Nige­ri­ans must unite against Buhari’s dic­ta­tor­ship, law­less­ness – Adeg­boruwa

A lawyer and ac­tivist, Mr Ebun-olu Adeg­boruwa (SAN), in this in­ter­view with SI­MON UTEBOR, says the regime of Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari (retd.) has a hid­den agenda to cow Nige­ri­ans through ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion

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THE re­cent at­tack on the court to re­ar­rest Omoyele Sowore by the De­part­ment of State Ser­vices has re­ceived huge crit­i­cisms across the coun­try and in­ter­na­tion­ally. What do you think about it? Well, I was chal­lenged as a lawyer, as an ac­tivist and as a demo­crat to wit­ness the hor­rific in­va­sion of one of the most sa­cred in­sti­tu­tions of democ­racy dur­ing my life­time. It has chal­lenged me to con­tinue to be a lawyer and I am sure the same thing has hap­pened to vir­tu­ally all lawyers.

Of course, the state­ment made by the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion clearly rep­re­sents our view that the ex­ec­u­tive has be­come to­tally law­less. We have ex­pe­ri­enced this in the past when the same DSS in­vaded the hal­lowed cham­ber of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and it was con­demned. It is now hap­pen­ing to the hal­lowed cham­ber of the ju­di­ciary and court of law. So, hav­ing in­vaded the Na­tional As­sem­bly and the court, there is noth­ing left for us as Nige­ri­ans to con­tinue to hold on to as ev­i­dence that we are prac­tis­ing democ­racy.

I be­lieve that what we are wit­ness­ing now is only a dress re­hearsal of what is yet to come. I be­lieve there is a hid­den agenda; I be­lieve that this regime is up to some­thing that most Nige­ri­ans will not ac­cept. And so, it needs to si­lence peo­ple, put fear in peo­ple, bring laws to reg­u­late peo­ple’s speech, and in­tim­i­date and ha­rass them. So, my re­ac­tion is that the in­va­sion of the court by op­er­a­tives of the DSS when the judge was sit­ting and con­duct­ing ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings is a set­back for our demo­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence and it is a re­turn to the dark ages of mil­i­tary jack­boots and dic­ta­tor­ship, which we have over­come in this coun­try.

We have de­feated this be­fore in the past, in­clud­ing the same leader we have now, and oth­ers who were worse than him. I am sure that Nige­ri­ans will de­feat this again. It will not thrive. Even though I am both­ered that this is hap­pen­ing, I am not scared; we be­lieve that in the course of time, Nige­ri­ans will over­come this chal­lenge.

Re­tired Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari’s spokesper­son, Garba Shehu, said the DSS does not need to take in­struc­tions from his prin­ci­pal. Do you think the DSS was act­ing on its own or fol­low­ing Buhari’s in­struc­tions?

I be­lieve that if you look at the an­tecedents of Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari (retd.), it is a case of a leop­ard that is not able to change its spots. In 2015, some peo­ple tried to dress him in bor­rowed robes and de­scribed him as a born-again demo­crat, pack­ag­ing him to London, but it did not take so long for peo­ple to truly see him.

On May 29, 2015, when he read a speech in Abuja in which he said “he be­longed to ev­ery­body and be­longed to no one”; that is what is play­ing out now. Buhari has no al­le­giance to the peo­ple of Nige­ria; he does not be­lieve that the rule of law can thrive in this na­tion.

That was ev­i­denced by his re­ac­tion to the elec­tions in Kogi and Bayelsa states, when he openly said that those who were dis­sat­is­fied should go to court, know­ing the ju­di­ciary had been hu­mil­i­ated, trau­ma­tised, bas­tardised and starved of funds. It was easy for him to be taunt­ing the peo­ple of Nige­ria with the lame duck ju­di­ciary, which has been to­tally crip­pled by this par­tic­u­lar regime through the dis­obe­di­ence of court or­ders, in­va­sion of the houses of judges, and re­moval of the Chief Jus­tice of the Fed­er­a­tion of Nige­ria through un­ortho­dox means and gen­eral pro­fil­ing of all judges all over Nige­ria as a means of scar­ing them.

I be­lieve the DSS is di­rectly re­spon­si­ble to the Pres­i­dent be­ing part of the ex­ec­u­tive. All law en­force­ment agen­cies of Nige­ria are part of the ex­ec­u­tive and the Pres­i­dent be­ing the Com­man­der in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nige­ria should take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ac­tions of any agency of gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially the DSS. And we are wor­ried that we are in a democ­racy where we now re­late with the agency that or­di­nar­ily should not be heard.

We have been con­tend­ing with the mil­i­tary, which has taken over our lives – Op­er­a­tion Python Dance, Op­er­a­tion Pos­i­tive Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, etc. Vir­tu­ally, the mil­i­tary has taken over the lives of Nige­ri­ans. As if that is not enough, the DSS has now be­come an open ter­ror to us in this coun­try and I hold re­tired Ma­jor Gen­eral Buhari di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the atroc­i­ties of the DSS and other agen­cies of gov­ern­ment that are di­rectly re­port­ing to him.

An agency that should be work­ing un­der­ground, con­duct­ing in­tel­li­gence like a se­cret ser­vice, should not be seen. It is to­tally con­demnable and rep­re­hen­si­ble.

Buhari’s old habits as mil­i­tary head of state ap­pears to out­weigh any prom­ise he made to Nige­ri­ans to be demo­cratic. What re­spon­si­bil­i­ties do Nige­ri­ans have in sav­ing this democ­racy?

Well, for me, we have come to a time in our na­tion when we need to stand up to tyranny, to op­pres­sion and to law­less­ness. It is when the good peo­ple sit down, stay aloof and do noth­ing that evil can thrive. The best way to get rid of a dic­ta­tor is to chal­lenge him and I am call­ing on Nige­ri­ans, in par­tic­u­lar, Pro­fes­sor Wole Soyinka. He can­not af­ford not to let his voice be heard and he has a his­tory in this coun­try for chal­leng­ing im­punity and dic­ta­tor­ship. He should lead a protest openly in Abuja. Nige­ri­ans are wait­ing and we will sup­port him.

I call on Soyinka to rise up to the oc­ca­sion on be­half of Nige­ri­ans and de­clare an open sit-at-home protest as protest against this regime so that we can shut down ev­ery sys­tem un­til Buhari gets back to re­spect the rule of law, which peo­ple voted for in 2015 and 2019. If we leave this regime to its an­tics, we will get worse.

In the days to come, peo­ple will be dis­ap­pear­ing on the streets; in the days to come, me­dia houses will be shut down; in the days to come, de­ten­tion cen­tres will be filled up and judges, as pre­dicted by the Gover­nor of Ondo State (Ro­timi Ak­eredolu), may be ar­rested while even sit­ting in their robes. I think that those who know this regime have warned us enough. Nige­ri­ans should rise up to chal­lenge the im­punity we are cur­rently wit­ness­ing but I am specif­i­cally call­ing on Prof Wole Soyinka to rise up to the oc­ca­sion, to lead us – we are wait­ing. Nige­ri­ans are ready to con­front this dic­ta­tor­ship.

With the Na­tional As­sem­bly to­tally pock­eted, ju­di­ciary to­tally trau­ma­tised, we now have on our hands a full-blown civil­ian dic­ta­tor­ship and we must brace for the chal­lenge.

What term does the law have for a demo­crat­i­cal­ly­elected leader who dis­obeys court or­ders and is op­er­at­ing like a mil­i­tary man?

I be­lieve that if we are all stu­dents of his­tory; we know that when a civil­ian regime gets to a po­si­tion when it as­sumes mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, it is mark­ing the end of its days. What I see go­ing on in Nige­ria is that power is grad­u­ally slip­ping off the hands of Buhari, even though he has never been in con­trol of gov­er­nance, and peo­ple have ques­tioned whether he even has an un­der­stand­ing of demo­cratic ethos that we are prac­tis­ing.

But with what is go­ing on cur­rently, we have the con­vic­tion that the days of dic­ta­tor­ship are marked in Nige­ria and I be­lieve that if we all rise up – Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, Nige­ria Union of Jour­nal­ists, Nige­rian Guild of Edi­tors, News­pa­pers Pro­pri­etors As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria, Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Stu­dents, all lovers of democ­racy, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions – and say no, it will be no. We fought former Head of State, the late Gen­eral Sani Abacha, in this coun­try; we fought Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida (retd.) in this coun­try, and so it will not be an ex­cep­tion to have Buhari ter­ror­is­ing peo­ple who voted him into of­fice, lock­ing up peo­ple in­def­i­nitely, clamp­ing upon the ju­di­ciary and re­fus­ing to com­ply with or­ders of courts. I be­lieve the law is enough to take care of this sit­u­a­tion and I call on judges in par­tic­u­lar, to wean them­selves of the self-im­posed timid­ity, and rise coura­geously to de­fend our con­sti­tu­tion.

No judge should en­ter­tain any charge against Sowore in any court in Nige­ria and we are wait­ing for any judge who will en­ter­tain any sub­se­quent charge from a regime that has re­fused to obey the or­der of a court. We will call on the NBA to black­list that judge and re­move his name from the his­tory of Nige­ria. I be­lieve that we have got to a stage when we must speak truth to power. I com­mend and en­cour­age all judges across Nige­ria to stand up and be counted to be on the side of the peo­ple.

Would you de­scribe the ac­tions of this regime un­der Gen­eral Buhari as il­le­gal?

Right from the pe­riod when Buhari ad­dressed Nige­ri­ans on May 29, 2015, I have had no il­lu­sion that he would go through any le­gal sys­tem of gov­er­nance. You can see from the his­tory of this regime how elec­tion has taken a back seat – all the elec­tions con­ducted so far were marred by vi­o­lence and in­con­clu­sive elec­tions. Any­time the rul­ing party was likely to lose, INEC could be forced to de­clare it as in­con­clu­sive. By the time the re­sult would come out, it would favour the regime at all costs.

So, what we are wit­ness­ing is a sit­u­a­tion whereby the ex­ec­u­tive un­der re­tired Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari has ar­ro­gated all pow­ers to it­self and we now have to con­tend with a max­i­mum ruler, who is not op­er­at­ing by the rule of law and does not give a damn about what the peo­ple think about his ac­tion.

So, I be­lieve that with what is go­ing on now, those of us who have been say­ing that there is noth­ing in this regime to give us hope for a bet­ter fu­ture, have now risen up to de­fend that view. So, we can only call upon all Nige­ri­ans – in the mar­kets, churches, mosques, schools, wher­ever they are – to stand up and be counted to re­sist il­le­gal­ity. Enough is enough.

Be­fore his regime, Buhari af­ter los­ing elec­tions in the past protested and at some point even called for a rev­o­lu­tion like the one seen in Egypt where lives were lost. How would you re­act to this vis-a-vis what is hap­pen­ing to Sowore now?

You will re­mem­ber that be­fore the 2015 elec­tions, the All Pro­gres­sives Congress, ably led by Lai Mo­hammed, held the Good­luck Jonathan ad­min­is­tra­tion to a ran­som with pro­pa­ganda and lies on a daily ba­sis and in­deed, Buhari led an open demon­stra­tion in Kano against that par­tic­u­lar gov­ern­ment. At a par­tic­u­lar time, Buhari led peo­ple of his tribe to the late Gover­nor Lam Adeshina in Oyo State, threat­en­ing that they should not im­ple­ment any law against herds­men.

The leader of the Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria, Ibrahim El-za­kzaky, and his wife have been held in de­ten­tion in vi­o­la­tion of court or­ders grant­ing them bail. Do you think such ac­tions taken by the Buhari regime are in the coun­try’s in­ter­est?

I do not think that there is any­thing that Buhari has em­barked upon that sup­ports na­tional in­ter­est, na­tional co­he­sion. In fact, like no other regime in the his­tory of this na­tion, our coun­try has never been this di­vided along eth­nic, re­li­gious and tribal lines. We have never seen it like this. We have wit­nessed this regime di­vid­ing our

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