If you asked me, I would say what transpired at the NASS complex yesterday was the culmination of our refusal to revisit the structure of our country – and the consequent desperation that comes with the struggle to control all the levers of power in the polity.
In fact, after listening to what Bayelsa State governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, had to tell the Obafemi Awolowo University community on the issue of restructuring Nigeria, some weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that only those benefiting from our present rentier democracy and other such agents of backwardness would be opposed to the idea of tweaking Nigeria’s subsisting structure that is daily making us the butt of crude jokes the world over.
Unfortunately, I have been procrastinating on making that intervention for nearly six weeks now.
In fact, this article was originally written some three weeks ago, but has had to be dropped for two or three other articles which I, naively, considered more important – especially in keeping with the nature of our country’s politics, which is one unending comedy of errors. If it was not herdsmen on their characteristic bloodletting prowl, then it would be a governor spraining his neck after inhaling teargas, and recruiting carpenters to fit him with a neck-brace – which, like every incompetent carpenter, they installed downside-up.
And just while we thought we had seen enough, Tarzan Boy Dino Melaye climbed a ‘tree’ and stayed there for 11 hours. And since there were no police stations to report to (that is, even if IGP Ibrahim Idris would believe him), he reported to Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce.
Between the incidents, Dancing Senator Adeleke won the PDP governorship ticket for Osun State, threatening to present us with tissue paper, in place of his O/Levels school certificate. Incidentally, we are no longer bothered whether Adeleke scored F-9 parallel in all eight subjects of the said GCE, all we are begging him is just to produce evidence that he even attempted the GCE at all. He has silently told us to go to hell. That we should not ever disrupt his dancing sessions with such idle talk again, until Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun submits her NYSC certificate. Adeleke is also insisting on seeing what certificates (or is it NEPA bills) a certain Gen. Muhammadu Buhari submitted to INEC before he too was cleared to contest the presidency.
And even before we could decide whether to cry or laugh over the tragedy of our country, the defections began – so much so that I cannot now honestly say who is in APC or who is in PDP. Some are even partyless. Some have been suspended and others expelled. The result is that the National Assembly today is an admixture of the pawn broker’s (which has everything) and the classical Charly Boy Show (where anything can happen).
And because anything can happen, the minority (?) party in the Senate, as at the weekend, had both the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, while the ‘majority’ party had both the Senate Leader and the Minority Leader. Dizzying, right?
Well, even more dizzying is the curious defection of Sen. Godswill Akpabio (who had perpetually been under APC/ EFCC blackmail, and sudden clamour to reconvene the National Assembly, largely by pro-Buhari lawmakers and appointees. They said there was need to debate and pass the supplementary budget, which contains the money INEC needs to conduct next year’s elections. And then you begin to wonder: why in the first place would such provision be coming in a supplementary budget, and not the main budget? Or is anybody under the illusion that the February 2019 election is the biggest thing in our calendar for both this year and next year? Are they (the lawmakers and the Presidency) going to deny that the idea of immediately submitting a supplementary budget was a precondition for PMB’s signing of the 2018 appropriation bill? So, who do they think they’re deceiving? Us? What did they plan to do with the DSS barricade of the NASS complex? Why and how did it backfire? What scoop did Akpabio give them? And who are we trying to impress with the half-hearted sacrifice of Lawal Daura? Or is there division within the cabal now? Whose face are we trying to save with the Daura sack?
How many people in the Presidency (especially in the kitchen cabinet) can swear that they hadn’t an inkling of the DSS plot? And when I say ‘swear’, I don’t mean swearing with the Bible or Quran (for those sacred books have since lost their potency before Nigerian politicians). Let them swear by the marabouts, the amulets they wear around their waists and upper arms, the concortions they have swallowed, by sopono, amadioha, sango, egbesu, ayelala and other local deities that take no prisoners.
Let nobody misread my position: I believe that the APC and the Presidency have a right to defend their egg-shell egos, thoroughly bruised by the embarrassing decampments. And let nobody be deceived by Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s claim that the scores are even, at ‘1:1 goalless draw’. Those of us who follow the game of tennis know that it’s ADVANTAGE, PDP!
If the APC desires to even the scores by impeaching Saraki, so be it. My only plea is that they must do so within the ambit of the law as contained in the constitution – and not as interpreted by one questionable Senior Advocate of Nigeria who sometimes pretends to be a human rights activist, but is a dyed-in-the-wool con artist. The kind that my Igbo brothers call ‘job-man’.
Ironically, all these absurdities still point to the same problem of our faulty structure as a nation, and thus the need to restructure.
For instance, isn’t it a shame that an entire ruling party and the presidency it hoisted on this country has stubbornly refused to move ahead, simply because a candidate it did not anoint emerged Senate President? How can we spend more than three years trying to make one colourless man Senate President, and still refuse to abandon the project after several failed attempts?
Why must the whole of Nigeria be pushed unto the highway, simply because a handful of clay-foot gods just cannot seem to have their way?
It is these impunity and shenanigans in the name of governance that have continued to fuel the call for restructuring and devolution of power from the centre.
Of course, these calls for restructuring would not have been necessary if our politicians (especially at the centre) were more altruistic and less selfish.
The current Constitution, in spite of its inadequacies, has more than enough provisions to launch Nigeria out of its current despondency into enviable heights, only if we genuinely abide by its provisions.
Our problem is with those who abdicate the roles assigned them by the Constitution, giving room to imperial presidents, autocratic governors and other executives. The problem is with the electorate who demand from legislators the same dividends they demand of the executive. Those who insist on measuring the achievements of the judiciary with the same yardstick they measure the executive. The problem is with civil servants who operate like political appointees and security chiefs who soon blur the line between professionalism and partisanship, and others who have since redefined their roles to just protecting the selfish interest of the government in power, rather than the interest of the nation and its citizenry.
If we honestly operate the existing Constitution, most of problems bedeviling the country today would fizzle out – from insecurity to corruption and down to economic stagnation. There would be no room for the current in-your-face kind of nepotism, lopsided appointments, kleptomania and outright injustice – all of which are at the root of the insecurity, insurgency and insurrection all over the country. There is something the Constitution says about looting, ethnic cleansing, electoral malpractice – the same way it talks about armed robbery, kidnapping and minor traffic offences. If the law lives up to that blindfolded scale and sword-bearing lady symbol of justice, we would have no need to cherry-pick in our public prosecution. And people would not be so infuriated as to take the law into their hands.
It is because nobody can vouch that the zoning, which PDP and the APC are mouthing now, going into the election, would not be discarded soon after the election is won that the Igbo are saying they are not even interested in the presidency, even in 2023. They would rather go with a restructuring that statutorily guarantees them equal opportunities to aspire, than a zoning formula that is predicated on the whims and caprices of some other ‘benevolent” fellow citizen. If, for instance, they buy Buhari’s promise of handing them the presidency in 2023 and vote for APC now, what’s the guarantee that the cabal that runs Buhari today would not discard that agreement? What if, after Buhari, the PDP puts up a northerner, or Southwesterner, for the presidency in 2023, who would convince the electorate in those regions not to vote for their own son of the soil and vote for an Igbo candidate instead?
It is bad enough that we have opted for quota system and federal character over merit, but if we even resolve to be fair in our application of this mediocrity regime, the call for restructuring would not be nearly as loud as it presently is.
To me, this is probably the most acceptable opposition to the call for radical restructuring.
It makes a lot more sense than the impunious, devil-may-care stance of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has dismissed all those clamouring for restructuring as being motivated by selfish interest. And it is comments like this PMB’s that compels one to begin to fantasize about the position of Governor Dickson.
According to Dickson, Buhari’s comment could not have been more unstatemanly, unpresidential and ill-informed.
Delivering a lecture with the theme “Restructuring and the Search for a Productive Nigeria,” at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, in Osun State, recently, the man Bayelsans love to call Ofurumapepe, said the President’s position, on its own, is an actual threat to national security.
He said that the Nigerians in the vanguard of the campaign for the restructuring of the country were the patriotic ones motivated by a desire for the nation’s peace, prosperity and stability.
He wondered why the President would dismiss the general quest of the Nigerian citizenry to restructure the Nigerian federation, which would not withstand the test of time in its current lopsided nature.
“When everybody in this country is talking about the need to restructure this country, our President, Muhammadu Buhari, made a statement that is not only wrong, but it is also faulty that cannot stand the test of time and a threat to the continued stability and prosperity and development of our country, when he dismissed outright the notion of restructuring.
“And he didn’t stop there, he went ahead to say that those who are in support of restructuring are doing so for parochial agenda. Mr. President, you are wrong. In fact, the reverse is the case. The majority of Nigerians from the North, South, East, West and Middle Belt, who are making a case for restructuring are indeed the patriots of Nigeria.
“We want a Nigeria that works with equal citizenship. A Nigeria for the many as well as for the few; a Nigeria that we will be proud to call home any day, that we can proudly pledge allegiance to.
“The outcome of my interaction has shown that Nigerians are in support of restructuring. I am not imposing my views, I don’t believe that the presidential system is what Nigeria needs. The system is expensive, we can’t have a productive Nigeria with the way it is structured. The government has abandoned its core responsibilities of defence and security.
“There’s need to devolve policing powers to the people. But I’m not saying states should have police. Our system of settling disputes is faulty. Why should a land dispute in communities be dragged to the Supreme Court? I know many things about access to justice. Instead of justice getting stronger, you see Babalawos getting stronger. The distortion of our federal structure has destroyed Nigeria.”
Dickson said that the current arrangement, where the central government would take over all responsibilities such as the judiciary, the police and others to the exclusion of the state, was an arrangement in need of change.
According to him, the Federal Government has not fared well even in its core responsibilities such as defence and security, as shown by the killings in the land.
I can’t agree more. It is this seeming loss of focus that has seen the presidency focusing all its energies of such mundane issues as who becomes Senate President, even with less than 10 months to the end of its tenure.