Nigeria is witnessing an awful institutional collapse similar to the conditions that preceded the failure of Somalia, yet with all the potentials of being worse than the Somali experience.

Former Head of State, Maj-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), painted this portrait of a troubled nation on Friday in Lagos, at the launch of a book, The Oguntade Legacy, a review of major judgements written by retiring Supreme Court Justice George Oguntade.

He said: “It is the Bar and the Bench that would save Nigeria.
“We are going through a constitutional collapse in Nigeria. In my own part of the country, people no longer go to the police when they are hurt. They say, ‘God dey,’” Buhari said.

Buhari referred to his previous comments about the “Somalisation of Nigeria,” and said it “should be taken seriously by the Nigerian elite.”

He compared the political composition of the elite in Somalia – prior to the failure of the state – to the political situation in Nigeria and explained that Somalia began its slide to abyss when the elite decided to run riot with the laws of the land and the popular will. This dangerous glide that began about 18 years ago has today earned Somalia the status of a failed state, he emphasised.

“I am warning the Nigerian elite through this medium to think very seriously. We are much more vulnerable than Somalia,” Buhari cautioned.

On his presence at the book launch chaired by former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, and whose guest list looked like a Who’s Who of top Nigerian legal, political, and business luminaries, Buhari said, “I’m here to pay my respects to a person of conscience, Justice Oguntade.”

Referring to Oguntade as a thorough and fair-minded judge, the former Head of State said the judge and Justice Osifo “were giving us a lot of hope; when I say we, I mean the opposition.”

Speaking at the event, Retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alpha Belgore said the judiciary is the most stable arm of government in Nigeria and a means of gauging the pulse of the polity.

According to the former CJN, “Every human being has two arms. But our constitution is peculiar, it has three arms: the executive the legislature, and the judiciary. The first two really cry out to the public every time, ‘elect me, elect me’. The third one hasn’t got the mandate of the electorate at all, but it is the most stable, that is the judiciary. Because of that stability, if the country succeeds, it is because the judiciary is stable; if it is in turmoil, it is because the judiciary is unstable. Because of this, if the country should collapse, it may as well be due to the judiciary. The judiciary must be strong, resolute, honest, incorruptible and definite, in that order, I will say.

“If we have that, there will be a powerful judiciary.”

He expressed displeasure at the use of quota system to fill vacancies at the Supreme Court. “That portion of belief in quota in the constitution should be expunged.

“I don’t mind where the Head of State would come from. But first and foremost, he must be honest, fearing God, and loving this country. So that if five of his ministers will come from one place, if they are the best people to run the country, so be it.”

Commenting on what he called Oguntade’s diligence on the Bench, Belgore said: “Even when you disagree with him, you will appreciate the industry he has put in his judgement.”

Top judicial officers that attended the book launch include Court of Appeal President, Justice Isa Ayo Salami; Supreme Court Justices Tabai and Onogenn; Justice R.C. Agbo; Justice Gana Mshelia; Justice Bode Rose-Vivour; Justice P.A. Galinje; Justice Roseline Nwodo; Justice S.I. Sawawa; Justice Kekere Ekun and former Justice Minister, Chief Bola Ajibola (SAN).