That the bandits successfully breached the military facility which is supposed to be impregnable and wounded hordes, as well as killed a couple of the inhabitants, while kidnapping three people including a major in the army, speaks volumes about how perilous it is to live in Nigeria and a justification for the loss of faith in the executive arm of government that is supposed to protect the masses.
If the military that the nation has spent trillions of naira training and arming since the past 21 years of the return of multiparty democracy cannot protect its self, what hope is there for the civilian? A plethora of governors has been encouraging the besieged citizens to defend themselves. How can civilians possibly do so successfully when the bandits are taking the battle to the military in their abode and taking their members hostage?
The unfortunate calamity that befell the NDA is clearly a case of ‘‘physician; heal thy self’’ which is not very good optics for the nation’s military.
To be fair, there has been a lot of interventions in the agriculture sector via the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN intervention funds for rice farming, etc. And there have also been direct money transfers to the poor via sundry social safety net processes including TradaMoni and its variants. A handful of railway lines are also being commissioned nationwide.
Apart from railways, the ongoing construction work on the second bridge across River Niger is also in progress; just as a significant network of roads is under construction across the country, courtesy of President Buhari’s administration. So by and large, under the watch of Buhari, a reasonable measure of progress has, no doubt, been chalked up with respect to social and physical infrastructure.
But the crux of the matter is that the effect of the much-vaunted accomplishments of the Buhari regime is hardly felt, positively by the masses who are mostly either in untimely graves or in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps and severely poverty-stricken.
So, despite all the activities for which members of the ruling party can thumb their chests and pat themselves on the back for introducing, there has never been more wailing and gnashing of teeth in our country by bloodied and bludgeoned – if not dead – Nigerians as a result of poverty or owing to the nefarious activities of merchants of death, formerly known as religious insurgents, but currently simply known as bandits.
The new nomenclature-bandit with which the nefarious ambassadors holding Nigeria in the jugular is now tagged is derived from the blending of religious rights-related agitators with criminal elements like cattle rustlers and kidnappers who are swelling ranks of the outlaws that have laid a paralyzing siege on our beloved country.
The frightening level of the crisis of insecurity in the polity is so much so that it beats me hollow, how our leaders go to bed and have sound sleep at night, knowing that they would wake up to the news of the killing of another significant number of Nigerians under their watch.
I also marvel at how they find the courage to engage in hedonistic debauchery reflected by the high octane celebratory parties being held by the privileged class across the country at a time that majority of Nigerians are gasping for breath in our country that has literarily become a sort of Intensive Care Unit, ICU, of a war theatre.
With respect to the legislative arm of government, most Nigerians believe the 9th National Assembly, NASS is mere a rubber stamp. And they allege, perhaps justifiably, that the leadership of the hallowed chambers is not doing much to shed that negative toga.
The latest of its litany of disservice to Nigerians including the failure to make bold decisions in the previous reviews of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the recent failure to build on the efforts of its predecessors in bolstering the integrity of our electioneering process by allowing re-transmission of election results from polling units to INEC database.
That is even when the manual or physical transmission of election results has been identified as the weakest link and a critical point of interception by-election riggers that are intent on compromising the process of electing our political leaders.
It is widely acknowledged that it is by merely shifting from manual to the electronic process of transmission of information, that has proven to be the panacea or deterrent to fraud in the private sector and the financial services arena in particular.
Adopting a similar policy and approach in the administration of political party elections could have conferred a significant level of improvement on the integrity of election results in our country.
At least, that was the intendment of the NASS committee charged with the review of the electoral act 2010 who adjudged the electronic transfer of results as an efficacious way of pulling the carpet from the feet of potential election riggers.
Shockingly, by the time the recommendations were put to a vote by the lawmakers in the full glare of Nigerians, legislators, mainly from the majority and the ruling party, who apparently don’t really care about the integrity of elections, thought otherwise; and they killed the initiative by voting that the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, should be subject to the dictates of the NASS and the presidency, particularly with respect to the transmission of election results.
By omission or commission, the clause stipulating deference to the NASS or the presidency for the decision on whether or not election results should be transmitted electronically strips INEC of its independence. In derision of the lawmakers, one wonders why they did not go all the way to change the name of the electoral commission to reflect its new status of being dependent on their whims.
That proposition is underscored by the fact that if the independence of the electioneering agency has been removed, INEC should be renamed National Electoral Commission, NEC, which it would actually become. That is in the event that President Buhari concurs with the legislators and appends his signature to the obnoxious act that may guide the process of selecting the new leadership of our country in 2023.
Now, if one takes a cursory look at the state of the judiciary which is the main subject of this essay, it would be difficult to reconcile it with the fact that it used to be touted as the bastion of democracy and the last hope for the common man.
It is astonishing and stomach-churning that the prevailing justice system has become so weaponized against the critical mass of Nigerians via the subverting of their interests by their weird rulings.
And the gale of conflicting judgments granted for ex-parte applications by courts of the same coordinate jurisdictions that are currently trending is a validation of the reality that our courts may no longer be the hallowed chambers of justice that they used to be. Rather, they are now trading floors for the highest bidder for justice.
In not too distant past, it was not unusual to see political strategists plan for the election campaign of their clients by making financial provisions for the procurement of judgment via bribe to judges, fees to a highly connected Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, members of the security forces and INEC officials as well as thugs.
Often, financial allocations for publicity via newspaper, radio, or television and social media campaigns are minuscule or non-existent in the plans of the campaigns. In making the plans, the masses that are supposed to vote for their preferred candidates are bypassed, with no provision for even ‘stomach infrastructure’ – the terminology used to characterize the usual voters-inducing gifts such as bags of rice, salt, vegetable oil offered to voters as a bribe for their votes.
In the current situation, what politicians used to set aside for the hoi polloi is now being diverted to the courts. Unfortunately, this constitutes double jeopardy for Nigerian masses whose expressed will via ballots is being undermined by the law courts which used to be touted as the last hope of the common man.
The scenario described above is believed to be one of the reasons most Nigerians believe votes don’t count anymore in Nigeria and reflect the voter apathy being recorded in recent elections.
For a Democracy enthusiast and advocate like me, the situation whereby the judiciary via the courts rather than the masses through the ballot boxes, are the determinants of who governs them, presently the norm rather than the exception is not only finger wringing, but also gut-wrenching. And l believe fellow Nigerians with a conscience are equally disturbed if not traumatized by the absurd reality. It is stunning how a seemingly innocuous judicial aberration that started in Kogi and spread to the Imo States in the current dispensation has quickly evolved into a phenomenon.
To conclude this piece, allow me to reproduce an excerpt from an opinion article that l had written and published widely over a year ago on both online and traditional media platforms.
It is titled “How Democracies Die: Nigeria As A Case Study.”
I had argued in that piece that
“The deepest wound inflicted on multiparty democracy that our country has been actively practicing for about 20 years, is the damning vote of no confidence by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the umbrella body of lawyers in our country.
In its end of the year 2018 report, it delivered a scathing verdict on the government in power for abuse of human rights, and disregard for rule of law under the watch of the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.
The umbrella body of lawyers was only affirming the position of most civil society organizations, the 8th National Assembly, NASS, legal luminaries, and the likes.
To be fair, before the advent of APC as the ruling party at the national level in 2015, during the watch of the PDP under President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) some principles of democracy were also denigrated. It was Obasanjo that referred to elections as do or die affair. He acted out the role of an army general in battle in the 2003/7 elections that gave him a second term in 2015 and also aided the election of his successor, late Umar Yar’Adua in 2007.
Being the epitome of justice and equity that he is, after being sworn into office, Yar’Adua acknowledged the perfidy and promised to improve on the jaundiced electoral process and kept the promise by setting up the Justice Lawal Uwais committee to review the process of electioneering in Nigeria. It is upon that solid democratic foundation laid under Yar’Adua’s watch and nurtured during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration that facilitated the sturdiness of a democratic platform robust enough for the emergence of the candidate of the opposition party as the president.
During the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ, he demonstrated his disdain for the rule of law and due process when the federal government revenue allocation to Lagos state was illegally withheld as a consequence of the state government unilaterally creating additional local development authorities. Even if the matter was adjudicated upon in the law courts and the ruling was in favor of the Lagos State government, Obasanjo obstinately disregarded the ruling.
Also, the massacre of civilians in Odi, Bayelsa State, and Zaki Biam in Benue State as reprisal actions against them for allegedly being complicit in the killing of some policemen on security duties in the aforementioned locations are evidence of Obasanjo‘s penchant to fall back on his military instincts as a governance tool.
to be continued…
Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development Strategist, an alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former Commissioner in Delta State government, wrote in from Lagos.