To avoid humiliation of being retired by the Presidency , former Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, threw in the towel in a game of survival that has subsumed the Judiciary within the Executive arm of government. Furthermore, the principle of Federal Character has finally been buried in the political arrangement of the country.
The National Judicial Council, NJC, has immediately after their decision on Onnoghen, dispatched their postion to the Presidency. Almost immediately, Onnoghen, through the Chief of Staff to the federal government, Abba Kyari, submitted his resignation letter. The resignation takes effect immediately.
With this, he preempted the planned retirement by the presidency, who were said to be planning a soft landing, thereby giving the impression of presidential magnanimity.
The Presidency, according to sources, is yet to come to terms with the next line of action. hence the presidency has kept sealed lips over the issue, though Garba Shehu was said to be in Saudi Arabia for Haj while Femi Adesina is on Buhari’s entourage to the ongoing Economic Summit in the Arab World. Both were spokespersons for the Presidency.
With this, all important positions are finally in the hands of Northen Buhari loyalists.
From May 29, the CJN, The President of the Court of Appeal and Head of the Federal High Court will all be Northerners. Same goes for Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Chairman of the EFCC, Director of the NFIU, Inspector General of Police, Director general of DSS, DG NIA, DG DIA, Defense Minister, NSA, Chief of Air staff, Chief of Army staff. They are all from Muslim North.The Head of the Executive is already there, and both Legislatuive chambers are also expected to follow suit.
Onnoghen’s travail started a long time ago. Once gave a minority report on the Supreme Court judgement upholding one of Buhari’s foyers into Presidential contest.
Buhari had gone to court to challenge the election results.
While Ambassador Nsofor, who is now retired Supreme Court Judge, also wrote a minority report in favor of Buhari, the octagenarian was appointed Ambassador to the United States. When Buhari took over power, Onnoghen was the highest ranking Justice of the Supreme Court. And that was where the battle began.
Buhari had immediately started to interfere with the Judiciary in his bid to completely Northernise governance, which he had succeeded in other areas except the Judiciary. The National Judicial Commission, NJC, preempted him and broke protocol. Instead of submitting names of the three most senior judges, which could have included Ibrahim Tanko and Onnoghen for tyhe presidency to choose from, they submitted only the name of Onnoghen. This means Buhari had no choice than to approve Onnoghen. Buhari refused to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for approval.
The face-off was intense, but when Buhari went on his normal medical tourism in the United Kingdom, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo sent his name to the Senate for approval. The Senate confirmed him before Buhari could come back. And thus began the long battle of his removal.
Some Lawyers, believed in some quarters to have been sponsored by the presidency, dragged him to the Code of conduct Tribunal for declaration of Asset infraction. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commision beamed their satelite on his finances, using a took comb to brush out the tinniest dirt on him. The Media trial began: figures, later proved to false in court, started flying all over the Nigerian media space. Five houses transformed to fifty five houses, a few millions transformed to billions. Onnoghen was undoubtedly facing his Golgotha.
Enter the election period.
Onnoghen, as the Chief Justice, has the prerogative to appoint and inaugurate the judges that will handle the fall out the elections. Allegations from opposition quarters indicate that he was presented with a list from the presidency which he rejected. The Presidency was said to be piqued with the rejection. On the eve of his inauguration of the judges, Presidency struck, suspending him based on the CCT trial. He based his suspension on the humongous figure being bandied about in the media. Then he appointed Tanko as acting CJ, thereby turning the Law on it’s head. Tanko went ahead to swear in those on the presidency list, which ironically was alleged to have included some dead Judges.
His appointment was done without recourse to the NJC as required by law.
It was after his appointment that the NJC was reached out to, and the EFCC petitioned the NJC as was the custom. Because Tanko was also petitioned against, the NJC, with a Northern interim chairman, recused both of them, requiring them to answer to the allegations before them. Suddenly, the CCT that suspended trial on Onnoghen started in full force, in violation of court order declaring otherwise.
The NJC wisely waited until after the presidential results to know who is the incoming president before reaching a decision: Retire Onnoghen and make Tanko the substantive CJ.
It is not clear whether the national Assembly will confirm him, but they may as well wait for the 9th senate, which they are already working on an alleged rubber stamp senate president.