Next Level Of Dirty Tricks

Since the All Progressives Congress was formed, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party have given a whole new dimension to mendacity. Their capacity for dissembling, turning facts on their heads, disowning their fairy-tale promises and ruthless use of power is limitless.

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Afterevery outrage they commit that goes successfully unchallenged, they become moreemboldened. So much that they could orchestrate the forceful removal of thechief justice in a naked attempt to intimidate judges and bend the judiciary totheir will. And preside over the most daring electoral brigandage that thecountry has ever witnessed, while pretending to be ‘progressive democrats.’

Theirlatest outrageous act plumbs the murkiest depths of mendacity and speaks oftheir desperation to preserve their hold on power. It became public lastweekend that Buhari and APC have declared former Vice President Atiku Abubakara Cameroonian. This was contained in the response the party’s lawyers filed atthe Presidential Election Tribunal to Atiku’s petition challenging Buhari’sre-election as president.

Inthe response filed by Lateef Fagbemi, a senior advocate, described as theparty’s lead counsel, they claimed that Atiku was born in Jada, Adamawa, in1946, when it was part of Northern Cameroon. Therefore, he is not a Nigerian.And having contested the presidential election as a Cameroonian, the 11million-plus votes he was allocated by INEC should be discounted and hispetition dismissed.

Everygeneral elections cycle is a rich harvest time for Nigerian lawyers,particularly those referred to as “Learned Silks”, also known as SeniorAdvocates of Nigeria, SAN. During such harvest time, the intellectual and moralbankruptcy of many of them is in full bloom. For them, it’s all about themoney, huge loads of it. And all ethical boundaries are eviscerated in theirquest to fatten their bank accounts. Their unbridled amorality reinforces thegeneral perception that the legal profession is disreputable especially inNigeria.

All is fair in a war, and all wars are brutal and expose the savagery of mankind. But there are limits to the savagery of warfare. These limits are codified in the United Nations Convention on Warfare and the conduct of the combatants and their political leaders. For instance, prisoners of war including soldiers are required to be treated fairly by their captors. So it becomes a war crime when an enemy soldier is summarily executed, or inhumanely treated especially if the soldier has surrendered.

“The latest attempt to intimidate and hound Atiku to submission…is seen as a crude manoeuvre to divert attention from Buhari’s serial failure to decisively address the worsening insecurity all over the country.”

Justas in warfare, all is fair in politics. The ultimate objective is to win at allcosts. Deploying dirty tricks, running a campaign of disinformation about youropponents and ruthless use of all instruments and institutions of power todisadvantage your opponents are major features of political warfare. Thisvariant of political warfare is more rampant in countries ruled by autocratsand sit-tight leaders who do everything and anything to stay in power.

Evenpolitical warfare has a global standard for the rules of engagement and limitsto what is permissible. Elections are expected to be free, fair and credible.Once elections fall below that threshold, they automatically lack legitimacy.And when the outcome of an election is challenged by any of the contestants,the adjudication process must equally be free and fair.

Aspronounced by INEC, Atiku lost the February 23rd presidentialelection, which was debased by widespread irregularities and violenceperpetrated mostly by security agents especially soldiers. He and the PeoplesDemocratic Party, PDP, believe they were robbed of victory. But they haveneither threatened nor resorted to violence to make their case. They have onlyexercised their rights under the law to file a legal challenge to the victoryawarded to Buhari and his party.

AllBuhari and APC are expected to do to defend their victory is discredit thegrounds and disprove the facts on which the petition against them is anchored.Declaring Atiku a Cameroonian is elevating ridiculousness and mendacity to thenext level of banality.

Theyknow their claim about Atiku is totally false and beggars belief. Their legalteam of senior advocates knows it too. All of them are either being desperatelymischievous, or they have assessed Atiku’s petition as strong and credible. Aspart of their strategy to fight back, they decided to delegitimize Atiku byarbitrarily changing his citizenship.

Weall know Atiku is a full-blooded Nigerian. Where he was born that waspreviously part of Cameroon became an integral part of Nigeria in 1961 afterthe people chose in a plebiscite to be Nigerians. Atiku has a Nigerianpassport. A passport is a validation of every person’s citizenship. You don’tget issued a passport of any country unless and until you are a bona fidecitizen of that country.

WhenAtiku was on their side, he was a Nigerian. Since he is no longer with them, heis now a Cameroonian. This twisted logic is seemingly an extension of the APC’sdoctrine on corruption. Once you’re in APC, you’re blameless. But if you’reelsewhere, particularly PDP, you’re corrupt.

MaybeBuhari, his party and their legal team have forgotten – possibly due toself-induced temporary amnesia – that Atiku worked in the Nigeria CustomsService and retired as a deputy director. He contested the 1991 governorshipelection in the former Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States) in theGeneral Ibrahim Babangida military regime’s ill-fated political transitionprogram. He lost. Two years later, he contested the Social Democratic Party’spresidential primary election with M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe. Abiolawon after which came the June 12, 1993 political debacle.

In1999, Atiku was elected as Adamawa’s governor on PDP’s ticket. He never becamegovernor because General Olusegun Obasanjo chose him as his running mate forthe presidential election that came later. That was why his running mate, BoniHaruna, became Adamawa’s first elected governor.

Atikuwas vice president for eight years, and by virtue of that position, he wasgiven the national honour of Grand Commander of the Niger, GCON. And in late2014, he, along with Buhari and four other aspirants, contested the APCpresidential primary election. Now he is no longer a Nigerian because he daredto launch a legal challenge to Buhari’s victory.

Unlike Buhari, Atiku didn’t invite anybody from Cameroon to attend any of his campaign rallies including the one in Yola. When the APC held its presidential campaign rally in Kano, Buhari invited the governors of two provinces in Niger Republic with hundreds of Nigeriens to attend it. And APC defended this unprecedented aberration as a sign of Buhari’s popularity not only in the north but also in the neighbouring countries.

Thepresident and his party are borrowing some of their dirty political tacticsfrom the political playbooks of Africa’s notorious strongmen. Kenneth Kaundaled Zambia to independence in 1964 and ruled the country until 1991 when helost the presidency in the first multi-party elections. Five years later,Frederick Chiluba, who succeeded him as president, declared him a Malawianbecause Kaunda wanted to run against him again. After some legal battle,Zambia’s Supreme Court affirmed his Zambian citizenship.

InCote d’Ivoire, the same devious move was made to stop Alassane Ouattara fromcontesting the presidential election in 1995 by Henri Konan Bedie, whosucceeded Felix Houphouet-Boigny as president. Bedie had leaned on the NationalAssembly to pass a law that barred anyone who either of his parents was notborn in the country, and has not resided in Cote d’Ivoire continuously for fiveyears.

Thelaw was targeted specifically at Ouattara whose father was speculated to haveemigrated from Burkina Farso. It didn’t matter to Bedie and his gang that Ouattarawas born in the country, served as prime minister for three years underHouphouet-Boigny and was a highly regarded economist who had worked with theInternational Monetary Fund, which necessitated his staying outside thecountry. After Bedie lost power, the law was discarded, and Ouattara eventuallybecame president.

Evenbefore the controversial presidential election, there had been attempts todelegitimize Atiku. While he was visiting the United States of America lastNovember after he became PDP’s presidential candidate, he was accused ofcollecting N146 million from BankPHB, which allegedly led to the collapse ofthe bank. The accusation was grotesque and advertised the APC’s fear of Atikuas a very formidable opponent.

LaiMohammed, Information and Culture minister, made the accusation at a mediabriefing. He said the EFFC had amassed damning evidence to press chargesagainst Atiku, and that once he returned from the U.S., he would be made toexplain his role in the bank’s collapse. Meaning that Atiku would be arrestedon his return. But nothing happened.

Atanother media briefing last week, Mohammed indirectly accused Atiku of treasonfor allegedly hiring an American company to lobby the Trump administration toprevent Buhari from being sworn in as president for a second term. The formervice president dismissed the allegation as another APC’s red herring, andadvised the president and his party to focus on how to defend his allegationthat they literally stole the election.

Publicfrustration is growing over the latest attempt to intimidate and hound Atiku tosubmission, as it is seen as a crude manoeuvre to divert attention fromBuhari’s serial failure to decisively address the worsening insecurity all overthe country. The mass bloodletting by Boko Haram, marauding armed bandits,kidnappers and other rogue groups continues unabated. All we hear is that thepresident has, for the umpteenth time, ordered the security agencies to “dealruthlessly” with the criminals, who have become more emboldened by thepresident’s lack of political will and a clear, effective strategy to solve theproblem.

Noone would be surprised if Buhari decides to give Atiku the Shugaba treatment.That is how desperate the president and his party are to solve what they see asthe Atiku problem and swathe away his challenge to their legitimacy.

AbdulrrahmanShugaba Darman was deported to Chad in 1980 by President Shehu Shagari’sadministration after he had been declared a non-Nigerian. At the time he wasdeported, he was the majority leader in the old Borno State House of Assembly.He was a member of the Great Nigeria People’s Party, which controlled the stateand the neighbouring Gongola State. GNPP was one of the opposition parties inthe Second Republic. It took a protracted legal battle for Shugaba to overturnhis deportation and regain his Nigerian citizenship.

Thenaked power play, threat to Atiku and intimidation of the opposition andcritics of the administration generally, inevitably point to one conclusion.Buhari will shed all pretences to being “a born-again democrat” and become moreintolerant in his second term, if the tribunal affirms his election. And thecountry will continue the inexorable slide into anarchy as the world’s povertycapital; the world’s third most dangerous country to live in; the world’s sixthmost miserable country; the world’s capital of out-of school children; one ofthe world’s hungriest countries; one of the world’s highest infant mortalityrates; and one of the world’s worst countries for a woman to give birth. Thelist of the country’s negatives keeps expanding.

Welcometo Buhari’s and APC’s next level of dirty political tricks!

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