Justice Tanko Mohammed, the man who was handed the scepter of power by President Mohammadu Buhari has decided to bring the Onnoghen saga back to life, perhaps in a bid to prove his undying loyalty and utmost gratitude to the president.
He had made an argument that Buhari had broken no law by suspending the former CJN, reason being that if any public officer is found guilty of the breach or violation of the code of conduct, he could be ordered to vacate office for the crimes committed.
But we are not just talking about any public officer, we are talking about the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The CJN is the head of the judicial arm of government in Nigeria, who presides over the country’s Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council.
The CJN holds office at the pleasure of the Nigerian constitution and can only be removed from office by death or on attainment of age 70, whichever occurs first or by impeachment by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which requires a super majority of the members of the Nigerian Senate.
It is the first time in Nigeria’s history that a CJN has ever been suspended. The question that should be asked is that was Buhari’s case against Onnooghen a true fight against corruption or a personal vendetta against two men with extremely bruised ego.
Let us not forget that Justice Onnoghen appointment suffered delay by the President over undisclosed issues. This clearly shows that there has been some underlying issues between Buhari and the CJN.
This issue, that was only brought to the public eye in the form of Onnoghen’s corruption did not just begin today.
Onnoghen was suspended from office on January 25, 2019 by the Federal Government for failing to declare all of his assets. It could be recalled at the beginning of this all, that Buhari had demanded that Onnoghen tender his resignation but the CJN in a bid to show how powerful he could be, decided to drag the case to court.
Onnoghen must have at some point of his tenure become absolutely intoxicated by the power of the CJN and had thought he was powerful enough to go against the president, the number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Buhari had listed some of the reasons he had demanded Onnoghen’s resignation, so let us begin with the transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.
It had also been said that there was a declaration of false assets. Buhari had shown how terribly appalled he was that the CJN of a republic would be saddled with something as filthy as a corruption trial.
He had said that was not the only allegation that had been associated with him and they included transactions running into millions of dollars in the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law.
Buhari had also mentioned that Onnoghen had shot himself in the leg when he had revealed all by himself that he indeed failed to follow the spirit and letter of the law in declaring his assets, citing “mistake and forgetfulness” which are totally unknown to our laws as defenses in the circumstances of his case.
Onnoghen’s refusal to resign had also infuriated the president. The president statement had read:
“One expected that with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disreputed by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted.”
Buhari must have sensed that his authority was being challenged, because this trial was not about the fight against corruption. It was a tussle for power, A challenge of the alpha, and we are quite aware that Buhari does not want to be forced before he shows his fangs.
A statement had to be made. When the males in a wolf pack sense the alpha is vulnerable, they immediately move for the kill, because a weak Alpha literally means a weak pack, and a weak pack is no pack.
So when counter orders from courts came pouring in, preventing the arraignment of Onnoghen, Buhari invariably must have sensed his power being tested. He knew that if he did not prove that he was a worthy alpha, it would be the beginning of more wolves coming for him.
And so it had to be the fight to the death, even when Onnoghen had waved a white flag by tendering his resignation, Buhari knew too much water had gone under the bridge, and there was only one way it could play out. It would definitely not be an over statement to call Buhari a master planner.
The president had said that the order for Chief Justice Onnoghen to be suspended came from the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and his immediate decision to comply had come with a great relief that Onnoghen’s tenure was going to come to an end.
But the question that keeps running through our mind is that after Onnoghen tendered his resignation through the NJC to Buhari, why had the president remained silent and what was the unspoken words in his silence?
He could have withdrawn his case in court against the CJN but instead, Buhari remained silent and Onnoghen was eventually convicted of his crimes, and a great destruction to his career ensued.
Buhari comes out in all his glory, head held high. Onnoghen’s career in a trash bin at his feet.
Onnoghen’s saga was not a fight against corruption. It was a statement, ‘stay off my turf, i am in control’.