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Atiku: Buhari’s government now worse than military rule

FOLLOWING the controversial suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku says the present administration “has set a new precedent…that has no equivalence in our history, not even in the darkest days of military dictatorship”.

Atiku, who is also running for the presidency in this year’s general election, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said this during what he described as a “state of the nation” address on Monday.

He said he was not against the fight against corruption, however, “no mission or goal, no matter how noble or well intended, should be used as a pretext for the subversion of our democracy and our democratic institutions”.

“To create a condition that allows the constitution and the rule of law to become secondary to any other agenda is to pave the way for tyranny. History is replete with odious dictators whose path to dictatorship started with statements of good intentions. We must, therefore, remain vigilant in defence of our democracy,” Atiku said.

Atiku insisted that as the final hope of the common man, the judicial arm of government must not only operate without hindrance from any other arm of government but must be perceived by the people as doing so.

“Our judiciary must not only be above suspicion but must also be seen to be manifestly above board,” he said. “The issue at stake is not whether the Chief Justice is guilty or not, but whether his removal from office has been done in accordance with the process specified in our constitution.

“We are all witnesses to how this government has serially assaulted the National Assembly, a separate arm of government that represents the bastion of our democracy. However, with this attack on the judiciary, General Buhari has set a new precedent in our democracy that has no equivalence in our history, not even in the darkest days of military dictatorship. This cannot be allowed to stand.”

Atiku reminded President Buhari that having been a beneficiary of a free and fair election in 2015, he must, as a matter of honour, “allow a political environment and process that gives confidence to everyone”.

“I believe this present challenge has imposed on us yet again, the duty to rise in peaceful defence of democracy, for which so many have laid down their lives. I also know that the surest weapon against tyranny is the democratic will of the people,” Atiku said.

Buhari’s removal of the head of Nigeria’s judiciary has been condemned by all except supporters and sympathisers of the president and his party, the APC.

The international community, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, have all spoken against the move, expressing concern that it could affect the integrity of the forthcoming general elections.

In response, the presidency has warned that it would not tolerate any external interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs, as that would mean an affront to the country’s sovereignty.

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