By Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress (APC)
In recent weeks Nigerians have been inundated with reports regarding self-confessed discrepancies in the asset declaration made by erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. So acting on an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday took the decisive action of suspending Onnoghen.
The strident opposition to Justice Onnoghen’s suspension coming from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by its presidential candidate, Alh. Atiku Abubakar again points to their penchant for anything corrupt and criminal.
We must ask ourselves these questions, why was Justice Onnoghen suspended? What are the charges against him? It is on the basis of this, we had expected the PDP, Atiku and their agents to assess the President’s action.
Justice Onnoghen was accused of non declaration of assets — a requirement by law for every public officer. While under investigations, other transactions have been traced to Justice Onnoghen’s personal accounts, all undeclared as required by law. Justice Onnoghen has personally admitted to this in writing claiming that he made a “mistake” and “forgot” to declare his assets.
In the spirit of good conscience, integrity, character and general conduct expected of occupants of public office, we are of the strong position that Justice Onnoghen should have resigned immediately to face his trial after his confession and spare the Judiciary further disrepute. Justice Onnoghen did not. This in itself smells mischief.
Justice Onnoghen fought to keep himself as CJN by all means possible, thereby fighting the same constitution that he swore to protect.
It is important to remind the PDP and Atiku that Justice Onnoghen is not entitled to special treatment. Such entitlement being canvassed by the PDP and Atiku is alien to our laws and not in tandem with our cardinal objective of fighting against corruption and indeed our overall Change Agenda.
Why are the PDP and Atiku worried?
We have read the PDP and Atiku’s responses to the President’s action with shock albeit with a feeling of vindication. Their responses portray the Nigeria they wish for.
A Nigeria where the rich and powerful are above the law; a Nigeria riddled with corruption and disregard for set down rules and laws as enshrined in the constitution; a Nigeria where institutions of government are manipulated and exploited for the benefit of a few privileged.
For one, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s hold on Justice Onnoghen and a few others in the Judiciary is well-known. This was their trump card to hijack power post-election. It is clear that Justice Onnoghen’s suspension has devastated the PDP as their plans to get back to power through the “cash and carry” justice system they put in place during their unfortunate 16 years reign is in serious jeopardy.
In citing the election tribunals as reason for Justice Onnoghen’s suspension, has Atiku given himself away on his now busted plot to use the tribunals to steal the people’s mandate in the presidential election he knows he will lose?
Nigerians have seen beyond the PDP and Atiku’s charade and reject their dream and inordinate personal ambition in totality. Nigerians have seen the handwriting on the wall and we are poised to defeat the PDP and Atiku in the coming elections under a free, fair, and credible electoral process.
It is completely untenable to insinuate any attempt on the part of our government to rig elections. Our party contested elections in 2015 as an opposition party and we trounced the PDP while operating strictly by the electoral rules. It is even needless for us at this period as the ruling party with unprecedented achievements in less than four years to rig or influence the elections. We are very confident of victory and are desirous of a peaceful and credible elections more than any political party.
Nigerians have shown without doubt throughout this campaign period that never will machinations of the political dark forces be enthroned in this country again. We fought for change, our country is changing and we remain committed to the process.
The PDP and Atiku have asked the international community to intervene in Justice Onnoghen’s suspension. Is the international community not supportive of the fight against corruption?
Against the backdrop of statements by some foreign concerns over Justice Onnoghen’s suspension vis-a-vis forthcoming general elections, we strongly advise that they are abreast with our laws and procedures. A situation were these foreign concerns come across as meddling or being misled or influenced by bogus partisan narratives is unfortunate and unacceptable.
Our firm commitment to ridding the country of corruption and ensuring credible electioneering processes remains resolute.