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NIGERIA – HIGHLY A RESILIENT COUNTRY: — Let’s Adopt the Peaceful Options
ADMINISTERING THE PUBLIC SERVICE: The field of public administration is complex; assigning the role of upholding the common good to the public service. Policies, programmes and plans of government are designed and implemented to meet aims, objectives and aspirations of any defined society. Over the years, Nigeria has been able to produce well-crafted development plans. The public service is very critical to successes of governments as the hub. However, the implementation of plans has over the years been hampered by lack of dedication, commitment, and practical ability to see the plans and actions to fruition. It must be noted that the drafting and implementation of development plans must be free from sentiments and other encumbrances. Incidents of policy reversals and what has come to be rightly described as policy summersaults have significantly affected continuity, good governance, and ultimately, socio-political and economic advancements.
CHANGES: As the saying goes, knowledge is power. For the public sector to be considered effective, therefore, the leaders who carry out the duties and responsibilities on behalf of the majority have to ensure that they are versed in issues affecting the public sector at large. No system can be totally perfect. Similarly, no human being can be infallible. Only God is infallible. As human beings, we are bound to make mistakes from time to time. In addition, the society is not static. It keeps on changing with modernization. What was in fashion 20 years ago, for instance, may not necessarily be relevant to the present-day requirements. It is for this reason that changes are proposed and effected periodically in all societies as reforms.
DOCTRINE ON NECESSITY: The phrase: ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ was never relatively popular outside legal circles until the then substantive president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became indisposed and was unable to discharge the functions of the Office of the President that he held substantively from May 29, 2007, till his death in May, 2010. President Yar-Adua’s failure to notify the Senate of the Federal Republic officially in writing; to request Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan (as he then was) to act in his absence, blew up constitutional crises. Power was not transmitted to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to enable him perform the functions as the head of government. Ideally, there should be no vacuum, because governance is a continuum.
Constitutionally, Jonathan, was the de-facto Vice-President; but lacked the constitutional power to function in the position of president of the Federal Republic. When such situations arise, governance suffers. Approval of the legislature for the transmission of power to deputies by their principals is a condition precedent and has been one of the roots of disagreements between principals and their deputies, particularly from the Second Republic. Some state governors, following the strained relationships with their deputies even acted unconstitutionally by requesting officials of lesser status to act in their absence, by-passing their deputies. Several deputy-governors, the statutory number two citizens in their states have in the past been accused of disloyalty and vaulting ambition, by attempting to supplant their principals. Apart from the Shehu Shagari/Alex Ekwueme pair, the current federal executive referred to as the Muhammadu Buhari/Yemi Osinbajo combination appears to have bonded and weathered storms together commendably.
OFFICE POLITICS: What might have caused this scenario? Those conversant with office politics and the succession game in governance would assert that many of the problems that arise periodically between heads of government and their deputies are attributable to problems created by powerful interests close to the seats of power. It is safe to assert that nowhere does intrigues thrive, accompanied by hard tackles and vicious tales, most of them unfounded, than in positions of leadership in political governance. Lots of liars have access to government houses. It takes divine wisdom, clear head, contentment, understanding, and loyalty to the cause of the outfit, for the head and deputy to work together harmoniously. Every so often, tale bearers whose stock in trade is to ruin relationships parade corridors of power. I knew a state government (about 15 years ago) where a governor and his deputy mutually resolved that whoever went behind the duo to report either of them would be summoned to repeat allegations in the presence of both of them. That arrangement reduced friction to the barest minimum and scared away people with sinister intentions.
NIGERIA – A RESILIENT COUNTRY: Every so often, Nigeria has gone through tempests that were potent enough to scatter the nation. And for those who believe, God loves Nigeria so much that HE has always arisen to walk Nigeria through ‘’valleys of the shadow of death” in its periods of tribulation. In several instances, the country has been fortunate to survive ominous calamities that were precipitated by Nigerians themselves. Some other societies in the West never experienced half of the storms witnessed in Nigeria before collapsing. For instance, as George Friedman says: ‘’Europe after World War II had gone through about 450 years of global adventure and increasingly murderous wars, in the end squandering everything it had won. ‘’Internally, Europe watched a country like Germany – in some ways the highest expression of European civilization – plunge to levels of unprecedented barbarism.’’
LET’S NOT STRETCH OUR LUCK TOO FAR: It is important to advise that we should not stretch our luck too far; because the Lord has been gracious to Nigeria, and Nigerians. Even advanced nations like Germany, Greece and Yougoslavia have experienced serious political turmoil. Nobody imagined that Yugoslavia would emerge a federation of six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. And currently, BREXIT is taking its toll on the European Union. In 1991, Soviet Union granted self-governing independence to the Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that eventualy gave birth to 15 independent countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS SINCE 1960: Several occurrences since Nigeria became independent in 1960 point in the direction of the foregoing. It is clear that the country’s democratic gains in the post-independence era were frittered away by a combination of factors; including our inability to be tolerant, build an enduring democratic culture, and imbibe the culture of good governance. Writers have advanced the reasons for the stunted growth of democracy in Nigeria as: ‘’north vs south, Islam vs Christianity, alleged feudalism vs assumed socialism, Federal vs unitary preferences, traditional authority vs achieved elitism, haves vs have-nots, each with sinister undertones of tension, irreconcilability and threatened withdrawal”. (Kirk-Greene) One important cause of conflicts has to do with transition in our representative democracy.
FIGHT TO FINISH!: Justice Niki Tobi who delivered the lead judgment in the election petition brought against late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and which was decided in his favour on Friday, December 12, 2008, said: “the way politics is played in this country frightens me every dawning day. ‘’It is a fight to finish affair. ”Nobody accepts defeat at the polls’’ This submission is reinforced by eminent jurist, retired Justice Mumammadu Lawal Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, who declared, while submitting the Report of his Electoral Review Committee that “mindsets are part of elements that determine the success of election practices and the mindsets of Nigerians are not only generally negative but also irrational.” These points explain why it is difficult to get political office holders in Nigeria to relinquish power easily at the three tiers of government. For the nation to move forward, the people must embrace measures that will usher in an era of free, fair and credible elections that will conform with best international practices.
REFORMS: The system must be reformed to eliminate godfathers and throw up the best and suitable materials that would respect the feelings of the electorate and the general citizenry. The effects of quota system and federal character that have been described as: ”turn by turn” must be neutralized so that the best materials could govern in tandem with the wishes of the populace that are often violated. Nigeria imported wholesale the Constitution of the United States for the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions of the Federal Republic. But we have not been honest enough to imbibe that culture that makes democracy work in America. For instance, there is cooperation between the Executive and Legislative arms in the United States under an arrangement that makes it possible for the United States Vice-President to also be the President of the Senate. The same pattern operates in the states such that nobody is described as a spare tyre. In Nigeria, the two positions are separated so that all the zones could be satisfied! Nigeria may never develop until all these issues like quota system and federal character are eliminated. More importantly, whoever wishes to be a deputy should study the constitutional provisions thoroughly to know their rights and limitations.
REMOVAL FROM OFFICE THROUGH CONSTITUTIONAL MEANS — REFLECTIONS: Doctrine of Necessity, as defined by Wikipedia “is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors, which are designed to restore order, are found to be constitutional.” This precedent was invoked in order to restore order through extra-legal actions designed to restore order, in situations that are adjudged to be constitutional. Indeed, there were precedents recorded in Pakistan in 1954. Some other Commonwealth countries have also applied the extra-legal actions in public interest. Two brilliant legal minds, Jurist Henry de Bracton, and William Blackstone are cited in legal authorities and upholding the doctrine. The phrase: ‘’Doctrine of Necessity’’ was never a popular phrase outside the legal circles until in May, 2010, when Nigeria’s leaders found themselves in a most difficult situation created by un-envisaged constitutional lapses.
Ordinarily, no vacuum must be created at the highest levels of political governance; and those who put together the Constitution of the Federal Republic so realized and, therefore, inserted clauses in the constitution that allowed the transfer of power in political hierarchy. But it occurred, during the period under review because of the carelessness of the leadership, and selfishness on the part of the political class. For several weeks, the nation dangled precariously near precipice. ‘’Necessity is the mother of invention’’ so posits an English-language proverb that means that exigencies must be attended to, as a result of unanticipated circumstances. Tension was high, and uncertainties beclouded the nation, as it drifted hazardously.
President Umaru Musa Yar’adua was away in Saudi Arabia for medical attention for almost 80 days; yet there was nobody who could balance responsibility with authority, in order to rule the nation legitimately as head of government as empowered by the constitution. Confusion enveloped the political turf that showed palpable signs of uncertainty. Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, a professor of Comparative Literature led a protest to the national assembly demanding that then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan be announced as the acting President. ‘’Iron Lady’’ fearless Dora Akunyili, a professor of Pharmacology and a member of the cabinet in the position of Hon. Minister of Information & National Orientation, proposed the removal of his ailing boss in line with constitutional provisions.
PRECEDENTS VS CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS: It was evident that those who drafted the Constitution of the Federal Republic most probably never considered the possibility of a president refusing to do the needful and transmit a letter to the National Assembly empowering his deputy to act in his absence. Section 145 of the country’s constitution provides for the manner of empowering a Vice-President to act in the absence of the president. The vice president to act legally in place of Mr. President, Section 145 of the country’s constitution must be invoked. No part of the Nigerian constitution empowered the National Assembly to approve that Goodluck Jonathan should act as the president of the Federal Republic because the incumbent never authorized that option in writing. The Senate of the Federal Republic led by Senator David Mark, and the House of Representatives with Rt Hon. Dimeji Bankole as Hon Speaker, having been guided by the state on the nation acted in public and national interest. Both chambers sat and passed a Resolution; citing ‘’doctrine of necessity” in arriving at its decision. The National Assembly said it relied on an interview with Yar’Adua by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on January 11, 2010, where he declared that he would be unable to discharge the functions of his office. It was indeed a very commendable decision that saved Nigeria from an impending gale.
CITING ADMINISTRATIVE PRECEDENTS: Precedents, as described in the dictionary means: ‘’The basis or reason for future decisions, or ‘’an earlier occurrence of something similar’’ and ‘’something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind a verdict that had no precedent.’’ Precedents are usually cited in courts of law to advance logical arguments. That means there are rules that have to be followed. In public administration, nobody is permitted to take advantage of an administrative error. This is a reason why the subordinate may be queried for mis-advising the boss in his/her submissions/memorandum. It is patently wrong to cite situations described as bad conducts as precedents; knowing very well that they were wrong decisions. If that same conduct will not be repeated, then there is no reason to refer to it as justification of a new action. It is permissible, on rare occasions, for bosses to rule that administrative issues must not be cited as precedents given special circumstances surrounding the decisions reached that warranted some actions.
BAD PRECEDENTS: If for instance royal fathers used people for rituals or sacrifices centuries ago, would that justify an argument by anybody for a repetition in modern times? Whoever does that in modern times will surely attract the wrath of the law. If an action committed 30 years ago is considered by right thinking members of the society as political misconduct, then nobody has the moral right to tread that path again; not to talk about using it to justify new actions. An analogy: If you say Personality A used just two people to recruit officials of government instead of the stipulated five (5) ten years ago, in violation of regulations, there can be no moral or legal justification for Personality B, who now occupies same position to attempt to use that as a basis for any action taken. Very illogical. People must correct errors of the past; and not build on faulty structures. And arguments in that direction are sickening. Foregoing explains why the issues treated below attract attention, in public interest.
PRINCIPLE OF COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY/MONETISATION OF POLITICS: The political space of the last 20 years has featured intense struggles for political power and political seats. It probably has never been as feverish as what we witnessed during the period under reference, when the elite and political classes are poised on all fronts to battle themselves to stand-still; so it seems. The real attraction, if the truth must be told is that politics is the most lucrative vocation in Nigeria today. To obtain nomination forms, you must part with millions of naira. To finance elections, you must have billions of naira. The system has shut out several brilliant minds who are not rich to afford all these outrageous expenses.
In 2017, the Chief Whip of the Senate of the Federal Republic, Prof. Olusola Adeyeye lamented that the remuneration attached to political offices is too high. And recently, he provoked controversy on the Floor of the senate in his remark on the 2018 budget appropriation by once again complaining that said the allowances of all politicians, (on both the Executive and Legislative arms) including senators, must give way to make the budget realisable. “If we are all going to complain, let’s face it. “I don’t want deficit budget. ‘’If we don’t want it and we want to slash the budget of N8 trillion to N4 trillion, some things must give way including the allowances of all politicians”.
He spoke further, while commenting on the budget: “Chairman sir, with due respect to all of us, we are in this crisis because of past negligence and until we remediate that negligence, we deceive ourselves. ‘’Leadership is not always about popularity. ‘’Sometimes, leadership is about biting the bullet in tough times. “We all go to England, the United States of America, Japan and we all know that there is no pump price in the United Kingdom that is not close to one pound per litre. ‘’If we want to compare ourselves to Venezuela and Norway, then let’s refine locally but we are not. “As long as we are importing, let’s buy the bullets; we need to build our roads. ‘’Our people are now dying and it is the politicians that are killing them. It is the politicians who are not making tough decisions who are killing them,”
COLLECTIVE GUILT: Adeyeye’s stance may very well be regarded as conforming to the principle of collective responsibility, which is described by Wikiquote as: ‘’Collective guilt, which is a concept in which individuals are responsible for other people’s actions by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without actively collaborating in these actions.” Collective responsibility refers to ‘’responsibilities of organizations, groups and societies, by which individuals who are part of such collectives to be responsible for other people’s actions and occurrences by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without actively engaging.’’ A political scientist and activist, Ward Leroy Churchill, asserts that collective responsibility involves the fact that. ‘’No one is entitled to an ‘apolitical’ exemption from such obligation. ‘’Where default occurs, either by citizens endorsement of official criminality, or by the failure of citizens to effectively oppose it, liability is incurred by all.’’
FOR THE SAKE OF THE LING AND THE DEAD: We renew our appeal again for peaceful conducts as we approach the period of Nigeria’s national elections for our political leaders and elites to graciously place the interests of Nigeria above all other considerations. It is true that democracy is a very complex form of governance. As far back as 1934, democracy had been identified as an intricate art and vehicle for civil democratic governance. Democracy, said Lord Stanley Baldwin, “is a most difficult form of government; difficult because it requires for its perfect functioning, the participation of all the people in the country. ‘’It cannot function well unless everyone, men and women alike, feel their responsibility to their State, do their own duty, and try and choose the men who will do theirs. ‘’It is not a matter of party: it is common to all of us, because Democracy wants constant guarding”
EMBRACE TRUE DEMOCRATIC CONDUCTS: There must be commitments to change the old order and embrace true democratic conducts. Differences in thoughts and opinions occur in every organized political setting all over the world. Therefore, we must respect the regulations that bind us together. I refuse to accept the notion that our elites are unaware of the dangers inherent in some of their actions. Part of the beauty of democracy is the divergence of opinions. Our inability to eschew bitterness is undoubtedly a potential catalyst for conflict, underdevelopment and destruction. Politicians, elites and opinion moulders must, therefore, act responsibly and subscribe to the style of advancing superior arguments in order to reduce incidents of friction to the barest minimum. I make bold to say that the ordinary Nigerian would not bother about who governs him or her, the ruler’s tribe, colour or creed, provided the culture of good governance is entrenched to empower the civil populace to be able to afford, and have access to basic necessities.
REFRAIN FROM VIOLENCE: Nigeria is expected to be a land where all men are born equal and have access to the same opportunities without any form of discrimination. Avoidable conflicts have encouraged deep-rooted and congenital hatred among the political class which should lead the populace. Ostensibly, those who fan the embers of disunity, particularly within the political, religious and elite classes, profit from this dangerous development and would always be happy to promote issues that divide, rather than unite the nation. Against this background, our values and norms require a thorough examination. What for instance causes separatist intentions? Why have some of our pronouncements and actions been very disturbing, even in the face of the attendant possible unpleasant consequences? The answer has to do with self-seeking concerns and sincerity of purpose.
Evidently, the political arena has assumed higher levels of activity. To the ordinary citizens on the streets, my appeal is that you should not allow yourselves to be used as cannon fodders. How many children or wards of the affluent have been recorded as losing their lives in crises situations? Most of these fortunate ones will travel abroad and remain until after the elections; that is even if they reside in Nigeria. Yet the ordinary people on the streets would wait like vultures to collect ”poisonous bribes” in order to vote. So, why must you succumb to temptations of accepting a miserable sum of N5, 000 in order to vote? Doing so amounts to not only selling your own present; but also the future of your generations yet unborn. INEC has warned against vote buying and selling. In the words of Olalere Fagbola: ‘’Win or lose, vote sellers; you are the losers.’’ And that is the basic fact because the moment you compromise, you would contribute to the possibility of recording violence here and there.
A good option might be for any administration that would emerge from the February 16, 2019, elections to start thinking about how to get Nigerians to the conference table again to discuss how they truly wish to cohabit. That seems to be the long term solution to our political crises.
The cost of uncertainty and possible violent dismemberment is certainly too high to be imagined. May the good Lord answer our prayers and make Nigeria a land of peace and progress.
Nigeria’s Dry Bones Will Surely Live Again!
May God Bless Nigeria.