Fellow Nigerians, let me say very proudly that I attended an institution I believe to be one of the best Universities in the world from 1978-82. It is certainly the best University in Nigeria, whatever anybody else may say. The University was then known as the University of Ife, or by its moniker Great Ife. It has since metamorphosed into the Obafemi Awolowo University, in honour of the late sage and political colossus, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who got apotheosised on 9 May 1987, which is 34 years ago tomorrow. One of the things that made Ife great for us as pioneer JAMBITES was the fact that Philosophy was made compulsory of which the study of Logic was an integral part. Awolowo, or Papa Awo, as he was called with great reverence, is certainly one of the great philosophers of the ages. He was also a highly esteemed legal luminary.
It is fitting and a well-deserved tribute that I am penning this column today dealing with logic, philosophy and the law all of which Papa Awo was most renowned and reputed for particularly as it also concerns our beloved country, Nigeria, a country that he served most passionately and devoutly as the great patriot that he was.
Why am I writing about logic and illogicality today? I see the absence of logic in the manner our leaders are governing our dear beloved country. Please, feel free to educate me about the logic in threatening critics of government who bear no arms or weapons, not to mention weapons of mass destruction. This more so when the location of terrorists, bandits, insurgents are well known, with a few sacred cows sauntering in and out of the forests of a thousand daemons in full glare of journalists, camera crew and klieglight, and nothing is done about them. Indeed, Government does not even as much as criticise them and the government’s usual attack dogs on social media have been unusually quiet and docile. Terrorism has become a veritable showbiz content being spewed forth by all media organisations like a James Bond film with all the special effects.
Please, tell me, where’s the logic in an omnipotent and omniscient Federal Government announcing that some unscrupulous elements are planning a coup and government will deal ruthlessly with them. This is the same government that has failed to deal in any way, shape or form with the terrorists, insurgents and bandits that are now running riot in our polity and holding the entire nation to ransom. Moreover, no one should know more about coup plotting and coup busting than Major General Muhammadu Buhari who is a veteran of the dangerous game. His aides should know that by the time it leaks out that a coup is in the offing, some of the plotters would have soaked themselves in some pots of pepper soup. That is why the latest tales by moonlight emanating from government was greeted with incredulity by most Nigerians who cleverly discerned and dismissed it as a cock and bull story circulated to engender total distraction, but which failed abysmally in achieving its objective.
I beg, I’m not done. Kindly avail me the logic in knowing the major source and cause of a calamity and yet studiously and obstinately refusing to put an end to it. Who does not know that the biggest threat of insecurity Nigeria faces comes primarily from the Fulani wanderers from abroad who have been given unfettered access to the porous borders in most parts of Northern Nigeria and have been made to feel they have a godfather or an avuncular benefactor and protector inside the Aso Rock Presidential villa? That is the simple and incontrovertible fact. The itinerant herdsmen who have traversed our countryside in search of grazing for their cattle are different from these terrorists that assail, rape, pillage, maim and murder our citizens. Those herdsmen have always travelled in no more than multitudes of 4 or 5. They are not organised like the insurgents and bandits that we now talk about in hushed tones. They certainly have not carried or had access to the sophisticated weapons that we are now terrorised with by these terrorists. If and when President Buhari is willing and ready to end the campaign and reign of terror that these irascible characters have subjected us to, he knows what to do. DISOWN and DISCARD them like the pesky irritants they have become. We all know the problems afflicting Nigeria and we all know the solutions, but our leaders have been too spectacularly selfish to act. It is all the more annoying and unacceptable because we have a retired army General not just in government but supposedly firmly in power.
Nigeria’s problems are huge but not insurmountable. All it takes is for the President to cure himself of nepotism, parochialism and tribalism which are the cast holding together the foundation of all our challenges. The summary of Nigeria’s problems are as follows, not in any particular order:
1. Archaic mindset: A country that parades some of the most educated, brilliant, intelligent, smart, energetic, resilient people on earth should have no space for the mediocre, and worse, who are the opposite of these attributes at the very top. In exceptional cases such that threw up a Buhari, the President would have done extremely well by allowing Professor Yemi Osinbajo to help cover his monumental deficiencies. All the glory would still have come to him as the man at the helm of affairs.
2. Religious bigotry: Religion should ordinarily and naturally be a matter of personal relationship between man and God but not in Nigeria. Any government that can sanely and safely return Nigeria to the secular state that the Constitution, which governs the country, says it shall be would have done us a world of good.
3. Ethnic jingoism: President Buhari’s biggest weakness is readily noticeable in his absolute lack of respect for Federal Character which is enshrined in the Constitution and which a fledgling, nascent democracy like ours requires for the time being. I must confess that I believe in merit over Federal Character, but if merit is sacrificed at all, then the concept of Federal Character demands that those who lack the necessary attributes should not be imposed wholesale on those who are truly deserving. In essence Federal Character must be a two-way street and not a one way close that leads nowhere but a cul-de-sac. If by some miracle, President Buhari wakes up and ejects himself from the gilded cage and cocoon of ethnic bigotry, the world will definitely give him a standing ovation and the current temperature of 100+ degrees will subside and tension and hypertension in the land will calm down.
4. Rigid, uninformed, visionless, selfish, incompetent and dictatorial leadership: My illiterate but naturally intelligent mother used to tell me repeatedly that “a man who asks for the directions to his destination will never go missing!” I concur. If Buhari had acted on merit by promoting excellence, he would have avoided the present roadblocks and he would have joined the pantheons of world statesmen but rather, he’s been too aloof, incredibly taciturn, abominably rigid and unbelievably reticent. These are character flaws that he must find ways to exorcise if he seriously expects history to be kind to him.
5. Docile, acquiescent and slavish citizenry: While we can conveniently apportion the largest chunk of the blame to our leaders, the citizens must also be held responsible for ever being so docile, and culpable in all the vices attributed to the leadership. No government can continue to misbehave without the active participation and collaboration of the citizenry. This is sadly the case in a democracy where the citizens have the power to jettison the political class holding them at bay.
6. Lack of true Federalism: I firmly believe this is at the heart, liver and kidney of our intractable backwardness. An ill-conceived and poorly executed Constitution that is so patently steeped in deceit and favouritism can never bring peace and unity to any country. To those who may not understand and appreciate the clarion call for Restructuring, this is actually the crux of the matter. I do also believe that it is the lack of veritable structures and strong institutions that has led us to where we are. When the entire country stops relying on government, but on enterprise in all forms, then we will make the progress that we clamour for, and our unity will be assured. I shall endeavour to spend some time and space on this very important part of my epistle today. I have made effort to consult one of Nigeria’s greatest Constitutional lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) on this matter by sending him a questionnaire that was also forwarded to me just yesterday by a London-based British-Nigerian IT Guru, Ms Oriyomi Balogun, and I’m grateful for both of their contributions and the prompt response and action of the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria and highly respected constitutional lawyer. Ms Balogun forwarded the following posers:
“ The 1999 Constitution:
1. Promulgated by military decree 24 of 1999.
2. Not signed into law by NASS or President.
3. Not subjected to referendum.
4. Was written by a select few Nigerians.
5. Does not provide for State constitutions to create true federation.
6. Kept a secret till after all inaugurations, State and National in 1999.
7. Not printed by government printer in 1999.
8. Takes care of one religion in sections 275 – 279 & neglects all others.
9. Over centralised governance.
10. Centralised the whole judiciary.
11. Gave NASS power over concurrent items.
12. Created a unitary government, not federal government.
13. Falsely claims Nigerians willingly handed over their land & resources to the FG, thus pauperising States & Nigerians.
14. Sections 275 – 279 negate section 10 regarding non-state religion.
15. Calls State governor’s chief security officers but does not give them security outfits or power over Nigeria Police.
16. A civilian government can never meet section 8 requirements for the creation of new States & local government.
17. Says married girls less than 18 years old are adults who can sue, be sued, vote & be voted for, for no clear reason.
18. The military Land Use Decree (later, Act) and NYSC decree (later, Act) were embedded in the Constitution, so not easy to amend, for no stated reason.
19. Provided for only one police force unlike other federations.
20. Section 6 frees government from liability regarding citizen rights provided in Chapter 2, thus, these rights are not justiciable.”
The response I got from Ozekhome are as follows:
1. Nos 1-7 correct.
2. No 8 is correct only to some extent. Although section 10 of the 1999 Constitution provides for secularity, sections 275-279 provide for Sharia Court of Appeal of a State. But this is counter-balanced by the equal provision for the Customary Court of Appeal of a State in sections 280-284. There’s however no provision stricto sensu for English or Christian or Canon Law which governs Christians. To that extent, it can be argued that this discriminates against Christians. (However, in further exposition and clarification of Ozekhome’s views, I believe that Canon Law has never been a direct source of law in Nigeria, but Sharia/Islamic law has been. Furthermore, these provisions relate essentially to personal law and are not binding on non-Moslems).
3. Nos 9-13 correct.
4. No 14 follows no 8 mutatis mutandis.
5. No 15 is correct. Section 214(4) of the Constitution.
6. Nos 16-20 correct.
Further, on no 20, section 6(6)(c) of the Constitution specifically ousts the jurisdiction of Courts from inquiring into whether chapter 2, sections 13-24 of the Constitution, which deals with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy embedded in the said chapter 2, have been complied with by government. This ousts the jurisdiction of Courts from interrogating those critical provisions dealing with obligations of the government to the governed, and the political, economic, social, educational, foreign policy, environmental, cultural responsibilities of the government to the governed. So, they are mere platitudes meant to be obeyed. However, they are more honoured in the breach than in the observance by governments throughout the country.
No 17 is not quite correct. Indeed, section 42(1) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, ethnic group, place of origin or political opinion.
No 18 is correct. Indeed, it is not only the Land Use Act that is affected by this restriction, the NYSC, National Security Agencies, and the Public Complaints Commission are also affected.
No 19 is correct – section 214(1) of the Constitution…”
7. Bloated political system: President Buhari was expected to cut down the size of political jobbers and drastically reduce and discourage the profligacy associated with political office in Nigeria but alas, the APC apparatchiks have refused to share in Buhari’s frugality, if any such thing ever existed.
8. Corruption: Security and Corruption were supposed to supply Buhari’s highest marks but unfortunately this has not happened… We are now a totally unsafe and indescribably corrupt country.
When a towering giant is brought to its knees by a pebble, as we are now experiencing with the twin evils of insecurity and graft, the giant falls mightily accompanied by the loud thud of an elephant felled by a high velocity rifle. That is almost the point that we have now reached. It is only God that can save us now. Will God???