Last week, Nigeria’s Acting President Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN, fired the head of Nigeria’s secret police – the DSS – in the most major government shakeup of this administration in over three years.
The move followed the besiegement of the parliament by armed masked men in the third week running of attempts to topple the Federal legislative leadership and also that of Benue State.
It is the culmination of a three-year battle against the Senate President – of the same ruling party – by the President after a recent Supreme Court loss of an effort to prosecute him criminally.
VP Osinbajo took over as Acting President when President Buhari left for London on vacation after being denied “acting” capacity on a number of occasions this year.
However some analysts saw it as a set up to distance the President from the “coup” against the Senate President by perpetrating it while Buhari was abroad.
The plotters showed their hand when they said last week that Buhari was in Togo and couldn’t have been behind last week’s attempt.
Then they created this emergency vacation as an alibi.
However they misfired again by the president receiving an opposition party defector – Senator Akpabio – on visit in London, which shows Buhari still pulling the strings from UK.
Akpabio’s resignation letter from senate leadership coincidentally surfaced the same day as the Senate siege.
From viral online videos we heard senators calling out the VP during the siege and a courageous female MP Boma Goodhead daring the masked operatives to shoot.
This was Tiananmen Square style boldness but these were not Chinese students – these were Nigerian Representatives!
The FGN had meted out to elected lawmakers the mistreatment it dishes out to BBOG demonstrators. It was the BBOGIFICATION of the National Assembly!
Acting President Osinbajo’s swift and decisive action has helped stabilize the polity and halt the rapid slide into anarchy.
Last month in a radio interview in Washington, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Ogebe JSC lamented, “what makes me so disturbed as a lawyer and a judge is that the government has no respect for the rule of law. They do what ever they like.
A court will make an order against them but they will not obey and that is not what we voted for.
We want to have democracy similar to what is happening here.
We want people to have liberty and freedom of speech just as it is in America, but that is not what is happening. We have dictatorship there.”
Daura has previously been retired from the secret police for incompetence but was made the head when his benefactor Buhari came to power.
Daura is part of the President’s shadow cabinet and is in fact believed to be a key member of the cabal that runs the presidency and the president himself to the exclusion of VP Osinbajo and sometimes, even Buhari.
Analysts see this as an epochal move by the VP who has been criticized for standing by in the face of executive lawlessness to now be on the right side of history.
Inaction on his part could have brooked impeachment or total breakdown of law and order.
It is doubtful if Prof Osinbajo did this without consulting the President but regardless, as a law professor he knows full well that as acting President he is able to do this.
Ironically, Prof Osinbajo has been the redeeming grace for this woeful failure of an administration.
Last year he ruled a few times while Gen Buhari was abroad on sick leave but his popularity stemming from his urbane and humane disposition caused Buhari’s hawks to circumscribe him.
It is dire times in Nigeria right now and people are calling for prayers for Osinbajo whom they see as facing his Esther moment – “if I perish, I perish!”
It should be noted that Prof Osinbajo avoided a constitutional crisis last year when he appointed a Chief Justice for Nigeria while he was acting President. President Buhari had delayed the appointment.
At the time, I wrote in an op ed piece “One of the tragedies of this regime is that most of their crises are self-afflicted and so avoidable.
Another travesty is that the greatest injuries to the judiciary occurred under the first administration that had a senior lawyer as Vice President.
Their failure to submit Justice Onnoghen’s name unfortunately implies, true or otherwise, that Buhari is sectional, that Osinbajo is marginalized and that our citizenship, nationhood and democracy are all questionable.”
Fortunately Osinbajo redeemed himself in that situation.
Similarly, Prof Osinbajo had also indicted and recommended the removal of Buhari’s longest-serving cabinet member for theft of funds meant for victims of terrorism.
While President Buhari had stridently defended the Secretary to the Government despite a damning senate report that indicted him, Prof Osinbajo did not exculpate him.
Although the President reluctantly fired the secretary to the government, he has still not been prosecuted and remains a high profile poster boy of this administration’s selective justice in its dubious anti-corruption “war.”
Whatever the case, these are sensitive times for Prof Osinbajo.
The fate of Nigeria seems to be in the hands of this humble, brilliant and principled man at least for another week.
However he has managed to engrave his name in gold on the few occasions he had the opportunity to defend the Constitution without let or hindrance by an ignorant, indolent and incompetent autocrat and his nepotistic cabal.
Although being a distinguished lawyer and serving under parochial, disparate and often divergent interest groups is a challenge, Osinbajo has acquitted himself creditably.
This analysis will not be complete without noting the nadir in assaults against the judiciary, which occurred when this same deposed Lawal Daura’s agents arrested judges in the middle of the night.
It is perhaps fitting that he is finally getting his due after all his atrocities in office.
Prof Osinbajo can now hold his head high that he did not tolerate brigandage, executive hooliganism and daylight criminality by his own government on his watch.
Osinbajo is proof that Nigeria has people capable of leading while Buhari is proof of the contrary.
Ogebe is a US-based International human rights lawyer.