Onnoghen: Tough options for lawyers in Buhari’s cabinet

Lawyers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet may be faced with difficult options in the face of popular angst against the administration’s actions against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen

Last weekend’s suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria may have raised unease among lawyers and political stakeholders across the country.


It may be a different kettle of fish for lawyers and activists in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC who had in the past been in the front in propagating civil rights.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who is the most prominent lawyer in the Muhammadu Buhari administration last Sunday cancelled a scheduled live interview on Channels Television in the wake of the controversy. His media aide, Laolu Akande attributed the cancellation to campaigning activities.

However, there were suggestions in some sections that the vice-president may have been queasy about defending the government’s action especially given his antecedents.

Besides Osinbajo, at least eleven other lawyers in the federal cabinet were at the weekend upbraided over their indecision on the issue by one of the country’s leading lawyers, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN.

Besides cabinet members, Vanguard gathered that some senior members of the APC especially lawyers were taken aback by the decision of the president to act against the CJN.

It was gathered that the development could have been especially touching for Prof. Osinbajo, a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN who as acting president of the country forwarded the National Judicial Council’s NJC’s recommendation on Onnoghen’s nomination as CJN to the Senate.

That was after President Buhari’s dithering procrastination on Onnoghen brought the country to an edge just before he went on medical leave in 2017.

Channels television had on Sunday disclosed that a scheduled live interview with the vice-president on Rubbin’ Minds scheduled for 3.00 p.m. had been put on hold on account of what was said as “the exigencies of campaign timing.”

The anchor, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu in a tweet announced: “Due to some matters arising, our proposed guest @ProfOsinbajo, will no longer be appearing on #RubbinMinds today.

“Sincere apologies to our viewers. We will keep everyone posted on any future updates.”

Special assistant to the president on media in the office of the vice-president, Mr. Laolu Akande in his explanation said:

“Sincere apologies that VP Osinbajo cant make ‘Rubbing Minds’ this afternoon on Channels TV.

“Being a live programme, the exigencies of campaign timing make it impossible for VP to appear on the show as scheduled today.

“We’re working with producers to reschedule his participation ASAP,” Akande tweeted.

Efforts to know the nature of Osinbajo’s campaign activities were unfruitful as Akande did not pick calls sent to him and he did not respond to an SMS sent to him on the issue.

He also did not respond to an inquiry as to whether the vice-president was supportive of the president’s action in suspending the CJN.

Besides, some APC leaders some directly involved in the campaign and others not directly involved were taken aback by the development.

“How can I defend this, it is unwarranted,” a senior APC official told Vanguard over the weekend.

“There is no way I as a person can accept this; it is unjustifiable,” the APC chieftain who spoke on the basis of anonymity said.

The chieftain was nevertheless concerned that the mainstream of the party was supportive of the president saying “it is a pity many party members I spoke with on the issue just see it as politics, but I as a person would not have anything to do with it,” the chieftain, also a lawyer said.

At the inauguration of the cabinet, there were eleven lawyers including the vice-president in the federal cabinet. One, Chief James Ocholi (SAN) exited through death and the other, Senator Aisha Alhassan departed to contest the governorship election in Taraba State.

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