Some indications of a fresh split in the presidency emerged yesterday with the First Lady accusing Senior Presidential Media Aide, Garba Shehu, of taking instructions from some people in government rather than from President Muhammadu Buhari. In a statement personally signed by the First Lady and made available to reporters yesterday, Mrs. Buhari critically upbraided Shehu of sundry professional misdemeanors, accusing the spokesman of working against the First Family.
Mrs. Buhari’s Special Assistant on Media, Aliyu Abdullahi, confirmed the development.Responding to The Guardian enquiry, Abdullahi said the First Lady’s statement issued by Sulaiman Haruna, a Director of Information, on the development was also authentic.“Yes, the statement is true. I also got it from Sulaiman Haruna, who is the Director of Information in the office of the First Lady. It emanated from the office,” Abdullahi said. Shehu however could not be reached for his reaction at press time.
The First Lady recently opened a can of worms concerning a protracted family feud, which involved her and a nephew of Buhari, Mamman Daura.She accused the nephew of having knowledge about her being locked out of a room at the Presidential Villa. The First Lady followed the untoward development with a strong demand that the Dauras vacate the apartment meant for the First Family but which they (the Dauras) had occupied for four years.
The statement entitled, ‘Garba Shehu Has Gone Beyond His Boundaries’, is reproduced below in full: “Nigeria’s development is hinged on the ability of public officials to execute their mandates professionally, and to be shining examples in their various areas of endeavour. It is not a good sign when officials abandon their responsibility and start clutching at straws.
“As spokesperson of the president, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the president and all the good works that he is executing in the country. Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the president to others who have no stake in the compact that the president signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.
“To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the president. This should not be so. The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves.
“We all remember that the chief proponent appropriated to himself and his family a part of the Presidential Villa, where he stayed for almost four years and when the time came for him to leave, he orchestrated and invaded my family’s privacy through a video circulated by Mamman’s daughter, Fatima. The public was given the impression that on arrival into the country Mr. President locked me out of the villa.
“Garba Shehu, as villa spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight. But because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the president who appointed him in the first place. Consequently, his action has shown a complete breakdown of trust between the First Family and him.
“Mr. Shehu was privy and part of the plan and its execution and he was shocked when he realised that I had publicised my return to Nigeria on October 12, 2019 and cleared the air on the many rumours that took over social media, a job he was supposed to do but kept mute, to cause more confusion and instability for his principal and his family.
“Garba then vented his anger on the National Television Authority (NTA) Management insisting that the media crew to my office must be sacked. He succeeded in getting them suspended for doing their job. I had to intervene to save the innocent staff from losing their means of livelihood by involving the Department of State Services (DSS) in order to ascertain roles played by key actors in the saga.
“It is at this late hour that I recall, sadly, that it was the same Garba Shehu who claimed that the government will not allow the office of the First Lady to run. He was later to confirm to one of my aides that he was instructed to say so by Mamman Daura and not the president. This antic attracted the anger of Nigerian women. He didn’t realise the fact that the First Lady’s office is a tradition, which has become an institution.
“Today, even without a budget, I am able run my humanitarian programmes. In saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers. Garba Shehu needs to understand that this kind of behaviour will no longer be tolerated.“The latest of his antics was to wage a war on the First Family through an orchestrated media campaign of calumny by sponsoring pseudo accounts to write and defame my children and myself.
“Based on Garba Shehu’s misguided sense of loyalty and inability to stay true and loyal to one person or group, it has become apparent that all trust has broken down between him and my family due to the many embarrassments he has caused the presidency and the First Family. We all have families to consider in our actions and therefore it is in the best interest of all concerned for Garba Shehu to take the advice of the authority, given to him sometimes in the first week of November, 2019.”
Also, the Coalition of United Political Party (CUPP) backed Aisha, saying her husband is not in control of the nation’s affairs.CUPP’s national publicity secretary, Salisu Dawaki, told The Guardian: “If you can remember, Aisha Buhari was the first person that came out to explode about cabals around her husband. Everybody believes that President Buhari is not in total control of the country whether it is said or not.”
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday issued conflicting statements on how President Muhammadu Buhari should be addressed.This followed an editorial by a media house, which said it would henceforth address the president as major general, his military era title. Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, had earlier commented: “If you decide to call him major general, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria.”
Adesina’s comment was however knocked off by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who insisted: “It is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s president as it pleases.”
The newspaper had also said it would thenceforth refer to Buhari’s administration as a ‘regime’, to symbolically demonstrate its resentment and protest against what it described as “autocracy and military-style repression.”Garba’s statement reads in part: “The Constitution of Nigeria recognises the president as the formal official title of the occupant of that office. Can the newspaper, in its hubris address the president as prime minister as it pleases? “Is it within the paper’s responsibility or power to change the official title of the man who occupies the office of the president? Does that mean any newspaper is free to address the comptroller general of customs a colonel rather than his official title?”
How Aisha complicates Buhari’s troubles
Everytime there’s a report of disharmony in the presidency, Nigeria’s seat of political power, most citizens remember how President Muhammadu Buhari shed hot tears in 2011, while declining further interest in presidential election. Buhari, who was the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), had declared that the 2011 election would be his last on the presidential ballot. At the International Conference Centre, where he rendered what was seen as a tearful good bye, were the party’s vice presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Col. Hameed Ali (retd) and former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el Rufai.
Despite weeping intermittently at the event marking the end of the party’s electioneering, Buhari did not bother to contest the outcome of the election at the tribunal as he did on two previous occasions.But four years later, propelled by some of those who were present when he announced his exit from presidential contests, Buhari contested the 2015 presidential election and ended up defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Four months after his inauguration as Nigeria’s fifth democratically elected president, Buhari, during an official visit to South Africa, said he wished he had become president earlier, stressing that age would affect his performance in office.It is perhaps based on the president’s confessions that for a greater part of his first term in office, he was reportedly held hostage by a cabal, such that his wife, Aisha, had to cry out in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that few unelected individuals were presiding over the affairs of the country.
Ever since that BBC outburst, the First Lady had been steadfast in waging internal opposition against the so-called cabal, such that while the president was away on medical vacation in the U.K., she was barred from seeing him.However, at the buildup to the 2019 election, it became obvious that Aisha had been able to factionalise the cabal in the continuing power play for supremacy to wield presidential power on behalf of the absentee President Buhari.
Matters came to a head when the former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, who was answerable to the cabal faction headed by Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, was sacked.While Daura and Alhaji Isa Funtua were vacillating in the search for Daura’s replacement, the president’s brother-in-law was able to pass the name of Bichi through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to Buhari, who was then in London, for his approval as new DG of DSS.
The announcement of Alhaji Bichi as DG paved the way for the ascendance of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari’s faction of the cabal in the power configuration at the Presidential Villa.Kyari’s position was further strengthened by Buhari’s order that ministers and heads of agencies should get to him through the office of the Chief of Staff. With the new impetus, Aisha was emboldened to head the proxy war against the Mamman Daura camp, as exemplified by the hot exchanges between the First Lady and Daura’s daughter two months ago.
The first lady’s membership of the Kyari camp was deepened when her office organised a special prayer session for the nation at the State House. In attendance were Kyari; Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola; Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu; and a former governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Tanko Almakura.Pictures from the event showed the First Lady sitting closely to the chief of staff, with whom she engaged in discussion. In a statement by her media aide, Aliyu Abdullahi, Aisha Buhari enjoined Nigerians to be the change they want to see in the country.
The recent statement from the office of the First Lady, which upbraided the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, is therefore a further escalation of the war within Buhari’s presidency.
Why lawyers fear to knock govt’s rights records
Rating the human rights record of the current Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari is a big challenge for lawyers.Most senior lawyers asked by The Guardian to express views on the government’s alleged disregard for human rights pleaded to remain quiet. While some feared they could incur the ire of the ruling class, others believed the agents of the state might come after them, humiliate them and expose their shady pasts.
But a few courageous ones spoke up, insisting the human rights record of the Federal Government is abysmal.Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) said the human rights record of the government of Buhari is zero. According to him, the country has gone back to full military dictatorship.
He said: “All institutions of democracy have been hijacked and intimidated. The secret police of the regime, the DSS, has invaded the National Assembly in the past. It has invaded the houses of judicial officers and humiliated them. It has now invaded the hallowed chambers of the court, while a judicial officer was sitting.“People are being kept in custody without trial and courts orders are treated with disdain. The culture of fear is being imposed upon the people, with the threat of social media regulation and capital punishment for hate speech.”
The learned silk declared: “What we have now is full-blown civilian dictatorship that has no regard for the sanctity of our Constitution.”
National publicity secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Kunle Edu, said the administration rose to power based on its perceived and pretentious fight for human rights, freedom of the press and respect for the rule of law. Edu said unfortunately, it now seems to be beating the records of previous administrations (including military regimes) in the suppression of the fundamental rights of Nigerians and disobedience of orders of courts.
“Judges are no longer safe in conducting proceedings in court without fear of invasion of their courts or residences by the security agencies. These are danger signs for this country,” he stated.Also, human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, is of the view that the government has taken Nigeria backward in the area of human rights and democratic principles. Rather than set the country on the right path, he said, the government has been on the offensive against the citizens.
He said: “The fundamental rights to life, dignity of the human person, personal liberty, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as guaranteed under Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) have greatly eroded.“We have all witnessed how aggrieved sections of the society have been subjected to state-sponsored murder and incarceration. Members of IPOB and the IMN have been declared terrorists and killed in the hundreds by security forces without any accountability.
“The culture of impunity and reckless appropriation of power is now fully entrenched. Nigerians are still being illegally arrested for civil matters. Extra-judicial killings, extortion and torture by the police have not been addressed in any significant way.” According to him, the government is desperate to conquer the Nigerian people and foist tyranny in the country. He therefore, rated the government extremely poor in human rights.
The Chairman of NBA, Ikorodu branch, Mr. Adebayo Akinlade, said the recent events regarding abuse of power by the DSS and other law enforcement agencies had dealt a big blow to the respect for human rights and the rule of law in the country. “I will sadly rate the Nigerian government’s respect for human rights as probably the lowest since the return to democracy,” he stated.
Owerri-based lawyer, Mr. Ike Augustine, said the respect for human rights performance index by the Federal Government was very poor. Under this administration, according to him, court orders are being disobeyed with impunity. “The cases of Sambo Dasuki; Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and wife; and Omoyele Sowore are just a few of many rights violations. Government agencies like the military, police, DSS no longer observe the rule of law in carrying out their constitutional functions.
“The recent re-arrest of Sowore in Gestapo style and the desecration of court by the DSS should be condemned by all men of conscience and appropriate sanctions meted out to the perpetrators. The president should urgently address the nation’s descent to anarchy to avoid civil disobedience,” he advised.
According to him, some state governments are also guilty of rights violations. Citing the cases of Agba Jalingo’s trial by the Cross River State government, Dadiyata Idris, Stephen Kefas and Jones Abiri, he said the records were horrible. He stated that in Delta State, two journalists were facing criminal defamation charges.
Former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, simply said the records were beneath abysmal. According to him, “The government has no human rights record to speak of.”Lagos lawyer, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN) described the human rights record of the Federal Government as dismal, while according to the former chairman of Lagos NBA, Mr. Alex Muoka, everyone knows that the rights record of the Federal Government is poor.
Timeline of Buhari’s alleged disobedience to court orders since 2015
Omoyele Sowore: A former presidential candidate and publisher of SaharaReporters, an online news platform, Sowore was on August 3, 2019 arrested by the DSS in Lagos and transferred to Abuja. The DSS obtained an ex parte order to keep Sowore for 45 days. Barely 24 hours to the expiration of that order, the Attorney General of the Federation’s office filed charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, requested his bail, pending arraignment. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, granted the prayer. Sowore has since filed a case of contempt against DSS boss Yusuf Bichi for failing to comply with the court order granting him bail.
Ibraheem El-Zakzaky: On December 2, 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and his wife, Zeenat, from DSS custody.As at the time of that ruling, El-Zakzaky and his wife had been in the agency’s custody since December 2015, following an altercation between the Nigerian Army and IMN members in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Besides the order to release them, the court also ordered that the DSS should pay the couple N50 million as compensation. This was not obeyed.On August 5, Justice Darius Khobo of Kaduna State High Court granted El-Zakzaky leave to seek medical attention in New Delhi, India. The couple made the journey but returned within a week without achieving the purpose. El-Zakzaky and his wife are currently in DSS custody.
Sambo Dasuki: Former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki is still in custody, despite several courts ordering his release. On Monday, July 2, 2018, the Federal High Court in Abuja granted him bail after the DSS had detained him for two and a half years.Delivering judgment in the suit filed by the ex-NSA in March 2019, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ruled that his detention since December 29, 2015 amounted to a violation of his right to liberty. The judge also said that should the DSS have any further reason to interrogate him, the security agency could only invite and interview him between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on working days.
The Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice on October 4, 2016 also ordered his release, a judgment the DSS has not complied with.
Nnamdi Kanu: On October 18, 2015, it was reported that the DSS had arrested the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, in Lagos State. On October 19, 2015, it was reported that Kanu had been granted bail after a secret arraignment at the Magistrate’s Court II, Wuse. The bail however seemed “controversial” and there were claims the DSS announced the bail only “to calm the angry people of Biafra”. The Magistrate’s Court I on November 18, 2015 ordered the DSS to produce Kanu on November 23, 2015. But it was said that the DSS obtained a “secret” court order to detain him.
Court order on debt limit: The Federal High Court in Abuja directed the Federal Government to set the overall limit for the “amounts of consolidated debts”. Justice Kolawole gave the judgment on February 20, 2018 in a suit filed by the Centre for Social Justice. Justice Kolawole said it was mandatory for the government to set the limits as provided by section 42(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007. He specifically ordered the Federal Government to take the action, which should be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives within 90 days of the judgment. The judgment has not been obeyed.
Navy Captain Dada Labinjo: Navy Captain Dada Labinjo is allegedly being detained by the Defence Intelligence Agency in Abuja since September 12, 2018. His lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said though he obtained an order of the Federal High Court for his release, Labinjo has not been set free. Falana, who said this in an August 15, 2019 letter to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, said Labinjo was just one of 67 persons, including foreigners, being illegally detained without trial by the Nigerian Navy.
Recovered loot: Other high-profile judgments the Buhari government is refusing to obey include at least four rulings obtained by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to disclose the stolen assets it recovered. The second, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since 1999. The third, by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, ordered the immediate release of details of payments worth billions of naira to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999.
The fourth, by Justice Mohammed Idris ordered Buhari to prosecute senior lawmakers suspected of stealing N481 billion from the 2016 budget. The court also ordered Buhari to “direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.”