By Sam Akpe
There is something you can hardly take away from Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. He has a way with words. It’s a tradition he inherited from Obong Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio—his predecessors. It is inarguable that as a state governor, people write speeches for him. That’s standard procedure. So, Udom may not take credit for the content of his speeches; but he could, for the delivery.
However, the first time I heard and saw Udom move a crowd to frenzy, he spoke extempore. That was five years ago when he addressed Obong Attah at an event organised by Senator Effiong Bob to mark his wife’s 50th birthday; in Abuja.
On that day, he sounded deeply emotional. Choice, poetic words simply flowed from his mouth in a regulated pattern, as if rehearsed. He spoke like someone inspired by unseen forces. He did not sound in anyway like a great orator in the mould of Marcus Tullius Cicero or Martin Luther King Jr.
But there was something captivating about his utterance. I could only compare him with Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, because Churchill had a way with words. Udom is definitely not in the class of the British war-time leader in terms of statesmanship. But in use of words, he seems like a good student of the inspirational grandmaster of statecraft.
A few weeks ago, Udom spoke to the people of the state on what I would call Politics 2023. You recall that once upon a time, I did observe that Udom is not a Nigerian politician in the traditional sense. He is a stranger on the scene. He does not belong to the old school of political engineering. To put it mildly: he has no political pedigree. He was never there. He simply emerged; unplanned.
Maybe, this accounts for his orchestrated tight-fisted policy when it comes to sharing money or enhancing stomach infrastructure. This has created a lot of enmity against him—even within his executive council. That is why information on government expenditure gets exposed to the public so easily by those who can’t wait to see him off in 2023 so that government money can go round!
These are the same people he does not want to take over from him at the expiration of his tenure. The general belief in the state is that Udom has a secret agenda regarding who he wants to succeed him in 2023. The name or full identity of that person remains a guarded secret; known only to Udom. He almost confirmed this speculation when he raised close to a dozen questions in the broadcast he made to mark his six years in office. From the manner he asked those questions, it could also be concluded that he knew those who must not take over from him.
This was how he started: “The tone and tenor of governance has changed from an all-knowing, all hectoring potentate to the one based on humility, in strength and Christ-centric disposition in execution and direction.” Then he went rhetorical: Let me now ask you my dear Akwa Ibomites: Do you want a successor who will cancel out all the great strides in industrialization we have started (or) the peace we currently enjoy and return us to the years when violence and kidnapping reigned and sowed fear in the hearts and minds of the people?
“Do you want a successor who will come with anger towards all we have done, as opposed to continuing with the great works we have started? Do you want a leader whose approach to testing his popularity would be to drive in a long convoy to Ibom Plaza and throw money at the hapless people, watching them scramble for the money….? Is that the kind of a successor you want? Is that the kind of empowerment our people deserve…someone who will bring out the worst in our youths rather than challenge them to cease the future and unleash their potentials?
“Do you want a successor who will relegate God to the background and assume an all-knowing power? Or do you desire a successor with a known e-mail address that the international business community recognises? Do you want a leader who will fritter away our commonwealth in search of cheap popularity or one who would utilize the resources and continue investing in projects with enduring value?
“Do you want a successor who would see Government as a cabal where our commonwealth would be shared among a privileged few or do you desire a leader who would continue to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our people, a successor who understands the economic dynamics that shape our globalized space and would utilize those skills to advance our well-being? “
Those familiar with the identities and credentials of each of the 2023 governorship aspirants within the Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom, will not find it burdensome theorising on whose career or political pedigree fits the governor’s expected qualifications. So far, as apolitical as I am, and from the little I know, the cap seems to fit only one or two heads among the aspirants.
But the big question is this: Is Udom in a position to decide and handpick his successor? Before I answer that question, let’s find out: how did Udom emerge as a governor in 2015? Answer: he was handpicked; sold to the people and installed! Is it likely that we are going to have a repeat performance? Hold your breath!
Udom has always said, and a lot of people seem to agree with him, that he would not support the emergence of a cultist as his successor. But this position needs further clarification and serious amendment. Government needs to tell us, without any ambiguity, who a cultist is. If I were a member of social or cultural group like the Black Axe, Ogboni Society, the Vikings, Ekpe Society, Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis (AMORC), the Seadogs, or the Eiye, among others, am I cultist? Is any of these a cult? What about the knife-wielding village-based traditional organisations?
There is one puzzling point which Udom raised in his questionnaire. He mentioned a leader with a known email address which the international community would recognise! This is loaded with ambiguities. Is he referring to someone with international exposure and business connections? What has known or unknown e-mail address got to do with competency as a governor? What about a criminal with an internationally known e-mail address? By the way, which e-mail is local, which one is international?
Then he added another question: “Do you desire a leader who would continue to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our people, a successor who understands the economic dynamics that shape our globalized space and would utilize those skills to advance our well-being?” This is a beautiful question. Akwa Ibom people need a governor with a sight on higher goals—someone whose priorities must align with the changing world. The old order of politics must give way to something new.
In all of these, Udom seems to be playing the amended version of the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida game. The military dictator used to proclaim that he knew the category of people who would not succeed him but he was unaware of the person that he would eventually handover to. We all knew how insincere he was.
In Udom’s case, he certainly knows both the qualifications of his possible successor, and who the person would be. In attempt to keep his eyes on the ball, he is smartly trying to disqualify every other contender by raising the red flags pretty early. Someone told me a few days ago: If you think anything is wrong with what Udom is doing, find out from Lagos people how they elect their governors!
However, I completely agree with Udom that not just Akwa Ibom, but Nigeria, in 2023, needs a leader who will not fritter away the peoples’ commonwealth in search of cheap popularity; a leader who would diligently utilize available resources and continue investing in people-friendly projects with enduring value. That’s the leader we need. I will soon back.
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Punch Editorial: Without Reform, Nigeria May Be Headed For A Break-Up
As violence, state capture and separatist agitation threaten to spiral out of control, influential voices are warning afresh that unless immediate steps are taken, Nigeria could break up with unforeseen consequences. In a perceptive analysis of the precarious state of the union and its unravelling, a pressure group, Voice of Reason, deplored the descent into state failure, while in his latest intervention to the national discourse, a Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, declared that unless power is urgently decentralised, Nigeria had no chance of remaining a single entity. Today, the future of the union is so uncertain.
In an advertorial, VOR, a group of concerned professionals, recalled the commitment of Nigeria’s founding fathers to federalism, where the self-governing federating units managed the country’s diversities in an inclusive, self-reliant federation. Indeed, Nigeria’s amalgamated units prospered mightily before the 1966 military intervention. In the run-up to independence in 1960 and up till 1966, the three (later four) regions delivered rapid development in all spheres such as sub-Saharan Africa’s first free primary schooling scheme in the West, the fastest roll-out of road networks in the East and effective exploitation of agriculture in the North.
But centralising forces have since created a monstrous unitary contraption, facilitating, as the VOR argues, “the surreptitious, premeditated and relentless pursuit of dominance over all other Nigerians by a small group of oligarchs.”
A natural federation of over 250 major ethnic groups and sharp diversities in cultures is run like a mono-cultural, single ethnic polity. The military-imposed 1999 Constitution perversely has 68 items on the Exclusive Legislative List and only 30 on the Concurrent Legislative List. Thus stripped of resource autonomy, the 36 states are beggarly appendages of an all-powerful central government, relying on funding allocations from federally collected revenue for survival. It cannot work.
Disastrous outcomes have followed. Politically, national cohesion has broken down while economic growth has been crippled. The concentration of power in the centre allows a tiny elite to acquire overwhelming advantages to advance narrow, sectional, sectarian, and private interests. This has grown into insufferable impunity.
Now, centrifugal forces, once restrained, have broken out in fearsome force; alienated ethnic nationalities, angered by prevailing pervasive injustice and marginalisation, are campaigning for self-determination. The state is fast losing its legitimacy and its monopoly of the means of coercion.
Though the incumbent regime led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), inherited the quagmire, he has worsened it. Buhari exacerbates the divisions, mismanages the diversity, and stands resolutely against reforming the crumbling edifice into a sustainable polity. Epitomising the elevation of mediocrity over merit, marginalisation and ‘state capture,’ the Buhari regime has, by its skewed appointments, blatant exclusion, religious extremism, and selective law enforcement, reawakened other ethnic nationalities into questioning the continued relevance of the union.
On Buhari’s watch, sectionalism and religion override rational decision-making, and national consensus, even in the face of existential threats, can no longer be achieved.
Insecurity is unprecedented. In Buhari’s Nigeria, safety has taken flight. Boko Haram/ISWAP Islamic insurgents in the North-East and heavily armed bandits in the North-West, control ungoverned territories, forcing a weakened state to negotiate with criminals. An insurrection is taking shape in the South-East, and leaders and militants in the South-South region have given notice of possible resumption of an insurgency in the oil-rich Niger Delta as new laws entrenching federal appropriation of resources extracted in the regions are being enacted by the centre.
The central law enforcement system has broken down beyond repair. Denied policing powers by the constitution, the states are at the mercy of criminals, unable to design and fund security systems suitable to their peculiarities. Worse still, the Nigeria Police Force is not only understaffed, under-funded and under-equipped, it is also highly politicised and sectional. About 70 per cent of its 371,800 sworn officers, including the best trained, are attached to VIPs, from the President down to some top transport union officials; many areas in the country remain ungoverned. The Abuja-based Beacon Consulting said 1,031 persons were killed across the country in June and 390 were abducted. Boko Haram/ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen/killers and bandits are reckoned among the world’s five deadliest terror groups.
Economically, the country has retarded. Nothing works again. While the centre is stuck in a medieval economic model, the states are uncompetitive, unable to act as drivers of economic production, investment, and job creation. Altogether, both levels of government continue to deliver monumental poverty, unemployment, and insecurity as “dividends of democracy” to a docile society.
State collapse, therefore, becomes inevitable. Nigeria was ranked 12th most fragile out of 179 countries in the Fragile States Index 2021. Displacing India, the country has since 2018 retained the disgraceful title of World Poverty Capital with over 90 million persons living in extreme poverty. Some 13.2 million children lack schooling, the world’s highest, and the Norwegian Refugee Council lists Nigeria as having the world’s seventh-highest number of IDPs.
The country is clearly at a tipping point. Militant separatists and once moderate voices are aggressively bent on self-determination. A mood is running across great swaths of the country for minorities to assert their identities, to claim perceived rights. As Soyinka said, the signs are visible; “unless the government is decentralised, Nigeria cannot continue to survive as a single country.” The VOR adds that since the military-imposed constitution had subordinated the rights and aspirations of most sections of the polity, there is no alternative to restructuring and self-government by the ethnic nationalities and regions.
They are right. Sitting on the fence is no longer feasible; indeed, it is dangerous. And the Buhari regime’s strong-arm tactics is like postponing the evil day. It appears that there is still a broad window for talks as many patriotic voices have advised. Abubakar Umar, a former military governor of old Kaduna State, noting the futility of the government’s ferocious assault on self-determination activists, declared that “justice, fairness and equity are the best means of building a united and virile nation, particularly one as diverse and fragile as Nigeria.” But those opposing peaceful resolution of the national crisis through unfettered negotiation are making separation inevitable. It is a matter of survival; alienated, and with the state unable or unwilling to protect them from terrorists and criminals, recourse to the exit door is natural.
What is next? The starting point is for all stakeholders to admit that Nigerians are not all the same. The various ethnic nationality groups have their history, institutions, cultures, languages, interests, cleavages, and worldviews. Some look eastward, others westward; some are secular, others put religious considerations above all else. This diversity cannot be accommodated in a centralised system. It requires a substantial devolution of power to the constituent units.
There should be no let-up in the drive for restructuring to save the lives, property, and destiny of all 206 million Nigerians. A truly federal polity is a win-win for everyone as it has been for the 24 other federal countries in the world listed by the Forum of Federations, which include some of the largest and most sophisticated democracies, among them, the USA, Brazil, India, Germany, and Mexico.
Even separation is never a taboo in the resolution of national crises. Every nation has the right to choose an independent future. We have consistently and fervently argued that the only viable way out of an imminent disintegration is the fashioning of a political structure that will push more powers out and down from the centre to the constituent units. Singapore was a backwater until it separated from the Malaysian Federation in 1965. Between 1991 and 1995, two multinational states fell apart: Yugoslavia broke up in a civil war that killed 150,000, while Czechoslovakia broke up peacefully following referendums in both of its constituent parts. The Czech Republic, detached from old Czechoslovakia in 1993, has become a high-income economy, boasts the lowest poverty rate in the European Union and is ranked the 11th safest and most peaceful country on the Global Peace Index; Nigeria is ranked 146th out of 163.
The fanciful belief that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable should give way to an empirical reality that no country on earth is sacrosanct. Nigeria is one of the many post-imperial constructions that emerged from the ashes of British colonial rule. Today, even the same United Kingdom’s four-nation union faces a breakup. Financial Times argues that for a variety of reasons, the break-up of the UK is now a possibility.
Unless Nigeria can find a meeting point to regain the loyalty and trust of self-determination movements, a breakup, either peacefully or forcefully, will be hard to stop. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.
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Legislative Rascality By National Assembly Members
By Monday Ubani
The furore in the national assembly over the recent amendment of the electoral bill has not escaped the attention of millions of Nigerians who have been following the said exercise with religious interest.
The process of recruitment of leadership in Nigeria has been a big problem with the country having a fair share of mis-governance as unintended consequence flowing from unfair electoral process over the years. You cannot plant maize and reap mango says an African proverb.
The affliction of bad leadership stems from defective electoral process that is devoid of any iota of fairness. We are besseted with electoral manipulations, ballot snatching, result-falsifications and all manner of electoral frauds from desperate politicians and their thugs who pervert the process to ascend to power.
The consequence is that those who emerge and occupy political positions in Nigeria do so fraudulently without any mandate fairly donated by the people, thereby breaching the fundamental term of the famed social contract theory propounded by early philosophers that led to formation of modern society.
For us as a nation, life just like in the beginning, has remained short, nasty and brutish despite being on the historical side of modernity. Is any one in doubt in Nigeria that our leadership has deliberately kept the country retarded, visionless and crisis-riden since independence? Why, you may ask.
The answer is not far-fetched, you cannot give what you do not have. Leaders who know nothing about governance and the attendant responsibilities attached to it, unfortunately find themselves in corridors of power and have not failed to dish out mediocrity as their valuable asset.
All critical infrastructures are in total decay while our Institutional services are non-existent.
While pursuing my first degree in Univeristy of Nigeria, Nsukka I saw British, Americans and some African brothers in my respected Alma Mata either for their first degrees or pursuing their post graduate studies.
As at today, you will not see any of our African brothers or sisters in our universities let alone other students from other continents. Again the reasons are not far-fetched and does not require any elaboration.
The truth remains that we have had enough share of misgovernance, lack of development or progress due to inept leadership and the recruitment process is clearly implicated.
Stakeholders and patriots have diagnosed Nigeria’s sad historical trajectory and agreed amongst other solutions that we need to holistically tinker with our electoral legal framework which needs realignment with modern realities and international best practices.
One of these desired broad electoral reforms involves the deployment of technology in our electoral process.
It is shameful that Nigeria with her size, resources and sophistication are even starting late on this, because other nations smaller in size, resource, sophistication have deployed this system years ago and here we are in the year 2021 debating whether we should deploy technology in the transmission of our electoral results.
I feel humiliated by such scenario playing out in the hallowed Chambers of our National Assembly. Who does that, if I may ask.
The macabre dance over this started in the National Assembly with confirmed allegation that the Bill which passed third reading under the chairmanship of Senator Kabiru Gaya of INEC Committee has been altered to block electronic transfer of election results.
The Senate President called Nigerians every printable names for daring to challenge the alleged alterations. They had to restore the electronic transfer clause, and I am sure, it was done grudgingly.
During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, their treachery could not be hidden any longer as one Senator Sabi Abdullahi, Deputy Senate Whip proposed that the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the National Assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results.
This was promptly countered by Albert Bassey, Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East who insisted that the initial proposal which provides in Section 50(3) that: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable” should stay.
After division of the whole house in plenary, the result was 52 in favour of subjecting INEC to undue interference in the performance of their mandatory duty of organising elections in Nigerian by Nigerian Communication Communication and the National Assembly contrary to the express provision of the constitution, while 28 Senators voted for the retention of the original clause that gives INEC discretionary power in carrying out its constitutional responsibility in transmission of results.
The situation in the House of Representatives was not different but more dramatic as the man who presided over the plenary did not hide his disdain to observance of the very rules that guide proceedings in the House. The Deputy Speaker, Hon Ahmed Wase to say the least is a big minus to democracy who does not believe in adherence to rules and procedures of the House. He and his majority leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa are in the world of their own. By their attitude they own Nigeria, House of Representatives and everything in it, to say the least.
WHY THIS AMENDMENT SHOULD NOT SEE THE LIGHT OF THE DAY.
What the National Assembly members did by passing a bill that clearly violates the constitution they swore to uphold is the biggest embarrassment of the century. It is more shocking and depressing to see those who claim to be lawyers amongst them running around all over the place to defend the absurd illegality. Who did this to us as a nation?
How did we get here, many are asking.
A cursory look at the provisions of the constitution will give each observer a clearer view of the sordid absurdity in the passage of the bill by the National Assembly on the 16th of July, 2021.
Section 78 of the 1999 constitution as Amended provides:- “The registration of voters AND CONDUCT of elections shall be subject to the DIRECTION AND SUPERVISION OF INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISION,(INEC).
The same constitution in the Third Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15 provides that: “INEC has power TO ORGANIZE, UNDERTAKE, AND SUPERVISE ALL ELECTIONS”. The constitution further provides that in carrying out the aforementioned responsibilities, “INEC operations SHALL not be SUBJECT TO THE DIRECTION OF ANYBODY OR AUTHORITY”.
The question then, is the so called affirmation of network coverage and its security by NCC and approval of the National Assembly(a party to an election) not an undue interference to INEC’s power to transmit the result of an election which falls squarely under their constitutional power?
How did the members of the National Assembly see their role in approving the issue of network coverage as proper under our constitutional democracy when the role assigned by the constitution to them is LEGISLATION and not EXECUTION of the laws they enact?
I shudder to think that our legislators who are law makers have turned themselves into law breakers.
Prior to now, INEC without any legislative backing have successfully conducted elections with card readers and have transmitted results electronically in several constituencies in Nigeria without any of these “alarmist drawbacks” being trumpeted by these backward-thinking legislators that voted for that provocative amendment. Why are these set of legislators in the 9th Assembly trying to set the hand of our clock backwards? What have come over them?
Nigerians insist and I join them in insisting that INEC be given a fair and less restrictive legal framework to carry out their constitutional duties of organising, undertaking and supervising elections in Nigeria.
The present manipulative treachery to keep us stranded as a nation in our electoral improvements will be resisted with our last strength and we have the final hope placed on the third arm of the government( the judiciary) should these set of legislators persist in their doomed journey of interfering on our progressive electoral journey as a nation.
Nigeria has two years to ensure 100 per cent network coverage in the whole country, after all, the Nation is alleged to have voted over 4 billion naira recently to monitor Nigerians on social media platforms. I see no reason why we cannot vote more billions of naira for development of our key tele-comunication infrastructure that will restore our dignity as the biggest country in African continent. #SayNoToLegislativeRascality.
Dr Onyekachi Ubani is the
Chairman, NBA-Section on Public Interest and Development Law(SPIDEL).
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Lugard As Pastor Adefarasin’s Electoral Act Amendment Devil
By Festus Adedayo
Seventy six years after his death on April 11, 1945 and cremation at the Woking Crematorium, Woking Borough in Surrey, England, poor Frederick John Dealtry Lugard has been killed many times thereafter by Nigerians. Though he died peacefully at the age of 87, having been born on January 22, 1858, this soldier, administrator and author, born in Fort St. George, Madras, India, raised at Worcester and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, has remained one of the most vilified colonial officers in Nigeria. His presiding over Nigeria’s incongruous matrimonial procedure on January 1, 1914 is perceived to be the albatross that plagues Nigeria till today.
Same villainous estimation is heaped on his wife, influential Colonial Editor of The Times, Miss Flora Louise Shaw, over her choice of Nigeria as name in a piece she wrote for Times on January 8, 1897. In her preference for “Nigeria” ahead of other choices like “Sudan,” “Royal Niger Company Territories,” “Central Sudan,” as well as earlier name suggestions like Negrettia and Goldesia, many conservatives believe that Nigeria’s stagnation is traceable to Miss Shaw’s christening.
One of those who recently poured vitriol on Lugard for yoking together unequals is Head Pastor of the House on The Rock Church, Pastor Paul Adefarasin. In a sermon delivered by him and which went viral, Adefarasin labeled Lugard a “devil incarnate” – an expression derived from William Shakespeare’s Henry V – for soldering together Nigeria’s Northern and Southern protectorates, in spite of their disparities of mind, incongruent cultures, dissimilar beliefs and worldviews. This forced unity is perceived to be the foundation of Nigeria’s interminable and intractable challenges.
John Riddick, in his Master’s thesis entitled Sir Fredrick Lugard, World War 1 and the Amalgamation of Nigeria 1914-1919, submitted to the Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan in August, 1966, said that, between 1886 and 1900, Britain, through its nineteenth century chartered mercantile company founded in 1879 by Tubman Goldie named the United African Company, renamed National African Company in 1881 and Royal Niger Company in 1886, explored Nigeria’s interior resources. In 1894, the Royal Niger Company gave Lugard the task to obtain a treaty with Borgu, on a western Nigerian border and he subsequently got another offer from the British West Charterland Company for the exploration of mineral concessions in Lake Ngami in Bechuanaland. Her Majesty, in 1897, also made him Commissioner for the Hinterland of Nigeria, with the responsibility for raising the West African Frontier Force.
By 1912, in the words of Riddick, the Colonial Office had concluded that the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates had to happen. This was because, while the Southern protectorate was recording huge budget surpluses, the north was bedeviled by deficit and crippling Britain which had to subsidize its operations to the tune of about 400 pounds. Southern Protectorate’s annual budget surplus was thus needed to save Britain of the northern drainpipes.
The marriage was consummated in Zungeru, present Niger State, a sparsely populated town of railwaymen and civil servants working for the colonial administration. Zungeru, then capital of colonial administration in Northern Nigeria before it was relocated to Kaduna, was not just where the documents that brought Nigeria into existence were signed, for a brief period, Zungeru served as Nigeria’s capital in the hands of Lugard. According to late British historian, Africanist and human rights activist, Stephen Ellis, a short ceremony consisting of a military parade was held on this day inside a shack that was then Lugard’s office, a place which, like anything Nigerian, is now in total ruins.
In the words of Elis, speaking in a “high-pitched voice,” “clipped assent,” and “strangled vowels characteristic of British upper classes in the age of empire,” Lugard announced that “His Majesty the King has decided that… all the country… shall be one single country.” Ellis however believed that His Majesty King George V, being a mere ceremonial figurehead of the British parliamentary system of government, never personally sent Lugard on this amalgamation expedition but that the soldier, who had earlier in 1907 been the Governor of Hong Kong, with the assistance of his influential journalist mistress, Miss Shaw, lobbied the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Levis Vernon Harcourt, in whose memory Port Harcourt was named, to get this amalgamation consummated. That union has since brought so much bile, prickly hurts and tears to Nigerians. Lamenting amalgamation’s destructive tendencies, Northern Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, had quipped that “God did not create Nigeria; the British did.”
For the benefit of Adefarasin and Nigerian religionists who heap expletives on Lugard, the choice of Fredrick by Britain as “the only man who could successfully inaugurate the (amalgamation) policy” was as a result of his competence. His ability and experience were due to the fact that he had spent the greater part of his life in various parts of Africa, especially having worked in East Africa’s Buganda, the principal Kingdom of Uganda and Lake Nyansa. Lugard was also born of Anglican missionary parents in Southern India. His mother, ex-Mary Jane Howard, labored in the vineyard of the Church Missionary Society while his father, Frederick Grueber Lugard, was a chaplain who served the Madras section of an East India Company. Jane was pious, devoted to Christianity and this was said to have been transposed to his son, Frederick who was reputed for “affection and Christian ardor throughout most of his life.” While Frederick inherited from his father “the heritage of great physical strength and tenacity” he would need this in his subsequent endurance of the “climatic extremes and the rigors of his efforts in Africa.”
I went into all the above resume of Lugard’s to tease out the fact that he was a damn good officer who came to Nigeria to do a job which he did satisfactorily, to the admiration of Britain, his employer. Britain obviously didn’t embark on amalgamation because it loved Nigeria or with Nigeria’s bright future in view. In fact, if you asked Lugard while alive, he would likely tell you that Christ sent him on the mission, just like Adefarasin and other religious leaders do in claiming this as motive for their exploitation of the poverty-stricken minds of the Africans. By the way, upon retirement in 1919, Lugard left Nigeria and settled to a life of writing and contributions to the British society.
Since his exit, Nigeria has been visited by worse internal colonialist afflictions ever. This came in the form of “big fat tummy” soldiers in huge military epaulettes, babanriga and agbada-wearing civilians “with necks like ostrich” – apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – who are worse than Lugard and who gawked while Nigeria collapsed gradually. The latest among this gang is one led by Muhammadu Buhari. Were they to be as half committed to duty, half dedicated to the ideal of their offices as Lugard was, Nigeria would certainly not be in her present quagmire. So, still holding a man who left Nigeria to her fate almost a century ago, a man who didn’t hide the fact that he was an emissary of a rapacious colonial behemoth, Britain in her quest to better the lot of Her Majesty’s England and not necessarily some conquered territory reputed not to have the ability to govern themselves, is not only escapist, it is silly.
Yes, we may argue, as Adefarasin insinuated, that what Britain bequeathed onto Nigeria was quicksand, a shell if you like, upon which she was expected to erect an edifice. However, since 1960, Nigeria has had the opportunity to dismantle the makeshift, hamstringing colonial structure, both mentally and physically and build an enduring skyscraper. For the sake of argument still, we may say that between Kaduna Nzeogwu, Aguiyi Ironsi and successive military opportunists who used a combination of their youthful exuberance and naivety to destroy the today of Nigeria, we had villains who thwarted Nigeria’s effort at a great country. However, the teething animosities of Nigeria’s civilian rulers too contributed immensely in quashing Nigeria’s growth. The leaders were not only shortsighted; they were corrupt, wasteful and lacked vision. It is said that, among a succession of Nigerian rulers, an estimated $20 billion was stolen from Nigerian public coffers in 30 years, more than total of aids to the country in same number of years. Did Lugard give them the stealing technique? Did he opaque their vision? Were they sub-human? Leaving all these, the most fundamental question to ask today is, what has happened in the last unbroken 22 years of civilian administration in Nigeria?
Apart from the Olusegun Obasanjo government’s squandering of opportunities to set Nigeria on the path of greatness, the health failings of Umaru Yar’Adua, the gross lack of depth of Goodluck Jonathan and the ethnically bigoted mental constitution of the Buhari government, a major reason why Nigerians, not Lugard, should be blamed for why the country has never grown beyond its Lilliputian size, is the opera on display at the National Assembly biosphere in the last few weeks. It was at the national legislators’ attempt to consider the controversial section 52(3) Electoral Act via an Amendment Bill.
As I watched the grisly opera, in my mind, I thanked Waliu Ismaila, a Shaki, Oyo State-born Nigerian doctoral student who lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, who sent me two books – How To Rig An Election, by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas; This Present Darkness: A history of Nigerian organized crime by Stephen Ellis. Those two books explain the shame of the electoral act amendment, the Petroleum Industry Bill and even Lai Mohammed’s remote-controlled amendments to the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act, as well as the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act.
Looking at the universe of elections in the world, Cheeseman and Klaas said that election rigging begins with rigging of election laws. In other words, elections are not rigged basically at the polls but from its fundamentals; its laws. According to the authors, there is a growing cult of counterfeit democrats, especially in Africa, who ensure that elections are incapable of delivering democracy. We now have an equation of rigged elections that don’t succeed in toppling dictators but which help to keep them in power through electoral manipulations. Said the authors, “Thirty years ago, the main aim of the average dictator was to avoid holding elections; today, it is to avoid losing… sophisticated authoritarian regimes begin manipulating the polls well before voting begins.” This is true of Section 52(3) of Nigeria’s Electoral Act.
The truism subsists that any nation that gets its election process right is on the path of a democratic Eldorado. However, since elections give birth to democracy, dictators of yore have moved into the maternity ward to tamper with the births. It is obvious that, for many of the Nigerian political elite, it is not in their interest for the country to get better. As a matter of fact, in free and fair elections, most of them cannot win. It is reason why Section 52(3), which says “The Commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable,” which gives INEC total discretion on when to deploy electronic transmission of results needed to be hijacked and put in the hands of a malleable executive accomplice, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
No wonder why the Electoral Act now arrived at the dangerous juncture of an amendment that reads: “the commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.” What that means is that our electoral destiny is in the hands of Mullah Isa Pantami Ali Ibrahim, also known as Sheikh Pantami, a man for whom no one else deserves to live except Mullahs and extremists. Did Lugard vote in that spurious and unconscionable amendment?
It is why, with due respect to highly revered Pastor Adefarasin, his slipping into the usual Nigerian false piety of externalizing our national problem nauseates. His religious constituency has underdeveloped Nigeria more than Lugard and his colonial clique did since the soldier-colonialist left Nigeria in 1919. On Sundays, nay, every day of the week, the church and mosque colonize the people’s minds, using the instrumentality of religion as unseen manacles. In terms of shedding of the blood of Nigeria, Nigerian religionists are not different from each of the legislators who voted against the electronic transmission of election results. They are enemies of Nigeria, worse than Lord Lugard and are united by treachery.
In saner societies, Orji Uzor Kalu, Teslim Folarin, Ajibola Basiru and all others in that category deserve to be consigned to the gallows of public disdain. What they inflicted on Nigeria’s electoral sanity is worse than the violence of an insurgent. Like the double-edged sword that violence is on both victim and victimizer, as they stabbed the voting process, they and us are equally dehumanized. Frantz Fanon, in his The Wretched of the Earth, puts the mutual stab and mutual dripping of blood on both of us succinctly. Aime Cesaire, Francophone and Afro-Caribbean author, politician and poet, one of Francophone founders of the Négritude movement, who in fact coined the word “negritude” in French, also treated same theme of our mutual dehumanization in his Discourse on Colonialism. Fannon said that, as French soldiers who tortured Algerian poor later lapsed into extreme neurosis, committing suicide thereafter, the blood that Nigeria’s national legislators spilled from our electoral corpus belongs to us all as a collective. Borrowing from Bukola Elemide, a.k.a. Asa, both of us – jailer and the jailed – are prisoner
If, according to the team from NCC, led by a Ubale Maska, which briefed the legislators on deployment of electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria, only 50.3% of the 109,000 polling units surveyed by INEC in 2018 had 3G/2G network coverage, while 40% had only 2G and 10% lack network of any category and only 3G/2G combination is capable of transmission of results, why can’t the legislators mandate NCC to aggressively upgrade the networks? When you add this to the naive, simplistic and superficial argument of some of the jaundiced-minded legislators who claim that electronic transmission is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hacking as reason for their voting against it, then you will understand why Jesus wept for Nigeria last week. You will equally realize why Nigeria has been sentenced to an interminable walk in the darkness of the night, a la South African writer, Alex La Guma.
(Published by Premium Times, July 18, 2021)
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