Of Aisha Buhari, Chibok girls, and bellyaching judges

HurraY! Twenty-one Chibok girls are back; whether liberated on the battlefront, freed through negotiation or swap deals or they simply walked into freedom like the two others before them does not really matter. They are free. That is what is important. We give thanks to God who made this possible and pray that He will do more so that the other girls can return safely. Less than 10 per cent of the “girls” have returned. Congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari on this feat; be it good luck or hard work that yielded it. He must, however, not rest on his oars until all the other girls are back.

We must also congratulate the girls who survived the horrors of Boko Haram on their tenacity. Their harrowing experience is better imagined than said. To still call the Chibok girls, “girls” has become a pun. Many of them have become mothers, some one-and-half or two times over. They came back clutching babies and with protruding bellies. Some of the parents would have difficulty identifying their “girls.” Just imagine what the girls must have gone through in the hands of their ruthless captors – unwilling sex slaves, raped, abused, brainwashed, and lots more. They also came back looking haggard and malnourished; this must be evidence of the changing fortunes of Boko Haram; the terrorists must have been truly degraded and are now unable to access food at will as was the case in the past. I hope we will not just throw money at the girls and expect that it solves the problem.

They have to be debriefed not only for security reasons, but also for the sake of their well-being and successful re-integration into the society. We have useful information to glean from them. We must also help them out of their state of mental disorientation and purge them of whatever nonsense Boko Haram might have poured into them. Next comes their needs, such as good medical care to start with; resettlement to follow; they must be helped to pick the bits and pieces of their education, for those of them still willing and able to continue from where Boko Haram wilfully and maliciously halted them. Those unwilling or unable to still pursue education must be helped to learn a trade and settle in. The Chibok girls’ tragic situation is our collective failure; they are, therefore, our collective responsibility.

For those who doubted if ever there were Chibok girls, the controversy is now settled. There were, indeed, Chibok girls. For those who pontificated that the girls would ever come back, God is greater than the most powerful human being. This relative success should fire everyone’s enthusiasm to forge ahead with the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) project. I dare to say that without the tenacity and truculence of the BBOG, we might not have achieved this feat. They pushed the government hard – even to the point of their becoming an irritant. Now that it is paying off; we should appreciate the BBOG for their efforts and stop calling them bad names. Press forward, BBOG, press forward; you have been vindicated, and your labour has not been in vain.

Reports say we may witness the mass resignation of judges as a result of the harassment some judges suffered at the hands of the operatives of the Department of Secret or State Service (DSS). I will advise them not to because it will be self-defeating and counterproductive. Remain on the Bench and fight the battle from there. That is where you are empowered to be more relevant in the struggle to stop creeping fascism from enveloping the country. If judges resign en masse, it will be good riddance to bad rubbish to those bent on destroying them in the first instance. They would be behaving like the proverbial man that enemies were plotting to kill, who now doused himself in kerosene and went to stand by the fireplace. He had made the job of his enemies easier. If judges can be humiliated the way the DSS did while they were still on the Bench, what do you think will happen to them when they are no longer on that high and lofty pedestal? Besides, it will give this government the opportunity to replace resigning judges with cronies. I suspect that there is a sinister motive in all of this which surpasses the war against corruption. It may be some people want to deny Walter Onnoghen the opportunity of succeeding Mahmoud Mohammed as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria and retain the complete northernisation of Nigeria by ensuring that another northerner succeeds Mohammed. No southerner had been CJN in 30 years and if Onnoghen is manoeuvred out of the way, the next in line would be another northerner.

That said, we must admit that there is corruption in the judiciary from top to bottom. I have had cause to report here about how the Senior Advocate of Nigeria title had been for sale. Judges have embarrassed themselves giving ridiculous rulings and judgments that leave a sour taste in the mouth. Perhaps, because it, too, has not been above board, the judicial council has been unable to act decisively. Corruption in the judiciary is as mind-boggling as in the executive and legislature; it is like the three arms are competing to outdo one another. To assert that others can be corrupt while judges must not is not only sophistry, but also dubious distinction and an attempt to deceive, defraud, and pull the wool over our eyes.

All corruption is bad and none should be spared. Singling out judges is to satisfy an ulterior political motive. Corruption will recede only when it is tackled head-on and across board; but the way Buhari is going about it is counterproductive, vindictive, and politically motivated. Only opponents or those not willing to do the government’s bidding are targeted; as it is with politicians opposed to the government, so it is now with judges not ready to do the government’s bidding. The counter-allegation of judges being cited for corruption is that they refused to do the government’s bidding. Of course, people know judges who stink to high heavens but who continue to sit pretty on the Bench because they are “government judges.” This is not good enough. Corruption cannot fight corruption. He that comes to equity must come with clean hands. Is Buhari government clean in its so-called fight against corruption?

There are corrupt people holding top positions in this government. Evidence has also surfaced about big-time corruption going on under the very nose of Buhari. How fat kickbacks to some fat cats in this government drastically and dramatically scaled down the fine imposed on a GSM company has been trending on social media for a while. Cash-for-appointment and sex-for-appointment allegations have also whacked top shots in this government. If Buhari is investigating how cash meant for arms to fight Boko Haram was diverted to fund elections by the PDP, it is also necessary to investigate how money meant for roads, hospitals, UBEC funds, among others. in the South was diverted to fund APC’s presidential election. You cannot hide under the excuse that you are only concerned about the arms funds. Whether arms fund or roads funds, all these were funds taken from the public coffers and they must be accounted for. Their diversion for election purposes has led to infrastructural deficit; why subventions have lagged behind and salaries and pensions cannot be paid. You cannot focus attention on one because it concerns your political foes and cover up those that concern you.

This government must tell us how its own election campaign was funded. I demand to know. And we deserve to know. Information cannot be hidden for long; especially where yesterday’s friends have become today’s enemies. The social media is awash with how the APC presidential ticket was procured and at what price; where did the money come from? Some reports said whereas the PDP spent between N1 trillion and N1.5 trillion on the last presidential election, the APC spent between N800 billion and N1 trillion. Where did this humungous amount come from? If the PDP’s came from the arms and other slush funds, where did the APC’s come from? We need to know. You cannot demonise others and pretend to be a saint when the evidence is that you are not even a shade better. The pot calls the kettle black!

The interview granted recently by First Lady, Aisha Buhari, is instructive here. She spilled the beans; aired the family’s dirty linen in public; worse, she stripped her husband naked and took him to the cleaners. She must have her reasons. Possibly, she is exasperated with her husband. Perhaps, too, this is the only language he understands. Aisha said she had made up her mind to break ranks and be circumspect about supporting her husband’s political (mis)adventure again. If a man loses his bedroom, what else does he have remaining? When a man loses a robust wife and great fan like Aisha, only clowns will root for him. Aisha confirms what we have always known but which, regrettably, we thought had changed about this president: He does not listen to sound and good advice; he is not a team player; he loses support rapidly; he is easily surrounded and deceived; and he seems like a car with external brain box. In his first coming as military Head of State, the brain box was General Tunde Idiagbon; now, it is a cabal that contributed next-to-nothing to his emergence as president. His wife says his government is not working and that the man is not even in control of his government. I suspect that Aisha’s intervention is a last-ditch effort to stave off a Bola Tinubu revolt. Macho Buhari has dismissed his wife in a Donald Trump manner; but of the two, it is as clear as crystal that Aisha, like Hillary Clinton, is the more responsive, believable, acceptable, humane, reliable and dependable. She demonstrates a better understanding and grasp of the issues at stake than strutting and fumbling Buhari.