November 1, 2006
In the last few weeks there has been a fundamental division in the camp of the progressives in the country. This schism is not only in the rank and file of progressive political gladiators, but also amongst human rights lawyers, and indeed the civil society organizations. I do not just expect that they will all agree, all the time on contending and complex political issues that have been thrown up by the political leadership of the country. The reason for this noticeable fragmentation is as a result of the inability of the progressives to take principled stand on the unfolding politico-tragedic drama in the polity. Even very well respected and erudite lawyers have surprisingly taken dangerous and indefensible political stand that do not only run contrary to the constitution and the rule of law, but also negates the principle of due process, commonsense, fairplay, justice and equity.
No doubt politics is a very sensitive issue, however, emotions should not be allowed at anytime to override or becloud our sense of reason and judgment. For instance, when the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) made a public pronouncement to the effect that, the methodology and modus operandi adopted by the EFCC in the discharge of its statutory responsibility is not only antithetical to the basic tenets of democracy, it wantonly violates the fundamental human rights of the people, goes against the rule of law, and this is definitely not how to fight corruption, hence, the NBA asked that Nuhu Ribadu be removed, since he is a policeman lawyer and has severally disregarded the constitution and court orders. In my opinion, what the NBA said is not out of place, the NBA did not say, it is not in support of the anti-graft war, what it says is, if the war must be effectively fought, it stands to reason that, the constitution of the country must be followed to the letter, and court orders must be obeyed.
The primary purpose for the establishment of the EFCC is to strengthen democracy, by halting the spread of corruption, so that, the country can have a sustainable democratic culture. However, one must be quick to point out that, there can be no democracy in the real sense of the word, without strict adherence to the constitution and the rule of law. But to make matters worse, some lawyers and politicians, who are consultants (another name for contractors) to the EFCC came out smoking, condemning the observations made by the NBA, and confusing the public just because of pecuniary gains and undue publicity. The fact that NBA called for the removal of Ribadu does not mean it is not in support of the anti-graft crusade. EFCC is not Ribadu, and Ribadu is not EFCC. We should not be building personality cult in this country; we should be putting in place enduring institutions. And, for those who are benefiting from the EFCC today and therefore turned a blind eye to its draconian and obnoxious operational methods, the gospel truth is that, it could be their turn tomorrow.
Furthermore, it is very disappointing that the balkanization of progressive elements in Nigerian politics is attributable to ethnic consideration, and tribal sentiment. Because, the president is from a particular section of the country, he must be supported by his kinsmen or opposed by people from other geo-political zones. This is besides the issues; the points are what is the government doing that it is not doing right? Can it be done better? What are the motives behind government decisions? In what ways, will the people benefit or in what ways will it make the people suffer? It is only on the basis of this that positions should be taken on principle, not because of ethnic, religious, political, personal relationships or considerations. In Nigeria, to today EFCC has become a willing tool in the hands of the president not only to give a mortal blow to his perceived political opponents, but also an agency engaged in political manipulation for the tenure elongation game plan of the president.
The EFCC played an infamous and has continued to played perfidious role in the impeachment politics in Nigeria’s political firmament. Yet, the progressive forces in Nigeria cannot come together and harmonize their variegated positions, and have a common position based in principle as well as in the overall national interest of the Nigerian State. Look at the case of Ekiti, how will respected lawyers say that the State House of Assembly has the power to remove the Chief Judge of a state, even after the Chief Justice of the federation and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice have both on separate occasions said that the State House of Assembly have no such power? It was because of the discordant tunes in the progressive camp that made it easy for the president to declare a state of emergency in Ekiti State. Even, when it is very clear that the president has no power whatsoever, to suspend a governor or the State House of Assembly, he still went ahead to do so, with impunity and ignominy, yet he was encouraged and supported by some so-called progressive lawyers and supporters, unknown to them that, what took place in Ekiti State is just a dress-rehearsal for a state of emergency in several other states, aleast 15 more states, in a bid by the president to hang on to power at all cost. This is the unfortunate political development in the country presently which is unduly over-heating the polity and causing unprecedented political tension. A state of emergency is the very opposite of democracy, where the rule of law is not adhere to, emergency rules do not cohere with democratic tenets, and what has happened in Ekiti State, is imposition of military rule in a supposedly democratic setting. This authoritarian move must be stopped pronto.
What the progressive forces in the country need to do now, is to come together under the umbrella of a single coalition group that will put the Obasanjo’s government to task on the critical issues of good governance and obedience not only to court orders, but also the constitution, which is the supreme laws of the land. Therefore, what the progressive forces in the country should do is to come together and harmonize their differences and present a common front to all the problems bedeviling the country. They should organize mass rallies in all the geo-political zones in the country to kick against lawlessness, the unreasonable spate of impeachment saga, tenure elongation agenda, manipulation of the electoral process through INEC, absence of dividends of democracy and good governance, disobedience to court orders, disregard for the constitution, and all such aberrations that can readily put democracy into jeopardy in the country. This was the same way the civil society organizations as well as the human rights group came together to put pressure to bear on the Abacha military junta, and it was this more than anything else that made the very unpopular military jackboot to evaporate from Nigeria’s political space. What we have on our hands today in the country is an emerging civilian dictator, this is a person that has been in power since 1999 after he had spent, three years, three months and three days in the prison, and he still wants to hang on to power after about eight years in the saddle, claiming that he needs more time to carry out his so-called reforms that have not had any positive and appreciable impact on the generality of the people.
There is just nothing to really celebrate about democracy in Nigeria since 1999. There is very little difference between the past military regimes and the present democratic experiment. It is a shift from one despotic rule to another. Albeit, one is claiming to be more benevolent than the other. South Africa with a population of just 40million people, is doing very well, it is not even competing with African countries, the South Africa economy is stronger than many Europe countries economy, and all they have is gold which do not generate as much revenue as we get from oil, but they have developed all sectors of their economy ranging from aviation, tourism, agriculture, education, solid minerals, health, education and what have you, thanks to visionary leadership. The people of South Africa buy about 600,000 brand new cars a year. But what is the situation in Nigeria? Nigeria is the sixth largest oil producing country in the whole world that is responsible foe 23 per cent of OPEC’s total oil export, yet Nigeria is classified as one of the 20 poorest countries in the world, and according to the UNDP report over 70 per cent of the entire Nigeria population lives on less than $1 per day. Nigeria does not produce what she consumes, and she depends on external aids and loans for economic development initiative. In the country today, there is apparent infrastructural underdevelopment and decay, the GNP, GDP and per capita income were abysmally low, the capacity utilization of industry is low, the various critical sectors are in a shambles. Governance has become a disappearing phenomenon, as Nigeria is fast becoming a failed state. It is everyman to himself, God for us all, nothing seems to be working, in fact, everything is at a standstill, and there is no silver lining in the horizon. And, all what the president wants now is for his tenure to be extended at all cost, regardless of the rule of law and the due process on the subject-matter.
For this unfortunate development in our political history to be averted, the progressive forces must be united, they must speak with one voice, they must take the destiny of the country in their hands, and they must jettison all selfish ideas or interests, and pursue the general interest of all the people for the commonwealth of the people. The progressive camp must pragmatically mobilize the people, give them political education, tell the people in government that they are servants and not master of the people. Democracy is a representative government, the elected representatives must be accountable to the people, if this is not done, then we are heading for an imminent political fiasco.
The lesson here for the progressive, is that, for them to be shinning example or leading light, they must jettison all selfish intents and ulterior initiatives that are ephemeral and not in the long run, represent the collective vested interest of the Nigerian people. The time for change is now, these illegalities in the country must stop now, we must practice democracy as it is done in other parts of the civilized world, we can ill-afford this kind of babacracy system of government that cases pain, sorrow and tears.