There is apartheid in Nigeria. It is the policy of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
In South Africa, apartheid was institutionalised racism developed by the roguish political elements of the white minority to seize all the country’s resources for themselves and keep the black African majority in perpetual servitude and penury. The abhorrent racist policy eventually died following the fierce resistance to it from within and global condemnation and isolation of its apostles.
What South Africa discarded about 30 years ago has found new roots in Nigeria. Apartheid is here and thriving. In the past four years, an ethnic group has been conferred with a special status and elevated above all the other ethnic nationalities and the law.
The Fulani are indeed special. No, very special. They can say whatever they want, do whatever they want and demand whatever they want. If they don’t get what they want, they take it by force, spreading mayhem and pillaging the lands of other less privileged ethnic groups. And they get away with it again and again.
So there was nothing new or surprising when the acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, and other top federal government officials met recently with leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN. The IGP and his group didn’t read the riot act to Miyetti Allah. Their mission was for appeasement of, and offering the olive branch to, MACBAN.
The meeting signified the federal government literally waving the white flag of surrender, an admission that it cannot contain the terrorism of those who have been called bandits. What the bandits and herdsmen are engaged in is terrorism. They are criminal birds of the same feathers with an outsize sense of entitlement. They repeatedly strike without any warning, killing, maiming defenceless people, destroying their homes and farmlands – oftentimes, their sole means of livelihood – and sometimes sacking a whole community.
The IGP dismissed the reports that the federal government had offered N100 billion special fund to MACBAN to help rein in the heartless killers on the loose. He may be right. But since there wasn’t any communiqué issued after the meeting with these very special Nigerians, the media was forced to speculate as to what was discussed. We still don’t know why the meeting was convened and what the government delegation and MACBAN agreed on.
In any case, the government had made a similar offer last year for the restoration of cattle grazing routes and development of grazing reserves. Many state governments kicked against the plan and there was widespread public opposition to it. And the government quietly retreated from it.
We all are victims of the official apartheid policy of shielding the Fulani militia from the full force of government powers and the long arms of the law.
But it has never been inclined to declaring the herdsmen and the bandits terrorists. And it has not stopped making excuses for their mostly unprovoked attacks on innocent, helpless people and wanton destruction of their homes and communities.
Buhari and some senior members of his administration have at various times told a bewildered nation that the Fulani marauders – killer herdsmen and killer bandits – are remnants of late Muammar Ghadafi’s militia from Libya; that the wild herdsmen are from faraway Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso; that they are reacting against the blocking of the grazing routes; that the effect of climate change on Lake Chad has shrunk the natural feeding grounds for their cattle; that they are fighting those who have rustled their herd.
The dodgy excuses and blatantly implausible explanations for the deadly excesses of the Fulani militia keep changing and multiplying. They are never brought to account for their murderous crimes. No arrests are made, and so, no one is prosecuted and convicted for mass murder to serve as a serious deterrent to the killers.
Yet the same government proscribed the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, as an illegal organisation. The security agents killed many of its unarmed members during public protests that IPOB always announced in advance. Some of its leaders, including the garrulous, loathsome and self-conceited Nnamdi Kanu, were detained for a very long time and are still being prosecuted.
But IPOB never wilfully attacked and killed people to promote their cause of having Biafra back. They were loud, noisy and a public nuisance whenever they staged their protests. However, they were mostly harmless. The government came down hard on them because they belong to the wrong and less privileged ethnic group.
It is not just IPOB. We all are victims of the official apartheid policy of shielding the Fulani militia from the full force of government powers and the long arms of the law. Some groups are considered not just more equal than others but superior to them. This explains why no special “Operation Crocodile Tears” has been directed at the Fulani militia, who have been more emboldened since Buhari became president. Their kith-and-kin is in power. So this is their time. The rest of us be damned and the country can go up in smokes.
FRAUDULENT VICTORY AND A SHAM PANEL
Since South Africa rid itself of apartheid, it has embraced multi-party democracy and continues to deepen it. Apart from its first post-apartheid general elections that were marred by pockets of violence, all the others have always been peaceful, free and fair. The standard conforms to the globally accepted metrics for assessing a credible election.
Another general elections have just been held. No reports of violence, voters’ suppression, ballot box snatching, doctoring of results and security agencies engaging in partisan conduct. And the country was not shut down because of the elections. Unlike Nigeria, election petitions, if any, would be minimal.
It is not too late for Justice [Zainab] Bulkachuwa [president of Court of Appeal] to undo her misguided decision to be part of the Presidential Election Petition Panel.
The country that helped bring down apartheid is now openly flirting with it and moving toward autocracy. Our fledgling democracy is becoming endangered. The recent general elections clearly red-flagged it. They were a total farce and a national embarrassment.
Another disturbing sign that Nigeria is moving toward the democracy of the Strong Man, where and when everything is stretched beyond the legal and decent to satisfy the Ruler, is the composition of the Appeal Court’s Presidential Election Petition Panel. It is a demonic joke and screams impunity of the most invidious kind.
Even judges of our higher courts are no longer immune to the threat and cynical patronage of the executive that is determined to bend the other branches of government to the will and desire of the Strong Man and his circle of power mongers. Some of them have no character and no honour.
President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has wittingly put herself in that category and drenched herself in infamy. She selected the panel and made herself the head. She has the authority to do so.
But any judge, worth the name and authority of that unique position, would act differently if anything about her suggests the slightest whiff of the likelihood of bias by her. One fundamental and universal norm of the justice system is that a judge must not be biased, prone to being biased and perceived to be any of the two. In this respect, Justice Bulkachawa fails woefully.
Her husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, is a member of the All Progressives Congress and a senator-elect on its platform. That alone should have restrained her from getting involved in any way in the adjudication of the presidential election petition. As a matter of fact, if she had any honour as a senior judicial officer, she ought to have handed the task of selecting the panel to the next most senior judge of the court.
Common sense and the sheer imperative of preserving whatever is left of the integrity of the judiciary, after the judicial lynching of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, should compel her to recuse herself from the trial of the petition. It is a big shame that she has to be reminded of the obligations of every judicial officer to ensure fairness, objectivity in handling litigations of any kind and deliver true justice.
Onnoghen was hounded out of office as he was seen as a chief justice who might not be amenable to external prodding and unsavoury influence. In short, he wouldn’t play ball with those who want to use the judiciary to normalize their electoral fraud. His removal was meant to also intimidate the judiciary up to the highest levels. The message was clear: ‘Behave (that is, do what we want) or you get the Onnoghen treatment.’
Some of those who ought to have stood up for Onnoghen were complicit in his ill-treatment. They forgot that, in helping to disgrace the head of the judicial branch out of office, they were jeopardizing the independence of the judiciary and making all judges vulnerable to manipulation. Why did the Court of Appeal delay all the appeals that Onnoghen filed before it, even as he was being rubbished at the Code of Conduct Tribunal headed by a dubious character? Justice Bulkachuwa may have the answer, or she is actually the answer to that vexing question.
It is really tragic that so many so-called progressives, pretenders to democratic ideals, have joined retrogressive forces to kill our democracy and endanger the country. Now judicial officers are willingly lending themselves or being co-opted to wreck the democracy that few patriotic Nigerians fought for, some with their lives.
Judges are omnipotent to the extent of the unvarnished moral rectitude they are imbued with. The constitution empowers them to be the ‘gods of justice’. Hence they have the power of life and death over the rest of us. But their omnipotence loses its luster once they are morally deformed and their fidelity to the oath they swore – to do justice to all without fear or favour – becomes questionable.
It is not too late for Justice Bulkachuwa to undo her misguided decision to be part of the Presidential Election Petition Panel. She must recuse herself. That is the only option she has. If she cares about her reputation, she should think of tomorrow and put the country’s interest over and above her personal inclinations. She may get away with such brazen chicanery. But history will surely reserve some very harsh judgment for her and her ilk for bringing the judiciary into disrepute and helping those who are determined to hold this country hostage to their retrogressive political agenda.
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