By Kayode Ajulo, ESQ.
This exposition on the state of the nation is a quarterly review I have endeavoured to embark upon as a responsive citizen concerned about events as they unfold in the nation. Among the issues covered in this issue are the crisis within the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, the intrigues and politics in Taraba State with the health of Governor Danbaba Suntai, the deportation of citizens by the Lagos State government, the crisis in Rivers State, the challenge of insecurity in the nation, the payment of social benefit to the Nigerian youths and employed, the protracted strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and the perennial census controversy in Nigeria.
This does not cover up for all the happenings in the quarter but I have taken great care in addressing those topical issues that is of concern to almost all citizens of the nation. The core of them all revolves around the challenge of governance we face as a people and our efforts at consolidating on our democratic experience through service to the people, adherence to rule of law and respect for human rights among others. My intention in this piece, just like others before it, is to challenge those responsible for the leadership of this state to exhibit a good sense of commitment to people’s welfare and agitations and act in reverence of extant laws in their actions. I must advert the minds of fellow citizens to the point that my position on the issues identified are borne out of my sincere and patriotic search for solutions and I welcome more contributions on the discourse that will be helpful in directing the nation to the path of unity, peace and progress.
PDP And The Crisis Within:
In the past couple of weeks, the nation has been inundated with the news of the imbroglio within the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party. Although, I do not belong to the party, the happenings and events unfolding portend some dangers for our democracy and respect for the sanctity of our Constitution our uniting force and therefore deserves the attention of concerned citizens of which I am one.
The first issue this crisis has thrown up is the internal democracy, lack of party discipline and respect for constitutional provisions within political parties in Nigeria. If parties have agreed on rules and regulation for the conduct of its affairs, it behoves them to live by it and it only goes to exemplify acts of irresponsibility when such rules are disregarded and flouted with impunity. The result is what is now being experienced in the division into the Tukur versus Baraje faction both claiming leadership of the party. The resolution of the crisis is best left to the party itself and is of little concern to be not being a member of the party like I have earlier said but the issue that is of more concern to me is the demands of a faction and some Governors as a condition for the resolution of the impasse. The core of it is their insistence that the President must not run for a second term and the Governors’ demand for an end to their investigation or what they call their harassment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. I am piqued at these demands as they run contrary to public policy and the sanctity of our Constitution. President Goodluck Jonathan is constitutionally entitled to run his two terms. It is my position that it is the decision of the over 140 million Nigerians whether he will be given the mandate if and when he decides to run and not a decision of a minute few to intimidate him to back down. If they feel that he has not delivered on his promises or failed the party by refusing to adhere to its manifestoes, the rightful thing to do is to mobilize party members to refuse him the party’s ticket rather than this attempt that runs contrary to the spirit of our Constitution. The other leg of the main demand especially by the aggrieved governors is also fraught with danger if it is heeded. While I am in agreement in principle with the fact that the EFCC as an institution against corruption must not be turned into an instrument of political harassment or intimidation of the perceived enemies of the government, I disagree in its entirety with the demand for a stoppage in the lawful duties of the EFCC in its investigations into the finances of the affected States. I believe in all honesty that the best path for any such State to thread if it has nothing to hide, is to open its books to scrutiny and direct all affected institution to cooperate with the agency in discharging its duties. This in itself will show the probity, transparency and accountability of the concerned States. The demand if acceded will deal a further blow on the nation’s avowed commitment to curbing graft in public offices.
The Intrigues And Politics In Taraba State with the Health of Governor Danbaba Suntai:
On August 25, Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State was brought into the country after over 10 months since he was flown abroad for intensive medical treatment following the injury he sustained from the crash of an aircraft which he piloted. His arrival put paid to speculations he was dead but it sustained further the contention that he is yet to recover and is perhaps unfit to continue in his capacity as the Governor of the State. Looking apparently frail, he was assisted down from the chartered aircraft that brought him in into a waiting SUV jeep and driven to the VIP Lounge of PDP in Abuja from where he departed for Taraba State. And throughout this time, he made no speech and showed no sign of a person who is fully conversant of happenings around him.
While I sincerely commiserate with the family, the government and the good people of Taraba State on the sad state of the Governor’s health, I am saddened by the actions that followed his return back home. An apparently doctored live broadcast of the Governor addressing the people of the State was aired on State TV, a letter intimating the Hose that he has returned and fully prepared to resume the functions of his office was sent supposedly by the Governor, and the dissolution of the SEC followed closely. These events clearly leave one in no doubt that they were orchestrated by a set of people to take advantage of the health of the Governor and utilize their closeness to the Governor act out their selfish script. This is only a sad reminder of our past experience with the Yar’Adua situation and that we as a people do not seem to learn from the past. And funny enough, as I speak, the Governor is yet to be seen in public almost one month after his return to the country.
As much as I do commend the State House of Assembly for its resolution authorizing the Deputy Governor to continue to act as Governor until there is clear evidence that the Governor is fit enough to discharge his functions, I am compelled to say this is not enough as further action must be taken to activate the applicable section of our Constitution in this regard. The State cannot continue to remain continuously without a substantive Governor and it is in a situation like this that the drafters of our Constitution requires in section 189 that a medical examination be carried out to determine whether a Governor or Deputy Governor is suffering from any infirmity of body or mind as renders him permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office. In this case, having continued without a Governor for almost one year, there cannot be a better time than now to address this issue. This will settle the whole crisis of governance currently bedeviling the State and ensure that the people are not deprived the dividends of democracy which they rightly deserve through an effective administration of the State and also enable Danbaba Suntai to proceed on full treatment without toying with his right to live as it is currently being done.
The Deportation Of Citizens By The Lagos State Government:
Quite recently, the Lagos State government deported about 9 indigenes of Anambra State back to their State of origin. The argument of the government was that the deported persons were destitute and it found it important to reunite them with their family back home. This action of the government has generated a lot of reactions from members of the public as to its propriety and legality. In the course of this, a former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, while criticizing the action of the government had described Lagos as a “no man’s land” and that the Igbos helped to develop Lagos. It was this statement that opened the floodgate of attacks by Femi Fani-Kayode on the Igbo nation. While I am in agreement with Fani-Kayode that Lagos is not a “no man’s land” but the land and heritage of the Yoruba people, I found to be in bad taste his further unwarranted attacks on the Igbo nation. It portrays him in bad light as an opponent of our quest for unity and journey to nationhood. And through this, he succeeded in diverting our attention from this illegal action of the Lagos State government. Perhaps that was what he was paid for. That notwithstanding, I must reiterate like I have had the course to say at different fora that the government of Lagos missed it on this point regardless of what may be their excuse for this action. Can it justify this action as based on reunification with their family in the face of its unconstitutionality? The law is clear on this. Section 34, 40, 41 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) guarantee to all Nigerians the right to dignity of human person, freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination. It is specifically the law that every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused exit therefrom. In no doubt, the Lagos State Government has breached its obligation to actively encourage national integration and prohibit discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, ethnic or linguistic association by this singular action of theirs and it must be condemned in the clearest terms by well meaning Nigerians. What a reasonable, responsible and responsive government ought to have done in the circumstance is to provide adequate facilities which would have afforded the affected citizens an opportunity to earn a living and then reintegrate them into the society but they rather unfortunately preferred to take this wrong path of unconstitutionality. I am particularly disappointed that Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, a learned mind who should be more informed about this illegality is the same person presiding over a government acting in clear disregard of constitutional provisions.
Rivers State Crisis:
For a very long time now, Rivers State has been in the news and in the center of it has been President Gooluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, the Governor of the State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of State for Education, Nyeson Wike, and the Rivers State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Mbu. The crisis must correctly be traced to the fallout of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election and the contestation that followed it. The facts are all within the knowledge of the public and the new mathematical calculation of 16 greater than 19 generated by the crisis still amazes me till today. It is laughable furthermore that a free and fair election cannot be conducted within a group of 36 members and leaders of states of the Federation for that matter! More disheartening is the role played by the President as the father of the nation in taking 16 to be greater than 19 by welcoming a faction of the Forum led by Governor Jonah Jang who garnered 16 votes as against the rightful winner, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, with the simple majority vote of 19. And while this was yet to settle, the derisive action of 6 out of the 32 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly impeaching the Speaker came to the full open. The display of shame by supposed honourable members of the hallowed chamber is a further addition of salt to the existing injury. And what is more? The police looked on while all these actions were on. I find these incidents most embarrassing to us as a nation and a great attack on our democratic values and ethos. The timely intervention of the National Assembly in taking over the legislative duties of the State House of Assembly obviously in exercise of its powers under section 11(4) of the Constitution is quite welcome but further efforts must be geared towards addressing the real issues involved. The National Assembly must put in place a system that resists this illegality of a few lording it over the majority in flagrant violation of the law.
In the midst of all these, the Governor has come under attack from various quarters denigrating his good office. Even the life of the Governor remains unsafe considering the security assault he has been subjected to in recent times. First, the security aides of the Governor were withdrawn without a prior notice to the Governor. Similarly, the Governor’s convoy in company with other Governors of the Northern region who had come on a solidarity visit was pelted with stones by youths suspected to have been mobilized by Nyeson Wike in the full glare and presence of security forces. And very recently, the Governor’s convoy was prevented from gaining access to his residence at the government house by policemen on the orders of the Commissioner of Police apparently acting on orders from above. Then I reminiscence, the Governor is supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of the State. But can we in the circumstance affirm that the Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the State even when his personal safety is not guaranteed? This question will obviously be answered in the negative. If for example the Governor cannot guarantee his personal safety how can he be expected to guarantee others’ safety? The existing situation in Rivers State makes a mockery of our constitutional provision that the Governor is the chief executive of the State and the entitlement of the Governor to give lawful direction to the Commissioner of Police of the State. It further justifies the call in recent times for state police in Nigeria.
The foregoing situations portray Governor Rotimi Amaechi as a victim of the federal might but as a careful observer of events, I am not deceived by what many Nigerians have been made to belief through the press. While the blockade of the Governor’s convoy may well be unjustified, we must also ask whether the route blocked is the only route that leads to the residence of the Governor in the government house. Funny enough, the same Governor Amaehi who had raised an alarm of the blockade of his convoy was seen barely two days after the incident at the entering the Presidential Villa without any blockage in high spirit and even throwing banters. A clear case of hypocrisy we should say?
The unwarranted victimization and denigration of the good office of the Governor seems to always be in the news but there seem to be a calculated omission of the actions of the Rivers State government under Amaechi’s leadership. No one is talking about the illegal dissolution of some local governments by the governor, no one seemed concerned about the brutal actions of the Governor’s security aides at the Assembly complex under the personal supervision of the Governor, we perhaps have forgotten absolutely the governor’s illegal demolition of houses in Patience Jonathan’s hometown among other issues. The governor yet asked Nigerians and the good people of Rivers State to defend him and come to his rescue in this trying time. And then I asked how far has he utilized the resources entrusted in his care to defend and promote the cause of the commons and the downtrodden in Rivers State? How much access do people have to quality and affordable education, clean water, electricity, affordable housing, empowerment initiative and programmes among others?
I have come to a singular discovery that the crisis has so far been nurtured on personal and selfish interest of the gladiators rather than on principles and issues that concern the people and their welfare. Nigerians will recall clearly the feud between the Logos State and the federal government on Local Government creation under the Tinubu-Obasanjo administration. This was a battle fought and won the people, it centred not on personal issues or ambition but rather on the state government’s constitutional power on local government creation. But today, Rivers crisis is nothing close to this as the centre of gravity is on what is ahead in 2015. And now the state is now deprived of responsible governance as the Governor has almost relocated to Abuja abandoning his primary assignment of providing leadership and delivering to the people the much needed dividends of democracy. I doubt whether there have been any meeting of the State Executive Council in the last couple of months. Unfortunately, this is not limited to Rivers State as all the governors across party lines have since betrayed the trust of the people by abandoning their duty posts and are more concerned about their selfish political agenda.
But then, we cannot allow things to continue as it is, we must put a stop to this madness and hypocritical attitudes now playing out today as the gladiators in this crisis must call themselves to order and not use their selfish interest to stifle constitutional provisions and bring to ridicule esteemed offices and institutions of the nation. The offices of the President and Governor come with great respect and value and the holders should refrain from doing anything to rubbish and reduce its value because of cheap political and personal interest. While I distance myself from the attempt by Governor Amaechi to use the current impasse to curry undeserved public sympathy, I am of the strong conviction that President Goodluck Jonathan has a most important role to play in bringing an end to this unsavoury trend of events and should without delay exercise the much needed moral and constitutional authority and call the concerned stakeholders to order particularly the Commissioner of Police through the Inspector General of Police. Both the President and the Rivers Governor should also live up to the oath sworn by them not to allow their personal interest influence their official conduct and decisions and to preserve, protect and defend to the best of their ability the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Insecurity In The Nation:
The nation has been grappling with security challenges posed by the boko haram insurgency for some time now which has threatened the corporate existence of the country. The decisive intervention of Mr. President in declaring a state of emergency in the affected states and directive to the different security forces to use all lawful forces to contain the sect appeared to have stemmed the tide as the battle is gradually and progressively being won today. I commend the President on this decision and the nation’s security forces who have been working assiduously to fulfill this mandate.
But while the nation appears to be getting over the boko haram challenge, we are still left with other security challenges to contend with in the country like armed robbery, kidnappings and assassinations. More importantly, the incidences of kidnappings have now assumed a frightening dimension in recent times. It is perhaps the most lucrative business today in Nigeria and the victims and their families are made to go through undeserved emotional and psychological trauma. Many innocent citizens have been victims of this ugly incident and the kidnap of Mike Ozekhome, SAN, a Lagos based lawyer and human rights advocate and Archbishop Ignatius Kattey, the Archbishop of Niger Delta Province of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria is still very fresh in our memory. One pathetic trend in all this is that while the victims are in the domain of their kidnappers, the security forces seemed to have gone asleep offering the family and the nation no clue about their whereabouts, what steps they are taking and when they may likely be released.
Today, we now live in palpable fear of the unknown, when you walk the street; you are constantly confronted within with the fear of getting kidnapped. This situation brings to the fore the incompetence of the nation’s security force and the failure of the government in ensuring the security and welfare of her citizens. Apart from the incompetence of the Nigerian police force occasioned by lack of equipment and training, the stark reality reveals the cause of this new wave of kidnapping as the failure of the government to utilize the wealth of the nation for the benefit of its people and provide gainful employment for the teeming unemployed graduates and youths of the country. This assertion is glaringly supported by existing facts today in Nigeria and finds further justification in the statement of Mike Ozekhome after his release that his abductors are well educated citizens of this nation. The time is now for government at all levels to rise up to the occasion to tackle the alarming rate of youth unemployment and the insecurity of her citizens. After all, the security and welfare of the people, is the primary purpose of government.
In this wise, the government should entrench a social welfare scheme for the employed youths of the nation as an immediate step to reduce the current insecurity bedeviling the nation. Some will vehemently voice out opposition to this proposition on the basis that the nation do not have the resources to cater for the large number of our unemployed youths yet we spend billions of naira every month to address the lingering security challenges but we fail to address the underlying factor responsible for it. I firmly believe that if a fraction of this is taken and used for the social welfare scheme proposed, we will discover appreciate the great positive implication of this on the nation’s security situation. And as an extension of this, we would have succeeded in institutionalizing our youths as veritable agents and watchdogs against the corrupt practices in our public institutions because through this they now have a stake in the finances of the nation and how it is being spent. They will, therefore, not sit and watch the laundering of their common resources and assets by the leaders as they currently do knowing fully well that the fund being laundered constitute a part of their entitlement under the welfare scheme.
On July 1, the nation’s public universities were all shut as academic activities were suspended indefinitely as a result of the strike embarked upon by the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The strike is hinged on the refusal of the government to honour the agreement it entered into with the union in 2009. In the event, Nigerian undergraduate students who are supposed to be in their classrooms applying themselves to academic works had since been at home for well over two months occasioned by the unyielding posture of both parties in resolving the crisis. And since an idle hand is the devil’s work tool, our supposed leaders of tomorrow now constitute ready tool for social vices like drug peddling.
It appear clearly that the government is yet to appreciate the value of quality education and its role in national development because as I write there is no end in sight to the lingering crisis since negotiations between parties to the feud has stalled. The government is unconcerned because the children of its officials are not affected as they are in the private varsities scattered around the nation or sent overseas for their education leaving the children of the poor to contend with the situation. They only seem to appreciate education for their children alone perhaps to enable them continue their dominion over the country through their children in the long run. And in the midst of this, David Mark, the Senate President was in the press saying the ongoing strike has assumed a spiritual dimension and sough prayers for divine intervention. While I am a Christian and appreciate the power of prayers, I find this statement in the current circumstance laughable and an insult to intelligence when we consider the issues that precipitated the strike. Is it divine intervention that is needed or that the government of which Mark is a major player, must live up to its responsibility and honour the agreements reached especially through addressing the infrastructural decay in the nation’s ivory towers? Even though, members of the ASUU are not blame free in this melee, I am particularly mindful of the fact that the government has acted so irresponsibly over the years by its failure to address the problems of manpower and infrastructural decay and the falling education standard in this country. Today, no Nigerian university is ranked among the first one thousand in the world. We cannot assert to be getting it right when our education sector, the bedrock of any sustainable development, is in shambles. The relevant stakeholders should forthwith bring about an amicable resolution of this crisis in the interest of our national development.
The Perennial Census Controversy
Nigeria as a nation has been faced with serious problems and this is unconnected with our failure to do things right and speak out for truth when it mattered. There can be no better way to address this issue than to have a reversal of roles by acting rightly and consciously ensure we start telling ourselves the truth and one of this is the issue of census figures over the years.
It is an undeniable fact that the nation has not succeeded in conducting any acceptable census ever since. This is because the exercise has been fraught with manipulations to serve political ends rather than its usefulness as a tool for national planning and development. The statement credited to the Chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Festus Odimegwu that no census has been credible in Nigeria since 1816 can therefore not be anything but the truth. Although his position has attracted criticisms from Nigerians particularly of the Northern extraction as many described his claim as unguarded and some even called for his immediate removal. This is quite unnecessary as his statement cannot, in my opinion be assailed in the light of empirical evidence and research findings relating to demographic exercise world over.
So many points nullify the census results over the years. Without going too far, the falsity of the census figures can best be appreciated by a comparison of the figures shunned out about Lagos and Kano in the 1991 and 2006 census. In 1991, Lagos’ figure as released was put at 5,685, 781 and Kano had 5,632,040 which showed a difference of 53,741 people in favour of Lagos. But in 2006 when another census was conducted, Jigawa State has been carved out of Kano State and the result released by the Population Commission for that year showed a patently manipulated figure that stood all known demographic principle on the head. This is because in the result, Lagos’ figure was put at 9.1million, while Kano and Jigawa had 9.4million and 4.3million respectively. This by implication indicate that an approximately 14million people now inhabit the old ‘Kano’ while Lagos remained at 9.1million. By this, Lagos which had about 53,741 people above Kano State in 1991 has now been overtaken by Kano State that it now has over 4million people over Lagos within the space of fifteen years. How possible?
We should further be reminded of an evident fact on population density across the globe which is to the effect that the tropical part is always more densely populated when compared with the Desert zone. The reverse however is the case in Nigeria as the population of the Northern region continues to increase exceedingly while that of the South remains almost stagnant. The Lagos-Kano example testifies to this assertion. This trend indicates nothing other than the fact that the figures are built on the foundation of lies for the purpose of gaining political advantage especially through the allocation of legislative seats in the country.
I have been privileged to live in both regions for a considerable number of years and my experience which accords with simple and common sense shows that the figures cannot be true. In many cases, when I drive along the Northern axis for hours there is no presence of any town by the road but the contrary is the case in the Southern part as hardly will you journey for an hour before sighting the presence of people in their towns and villages. And then I ask where these outrageous figures originate from?
While I admit clearly the fact that the landmass of the Northern region may well double the Southern region, the population figures over the years have always told a lie about itself as it is nothing other than blatant falsehood. This falsehood has propelled me to make some findings and investigations and from verifiable reports at my disposal, and having commissioned some of the members of the Organization that I lead, the Egalitarian Mission, Africa for the above purpose. I was therefore surprised to note that the figure of the core Northern States in the Federal Republic of Nigeria when put together is a little above 15million. The falsehood we must correct by the opportunity the forthcoming 2016 census presents us and that is why I am in agreement with Odimegwu on the need to adopt the best global practices in technology usage and deploy operational competencies that will enhance a credible, accurate, auditable and acceptable demographic data and population. We must take the 2016 Census as the last opportunity to reverse the ugly trend of controversial and false census results and to this end the government must give total support needed to the Commission to ensure the success of this census.