Despite a political atmosphere that looks so tempestuous, I remain quite optimistic. I strongly believe in the Buhari-Osinbajo government. The noise level from the flurry of endless analysts and commentators create more hoopla than are necessary. It is no big deal when a nominee is denied confirmation by a legislature.
So far, no one has said that the Nigerian Senate manufactured the DSS report that caustically scathed Magu. Would American legal luminaries have gone to press decrying the American senate for paying attention to an FBI report on a nominee requiring confirmation? Would an American President dare resubmit such a name to senate without first resolving the damning indictment of his nominee by the FBI? Nigeria does not have a monarchy; we have a presidential democracy. Alas, tension is a constitutive element of a virile democracy.
I am a strong (perhaps fanatical) supporter of Buhari-Osinbajo. But they are human; they have not handled some things right. Pundits bellowing as if the ongoing saga is purely a legal matter are wrong! Even if they are right, legal matters are not finalized by the opinions of the loudest lawyers; they are concluded by the ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction! Celebrated lawyers do not constitute a court! In any case, the issues at stake are as much matters of politics as they are of law. The earlier the frontline dramatis personae grasp and internalize this, the better.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me state here again that I was a strong supporter of Magu. I enthusiastically canvassed support for his confirmation. I shouted the loudest “Yea!” when the vote was taken on his confirmation.
However, once he has not been confirmed, it is my categorical view that a nominee whose nomination has been rejected by the senate cannot continue to function in that office. Otherwise, what was the essence of the legal provision for confirmation?
Sadly, rumors are being peddled that senators are being steered in a ploy to heighten a Saraki-Osinbajo conflict to a point where the Acting President can be impeached so that Saraki can take over as Acting President. I am not aware of such a ploy within the senate.
More importantly, I dare say that were such a ploy to exist, it would woefully and precipitously fail. What matters therefore is that Prof Osinbajo must not be misled into siding with those talking as if their own views are the views of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Furthermore, If the senate’s rejection of a nomination is immaterial, why should the senate bother going through the exercise? Yusuf Ali was correct; the Nigerian Constitution does not envisage a ceremonial legislature that must rubbers-stamp every wish of the Executive.
A quick corollary to this firm opinion however is the very poor image and negative perception of the senate in the eye of the public. This pitches emotive issue of morality against the sanctity of the law. The balancing of these two perspectives remains a challenge for the senate and equally for a public that is obviously and justifiably angry.
One solution is to be diligent with the court process rather to then say that because of public anger at perceived misdeeds within the senate, the institution should be further weakened. Otherwise, let us weaken the military, the court or any agency because as with the legislature, there are misdeeds in these institutions too!
Osinbajo is God’s gift to Nigeria at this time. His calm temperament and intellectual fecundity suit him for the challenges of his office. He has 100% of my support. And that means I must be courageous not to let him veer into needless battles. Moreover, as Attorney-General of Lagos State, Prof Osinbajo was the heart of the Tinubu engine that curtailed, on many occasions, the proclivities of the Obasanjo regime towards lawlessness. With such an icon at the helms of our republic’s affairs, the Rule of Law must always be supreme. The republic must avoid procedural shenanigans and political rigmarole. That goes for the legislature as well as the executive.
We shall overcome.