrain, the military administrators were no better, so somehow through the tenacity of the Nigerian people we got the opportunity to choose our leaders through the ballot box. We have been on that journey for a little while, so after sometime he started to aspire to become president, don’t forget he served the Abacha dictatorship.

So it cannot be said that he participated in fighting military dictatorship, though his handlers tried to give the impression when he was contesting that he was a changed man, it is on record of how many times he tried, believing that the votes from the northern part of the country was enough, but the reality taught him a lesson, that bitter lesson reduced the soldier to a weeping General, that is what the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu touted him with not long ago.

Anyway, he was given the mandate and at his inauguration, he said he was for nobody and belongs to everybody.

How has he fared in that regard?

From the composition of his government since 2015, we saw that it was a blatant lie and since then, he has not responded to a lot of accusations against him. One can think of Muritala Mohammed, who wanted to free Nigeria from foreign dictatorship at least in African affairs, but can we say that Buhari’s foreign policy these eight years has come anywhere close to that?

We serve foreign powers, from whom Nigerians have been struggling to free themselves economically, so foreign dictatorship has continued to be the challenge we face in terms of economy. We saw the re-devaluation of our currency that has made inflation to be so high, you can see that medications and food have become rear commodities in the hands of Nigerians.

The economy has not expanded to say that graduate unemployment has reduced; rather Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world, outshining countries that are well less blessed. So his ethno-religious inclinations have polarized Nigeria along ethnic and religious lines. His disposition is not helping matters. He has told you that he has no apology for extending the railway or building refineries in Niger Republic and meeting some of the expenses there. At least some of us were thinking that the Calabar- Lagos Railway, which is to pass through Edo State was something we could look-up to, that could become an alternative to carriage of goods and passengers, but you can see it and we just has a few months to the end of his administration.

It has been one tale of woes. It is part of what will define what the incoming administration has to tackle, that sense of entitlement, some people are telling us that Nigeria belong to them as children of Usman dan Fodio, that the work Usman dan Fodio didn’t complete, it is the lot of their generation to complete.

One expected Mr President to react when Miyettia Allah was threatening all of us to say, don’t talk like that this country belongs to us all,but he said nothing.

We have few months to the general elections, and three major candidates (Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu) are trying to outwit each other in attempts to get the attention of Nigerian electorate, what do you think should be done to avoid a repeat of the 2015 election that produced a man said to be incompetent?

With the current security challenges, hunger and a sense of hopelessness facing our country now, people are fighting back in different ways, those involved in kidnapping, those involved in robbery, those in banditry, even Boko Haram. There are aspects of managing public affairs in this country that is very repulsive.

 

The poverty gap is winding so much for Nigerians; people have been submerged in poverty, while trillionaires have emerged; the number of out-of-school children in the North has multiplied, illiteracy, unemployment and underemployment, even death by preventable diseases are so high.

We heard that there some areas in the North where the so called bandits even sunk boreholes for the community to get water, as a way of showing that they care more than the government. Yet, they are billionaires that are moving around in presidential jets, and the President will always say, ‘allow Alhaji this or that use the presidential jet.” This same people are the same that want to use ethno-religious sentiment to retain power, possibly from the North.

Of course, they have their counterparts in the South here, who may complain, but by and large their interest remain the same thing, anyone who wants to rebuild this country, anyone who wants to unite this country, anyone that wants to fight insecurity, high level of poverty and disease across board most tell us how he intends to do it.

The major thing in Nigeria today is to empower the victims of this misrule and that is what any candidate that is seeking the votes of the people should tell us how he will do it. Anybody talking about privatization, selling more of our national assets to themselves, cannot be said to be the one that is bent on narrowing the gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria, so who among the contenders can confront these challenges ideologically with clarity and is prepared to mobilize the victims of the system and say I am only offering myself as a servant, to bring about these kinds of changes that is long overdue in our country.

You mentioned three leading candidates and left out someone like Omoyele Sowore for instance. A revolt is already on now. It is manifesting in different ways, if the 2023 election does not address these issues, It will still manifest in other forms, the election will come and go, but the insecurity and destruction of national life will continue.

We need a leader that is prepared to subsume himself in awakening followership.

People are being mobilized, all those who think that they will cut corners, incapacitate INEC so that they will not be able to organize the process, so that the will of the people will prevail will have an angry populace to contend with, there is no saying that it is only through the ballot box that the Nigerian revolution will be consummated. The 2023 election will only add fuel into it. Nigerians should not allow themselves to be pitched against each other on the basics of tribe and religious inclination.

What we have in common is deprivation and hellish kind of life, when you cannot move from one part of the country to the other, no matter how short, without having to be fearful and be looking over your shoulder.

Children are dying of malaria, water borne diseases because of the quality of water available, children are not being equipped with necessary skills, these can be avoided.

Can we say that because this is time for promises, then someone will say I want to eradicate unemployment and you don’t tell me how you want to achieve that, I don’t subscribe to this “contractocracy” whereby they use budget making process to create business opportunities for their friends, while telling us that we want establish school, build roads and even drug manufacturing companies. I think you people with the power of the pen should articulate these issues

What is your advice to INEC ahead of this election

It is a sacred duty to be an arbiter, to be a referee, it is not a position of a judge. It is like a referee that must ensure that equal opportunities are given. The signals from INEC shows that they are prepared to discharge their mandate to the best of their ability.

As regards to electoral malpractice, they have made their challenges known. They need to be supported, the true mark of democracy is to do your best and leave the rest. If for any reason the election does not favour you, then wait for next time. This do-or-die politics is not a good one.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, not long ago discharged Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) absolving him of any criminal charges, but the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami said,Kanu was discharged, but not acquitted and they has proceed to the Supreme Court, what is your view as human right activist and lawyer?

I want to commend the dedication to duty, the forthrightness and commitment exhibited by their lordships, the justices of the Court Appeal, Abuja Division. Yes it is true that they need no special commendation, as they were just doing their job. Having said that, it is not out of place to recognize the strength of character the delivery of that judgement at this point of time call for; it was a unanimous judgement.

You know that the law is founded on precedents, it is a major anchor of rule of law that you cannot resort to illegality in the enforcement of the rule of law.

 

The Federal Government in an act that clearly amounts to undue desperation for whatever reasons, over played itself, I cannot quite put my finger on what made the forcible abduction of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to come and face trial of such importance.

 

It is mind-burgling the efforts that were made to arrange his abductors internationally, made facilities like an airplane available to forcibly violate the territorial integrity of a fellow African Country, abduct a citizen and made him to come and face charges in Nigeria.

There is a way in which we are reminded of the first coming of the Buhari military dictatorship. We remember how he sort of put Alhaji Umaro Dikko in a crate, there is a certain level of crudity. Do we call that dedication to duty or something that is motivated by the spirit of vengeance?

If there is anything that can be said about the rule of law under the Buhari regime, I don’t think that the regime has succeeded in speaking forthrightly on the allegation of handling bandits with kid gloves.

We have not heard of bandits that have been pursued even within our territorial confine here with the manner which that job was done, as far as investigation is concerned; to assemble witnesses to have these people who have committed heinous crime tried and punished as the law provides, but for Nnamdi Kanu, we saw what has been done.

What the Court of Appeal simply did was to refuse to close the eye of justice on how Kanu was brought to the seat of justice.

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