Predictably, the planned trial of incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, has rapidly snowballed in to a conversation of allegations and charges of attempting to foist a totalitarian regime through an eleventh hour plot to arraign the Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN). The story which broke on social media earlier on Saturday afternoon says the CJN is to tied at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for not following the rule book on assets declaration and for operating domiciliary accounts in hard currencies.
Political leaders such as the governors of the South-south region where Justice Onnoghen comes from; civil society organisations such as the Coalition of United Political Parties, (CUPP), individual political parties such as the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP); Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) and individuals are the lead attackers so far.
Governors of the South-south have let it be known they are holding an emergency meeting tomorrow Sunday and would address a press conference thereafter. Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State who is articulating the reaction of the region is saying that although he lacks the details of the development as at Saturday afternoon, he considers it to be “a grave and dangerous escalation, coming a few weeks to the general elections”. In the view of Dickson, everything should be done to “prevent the subversion and desecration of the ethos of democracy in Nigeria as nation moves nearer to the elections”. Three items that would dominate the meeting which appears to have been scheduled before the Onnoghen case, according Governor Seriake’s spokesperson are the security of the Niger Delta before and in the aftermath of the impending General Elections; the issue of derivation and Onnoghen’s case.
The PDP sees it as a plot by the Buhari Presidency to annex the Judiciary ahead of the polls. the party’s Arguing that it is also a way of creating a crisis from which the status quo might benefit, the PDP says if the president and the APC are serious, the first thing is to let the retiring Inspector-General of Police to take his leave. And that the president should follow this up with commencing trial of Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Adams Oshiomhole over corruption allegations against them.
Associating the planned trial with a grand plan to rig the impending election, CUPP says the CJN must not resign but stay put, calling it a sign that democracy is under attack. Alleging that President Buhari is willing to bring Nigeria to a halt, CUPP singles out key players in the government of the day to be the brains behind what it calls ‘The CJN Must Go Project’. Among the individuals are Abubakar Malami, the Minister for Justice, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister for Transport, Senator Godswill Akpabio; Hope Nzodinma, governorship aspirant of the APC in the Southeast; Ahmed Bola Tinubu aka National Leader of the APC and APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
HURIWA in its own case is arguing that mischief and malice have guided the decision of the Presidency to institute these charges before a tribunal which it says cannot give the CJN justice because it is controlled by the executive arm of government. It also calls the planned action a politically motivated pay back to the CJN for freeing Bukola Saraki, the Senate President who underwent this experience before. Onnoghen, says Emmanuel Onwubiko who signed HURIWA’s statement, cannot be removed from office based on mere allegations.
Apart from the voice of the prominent Lagos lawyer, Mike Ozhekome, (SAN), as well as that of the Coalition in Defense of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, (CDNDC), this is the summary of the reactions within the first few hours in the aftermath of the media disclosure of the planned trial. The conversation so far points the direction the debate is going as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. The country’s diversity is, however, such that a different direction could equally emerge by the time some of the names being mentioned begin to speak. The fuller coverage of how it all goes in Sunday newspapers might, therefore, be more definitive of where the pendulum is swinging on the matter. Uhm!