BY JUDE NDUKWE
President Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate saga is getting messier by the day. Although a majority of his supporters who are now blaming themselves for imposing this willful and unfortunate reversal of fortunes on Nigeria after declaring in the run up to the last presidential election that even if the president presented a “NEPA Bill” as his basic academic certificate, they would still vote for him, had thought that the certificate issue had died until the case came up again in court recently.
It was reported that this threw the presidency into unprecedented panic, and rather than go to court to prove with a process as simple as just showing his certificate in order to erase any doubts whatsoever in the minds of everyone, it was said that Buhari instead chose the expensive and cumbersome option of hiring 13 high profile Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and ten other lawyers.
Without emphasising on such needless waste of funds considering the realities of the time which the obviously confused APC-led administration has plunged the nation into, it is quite shocking that these lawyers were reportedly hired just to argue against the mode of service of court processes on the president in the first instance.
While the processes were served on the president through the APC national headquarters in Abuja, Buhari is arguing that it should have been served on him through his address in Kaduna. What a mundane argument! Rather than argue the substance of the case, Buhari is playing to the gallery by allegedly employing the services of a retinue of highly expensive lawyers just to frustrate a simple case through unnecessary delay tactics, the same luxury for which he and his acolytes continuously condemn their “anti-corruption” victims and political opponents, harass lawyers for choosing to accept to defend those victims, intimidating and blackmailing the judiciary for entertaining ‘frivolous’ suits brought against the government, flagrantly disobeying court orders and destroying the judiciary in the process just to get at their hapless victims. Or, how many times have the presidency and other government agencies declared innocent people guilty in the media even before such people were investigated for any crime?
Who is undergoing persecution today that has not been declared guilty in the media by government officials? Who is a victim of the vindictive fight against political opponents disguised as fight against corruption today that has not had his or her reputation badly maligned in the media even before being charged to court? The president and his henchmen regularly go on a media parade of judicial pronouncements declaring people guilty of perceived sundry offences destroying people’s images in the court of public opinion in the process. In addition to this, the presidency and their agents have even gone as far as condemning the number and quality of lawyers which their victims of political vendetta hire to defend them in court. It is most laughable to recall that government officials and sympathizers always refer to this development with glee as ‘corruption fighting back’ as if such people are not entitled to quality defence before any court. Today, the table has turned around. The said hiring of 13 SANS and 10 other lawyers to defend Buhari in the certificate saga when all the president needed to do was show Nigerians his certificate and the case would be closed, is a practice in multiplicity of what the president had condemned others for. It is more heart rending to see the level of hypocrisy reeking out from the presidency when Garba Shehu, one of president Buhari’s spokespersons said the presidency was considering a legal suit against Barrister Nnamdi Nwokocha who dragged Buhari to court for an interview he granted a national newspaper where he purportedly declared the president ‘guilty’ in the matter. Hear Garba Shehu (pictured) as quoted by Vanguardnewspaper: “Newspaper pages are not alternative courts where a lawyer can declare anybody guilty of anything when the court has not formally given a definitive judgment on an issue before it.” Alas, when did Shehu realise this? It is quite unbelievable and ironical that Shehu said this! It is always gratifying to know that people like Shehu can be beaten to their own game and badly pained by same. He betrays the feelings in the presidency when he went further to declare thus: “any lawyer that sincerely believes in judicial process and the rights of other parties to a case would not have engaged in the inappropriate and unprofessional practice of trial by media…” When did Shehu’s government start believing in “judicial process and the rights of other parties to a case”? He seems to have forgotten so quickly how he and his co-travellers severally took his principal’s political opponents to the cleaners in the media, with some of them recklessly making statements that were clearly prejudiced to cases already in court or presenting fictitious evidence in the media and bandying humongous figures before the public all in a bid to declare guilty those who were yet to even be investigated. This is just the beginning of self-inflicted retribution! Beyond the manipulation of a section of the media to subject their political opponents to a destructive media trial, even dishing out the guilty verdict on such individuals in the pages of newspapers and online news portals, Buhari and his agents have actually subjected most of their victims to actual jail terms in the absence of a court verdict. There is hardly any perceived government critic or political opponent who has not suffered media trial, extra-judicial actions borne out of vindictiveness, and or jail term in the hands of agents of government: from Sambo Dasuki, Kayode Are, Nnamdi Kanu, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Femi Fani-Kayode, Sheikh El Zakzaky, Robert Azibaola, Hon Afolabi Akanni of Ekiti State House of Assembly, IPOB/MASSOB members, Shiite Muslims and other victims of military brutality etc who were never given the opportunity to defend themselves but summarily executed even with little or no provocation. These victims have all been demonized in the courts of public opinion as championed by government agents while government officials and relations of powerful individuals close to government of the day have continued to be shielded by government even when there are damning petitions supported with hard and incontrovertible facts against them before security/anti-graft agencies. So, this is nothing new. Whoever is alleged to have said anything untoward as it concerns the president has only learnt from APC as a party and their chieftains. Never in the history of our nation has any president been subjected to the kind of lies, crude abuses, outright insults by leaders of the ruling party when they were in the opposition as they subjected former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to. They did not only insult him, they made petty caricatures of his family, spoke ill about his kindred with hateful disdain and mischievously referred to anyone supporting him as being corrupt. All these were done using the media. Garba Shehu and his colleagues have no moral right whatsoever to complain about anyone they perceive as serving them the same measure they have consistently served others. There is this Golden Rule which no human should flout, it is one that always comes back to haunt those who would not live by it. That rule is: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”. What goes round comes round. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stjudendukwe