Opinion

DSS Thuggery In Temple Of Justice And Buhari’s Disgust For Rule Of Law, By Charles Ofoji

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Nigeria is now ferociously slipping into lawlessness under the watch of president Muhammadu Buhari. Any optimist still living in denial, after the brazen desecration of a court of law by agents of the Department of State Services (DSS) last Friday, needs urgent help.

The truth is that Nigeria can no longer be counted as a democratic country under Mr. Buhari, whose disgust for the rule of law is turning the country into a pariah nation.

I have said it before that DSS’s refusal to obey court order, with regards to the release of Omoleye Sowore, has the endorsement of the president. If otherwise were the case, the agency’s director-general or whatever it is called would have been long sacked.

Disregard for judicial pronouncements has not only become symptomatic of Buhari’s government, it is crystalizing into his legacy. As I write, former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki is held prisoner for over four years, despite several court orders for his release. Same goes for Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenatuddeen. Just like Dasuki, the couple have been in detention since 2015.

But why is this man called Buhari keeping political prisoners? Where did he get the precedent from? His predecessors, Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo consciously refused to use the instrument of criminal justice to incarcerate enemies.

If Jonathan were ten percent as vindictive as the current president, Buhari would be rotting in jail by now – if his hate speeches during the build-up to the 2015 general elections were legally scrutinized by the justice ministry.

In 2014 Jonathan said, “I am the most abused and insulted president in the world, but when I leave office, you will all remember me for the total freedom you enjoyed under my government.”

Unfortunately, we did not pay attention. There was a North-West conspiracy to throw him out of office. The propaganda was enormous. interestingly, the now embattled Sowore was at the forefront of the campaign of calumny against Jonathan and his government. The social media was awash with all kind of falsehood. While, Buhari, a known dictator, was re-branded and sold to Nigerians as the messiah we badly needed, Jonathan was vilified. He never got credit for anything. Nigerians believed. Now they are gnashing their teeth in regret.

Interesting the same people, who profited massively from the social media space, on their way to power, are now very uncomfortable with it. They are currently pushing for a law to regulate the social media – as if existing laws are not enough. It is a sign of a looming dictatorship to say the least. Only tyrants zip the mouth of subjects.

I will leave it to historical scholars to figure out why Buhari, who enjoyed so much goodwill on his way to power, has deliberately chosen the path of infamy instead of that of statesman, like the two before him I have already named.

If his actions and inactions have only personal consequences, no one would be bothered. They also have consequences for the Nigerian nation, which has lost most of the democratic gains and gradually becoming a laughing stock among comity of nations as a lawlessness fiefdom.

Yes, a country that does not obey judicial pronouncements is not only lawless but prone to anarchy.

Unfortunately, Nigerians have stood by and watched the destruction of their country by a parochial president, driven mainly by sectional rather than national agenda and insatiable appetite for vendetta.

Buhari started with Dasuki, we kept quiet. El-Zakzaky and his wife were next, we kept mum; did nothing. His EFCC invaded the homes of judges, including a justice of the Supreme Court – nothing happened.

Emboldened by our immoral acquiescence, Buhari rubbished the constitutional office of the Chief Justice of Nigerian and unceremoniously tossed out Mr. Walter Onnoghen from his Stool and installed a puppet in his stead. We swallowed again. Both the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and National Judicial Commission (NJC) failed to defend the independence of perhaps the most important organ of government in a democracy. In fact, the latter became complicit in the plot by eventually playing a role in Onnoghen’s unconstitutional removal.

The judiciary could not save its leader. As typical of a fascist, Buhari had instilled fear in men and women of goodwill in that branch of government. Actually, the judge who tried Onnoghen in the Code of Conduct Tribunal was under a criminal investigation. He badly needed to do the government’s bidding to save his ass.
The apathy among Nigerians is very troubling to say the least. This is new. What happened to us Nigerians? We were not subdued even under a monstrous dictator like Sani Abacha, who we finally defeated. So why are we now phlegmatic? What happened to the Student Unions, the Labour Unions, NBA and other political activists and human rights crusaders?

The video of how operatives of Nigeria’s secret police – DSS – defiled the temple of justice; the sanctuary of a court of competent jurisdiction, has now gone viral on the internet. What transpired at the Federal High Court Abuja has nothing to do with law enforcement. It was thuggery, properly so called. Nigeria is now been mocked by the international community as a lawlessness nation.

Like “wild dogs,” as Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka aptly described them, the DSS agents invaded a court in session, chased away the sitting judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, triggering pandemonium as they terrorized in their attempt to arrest a common Nigerian called Sowore. It was an unnecessary overdrive that has destroyed many things Nigeria stood for.

If a security agency that is constitutional charged to enforce laws, including orders of the judge its agents chased away, could deliberately break the same law, is such a country not endangered?

If the citizens have been so much conquered to accept such historically unprecedented lawlessness by those entrusted with keeping law and order, is such a country not imperiled?

We have lost our sense of outrage. Not a word in condemnation from the Attorney-General, one judge, minister and even those that claim to be civil rights activists, who are part of this government.

Festus Keyamo has been struck dumb by the god of Mammon. He has suddenly lost his voice. I have said many times that our country lacks men of integrity. What we have in abundance are opportunists, who patiently bid their time for a piece of the pie called the National Cake.

The silence of Mr. Keyamo, a man, who came to prominence through his exploits in the court of law during the time he pretended to be an activist, is pathetically remarkable.

At least the NBA has condemned the rearrest of Mr. Sowore and the manner it was done. The body of lawyers has demanded the immediate suspension of the Director-General of DSS, Yusuf Bichi, over the style used in rearresting Omoyele Sowore in court premises. The NBA in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, said it was “greatly dismayed at the exhibition of primitivity, thuggery, insane passion for lawlessness, contempt and disrespect for the rule of law by the agents of the DSS”.

Soyinka has also lent his powerful voice, asking Buhari to call his wild dogs to order. He reminded the president that state disobedience of the orders of the constitutional repository of the moral authority of arbitration – the judiciary – can only lead eventually to civil disobedience.

Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar has also faulted the attack and rearrest of Omoyele Sowore, by DSS personnel, saying it is unacceptable and called for an inquiry into the incident. “Today, I am in extreme anguish of spirit having watched the unfortunate drama that played itself out at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, in which agents of the state caused a commotion in court in order to frustrate a judgment of a court of competent authority,” he had tweeted on Friday.
US Senator, Bob Memendez has threatened that his country will reassess its relation with Nigeria.

Noises have also been made on the Social Media by Nigerians over the primitive degradation of the Judiciary by DSS operatives. But would anyone be held accountable for his primitive action of DSS agents that has badly ruined the image of Nigeria? It is doubtful.

It is foolish for government to waste billions of taxpayers’ money wooing investors but by its action and inactions damage the country’s name and make it an unattractive destination for foreign investment.

If Mr. Buhari were a wise leader, he would have done something by way of damage control – notwithstanding that DSS was doing his bidding. But he is not. His handlers are not better. There has been no word of condemnation from the presidency.

In a normal country, those DSS operatives would have been behind bars by now and facing serious criminal charges. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not.

Impunity has become a culture and normality in present day Nigeria. Noise would be made as usual but certainly there would be no consequences. Nigerians, like a conquered people, would swallow and move on, as the country continue a slippery slide into dictatorship.

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