‘If Abba does not understand the implication of his actions for the health of our fragile democracy, we cannot say the same of his principals. Or could it be they just don’t give a damn about the inevitable collapse of a tripod with two disabled legs?’
As one of those who in 2011 demonized Buhari on account of his human right abuses as military head of state back in 1984, I am daily haunted by the unheeded warning of Sonala Olumhense, one of Nigerian most gifted writers that voting Jonathan would amount to giving him a licence to sell what is left of Nigeria to PDP. The verdict is today self evident. The fight against economic saboteurs Jonathan claimed to have identified at the onset of his administration, the quest for a culture of free and fair election, the battle against insurgency, resolution of the national question through convocation of national confab, at the end were all about what was in them for Jonathan and PDP and not about Nigerians. Even the celebrated 16 years of unbroken democratic dispensation was at the expense of separation of power – the soul of democracy. Jonathan has continued to take delight in the subversion of the legislative and judicial arms of government.
To be fair to Jonathan, he inherited the war against separation of power from ex-President Obasanjo who shuffled senate presidents and speakers of both the upper and lower houses according to his mood. He routinely disobeyed court orders. Picking up from where Obasanjo stopped, Jonathan unsuccessfully attempted to plant pliable leaders on the National Assembly. His failure produced Speaker Waziri Tambuwal. He has however secured more successes in undermining the judiciary which started with his unjust persecution of Justice Isa Ayo Salami for ruling against PDP governors who stole the people’s mandates in Edo, Ondo, and Ekiti and Osun states.
The great danger of being part of Nigeria today is that Nigeria tends massively to corrupt everything and everybody. There is hardly anything to look up to in Nigeria. In most directions that one may look, the beckoning is perpetually and relentlessly towards the low, the ignoble and the graceless. Most of the privileged and influential seek nothing but their own. In the reckoning of the typical powerful and influential Nigerian, the masses of ordinary Nigerians are, at best, cannon fodder for the reaching of his warped goals – and at worst, just despicable beings deserving to be ignored in their poverty, their ignorance and their hopelessness. The famous writer, Wole Soyinka, once wrote a book with the title The Man Died. Man with the higher qualities and nobler passions of man has almost totally died out in Nigeria.
Recently, in some other place, I pointed out one relieving feature in this generally depressing Nigerian landscape – namely, the strong spirit of religious tolerance and accommodation among Yoruba Muslims and Christians in a Nigeria in which most other Muslim peoples have turned the great religion of Islam into the reason for the massacres of their fellow men, the destruction of whole settlements, and the disruption of a whole country. But, unfortunately, in the realm of partisan politics, no such relieving feature exists anywhere in Nigeria – not even among the Yoruba. Everywhere in Nigeria, party politics has been bestialized into a horrible and unrestrained civil war in which prominent politicians set up whole propaganda outfits to lie perpetually and to cruelly besmirch opponents – and hire young men to attack, harass and murder political opponents. And the goal of all the beastly lying and the satanic plots to murder is never to gain political positions for the purpose of serving the interests of country and people; it is to enhance the politician’s access to the country’s money and other resources. Hordes of young people are easily available for recruitment because they are unemployed, poor, and desperate to earn some income – even if it is income from the hand of Satan himself.
Recent events at some states’ Houses of Assembly are threatening the existence of the legislature as an arm of government in our democratic system. Just last week, the Ekiti State House of Assembly defied the dogmatic mathematical laws of greater than and less than, when seven of its twenty-six members loyal to the state governor, Ayodele Fayose, impeached the speaker of the House, Adewale Omirin. It was the culmination of an agonising political pounding suffered by Speaker Omirin since Governor Fayose was sworn in.
The Ekiti legislators, in abusing their constitutional responsibilities in the removal of their speaker, as provided for by Section 92 (2) (c) of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, should note that they inadvertently voted to condone future excesses of the executive. Constitutionally, Houses of Assembly are to serve as checks on the executive arm of government; therefore, the independence of the legislature is sacrosanct.
We are worried that the independence of the legislature is gradually being eroded in ways as strange to democratic tenets as they are embarrassing. This new fad in our polity, where crucial legislative resolutions and actions are not decided by numbers but by executive influence, is eroding the powers of the legislature and making dictators of state governors.
In every society, there are those considered as leaders. They may not necessarily be the governors or presidents of countries. They may not even be in any government service. But they are sufficiently influential and have enormous clout. They command the respect of the public, such that when they speak they are not only listened to, but obeyed. They do not control any instrument of power such as the military or security services but they have strong moral authority that is far greater in force than all coercive instruments can confer or anyone else. When society is drifting they intervene to establish order. Nigeria is in disorder, but where is the establishment?
In every village there are elders. In every society there are leaders. But the greatest disaster that can happen to any individual is to not to have anyone who can look at the person in the face and tell him or her the truth, however bitter. Such is also the role of the establishment in any decent community. Recall that when George W. Bush rigged out Al Gore in Florida during the 2000 US presidential election, America was heading towards constitutional crisis. The American establishment quickly intervened to avert the imminent danger. Nigeria is already in crisis, but where is the establishment?
Ordinary local hunters have become heroes because they fight terrorists in the northeast more than the military. The Nigerian military now run away at the slightest opportunity. The only thing they do is to barricade roads and establish check points, a strategy that has clearly failed as it only causes untold hardship to ordinary citizens while insurgents avoid those places. The Nigerian police has become glorified ruling party thugs. They teargas the hallowed National Assembly chamber with impunity, and harass elected legislators. This is equivalent to an assault on the country’s democracy because the legislators are representatives of the people. Again, where is the establishment?
Our global village is being continuously bedraggled and bemused by conflicting vortexes and counter-vortexes, and it has now become fundamentally imperative more than ever before to institutionalize instrumental actions of crises management and schism resolution to backpedal mankind from the epicenter of this anarchical entropy.
We need consultative initiatives, all-embracing strategic repositioning and synergistic altruism to enable us forestall the global tentacles of despotism, harrowing poverty, intellectual indolence, horrors of climate change and economic regressionalism etc. The United Nations, African Union (AU), Organization of American States (OAS), ASEAN, ECOWAS, the Common Wealth Organization etc are pregnant with laudable ideas, but bereft of action in solving our political , socio-economic problems.
We call for a global renaissance that will revive these bodies from their anachronistic and somnambulistic dungeon. The political massacre in Guinea, Kangaroo referendum by the authorities in Niger Republic, the unrepresentative government of Sudan, Eritrea, the pirates in Somalia, corruption in Nigeria, terrorism in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, political stalemate in Honduras and the return of political tyranny to Equtorial Guinea etc should be addressed. The climate change issue should go beyond the Kyoto protocol and the Copenhagen declaration. All hands must be on deck.
President Goodluck Jonathan last week appointed Justice Mahmud Mohammed as a replacement for the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, who retired upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Mukhtar, the first female chief justice of the country, is demonstrably an unprecedented martinet in the Nigerian judicial system having revolutionized the entire process and restored immeasurably the dignity that was almost lost before her occupation of that exalted position. We salute her courage, professionalism and unparalleled commitment to the rule of law. Her diligence was so profound that her legacies would be inerasable. There is no doubt that she brought Spartan self-discipline to the judiciary.
It is pertinent to underscore the fact that Mukhtar passionately tried to stamp out corruption in the judiciary in very manifest ways that challenged the status quo ante. She may not have succeeded in totally cleansing the Augean stables, but her exemplary efforts are there for her successor to advance. The most critical component of Muhktar’s battle against improprieties in our judiciary is the consciousness that she has developed among judicial officials such that henceforth there would be a rethink by anyone bent on soiling their hands, both at the Bench and on the Bar.
Nigeria did not invent democracy. Written records give that credit to ancient Greece. The Romans did their bit. The British picked up the practice. The first things Nigerians know about democracy they learnt from the British. That included parliamentary practice and conventions.
Democracy is majority rule for short. It tolerates, accommodates minority views but it concedes power to the majority. That is where the current controversy about the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr. Aminu Tambuwal comes in. Everywhere democracy is practiced, throughout recorded parliamentary practice in the last 1,000 years, the speaker has always been selected or endorsed by the majority party. It may not be law. It is certainly the convention. It takes away from democracy to be creating a controversy over this issue.
This is one dispute that should never have arisen if the country’s elite took democracy as an end, not just a means to the attainment of personal glory or personal wealth. This is one act that should define a man like Tambuwal. If he did not know that when he quit the ruling party he had to quit the speakership, then it must be assumed he is no more than a soldier of fortune, a gambler, a confidence trickster, the exact opposite of a democrat. If he is sitting tight merely to cause maximum damage to the ruling party and further discredit the incumbent president, by forcing them into desperate, misguided actions, he may have succeeded, but that does not make it honorable.
Nigeria has been in a continual state of decline for the last 50 years. We could beat around the bush and sugar-coat it, but the cold, hard truth is Nigeria is being destroyed. We have leaders who don’t care about the future of a country overflowing with talent. I suspect under better leadership, Nigeria would emerge as a First World powerhouse, the seat of the entire continent. But our current leaders don’t have the heart to step up and deliver that level of leadership. Our leaders would rather let the hell of the last seven years continue because most Nigerians are living in hellish conditions. Of course, I am not including the elite and the corrupt in this number.
Now we have, in office, the man who is putting the final nail in Nigeria’s coffin. This current administration, led by none other than the irrepressible Goodluck Jonathan, has worked tirelessly during his term to further erode the beauty, wealth and potential of Nigeria as a globally-competitive economic force. After running Nigeria’s economy into the ground over the last six years, Jonathan is now bent on destroying our nascent democracy. If there is such thing as impunity with audacity, Jonathan is proof positive that the rule of law doesn’t apply to leadership or the elite. Government is above the law.
“Something interesting happened on my way to Oshodi this morning. At the motor park, this rough mean-looking conductor was screaming for passengers, his vernacular oscillating between Yoruba and Pidgin English. “Oshodi! Oshodi!” he shouted angrily as I, along with some other passengers, struggled for seats. There was this beautiful young lady who couldn’t throw caution and decorum to the wind but waited patiently until the bus was almost filled. Then she pleaded to sit by the conductor until somebody came down, when she would have a proper seat.
“The bus conductor didn’t even look at her pretty face; he hissed and shouted at the driver to move, while asking the girl why she didn’t rush like the other passengers. The girl started pleading in Yoruba interspersed with English before saying, “I know you are a good man, never mind the fact that you have been shouting”, (that elicited laughter). “Let me sit by your side, please”, she added.
“Finally, with much frowning of face the conductor relented and she sat beside him. It was a tight squeeze but she didn’t complain. Instead, she started praising the conductor who in turn started teasing her, speaking (and sometimes spitting by mistake) into her face but the girl never looked away as she kept smiling. He asked her where she worked and she replied that she was a student at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) studying accounting. The conductor teased her in Yoruba about why her boyfriend didn’t drop her at her destination but the young lady laughed it off and continued to gist with the guy in Yoruba.