By Unoigbokhai Adamu
The catchy phrase of who will save the Bull in a China shop has been in our lexicon for quite some time now. It was indeed made popular by former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in one of his entreaties to Military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, when the latter reneged on his promise to organise a smooth handover to civilian rule in the late 80s and early 90s.
Obasanjo had in one of his letters to IBB, said the Military President should save the country from impending danger. He argued that the ship of state was perilously derailing under the gap toothed General with his refusal to put in place credible transition programme, and that if something was not done, the military under IBB would end up destroying itself and the country.
The effectiveness of these series of letters in decimating military rule under Babangida and General Sani Abacha, however remained unclear, but Obasanjo’s intervention at that critical time cemented the phase in our consciousness and made it part of our vocabulary. Hence, it was not difficult to draw a comparison between what is currently going on in Rivers State under Governor Wike and Nigeria under military dictatorship.
Governor Wike had on Sunday ordered the demolition of hotels in Eleme Council for flouting the state’s directives.
The demolished hotels are Prudent Hotel, Alode in Eleme and Etemeteh Hotel in Onne.
Wike also last week charged traditional rulers to set up Task Force in their respective communities to enforce the closure of markets, hotels and bars across the state. While inaugurating the state’s COVID-19 Local Government Task Force, he urged them to identify hotels and erring bars still operating during the lockdown for demolition.
Expectedly, the demolition of the two hotels has been widely condemned as draconian and barbaric, with many calling on the affected hotels to go to court and seek damages. Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) even said Wike has become an embarrassment to the Body of benchers, insisting that the governor should be sanctioned.
Falana said the development in Rivers is very disturbing, saying that the governor should not be allowed to violate the 1999 constitution. The human rights lawyer argued that the Executive Order relied on by Wike is an administrative instrument with guidelines and not Law, adding that the Constitution supersedes the Governor’s Order.
Even so, it is more embarrassing because as a senior lawyer, the governor should have followed due process of the law in punishing those who flout the Executive Order and not take the law into his hands and went as far as supervising the demolition of the hotels.
But the latest development only brought to fore the disturbing trends in Rivers where the governor has suddenly become so despotic, dictatorial, arrogant and tyrannical. Clearly, the man is just using the auspices of Covid-19 to bare his fangs on hapless citizens. From his posture and utterances, it can easily be discerned that Wike is power drunk. He behaves as if he’s fighting the people he was supposed to govern. The pandemic only gave him more bite and exposed his underbelly.
In April, Wike ordered the arrest of Caverton pilots for allegedly violating the lockdown measures in the state. The pilots were later arraigned in court and remanded in prison. The intervention of the federal government that the pilots were duly permitted to fly and that matters of air traffic are under Exclusive List of the constitution fell on deaf ears. Just few days after, some oil engineer were detained on the order of the governor. Their offence was that since the state was not informed of their coming, they would not be allowed to “come in and infect my people with the virus”.
The governor never gave a damn that the engineers were on federal assignment and only capitulated when PENGASSAN threatened industrial action. Few days ago, the social media was full of pictures of Wike leading security operators round the streets of Portharcourt trying to enforce the lockdown. Haba, Mr. Governor! From all indications, decency and constitutionalism have fled the Rivers Government House.
Have we forgotten how the governor tongue-lashed traditional rulers in the state few month ago for not coming to the State House with their staff of office. Wike was in his peculiar and pompous element; chastising and talking down on elders some of who are older than his father. Or, has events that took place before the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention in 2019 disappeared from our memory?
Wike went to town boasting that it’s either the party holds the convention in his state or hell will be let loose. Of course the party leaders could not look into the face of a man who think he was bigger than the party and tell him to go to hell. They silently acquiescence not to offend the bull.
These are some of the indiscretions that made the governor to think that he can eat his cake and have it. It is therefore imperative for Wike to be called to order before rocking the boat. But who will save Wike and the China Shop? It is unlikely that the PDP has the guts to checkmate him since the party chairman’s emergence was bankrolled by him; neither can the elders in the state, most of who have been either cowed or bought over by the big purse of the governor, be bold enough to call his bluff.
But the PDP will pay a big price politically if it failed to intervene to save the bull from the China Shop. For a party that is regularly criticising the APC led federal government, its failure to see anything wrong in Wike’s behavior is both hypocritical and disingenuous. It’s not in PDP’s interest to be less concerned about the flagrant abuse of due process and rule of law in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States. Failure to act can only lead to electoral defeats in future elections if care is not taken.
For sure, the taming of Wike lies in the hands of Rivers people and concerned Nigerians. The first step is for those affected by Sunday’s demolition to go to court and sue the governor and his government for damages. Instrumentality of the law should be used to call him to order. The next thing is for the citizens to, after this pandemic, go to the streets and exercise their rights of protest against this menacing dictator. For, it is in the best of the state to save the Bull and the China Shop.
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Nigeria And The Danger Of One Party State
Barely two months after the governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade surprised observers in his conservative state by defecting to the ruling All Peoples Congress, (APC), his counterpart in Zamfara, Governor Bello Matawalle followed suit on Tuesday by also dumping the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.
Before now, and just last year, the governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. Dave Umahi also surprised many in the Southeast and the country at large, when he came out to tell the world that he would be leaving the PDP to the APC. Not a few people were dumfounded because the region has been a predominantly PDP geopolitical zone and were wondering if the governor was not committing political suicide through his action.
Even so, there were speculations that Umahi jumped the fence because he was promised a juicy position or office in a post 2023 politics. Yet, others were of the view that the governor’s audacity to jump ship, when he was not too sure of landing in a comfortable place, was a product of deep political pragmatism and not that he was being unnecessarily opportunistic.
But what are the reasons being adduced by both Ayade and Matawalle for leaving the party that gave them the tickets and structures to contest election? While Ayade justified his defection on the basis of ‘helping’ President Muhammadu Buhari in his quest to give the country the needed leadership, Matawalle is yet to give the PDP, the people of Zamfara and Nigerians any cogent reason for his defection.
Speaking during the defection, Ayade had said, “We need to join hands with President Buhari in his determination to enhance the fortunes of the country. I need all governors to similarly join me and understand my decision to join the APC.
“We need to work ahead with the president for the future and unity of Nigeria. We all need to sit at the same dining table with Mr Presidential to save Nigeria. It is my responsibility to bring back Cross River to the centre in order to enhance her fortunes”.
Whether the above reason was tenable or not remain to be seen, but for a governor that has performed below expectations and whose political future is uncertain, his opponents have accused him of dumping the PDP because strong forces in the party are rallying against him and are determined to decimate him before the 2023 elections.
In the case of Matawalle, while announcing his defection to the APC at a special grand rally in Gusau, the governor said: “As from today, I Bello Matawalle Maradun, governor of Zamfara, I am happy to announce my defection from the PDP to the APC.
“As from today, I am a full APC member and leader of APC in Zamfara. I am calling on all APC stakeholders in the state to join hands with me to build the party and move the state forward.”
This is simply nonsensical and idiotic. One would have expected Matawalle to, at least, lie or say something reasonable to justify the reason why he decided to betray the trust of his party. A party that stood by him when the Supreme Court pronounced him as the governor in the middle of the crisis that engulfed the ruling APC and made it impossible for them to have a candidate at the 2019 governorship election.
The PDP has however been quick to react to a development that is a danger signal and drawback to its plans and attempt to defeat the ruling APC in 2023. The party indeed accused the APC of intimidating and blackmailing its governors to defect to their camp. The party therefore vowed to use every legal instrument at its disposal to put a break to these decampments. How far they can go remains to be seen in a country that is devoid of strong political ideology and values; where politics has become a cash and carry business.
Beyond this lack of discipline, ideology and pragmatic politics is the danger of the country becoming a one party state. With the three PDP governors jumping ship when there is no shipwreck and speculations that others may follow suit, what is staring us in the face is the possibility of the nation becoming a one party state. The fear of one party dominating the political space is no longer impossible. What is even more troubling is that one would have expected the ruling APC to be losing steam and support, both among the masses and the political elite with the current state of the nation, but the reverse seems to be the case.
In a country where there is massive unemployment; where insecurity has become a recurring decimal; where the debt portfolio has been rising with no hope of any respite; where youth restiveness has become a routine and a constant feature; where the ruling party has shown lack of capacity and leadership in tacking myriads of problems facing the country and in a country where the future is becoming increasingly bleak, the natural course of events would have been for the ruling party to be losing support.
There is however no doubt that the APC is desperate to remain in power beyond 2023 and its doing everything, including using the instrumentality of state to either coarse, intimidate or blackmail political opponents to its corner of the ring. This is wrong in its entirety and should be condemned by all lovers of democracy and good governance in the country. And the PDP should wake up from slumber and do more to put the ruling party on its toes. The party should go beyond issuing press releases and strategically put its house in order, unify its members and act as a veritable alternative to the ruling party.
For sure, a one party state is in the interest of the hegemonic tendencies within the ruling party, but this will be against the interest of democracy and future of this country. I can’t remember any time during the PDP years in Aso rock when the party stifled the opposition or try to strangle the democratic space. Of course, there was a time its former chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor boasted that the party will rule for 60 years uninterrupted, but it all came to naught when the party mismanaged its political capital and trust of the people and was beaten by the APC.
What is even more befuddling is the role of President Buhari in all these. It appears Buhari is less perturbed if the country becomes a one party state. With the presidential statements that have been following the defections and the red carpet the governors have been receiving in Aso rock, it’s all too glaring that the attempt to stifle the democratic space has a presidential seal.
For all lovers of democracy and those who love this country, this is not the time to keep quiet. The civil society should not sleep over this and the various stakeholders in the democratic process should open their eyes to the danger ahead. It’s not impossible that the ruling party is working on a script with these defections and with the benefit of hindsight, Nigerians must rise up and stop this tide towards a one party state before it is too late.
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Nigeria: Will Lawan, Gbajabiamila Come To The Rescue?
By Habib Aruna
In January 2010, the nation was on the verge of a constitutional crisis that nearly tore it apart. The then President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was battling with a life-threatening illness and thus failed to transmit a letter to the National Assembly as required by section 145 of the 1999 constitution, to enable the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to act as Acting President.
With the fear that the power vacuum created by the long absence of Yar’Adua could lead to anarchy or even a military takeover, the then-Senate President, David Mark, galvanized other lawmakers and reached a compromise by adopting the Doctrine of Necessity. This doctrine pre-supposes that the adoptions of extra-legal actions by state actors, which are designed to restore order, are constitutional.
Hence, on Thursday, February 9, 2010, the National Assembly came together and passed a resolution that empowered the Vice President, Jonathan as the Acting President and Commander In Chief of the Armed forces. With the convocation of this doctrine, Senator Mark and the federal lawmakers saved the nation from political logjam and stabilized the polity.
We are again in a similar scenario when the clamour for the country to be restructured to reflect its diversity is becoming louder, given the current security situation and other socio-economy and political challenges facing it. The debate is indeed, beginning to shift to the National Assembly for its leadership to act in a decisive way to save the fragile Nigerian union. Will the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, realize the urgency of the time and seize the moment? Only time will tell!
But time is fast running out, not only because it is evident and discernible that the union that was cobbled together by the British in 1914 has not been working, but also because the nation cannot attain its potentials with the current structure. A structure that puts more than seventy percent of country’s resources in the hand of the central government is not sustainable; a structure that does not allow our best eleven to be in charge of the management of our commonwealth and affairs is not acceptable; a structure that centralizes the enforcement of laws and order cannot work in a society that is very diverse and more importantly, a structure that is too centralized, which gives a lot of powers to Abuja thereby making the states to be too subservient has become an anathema.
But the situation was not like this when we gained our independence in 1960. The constitution that birthed our new country was regionally based and it well outlined the fiscal responsibility of the various regions vis-à-vis the central government. It also defined the functions of the central government and made the central less attractive for ambitious politicians. Have we forgotten so easily why the late Saudauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello preferred to stay in Kaduna as a regional leader than going to Lagos to be Prime Minister when his party, Northern People’s Congress (NPC) won the majority of seats in the parliament?
It was easy for him to send his protégé, Sir Tafawa Balewa, who later became the Prime Minister to be the head of government because the regions were to a large extent autonomous. There were independence and inter-independence between the regions and the central government. There was indeed, healthy rivalry and competition among the regions and this in-turn contributed in large measure, to the growth and development of the country.
Sadly, the federal structure was however cut short when the military intervened. The long interregnum by the military caused a lot of damage to the fabric of our country and the federal system that we are yet to recover. The country is in fact still bleeding from this assault and until the right thing is done by going back to the drawing board, by recognizing the unity in our diversity; by being bold enough to go back to our independent constitution and spell out the uniqueness of each of the regions, we would be going round in one place like a barber chair. Needless to say that the current 1999 constitution is a product of ‘military arrangement’ and political pundits have variously blamed its architects for the problems bedeviling the country.
Before now, many had thought that the ruling All Progressive Party (APC), will fulfill its promise to Nigerians about restructuring. One of APC campaign promises was that it would restructure the country when voted into power. The party actually set up a committee headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai to look into it when the clamour was so strong, but the recommendation is still gathering dust in the drawer.
The presidency that since 2015 find it difficult to tell Nigerians its agenda on restructuring, however came out to dash any hope that the Buhari presidency was looking in that direction when it stated that anyone agitating for restructuring should approach the National Assembly to make their case. The Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the Presidency is not against restructuring of the country, but maintained that the move could not be spearheaded by President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that only the National Assembly had been empowered to restructure the country.
He advised proponents of restructuring to approach the legislature with their request. Shehu said, “Our position on the call for restructuring has not changed. “People are calling it restructuring; the ruling party, APC, and the government calls it devolution. “Whichever name you call it, the government is not opposed to it. What we are saying is that the parliament is the body empowered by law to effect any change in the nation’s structure.
“The process of constitution review is ongoing in the National Assembly now. We advise proponents of restructuring to approach the parliament and take advantage of the opportunity that the ongoing process offers.”
The above position of the presidency clearly put the ball in the court of the National Assembly. And that is why in recent times prominent Nigerians have called on the leadership of NASS to take up the responsibility of addressing the visible shortcomings in our federal structure. Professor Wole Soyinka added his voice just few days ago and challenged Lawan and Gbajabiamila to be on the right side of history.
The Nobel Laureate urged the National Assembly to listen to calls for the restructuring of Nigeria and should take responsibility towards that effect.
He said the lawmakers had the powers and moral authority to respond to the calls if the Presidency is not doing so. “The Presidency is saying it is not my responsibility. On the other hand, the National Assembly keeps saying it wants the President to take action. When that happens, why doesn’t the National Assembly say ‘fine, we take this as our responsibility and we are obliged to the people who elected us here”, Soyinka said.
Becoming more forceful, Soyinka said: “If the Presidency is not responding, then the National Assembly has the powers and moral authority to respond to the desire of the populace”. Yet, other Nigerians have joined the chorus in the wake of the crisis generated by the killer herdsmen, to call on our elected officials to see the restructuring of the country as a call to duty to save the country.
From Chief Audu Ogbeh to the Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku; to even the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the call for another look at our political structure is gaining momentum. Obasanjo joined Ishaku to demand for state police, arguing that the nation is ripe for it. Obasanjo said he supported a statement credited to the Governor of Taraba State, Ishaku, that the country would know no peace until it instituted state police.
His words, “Why can’t we now have state police? I have been to a country like Colombia, in the last five years, at least a dozen times. They did exactly what we did. They moved from local and state police to national police. But now, they have gone back to state police or provincial police. Why can’t we do that? If we do that, there will be no need for Amotekun”.
So, the nation eagerly awaits the needed intervention of the Senate President and Speaker and it is imperative that they provide the leadership and save us from an impending catastrophe.
For sure, they have not given us any reason to be hopeful going by their antecedents since 2019, but we have to keep up the pressure and give them no option. As leaders of representatives of the people, the onus is on them to be the veritable vehicle of the change we are all looking for. All eyes are on Lawan and Gbajabiamila to take the chance and save us from this avoidable quandary!
Aruna, a journalist lives in Ikeja, Lagos
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Sunday Igboho And The Hypocrisy Of Yoruba Elite
By Unoigbokhai Adamu
Yoruba rights activist, Mr Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho was just like any other person in a crowd until the alleged killing of Dr Fatai Aborode by herdsmen in Ibarapa North Local Government Area in Oyo State. This was what apparently infuriated him into issuing a directive that Killer Fulani herdsmen, which many believed were the cause of insecurity in the area, should leave the zone within a week.
Igboho indeed consummated his threat a week after when he stormed the house of the Sarkin Fulani with his boys. In the ensuing violence that followed, the house of Sarkin and other properties were burnt and the suspected killer herdsmen were chased out of town. It would be recalled that a few days earlier, the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu had also given the killer herdsmen an ultimatum to stop open grazing in the Reserved Forest and other outlawed lands in the state.
But it was Igboho’s ultimatum and the attendant reactions, by both the government and the people that attracted wide coverage in the media. While the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde moved swiftly to instruct the new Commissioner of Police to treat anyone disrupting the peace in the state as a common criminal, the Inspector General of Police ordered the immediate arrest of Igboho. And as the drama was unfolding, it was clear that the majority of the people were implicitly in support of what the activist, who they described as their savior, was doing. For a people traumatized for too long by bandits, robbers, kidnappers, killer herdsmen, and total lawlessness, the emergence of Igboho was seen as the needed tonic to soothe the balm.
We should not however also forget that Igboho’s intervention was in the middle of the altercation between the presidency and Ondo State Government, after the presidency called the State government to order, telling the state to be cautious in the way it handles the herdsmen encroachment problem. As expected, the reaction from Abuja was met with wide condemnations by Nigerians, most of who accused the federal government of taking sides with the Fulanis. There was also the accusation that since Aso rock had failed all along in tackling insecurity in most parts of the country, the states should be allowed to protect their citizens. To many observers, therefore, Akeredolu was merely exercising his constitutional right as the chief security officer of his state.
It was however the marching orders given to the killer Fulani herdsmen by Igboho that continued to dominate public discourse, particularly in the Southwest. All attempts to demonise the audacious activist came to naught as many believe he came to fill a void that has been missing for so long; a void that the politicians and elected officials in the region failed to fill; beyond this is the fact that leading politicians want to be in the good books of the powers that be in Abuja and anything that will put them in direct confrontation with those powers should be avoided by all means.
After demonstrating his seriousness that he can match his words with action, Igboho became very popular and there was little doubt that the issues he raised in the series of interviews he granted thereafter resonated with the majority of people in the Southwest. What did you expect from a people that have been under the constant assault of these killer herdsmen than to applaud someone who suddenly came out from the blues to be a champion of the Yoruba cause? It is arguable that more than eighty percent of people in the Southwest, both home and abroad are in support of Igboho’s intervention. Even though many of them cannot openly do so!
However, the bigger issue raised by this dramatic turn of events in a country that is increasingly under the edge is the hypocrisy of the elite. The elite, especially in the Southwest has been unusually taciturn, timid, and callous. There has been a total lack of aggressiveness on the part of leading figures in the region in coming out to openly support Igboho in this crusade. This quietness has been attributed to selfish opportunism and an attempt to be in the good books of Abuja so as not to jeopardize their perceived presidential ambition. The likes of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, and other notable politicians in the zone have been very quiet and have not seen any reason to either condemn or support those fighting against activities of the killer herdsmen.
One only needs to check social media to see the level of condemnations and criticisms that their silence has generated. Most people are indeed of the opinion that the deafening silence might adversely affect their chances if they eventually throw their cap into the ring. Yet others questioned the logic behind their reasoning, arguing that if something was not done to checkmate this slide into disintegration, there might not be a country to rule in 2023.
Governor Makinde appears to be on the wrong side of history with the way he handled the situation. Great leaders are said to take decisions after wide consultations and weighing the pros and cons. That sadly was not the case with the directive the governor gave the police after Igboho’s ultimatum. For a man who has done little to protect his people from these killers to surreptitiously give unreasonable orders to security, operatives was amateurish and condemnable. But sensing the speedy depletion of his political capital due to people’s discomfort with his actions, the governor rushed to the Ibarapa troubled zone to do what should have been done before now. I only hope it was not too little too late!
In truth, the blame lies at the doorstep of the presidency. Whether intentionally or due to lack of leadership, and just like other trouble spots in the country, Aso rock failed to rein in the activities of these killer herdsmen in the Southwest; activities that in large measure have been inimical to the well-being of their hosts. Not a few people even said that the body language of those at the top gives these perpetrators the go-ahead to commit crimes.
Hence, as the nation awaits a decisive step towards a true and fiscal federal system, the minimum demand of the people to prevent scores of Igbohos from taking the law into their hands is for the federal government to direct law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute any criminal who violates the laws of the land. Anything short of this is a recipe to more violence and anarchy.
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