Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has frowned at the process that led to the removal of former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Abubakar at a press conference on Monday in Abuja stressed that the issue at stake was not the removal of Onnoghen but how he was removed.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Friday suspended Onnoghen, pending the completion of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and swore in Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, the most senior Supreme Court Justice as the acting CJN.
The president said that the suspension was as a result of the ongoing trial of Onnoghen by the CCT and subsequent order of the tribunal directing him to suspend the CJN pending the completion of his trial.
Abubakar said that no mission or goal no matter how noble or well-intended, should be used as a pretext for the subversion of democracy and democratic institutions.
“Without doubt, the fight against corruption is crucial to good governance and the progress of our country. In this context, the issue of corruption as it relates to the institution of the judiciary is even more crucial.
“As the last refuge of the common man, our judiciary must not only be above suspicion but must also be seen to be manifestly above board.
“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.
“As a democrat, I must say, without equivocation that 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.”
Abubakar said that the latest action of the president was against the law.
He commended all Nigerians and the international community who had expressed outrage over what he described as “unlawful removal” of Onnoghen as CJN.
He said that how Nigerians react to the development and challenge in the following days would determine the fate of Nigeria’s democracy, which him noted was under attack.
“All my life, I have been a democrat and a defender of democracy.
“Like all men of good conscience and patriots, I believe this present challenge has imposed on us yet again, the duty to rise in peaceful defense 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.
“Nigerians have consistently demonstrated their preference for democracy, and I am, and will always remain on the side of the people of Nigeria.”
Abubakar warned the APC government to desist from taking actions that might cause a major constitutional crisis that could derail the country’s electoral process.
He advised Buhari to remember that he was a beneficiary of a free and fair election.
“It is therefore a matter of honour for him to allow a political environment and process that gives confidence to everyone.”
Abubakar, who said that the primary responsibility of any Nigerian was to resist tyranny and protect democracy, called on all Nigerians to seize the opportunity of the coming general elections to vote in defense of democracy and the rule of law.