Chief Martin Onovo is the 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) and chieftain of the Movement for Fundamental Change (MFC). He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the Presidential Election Tribunal verdict, the new federal cabinet, among other issues. Excerpts:
How would you react to the recent Presidential Election Tribunal judgment which gave victory to President Muhammadu Buhari instead of Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and the rejection of the ruling by Atiku and his party?
In the common law system we practice in Nigeria, judgments ought to be based on facts and the law. The judgment of the Presidential Election Tribunal in favour of Muhammadu Buhari was not unexpected from our intimidated and subjugated Nigerian judiciary. However, we presumed that the tribunal would find reasonable technical grounds to favour Buhari. Instead, the tribunal went against known and admitted facts and also against established positions of the law and precedents.
What are these facts?
The facts include that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prevented access to its server so that it could conceal the authentic result of the elections. INEC did not call any witnesses to validate the falsified results. INEC could not show how it arrived at the falsified final results. International and local observers condemned the conduct of the elections by INEC.
Also, evidence presented showed the cancellation of millions of votes by INEC to favour. Buhari. Buhari did not attach any academic certificate to his nomination as required. The affidavit presented by Buhari was admitted to be false by his own witness. A false affidavit amounts to perjury, which is a criminal offence. WAEC could not authenticate the certificate tendered by Buhari in the tribunal.
From these known facts and more, it seems clear that Buhari was not duly nominated and did not receive the majority of votes, but a partisan INEC falsified the results in his favour.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) announced that the judgment would be appealed against. We consider this a patriotic move because law and justice are fundamental to the development of any society. Unlike before when lawyers professionally decline to comment against court judgments, an overwhelming majority of lawyers outraged by the judgment, have publicly condemned the illogical and senseless judgment of the tribunal. This matter must go up to the Supreme Court to save the judiciary in Nigeria.
We must not forget how this dictatorial, sectional and divisive government had unlawfully attacked some southern Christian judges and falsely accused them of corruption. Then, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) raised an alarm and condemned the attack, intimidation and desecration of the Judiciary by the government. But, the government proceeded with impunity to unlawfully harass the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), a southern Christian, till he was forced to resign. More recently, the NBA President stated that, “Our Judges are threatened, intimidated and blackmailed mostly by the executive arms of government and their agencies”.
Clearly, a dictatorial government that can intimidate the judiciary and harass a constitutionally protected Chief Justice of the Federation out of office, can deal ruthlessly with any judge that it does not like in Nigeria.
What is your take on the recent $9.6 billion ruling against Nigeria by a UK court?
The incompetence, corrupt, lawlessness and slothfulness of this government is well known internationally. The previous regime challenged the company (P&ID) and got an out-of-court settlement. Instead of this regime to approve the settlement or contest it, it simply changed the lawyers and neglected the matter in its usual slothful and lawless conduct of violating court orders. $9.6billion is about N3 trillion, which is over half of total annual federal revenue. This judgment debt increases total Nigerian public debt from about $80 billion to $90 billion. The economy is already in ruins as a result of mismanagement and massive corruption in this Buhari government. We will keep paying the cost of allowing Buhari to remain in power until we remove him lawfully. Already, Nigerians in London have conducted ‘Buhari must go protests’. We also insist that Buhari must go.
Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in its meeting recently, slammed the Federal Government over the nation’s state of insecurity and lopsided federal appointments by the Buhari administration. How would you react to this development?
So many Catholic Priests and the Laity have been killed and harmed in the pervasive insecurity in Nigeria under this government led by Buhari, which is incapable of fulfilling its primary purpose. So many Catholic parishes have also been destroyed, particularly in Borno and Kaduna states. No Nigerian is safe under this government. We must remember how Gen. Atolagbe was removed as Commander of the Special Task Force after his command arrested and paraded Fulani militants.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President and so many others have also spoken clearly against the pervasive insecurity in the country. Since authority and responsibility go together, we must all hold the Commander-in-Chief responsible for the insecurity in Nigeria. We must remember the authoritative declaration of Gen. T. Y. Danjuma that, “The Armed Forces are not neutral; they are conniving with the armed bandits that are killing Nigerians”. The Commander-in-Chief must be held responsible for insecurity and also for the murderous actions of his Armed Forces.
On federal appointments, the sectional appointments made by Buhari are clear violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But, since the government is lawless, it continues to act with impunity, thereby promoting lawlessness, subverting national unity and dividing our people. We must use all legitimate means to force any government to obey our laws.
We are very grateful to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) for speaking the truth to power with their prophetic authority just like St. John the Baptist that spoke the truth to King Herod.
What is your view on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term cabinet? Would you say he got it right this time around?
Does Buhari have a legitimate second term? Did he win the presidential election? This new cabinet is even worse than the previous. It was put together to satisfy the political and personal interest of Buhari who insisted that he would only appoint those he knows. He should have appointed competent, diligent and ethical patriots, instead, he appointed many ministers that have been accused of criminal corruption or that have cases in EFCC. Buhari is old, weak, slow and incompetent. He did not get it right. This new cabinet is definitely worse than the previous.
The DSS is still keeping Comrade Omoyele Sowore, the National Chairman of African Action Congress (AAC) and Convener of Coalition for Revolution (CORE) based on a 45-day court order and allegations of treasonable felony over the #RevolutionNow protests. How do you see this development?
We see it as very unfortunate that the judiciary was used for this dictatorial action. Worse, it was by means of a ‘Motion Exparte’ (without the other party). The rights of Nigerians to protest peacefully remain clear. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Sowore. He is not a soldier. He was not violent. He did not arrange any arms and all the five points on the CORE Charter of Demands are within their democratic rights.