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Editorial

Bolanle is just a number! Who’s next?

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Nigerians woke up on Monday, to the shocking story of how police officers mowed down Bolanle Raheem, a 41-year-old lawyer, in Lagos, on Sunday, Christmas day. It was said that the deceased, who had veered into real estate and doing well in the business, was returning from church with her husband, little kid and sister, when they were flagged down by some policemen at Ajah roundabout on the Lekki-Ajah axis of Lagos. She was heavily pregnant, with seven-month set of twins

Hear from her husband, Gbenga Raheem: “On December 25, my wife, nieces, nephews, and cousins, who had come for the holiday, all went to church. On our way back, my wife said since it was Christmas Day, we should take everyone out, so, we went to a supermarket at Abraham Adesanya, then to Domino’s Pizza.

“After that, we headed towards Ajah to do a U-turn to come back to Abraham Adesanya. When we took the U-turn, we saw policemen stopping some vehicles. As we approached them, they said we should stop, and in the process, we heard a loud sound on my wife’s side window. All of a sudden, I saw blood gushing out of her chest.

“I immediately ran out; my sister-in-law, who was also with us, ran out and held the policeman; he cocked his gun at her too. Talking to him was pointless, so I went to see if anything could be done; I saw my wife gasping for breath, and by that time, my sister-in-law had brought the policeman into the car and pushed him into the front seat.

“We drove to a hospital but they said they couldn’t handle it; we eventually took her to Grandville Hospital, where she was confirmed dead. The policemen took her body and put it in the truck; they wanted me to follow them but I said I needed to go and settle my children.”

Shocked? You could only be if you were a stranger to the atrocities of men in uniform in Nigeria, especially the police. There are several gorier, eerier and more outlandish episodes in the past to underscore the mindset of the people we are talking about. Perhaps, few examples will suffice.

Indeed, many Nigerians may have forgotten the Apo Six debacle that began with the killing of six young people – five traders and a lady girlfriend of one of them at the spare parts market in Apo District of Abuja in 2005. But the details still remain as stark as they are chilling. Many would yet recall some of the revelations at the Special Investigative Panel (SIP) conducted by Justice Goodluck Olasumbo set up by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. One of them particularly stood out.

Recall how the police team that carried out the murder gave a special treatment to Tina Arebum, the lady at the centre of the bestial murder, whose rejection of the advances infuriated the officer that supervised the carnage. It was said that a six-feet nail was inserted into her nose and driven with the boot of her torturer at the Apo Police Station.

This was done in the presence of a group of policemen, who stood by and watched and obviously enjoyed the show, as revealed by the panel. Nobody tried to restrain or intervene to minimise her pain and suffering. At least, if she must die, let it be quick and decisive like the others who were killed with bullets. But for having the temerity of snubbing an officer, she must die in the most excruciatingly painful manner the mind could conceive. That captures the mindset of the people we are talking about.

Of course, but for the hand of fate, they had the entire case wrapped up. Providence manifested in one of the initial two survivors, who contacted one of his brothers on phone to narrate what happened, before he was eventually killed himself by the police hunters. It was the brother who spilled the beans. Otherwise, the entire six had been designated as armed robbers. The usual evidence had been procured.

How Lagos policeman killed my pregnant wife – Lawyer's husband

 

Two locally made pistols, two live cartridges, two expended cartridges, two daggers and one cutlass were displayed purportedly recovered from the victims’ car, as evidence. In fact, the victims, had all been buried in shallow graves at the back of the police station to put a final seal on the macabre episode until the panel ordered their exhumation to reveal a contrary evidence that they were all shot at close range.

Now, how many other victims have met a similar fate since that heinous and notorious incident? Don’t even try to hazard a guess. Naturally, the reasonable conclusion is that operatives would become more circumspect and prudent with their behaviours.

At the notorious Awkuzu Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) office, a sign Welcome To Hell, admitted victims to an experience that could not be compared to Nazi Germany. The rest of the grisly story of the atrocities in that hellish entity, is already in the public domain. In the heat of the #EndSARS, the activities of that centre of death, was well highlighted. Meanwhile, the man at the head of it all is still working free.

While the dust of the #EndSARS, was still in the air, the story of Chima Ikwunado, broke out in Port Harcourt. A mechanic, he was arbitrarily arrested, detained, extorted and tortured to death on the orders of the Commander of the E-Crack team, Benson Adetuyi and the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) on the case identified as Inspector Sam, who reportedly wrongly charged him, alongside four others for robbery and cultism.

Indeed, it was a stroke of luck that saved the other four, named as Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday, Ifeanyi Osuji and Ifeanyi Onyekwere, his apprentices, who were arrested with him for the simple offence of driving against traffic, but was upgraded by the time it got to the Mile 1 Police Station where they were detained.

The owner of the vehicle, who had been equally detained, had told the officers that it was not stolen, but that was taken for repairs and even when an attempt to coerce him into stating that the car was indeed stolen, he refused and under intense pressure, involved a senior officer in the Nigerian Air Force, who proved that he was the owner of the car.

That was how the bubble burst. Yet, even at this stage, the affected officers did not let go, as they quickly charged the matter to court, still sticking to the allegations of robbery and cult violence, while declaring Chima, who died in their custody out of torture, and from whom they had taken N93,000 found on him to be ‘at large. It was because the magistrate court, apparently seized of the fact of the case as a frame up that released the victims.

Now, like Bolanle Raheem, these were celebrated cases in the Nigerian public. But how far have they gone to whittle down the taste for blood of innocent citizens of Nigeria by the police. How far has it got to curb impunity in them? The answer is there before everybody.

No doubt, the present case is making waves, because of the circumstances. May be because it happened in the open before witnesses or because God simply wanted to expose the culprits and another bizarre episode of the Nigerian Police operations. Else, it would have been successfully defended. The slain lawyer, might also be lucky that she might get justice against her killers, because it did not happen elsewhere.

Did anybody ask any question when a whole busload of human beings, was set ablaze by the same policemen in Imo State? Did everyone not retire to their homes after the police dubbed them members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, and held responsible for the murder of former Presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak?

Yet, are the same Nigerians not witnesses to more people being arrested at different occasions for the same offence of killing the late politician? Only this Tuesday, December 27, another man, said to be a deserted military man, was arrested for killing the same man. So, how many people killed Gulak? Don’t even ask, because doing so could mean trouble, especially for someone in the South East.

Indeed, last year alone, the death through extra-judicial means by those Nigerians employed to protect them was put at over 270. These were of course the documented cases alone. Many are unreported because they are either not discovered or those who should speak for them remain silent for obvious reason(s).

But, what do you say in a country, where there exists a manifest tendency to cover up these crimes in the main, by the authorities either at the level of these killer agencies or at the larger level of government. What has been the response to cases raised by groups like Amnesty International, even to very obvious and well documented cases. What response have families got from the thousands if not millions of petitions lying in different offices at the highest echelon?

Now, there is weeping, wailing and mourning everywhere. While we at WhirlwindNews, join millions of Nigerians in mourning the brutal and needless killing of Bolanle Raheem, the question remains, who is the next victim? Why? If it doesn’t happen today, it will tomorrow. Because in this police killing Bolanle is just a number! That’s the tragedy!

Editorial

Like Buhari, Tinubu has no business in Aso Rock

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Nigerians knew that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would be a bad President. What they probably did not know is that he would be this terribly bad or that it would be this fast, so soon after. Or put another way – a complete disaster, tapering towards a national fatality.

Yes! Fatality! That is the only correct reading of the fate of Nigeria if something does not happen soon and quickly too, apparently not to stop – for that would be too much to ask – but at least mitigate or slow down the galloping descent to the jagged rock down the precipice – the only bargain any right-thinking person might hope for at times like this.

 

It takes only an imbecile or a listless moron with the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), of a Mongolian idiot not to have recognised the signs, or noticed where the country would be headed with him at the driving wheel. Of course the last time I checked, no Nigerian shares the history of the Mongols. The devil in the room therefore is not that Nigerians lacked the knowledge or wisdom to do the right thing, but other myriads factors helped to bring him to power.

Yes! Let it be stated again that Tinubu was not the choice of Nigerians. That one is settled irrespective of what the judges at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) decide. No matter the bold face anyone puts up, the truth about who Nigerians chose to lead the country in 2023, is ensconced in the inner recesses of every heart. But it is what it is, as the saying goes in our hood.

Indeed, even if he were not showing the signs of clear incapacity, figuratively and in real terms, it would have been easier for the camel to enter through the eyes of the needle than for the All Progressives Congress (APC), his party, co-led with as the National Leader, to have produced another President after Muhammadu Buhari and the calamity he wrought on the country.

A little digression might help understand this position. In December, 2008, I had a sit-down with Nana Akufo-Addo, today’s President of Ghana, at his home in Accra. As then, candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the ruling entity in the country, he had just won the election on the first ballot, but missed being declared winner and would-be successor to John Kuffor, by the skin of the teeth. His votes were not enough to declare him President by a few hundred – mind you not thousands or millions – just a few hundred votes – that were denied him.

Of course, not under the watch of Kwado Afari-Gyan – I hear he is now late – Chairman of Electoral Commission of Ghana (ECG), would anyone be rewarded with half a vote not earned legitimately – government candidate or not – unlike his Nigerian opposites – Maurice Iwu, Attahiru Jega or the babanla of them all – the cyber-shutting, Mahmoud Yakubu, who has given the world the new meaning of the word, glitch.

So, I had asked my host his expectations regarding the inevitable recontest between him and the late Atta Mills, the candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP). You know what he told me? He did not take me on a cruise inside the space coaster of political lies like the archetypical Nigerian in the mould of Adams Oshiomhole who changes colours like ogwomagana, but shot straight from the hips.

“I know that Ghanaians have become weary of voting one party. Our party has been in power for two terms and there might be that urge for a change. Besides there might be a coalition between the opposition and other parties. Those are my fears.”

Those were his exact words. He did not tell me how the people loved him and how they saw him as the next best thing in the world since the discovery of Ewa Agonyi and Agege bread. He told me the truth the way he knew if. Incidentally, I was still in Ghana to see his prediction come to pass, exactly the way he read it.

Atta Mills went ahead to win that election. Parenthetically, I was one of those invited to meet with the new President, years later, when he came to Nigeria to seek help at Synagogue Church of All Nations of the late Temitope Balogun (TB), Joshua for his ailing health issues. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that the late cleric was using us to “catch cruise” as it is said these days.

For try as we did using all the tricks in the book, my team and I were not allowed to meet with him. The only sign that he was actually in the building was the long black Mercedes Benz car with all the insignia of his high office, of course befitting an African President, inside the living quarters of the church. I had hoped to confront him with the Ghanaian experience and beg him on how he could help Nigeria transmit the Ghanaian model or get it to their level of election without tears, such as I witnessed in the one that produced him.

On a personal level, I would also have used the opportunity to confront him about how his aides gave me the short end of the stick, when they kept me waiting for hours in a futile attempt to get an exclusive from him, only for some white men and ladies wielding cameras, to be expressly ushered in straight with immediate effect and automatic alacrity, as Chief Eleiyimi of Oja, in Village Headmaster, would put it, while I was still waiting and hoping.

Who knows, I could even have been invited to Ghana on a pleasure trip as compensation in addition to the apologies for my troubles, including nearly missing my flight back to Nigeria. But, I never got the chance, no thanks to Joshua and his tricky ways.

Of course, there is no chance of that anymore, here on earth, except, perhaps in heaven. The man has since died and ironically, Akufo-Addo is now President, some years after that interesting encounter in Accra. Nonetheless, that singular event with the Ghanaian President then, remains instructive till date – people get weary of voting one party and make changes for the sake of it.

So, that the APC was destined for its political Waterloo, even on this singular factor, was known to the goat and the hen. Indeed if any miracle could have sprung them from the depth of political morass, the genie would have come from the magic lamp of Yemi Osinbajo, then Vice President who ought to be the party’s talisman and not Tinubu.

But he has gotten there anyways, by his simple political technique of snatching it, grabbing it and running with it, one that he perfected in the uncanny relay race agreement he struck with Buhari. So now what? The answer is what you are seeing today. The worst Nigerians have feared is unfolding already. The Tinubu phenomenon, Yinka Odumakin, his once close ally warned long time ago, is unravelling before everyone’s eyes.

Imagine just how one thoughtless, rash, impulsive quip – subsidy is gone – has set off a domino effect – a chain reaction that has cascaded throughout the country, leaving in its stride a flood of pain, anguish, hunger and death. Imagine the supine, banal and vapid solution that has been offered to contain it when the horse has already bolted from the stable.

Worse still, indications are that there are many more of such faux pass where that came from, as evidence of groping in the dark, has become the major imprimatur of the last three months. Like handing over the job of piloting a plane to a cobbler, nobody seems to know what to do.

As flood from the dike began to drown everything in sight from that singular move, the first step was the wackiest proposal that he would release N8,000 to the “poorest of poor Nigerians.” No data, no clear idea of the target is. Just empty words that would neither scratch the surface of the problem, assuming the money really got to anyone in the first place, nor make the littlest impact.

Now, it became obvious that the completely asinine move would fall flat on its face, another one banger, has just been released. We’re being told of how, this time, N180billion would be released as a panacea. Guess what the money would be used for! Five trailers of rice for each of the 36 states of the federation, N5billion for them to procure 100,000 bags of rice and other palliatives.

Now, ask where this rice would come from? Does Nigeria have the capacity to produce a quarter of the quantity of rice needed for this project? In the end, it would be a fresh chase for foreign exchange as the states take a recourse to importation, again, assuming that the governors would not pocket the money.

Now, has anyone heard Tinubu, or any of his officials speak strongly about corruption? Has anyone heard him proffer solutions on how the oil thieves in the Niger Delta could be stopped and oil production upped to such a level that Nigeria would meet its quota at the international oil market?

No! Never! But who is not aware that Nigeria is emphatically the only oil producing country in the world that is not benefitting from the ongoing war in Ukraine? Have you heard him, in all the discussions going on about subsidy and or lack of it, talk about the restoration of the four refineries in Nigeria? Again, who is not aware that Nigeria is the only oil producing nation in the whole wide world without a functional refinery?

Certainly, those are no-go areas. Why? That is where the vested interests operate – those responsible for the calamity that has befallen Nigeria today – the actual devils in the room. Solve the corruption in the two critical areas of the economy and half of the problems is gone.

Ask many of the billionaires in Nigeria today their sources of sudden wealth and the ready answer would be – oil and gas? Doing what? You would meet a brick wall. But you need not be told that in there lies the metaphor for mindless pillaging of the national economy. When someone tells you that crude oil is not a piece of sweet or biscuit that you could steal from a shelf, the question is why would it persist for a second with the right government in place?

Why is it impossible to ascertain and peg the amount of petrol consumed in Nigeria today, which is the real issue behind the entire subsidy debate? But no attempt would ever be made in producing an answer. Would it surprise anyone to learn that these vested interests, the economic leeches, mostly from the Western countries, who have found collaboration with their willing Nigerian enablers were the ones that shut down the server of the INEC server – the glitch, Yakubu spoke about?

Of course, not! Because, a good election and credible result would have produced a different outcome. It means a good leader would emerge, which would ultimately be the end of their vice grip on the soft underbelly of Nigeria’s massive wealth. Bad business!

The twin brother is what has been playing out as the obscene and vulgar display of opulence and luxury you have seen so far. In less than 100 days, you must have noticed the notorious convoys of both the President and those of the leadership of the National Assembly. Tinubu and Godswill Akpabio, Senate President seem to be in competition of who would have the longest and most wasteful motorcades in Nigeria. Even Tajudeen Abbas, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other principal officers of the House, have also joined in the lewd game.

You have heard about how the National Assembly carved out N110billion from the N819.5billion for themselves – N70billion for “to support the working conditions of members” with another N40bllion to purchase Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for them. This was at the same time, 12 million so-called poorest of the poor Nigerians were to be given N8,000 monthly as palliatives.

In other words, while each of the 469 members would go home with at least N228.7million in just one instance, 12 million others would get N24,000 in six months. What could be more guttering? That is what Tinubu and his team call palliatives. But for Nigerians who shouted blue murder, that parlous offering would have passed. Now, what has it been replaced with? Imagine five trailer-loads of rice standing at Agege Market? How far would that go for the residents, not to talk about the entire Lagos?

Yet, that is what a thinking government, is proposing as its magic wand to take hunger off the people. Of course even the imbecile would know what would happen to the N5billion the state governments would be given. In the end, even the poor old woman in the village that was supposed to get the N8,000 would be lucky to get a quarter of that.

The next stage of the flogging is actually doing press-up somewhere within the Aso Rock Villa precinct. The so-called palliatives are just to lullaby you for now, because the petitions at the PEPT are still waiting. Nobody would probably talk about that soon. Wait for the heist of February 25 to be certified. Then you will discover that the words of the biblical Rehoboam to burden the people further is not just for the Israelites.

Yes! While Buhari’s burden was to flog Nigerians with whips, Tinubu is actually coming with snakes and scorpions. For one, nobody with the mindset to appoint 48 ministers, populated by known economic brigands including former governors whose record was to lay heavy yokes on their people, would do less.

How could he? With the crowd in Abuja, where each member of the cabal has already fixing a pipe and taken a vantage position to start milking the commonwealth? And for all these, the common binding factor is captured in one word – Greed. Uncontrollable desire to acquire more and more of what they never need.

For instance, check the garages of the NASS members who are angling for new SUVs. You would find that there are so many cars that are under cover and have not been driven for years. Yet, their desire is to add more. What else could anyone call it? Yet again, the picture pales to insignificance to what would happen in the executive branch. Else, what would make a Senator abandon the job of representing his people where it matters most after an intense electoral process to take up a ministerial position? Imagine a US senator leaving the job of a congressman to take up an appointment in a cabinet.

Yes! If indeed Tinubu is thinking about how to pull Nigeria out of the economic and social nadir, where Buhari plunged it in his disastrous eight years, would he be thinking of leading Nigeria to a war in Niger? Certainly not! Don’t forget that Nigeria currently wears the unenviable crown of the poverty capital of the world.

Yet in that war under the guise of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria would be providing close to 80 per cent, if not more of the resources needed in that war which could run into hundreds of billions of naira if not trillions, if the ECOMOG experience of former military President, Ibrahim Babangida is the template to go by.

More regrettable, on a closer look is that the war itself has little or nothing to do with the main motive for it, which is to restore democracy in Niger, where a military junta recently sacked Muhamed Bazoum, elected in 2021. Instead, it has more of a proxy war for the West – US and France, believed to be pulling the string from Washington and Paris for the reason of their own obvious interests.

To fix Nigeria does not need any special sophistication. The solution is clear like the image on a bright wall. One – fix corruption. Plug all the loopholes from where the huge resources of Nigeria escape. The revenue husbandry therefrom would generate a pool of funds capable of leading to a new burst of economic energy similar to picture of decades ago when Nigeria was a huge construction site with chimneys from the various factories, busy emitting smokes.

Two – fix greed. What is wrong if a Nigerian government official owns one car? Those who watched the welcome party for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her first day in office would probably have been taken aback when she arrived in one simple sedan – not even an SUV instead of a convoy. Did it take anything away from her high office?

This Monday, August 21, 2023, 45 ministers would be taking charge of Nigeria as Tinubu’s foot-soldiers. Do they look like those that would keep their fingers off the public till as to save up money to build the financial power bank needed to reignite the economy? Do their pasts suggest those who could drive in one car to their offices and in the streets? How many of them have you seen mixing up with people and engaging with them? Elsewhere, do you not see leaders riding bicycles to their offices or taking trains? Does the governor of California, whose economy is 10 times bigger than Nigeria drive to office in a convoy?

So, if you thought that for one moment that the Tinubu men would give Nigeria the leeway for climbing out of the hole it has found itself over the recent years, you would be in for a long thing, as it is said. It would be worse if you thought that Tinubu really cares. The President capable of any magic is the one with the propensity to shed weight and give his government a haircut. Is Tinubu prepared to do that? The answer is out there already.

Soon, you would discover that just like Buhari, whose capacity, mindset and calling ought not have taken him beyond the position of Emir of Daura, Tinubu with all his claims of a thinker and a doer, does not have any business being at the Villa as President of Nigeria. And that is putting it mildly.

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Editorial

Centus Nweze: Metaphor for Nigerian judiciary, as PEPT decides on Tinubu’s fate

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Chima Centus Nweze, until his death, occurred on Sunday, July 30, but formally went viral on Tuesday, August 2, 2023, was Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC) of Nigeria. He was appointed to the apex court, the highest career progression of judicial officers in Nigeria, by former President Goodluck Jonathan, in 2014, from the Court of Appeal, where he was elevated in 2008 from the Enugu State High Court.

A native of Obollo, Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, the erudite jurist, who was born on September 25, 1958, apart from being reputed to have had a sterling career, was seen as one of the most fearless judges in recent Nigerian history. In his about 30 years on the bench, which began after his appointment from private practice as a lawyer in 1995, he was one of the judges who had promoted the doctrine of justice must be done, though the heavens fall.

This was demonstrated in 2020, when he practically cried blue murder as he tried to rebuff what he saw as the attempt by his colleagues at the apex court to assault the temple of justice with one of the most unbelievably odious judicial pronouncements in the history of Nigeria, by handing the Douglas House, Owerri, to Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in place of Emeka Ihedioha, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who had won the governorship election in Imo State and was sworn into office on May 29, the previous year.

He was the only one that gave a dissenting judgement, to say no, out of the seven justices that sat on the case, to hand over power to Uzodimma, who had come a distant fourth in the said election and who has remained in office since then. That singular outing, which was a demonstrable example of his ability to showcase braveness, had stood him out in the minds of many informed quarters as a man of courage and forthrightness.

But that reputation suffered a mortal blow, when on February 6, 2023, he read the lead judgement in in the case of Bashir Machina against Ahmad Lawan then Senate President on who should be the rightful candidate for the Yobe North Senatorial seat election. It was a three-two split decision judgement with Nweze on the majority side. Not only did he sanction the verdict, he stamped his authority with his gavel, after reading it.

Not a few Nigerians saw the outing of the erudite jurist and scholar as completely direct opposite to that of his firm stance in the Uzodimma case. For emphasis, Nweze had cautioned his colleagues to reconsider their position after Ihedioha had returned to urge the apex court justices to reverse themselves. In the dissenting judgement, Nweze, who had held that Uzodinma misled the court by crediting unverified votes in 388 polling units to himself, had warned: “This decision of the Supreme Court will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come. This court has a duty of redeeming its image, it is against this background that the finality of the court cannot extinguish the right of any person.

“I am of the view that this application should succeed. I hereby make an order repealing the decision of this court made on January 14 and that the certificate of return issued to the appellant (Uzodinma) returned to INEC. I also make an order restoring the respondents (Ihedioha) as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election.”

So, what happened that he could switch in such a manner so soon after? For one, going by the doctrine of justice must not only be done, but seen to have been done, many saw and still see the case of Uzodimma carrying the same weight as that of Lawan, in terms of misapplication of justice. They could not be bothered about the technicality upon which the late jurist and his two other colleagues relied on.

All what a completely stunned public could see was the meat of the case. Lawan, had contested the presidential ticket of the APC held in June of 2022 and by virtue of the Electoral Act of that year, was clearly not qualified as the amended act, had barred anybody from contesting for two positions in one election circle. So, what happened that Nweze, a known advocate could jettison this clear provision, in preference to mere technicality?

How could such a character with steely mindset on delivering justice at whatever cost be associated with such obvious judicial heist? That has become the basic question, which has been accentuated with his death. There are fears that the late jurist did not act out of self-will. There is a version that claimed that he was forced to deliver the judgement.

In fact, one account stretch the issue further, informing that, that singular outing that became a serious blemish on his otherwise blistering career quickened his death and sent him to his early grave, metaphorically and literally. First, it was said that he could not live with the consequences of what did to his conscience and reputation. Second, he was said to have been denied visa to travel to the US to attend to his health.

Unverified as it appears, what if that narrative is the true picture? What does it portend for the Nigerian judiciary? The answer is obvious. If someone as hard-willed as Nweze could capitulate under pressure, as it was alleged, who then could survive? Indeed, right from time immemorial, the case of the independence of the judiciary or lack of it, has always come to the fore in justice systems across the world.

While there is the belief that no judiciary is completely free anywhere in the world as judges are prone to external influence, the case of Africa, is considered worse, Nigeria being no different. In fact, the 1962 comments of George Sodeinde Sowemimo, in the celebrated treason trial of the late Obafemi Awolowo against the Federal Government, remains one of the most historic examples – what lawyers describe as locus classicus. Before the late judge sent the former Leader of Action Group (AG) to jail, he had prefixed his pronouncements with the expression – my hands are tied. Tied by what, whom? The answer has not been provided till date.

Ironically, Nweze’s death came hours to the conclusion of cases at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal hearing the challenges of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi, his Labour Party (LP) counterpart and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), against the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of the 2023 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The PEPT at its last sitting on Tuesday, presided over the adoption of their final addresses by all the parties in the petitions and would now retire to give their judgement at a date they say would be made known the public. How far could the case of Nweze and numerous examples dotting the judicial history of Nigeria guide the judges to deliver their judgement? How formidable are the judges, both at the Court of Appeal currently sitting as PEPT, or the Supreme Court, if and when it gets to them, to withstand the forces of influence that would come, if any?

If indeed, Nweze was forced to capitulate to the level of not only acquiescing, but delivering the obviously integrity-questioned judgement, what might be the threat? From fiction stories in books like The Godfather, judges who were in the pockets of mafia gangs, were either willing collaborators or victims of blackmail or outright threat.

Such blackmails could be threats to expose their dark secrets, including lurid pictures of their making out with fellow men as homosexuals, or sleeping with other people’s wives or evidences of their involvement in high crimes such as murder or drug deals or outright threat of physical harm to them and their family members. How many judges could deal with the threat of the kidnap of their precious sons and daughters or the image of dark-goggled thugs hovering around their premises?

It is even more pronounced in Nigeria, where virtually everybody has one yoke or the other hanging on their necks, especially those in public offices, where official corruption is worn like a second skin. Whoever thought that Walter Onnoghen, would be thrown out as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), in such a sorry manner or his successor, Tanko Muhammed, with his fellow judges at the various levels including the National Judicial Council (NJC), either watching like rain-beaten chickens, unable to lift a finger or even leading the process to the end of the infamy?

But even so, are all hopes lost? What if the judges decide to damn the consequences? What if they decide to redeem what is left of the inglorious situation that has sent shivers down the spine of Nigerians? Again, Nweze provides an abiding answer. Whatever led him to make that perceived outlandish judgement, whether he was purely looking at the law or due to inducement or threat, the fact remains that he did not live forever and could have done otherwise.

Like William Shakespeare, wrote: The purest treasure mortal times afford is a spotless reputation. Would Nweze have reached the same decision or made the same pronouncement in the Lawan case, if he knew that he would die in less than six months after and thereafter face his maker to account for the talent he was given? The answer, as they say, is blowing in the wind.

Because nobody knows at which hour, it now becomes imperative, for those who want to preserve their names, the only thing mortal times could afford, is to do the right thing. For the judges in the PEPT case, would any lesson have been learnt? If indeed Nweze acted on external influence, where has it left him? If he was induced, where are the proceeds? If it was blackmail, would he have redeemed himself before his maker? If it was threat? Has he lived?

Today, Nigeria is standing on the edge of a cliff. A tip could see it crashing down the slope to the jagged rocks at the base. On the other hand, it could be pulled back from the brink towards the direction of hope and prosperity. Whatever it would be, the adequate judicial resolution of the 2023 presidential is key. The judges are therefore, central to whether the country would take the plunge or soar high above.

But one thing is sure, if for whatever reason, they allow the plunge, there is only one outcome – it would lead to two kinds of death – death of a country or death of human beings. In this, nobody knows who would survive. It is either the PEPT judges kill Nigeria finally or save it. What would it be? Would the judiciary destroy Nigeria or save it? Enough said!

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Editorial

South East: Why Tinubu must reject Asari’s pact with Buhari

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Muhammadu Buhari hates Ndigbo. Buhari, until May 29, this year, Nigeria’s President for eight years from May 29, 2015, never made any bones about it nor had apologies to anybody. It was obvious that his sentiments were deap-seated. It must have been an offshoot of what Femi Fani-Kayode once described in one of his outings, some years back.

The former Minister of Aviation, in a video of his encounter with the former President, narrated how he swore never to forgive Ndigbo, because, as he said, “they killed our leaders.” He was obviously referring to the January 15 coup that claimed the lives of former Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, Sarduana of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello and some other leaders in the putsch that was allegedly led by the late Colonel Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu.

Despite that the North had had ample opportunities to retaliate at various times, first with the counter-coup of September 29 of the same year, the pogrom that followed the civil war, where about three million Igbo were slaughtered and others allowed to die in hunger and disease, as well as the various riots that had taken place in their region, subsequently, Buhari, who was actually one of the soldiers, who was used to vent the anger of his people in retaliation, as a civil war veteran, seems not assuaged.

It was evident in his eight years in office, where the Igbo was handed the short end of the stick. In fact, that an Igbo man did not become President in 2023, was the high-point of his agenda for Ndigbo. Indeed, it would have been as tasking as moving Mount Kilimanjaro with bare hands for an Igbo man to have replaced Buhari. There was no way it would have been possible before his very eyes.

It would have defeated the essence of what he lived for in his entire adult life. So, whatever happened to Peter Obi, who evidently won that election, had the imprimatur of Buhari, than it had to do with Yakubu Mahmood and his Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or the All Progressives Congress (APC) thugs in Lagos or ex-Governor Nyesom Wike’s arrangement for policemen to move ballot boxes in Rivers. Without Buhari’s malevolent attitude to Ndigbo, things would obviously have turned out differently.

But nowhere else, was Buhari’s sentiments for the Igbo more demonstrable than in his handling of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) saga. That was where he demonstrated the rare quality of a quintessential soldier and a strategist. His trapping and abduction of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the group, is one that needed the release of several cannons to celebrate his deep thinking and prowess as a soldier.

Many people must have been wondering how he achieved the feat. But the answer to the jigsaw puzzle did not come until recent unfolding events. The recent unravelling of Muhajideen Dokubo Asari and the revelations he made, has led to what seems a watertight theory that could only be defeated by a more concrete contrary evidence. It is to the effect that the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), played a key role in this.

Recall that Kanu once teamed up with the NDVF boss for the IPOB self-determination project. This was the time Asari swore to the world that he was first Igbo before anything including Ijaw. What is not known is whether it was a decoy to worm himself to Kanu or that his sentiments were actually genuine until he was reached to sell out. What is known is that the pact between the two eventually broke down with each one vowing to get the other. Recall how Kanu, revealed that he gave the Niger Delta militant a whopping N100million for his efforts, which he blew, before turning against the IPOB project.

But even with the breaking of the relationship, it was too late. Enough damage had been done to enable Kanu to insulate himself completely. For one, he must have disclosed the inner secrets of IPOB and by their association, Asari, must have gotten enough knowledge of some key figures close to Kau, no doubt, Simon Ekpa, an indigene of Ebony State, an APC state. All he needed was to identify those pliable ones willing to play ball and with the dangling of bundles of dollar notes, which must have had in abundance from his sponsors, it was easy to squeal on the target.

Thus, with a well hatched plot, the IPOB boss was finally trapped in Kenya, and delivered to the waiting hands of the Buhari men. Of course the reward of good work is more work, as they say. Having delivered very well, it was time to move further – the total annihilation of the true IPOB set up by Kanu. With the IPOB boss now firmly out of circulation, it was easy.

The only way to do this, following the huge support the group enjoyed in the South East was to give it a bad name. This was where Ekpa came in. As a trusted ally to Kanu, whom he had ordered IPOB faithful to listen to, he was clearly fit for purpose for the task. So, while Asari had the gun, Ekpa had his phone camera to record propaganda messages.

It was a tripartite arrangement. Ekpa churns out sit-at-home order, Asari’s men enforce it and the sponsors trumpeting the message that Ndigbo are killing themselves. Thus, nobody would ever hear that while the attacks – carnages unleashed on the citizens, burning local government headquarters, INEC offices, police facilities, be it the zone 13 headquarters of Ukpo, Anambra State, or Imo State Police headquarters in Owerri or any other related crimes, the perpetrators were ever rounded up on the spot.

The nearest anyone would hear or see are either videos of people “confessing” or dead bodies of those killed during “raids.” End of the matter. Nobody ever witnessed a court session where IPOB members allegedly captured in operation are put on trial in a regular law court and evidence adduced to him to elicit clear punishment under the rule of law.

Now, having worked effectively with Buhari, as he himself confessed, he seemed to have turned to Tinubu, apparently to negotiate a new contract or perhaps, extend the preceding one. There is no doubt that this is all his recent outings are for. Of course, he makes no bones about his relationship with President Bola Tinubu, Buhari’s successor. He has already visited the President at the Villa to underscore this and even used the platform, with the Nigerian Coat of Arm embossed on his seat to make his pitch.

For instance, apart from discrediting the Nigerian military and boasting of how his own men whom he recruited to work in parts of the country actually did the job of degrading in the onslaught of insurgents in his areas of duty, he had also made videos depicting him as ready to work with the President in further punishing the Igbo, his supposed current enemy.

After making a video a few weeks back, brandishing his latest weapons and practically threatening the Igbo, his latest move was to showcase his men he had not only trained to defend the President, but crush his enemies, which are no doubt the Igbo. Not surprising, in another video, he had also warned that Kanu must never be released, while urging that the Igbo should be left alone to “kill themselves!” How convenient!

Of course, the reason for demanding that Kanu should not be released, ought not surprise anyone. With the arrangement he probably has with Ekpa, Kanu’s release would definitely destroy his pot of soup. In a state of flux that he has created, the words of Emma Powerful, the official voice of the Kanu IPOB, since recognised its spokesman, no longer counts. Even when the IPOB spokesman, gives the official position that the group did not order the evil sit-at-home, it is easily ignored because Ekpa’s own version would come with power of cohesion through the guns.

Daily, the IPOB authentic IPOB, has laboured together with Kanu to give the correct picture that they are either responsible or in support of the onslaught against the Igbo people in their name, all to no avail. The latest is the handwritten letter, unveiled on Friday, July 28, where the IPOB boss in his own handwriting ordered the stop of the sit-at-home. That too is discountenanced by Ekpa and his group, who brushed it aside and released another sit-at-home order for two weeks, which, of course he is sure would be observed because his enforcers would be prowling around during the period.

Now, would Tinubu nibble at the bait or even swallow it? That is the question. It would be the greatest tragedy if he does, because the result would be quite grave. In the first place, outside politics and the need to preserve himself in power, the President, does not seem to have any primordial beef with Ndigbo, unlike Buhari.

So, it would be suicidal on many grounds for him to toe the step of his predecessor or follow his route. For one, it would effectively put paid to his touted political wizardry and deep thinking capacity, because there is really nothing to gain, but accumulation of more evil baggage, as has been shown in Buhari’s own case of leaving office in infamy, having left the business of governance to settle scores with real and imaginary enemies.

Has the Fulani hegemony he spent his eight years trying to enthrone in Nigeria succeeded? Instead, despite the huge credit he came into office with as Nigeria’s messiah, he left with the unenviable trophy of the worst President Nigeria has ever seen, with even his people his government was all about, badly hit to the extent that speculations are rife that he has been confined to constantly looking behind his back today even among his people. How sad!

While Buhari, for the already established reasons, would not mind the pool of blood of Ndigbo following him to Daura, his home town or even Niger, his alternative home, Tinubu would have a lot to contend with should he allow himself to be hoodwinked into the thinking that the Igbo are such an enemy that must equally pay with their blood. For one, who already has a lot of baggage, the outcome will not only be grave, but fatal.

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