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
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