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The Oracle

President Buhari Cannot Overrule the Supreme Court

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By Prof. Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D, D.Litt.

Buhari in his broadcast on Thursday, February 16, 2023, unilaterally varied the apex court’s extant order of maintenance of status quo, by directing the CBN Governor to the effect that “the old N200 banknotes be released back into circulation…to circulate as legal tender with the new N200, N500 and N1000 bank notes for 60 days…”. The President then issued a dicta, more in the form of a military Decree, that, “in line with section 20 (3) of the CBN Act, 2007, all existing old N1000 and N500 notes remain redeemable at the CBN and designated prints”.

This order is a clear violation of and disobedience to the existing order of the apex court which had already maintained the status quo ante bellum of all parties involved in the Naira re-design dispute.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday, 15th February, 2023, after the first interim order, adjourned the suit originally filed by the Attorneys-General of Kano, Kogi and Zamfara States (other interested parties were later joined) to the 22nd of February, to enable it hear the entire matter holistically. Without saying so in many words, every person very well knew that this adjournment was a further elongation of its earlier interim order granted against the CBN and the Federal Government, represented by the Attorney-General of the Federation; restraining it from carrying out its directives that the old naira notes would cease to be legal tender by 10th of February, 2023. The order was to have lasted till 15th February, 2023. During the proceedings of that day, the matter was again adjourned to 22nd February, for full hearing. Every Nigerian had expected that the Federal Government would respect this apex court’s position. But President Buhari demurred. He made himself Supreme Leader; an Emperor; Potentate, Mikado and Overlord.

Buhari’s broadcast to the Nation therefore, literally overruled the Supreme Court of the land, in a way and manner only a military tyrant could ever contemplate. Buhari’s action is a reminder of the apocryphal saying of autocratic and despotic Emperor Louis XIV, who, on 13th April, 1655, stood in front of Parliament and imperiously declared, “L’Etat C’est Moi (I am the State)”. This was to underline the fact that he and he alone, had absolute power over his Nation. His father had abdicated the throne due to mass protests. Louis XIV himself met the same fate. His reign over France and Navarre was short lived. It only lasted for 20 minutes, after which he too abdicated the throne.
Buhari’s imperious order was a frontal call to chaos, anarchy and national upheaval. It was a direct assault on the authority of the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land; and also the head of the entire Judiciary, the 3rd arm of government under the doctrine of separation of powers, most ably popularized in 1748 by Baron de Montesque, a great French Philosopher.
To have whimsically and capriciously varied the order of the Supreme Court was to pick and choose what order to obey or disobey. This breaches the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution provided for in section 1(1) thereof. It also frontally assaults the provisions of section 287(1) of the Constitution which provides that “the decisions of the Supreme Court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court”.

Once given, an order of the court is binding on all. The Apex Court in ROSSEK V. ACB LTD (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt. 312) 382 at 434 re-stated the law to the effect that: “A judgment remains binding until it is set aside by a competent Court… To hold otherwise is to clothe a party against whom a judgment has been obtained with the discretion to decide, in his wisdom that the judgment is invalid and not binding on him. This to my mind, is an invitation to anarchy. I do not understand the law to be so.” – per Ogundare, JSC.

Also, in STATE v. SOLOMON (2020) LPELR-55598(SC), the Supreme Court held thus: “It is the law that a decision of a Court of competent jurisdiction, no matter that it is seems palpably null and void, unattractive or insupportable, remains good law and uncompromisingly binding until set aside by a superior Court of competent jurisdiction.”

The Supreme Court, in the case of ABACHA V. FAWEHINMI (2000) 6 NWLR (Pt. 660) 228 at page 317 E-F, held as follows:-
“A Court order must be obeyed and even if it is a nullity, it has to be set aside on appeal against it”. Per NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA, JSC (Pp 25 – 25 Paras D – E).
See also the locus classicus of GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE VS. OJUKWU (1986) 1 NWLR PT. 18, PG. 621.

This is one instance where the apex court should bare its teeth and bite. This is more so because President Buhari had himself acknowledged in his speech, the pendency of the matter before the Supreme Court. Surely, no one is above the law; not even President Muhammadu Buhari himself.

Buhari’s broadcast rather than be re-assuring and balming the frayed nerves of a traumatized citizenry and a beleaguered nation, was the exact opposite; a complete anti-climax. It was a clarion call for total disenchantment, disillusionment, despair and desolation. The speech was not only highly unpresidential; but was vividly insensate and insensitive to the suffering of Nigerian citizens, who, due to no fault of theirs, can neither now use the old currency, nor access the new one. Banks claim not to have the new currency in their vaults.

What manner of government would consciously and deliberately throw its country into a spin, and its citizens under the bus, in a policy that could have been handled with better planning and more decency, efficiency and human face? This is the first time in my life I watch Nigerians buy money with money – buying Naira with Naira – at exorbitant exchange rates.

When Queen Elizabeth II died in September, 2022, the British government set about changing its governance template to reflect the realities of the moment. It decided to change the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the British Pound Sterling to that of King Charles III, her son who had succeeded her. The effective take-off date of the new Pound Sterling was fixed for middle of 2024; nearly two years from the announcement of the change. There were no violent protests or any upheavals because the citizens immediately bought into the historic and laudable project, as it afforded them enough time to put their house in order.

How many Nigerians know that Queen’s Counsel (QC)(the equivalent of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has since been changed to King’s Counsel (KC); and that Queen’s English is now King’s English? We have seen the ugly scenes of frustrated Nigerians fighting at ATMs; or going completely nude; students and soldiers fighting each other; some POS holders being burnt alive; while Police shot and killed unarmed Nigerians. Are we a cursed Nation, that an otherwise beautiful policy whose fiscal, monetary, economic, and development advantages are unquantifiable should be so mishandled and so grossly messed up as to lead to widespread national protests; burning of banks; destruction; mayhem and killings. Just what is wrong with us as a Nation? I do not know; or do you?

The Russian Ruble which had been used since the 14th Century is the second-oldest currency in the world, next only to the British Sterling. Following the dissolution and fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Soviet Ruble remained the currency of the Russian Federation until 1992, when in 1993; a new set of coins was issued with a new set of banknotes in the name of the Bank of Russia. There were no killings and mayhem.

Chinese currency comes by two names – the Chinese Yuan (CNY) and the People’s Renminbi (RMB). The distinction is subtle: because while the Renminbi is the official currency of China, the Yuan is the principal unit of account for that currency.

Today, the Renminbi is one of the top-five most-used currencies in the world, in addition to the U.S. Dollar, Euro, Yen, and the British Pound. Yet, the Naira which is not even recognised as a legal tender in any part of the world is being used by the government to oppress and torment its citizens.

The Euro is the new ‘single currency’ of the European Monetary Union. Adopted on January 1, 1999, by 11 Member States. Greece became the 12th Member state to adopt the Euro on January 1, 2001. On January 1, 2002, these 12 countries officially introduced the Euro banknotes and coins as legal tender. Slovenia became the 13th member state to adopt the Euro on January 1, 2007.

Venezuela debuted with a new currency in 2018, a currency that featured six fewer zeros. This was a response to years of spirally inflation.

In December, 2019, eight West African countries agreed to change the name of their common currencies to ECO. This effectively severed these countries from the CFA Franc; and therefore, their former colonial masters. The countries are Benin, Burkina – Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

On January 1, 2023, Croatia joined the Euro Zone, replacing its Kuna with the Euro.
When these independent countries changed from their original currency to the new Euro, there was no ruckus; no brouhaha; no wahala, donnybrook or rhubarb.

Yet, some Nigerians, for political exigencies or correctness, are shamelessly celebrating a bare-faced assault on the common man and woman and the authority of the Supreme Court. This was the same way despotic Hitler of Germany was celebrated, applauded and deified during the third Reich, until it became irredeemably too late to retreat. Read the immortal words of Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984), a German theologian and Lutheran Pastor who bemoaned Hitler’s atrocities and their debilitating effect on millions of Jews.

Though having a cashless economy appears quite inviting, appealing, titillating and tantalizing, it must be appreciated that advanced countries such as the UK, US and the EU that have full complement of infrastructure, still use coins. A cent in the US, or penny in the UK are still valued and in wide circulation. When last did you see one Kobo, five Kobo or ten Kobo coins in Nigeria? I have not seen any for years. Or have you?

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Opinion

The Oracle: Harnessing the Potentials of Nigerian Intellectuals with Disability… (Pt. 2)

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…For Positive Contributions to the Government

By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

We commenced our discussion on this treatise with some definitional terms. Followed by challenges which I believe stand in the path of disabled persons and their potentials. We rounded up with a look at certain initiatives designed to close the gap of disability. Today, we shall continue and conclude same while looking at some proposals on how persons with disability can add value to the society. Read on.

CLOSING THE GAP OF DISABILITY (continues)

According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Disability Report, about 15 percent of Nigeria’s population, or at least 25 million people, have a disability. Many of them face a number of human rights abuses including stigma, discrimination, violence, and lack of access to healthcare, housing, and education.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 and entered into force in 2008, signalled a ‘paradigm shift’ from traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approaches to disability to one based on human rights. It offers sufficient standards of protection for the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of persons with disabilities on the basis of inclusion, equality and non-discrimination. It makes clear that persons with disabilities are entitled to live independently in their communities, to make their own choices and to play an active role in society. (Office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner: Human rights of persons with disabilities http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/DisabilityIndex.aspx).

Nigeria has since signed the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability on 30th March, 2007, but has not yet domesticated it by enacting a law on it. The Persons with Disabilities Bill that has since suffered series of legislative hiatus before the National Assembly. It is to be “An Act to Ensure Full Integration of Persons with Disabilities into the Society and to Establish a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and Vest it with the Responsibilities for their Education, Health Care and the Protection of their Social, Economic, Civil Rights.” Paul Uwadimma, in his write-up about former President Jonathan Leaving Presidency Without Signing Disabilities Bill, wrote in the Leadership Newspaper of 15th May, 2015, where he stated as follows:
“Under the Bill, Section 1 is expected to outlaw discrimination on grounds of disability and this is in conformity with an important principle (non-discrimination) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as contained in articles 3 (b) and 5 of the UN Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities (UNCRPD), which Nigeria signed and ratified the convention and its optional protocol. There is no denying the fact that persons with disabilities suffer from discrimination on a daily basis whether in employment, education, transportation, communication, information, health, housing and even social interaction where persons with disabilities are denied marriage to their loved ones because they are disabled. Most often, the person with disability is rejected on grounds of disability even though he or she merits employment; and while in employment he or she is always the last to be considered for promotion even though he or she commenced work the same time with his able-bodied counterparts. This is a travesty of justice. Persons with disabilities are denied access into several places on the ground of disability, e.g., banks and rented apartments, among others. Part three of the bill addressed one of the major problems faced by the disabled in their daily activities, which is lack of access to public places. As such, sections 3, 4 and 5 deal with the issue of accessibility to physical structures such as public premises and permission for use of accessibility aids in public buildings and the need for accessibility on roads and sidewalks. The Nigerian Constitution provides for freedom of movement, yet persons with disabilities are denied this right as a result of the hazards on our roads and sidewalks. (UNCRPD, Article 9.) Section 7 will ensure adherence to the building code where buildings are made usable and accessible to persons with disabilities, especially wheel chair users. In addition, section 12 will grant persons with disabilities, who are in vehicles, easy access to parking spaces which will be reserved for their sole use as is the case in developed countries. Parts V and VI also attest to the need for accessibility in the use of sea ports, railways and air transportation. A great deal of discrimination is suffered today by persons with disabilities wishing to make use of air transportation. In keeping with international norms and standards, the bill will enable persons with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect in air, road and sea transportation. Part VII addresses the issue of special queues and situations of emergencies for people with disabilities. In queues, especially unruly ones, persons with disabilities are usually shoved aside and in cases of risk and emergencies, it is well-known that the person with disability is always the last to be considered, since as a matter of fact, disability issues today in Nigeria are always regarded as an afterthought. (UNCRPD, Article 11). Part VIII deals with the vexed issue of the abuse of the liberty of the person with disability, where able-bodied people have taken it upon themselves to use people with disabilities as fodder for fund raising in the most ignoble ways possible. (UNCRPD, Article 14). In keeping with Article 24 of the UNCRPD, the bill recognises the need for inclusive education for persons with disabilities in Nigeria and more importantly ensures that persons with disabilities will not be unduly discriminated against in the provision of education due to the lack of appropriate equipment, while section 27 addresses the communicational needs of persons with disabilities using health facilities, especially the deaf wherein sign language interpreters will be introduced at all such health facilities. Finally, sections 28 (work and employment) and 31 (participation in politics) address the need for gainful employment for people with disabilities and the need for them to participate actively in political and public life. These are in keeping with Articles 27 on work and employment and 29 on participation in political and public life of the UNCRPD.”

This bill was passed, but not assented to, under the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It came before President Jonathan for the second time and he also did not assent to it before leaving office. Persons with disabilities have employed various tactics to actualise the assent to this bill. They have lobbied, demonstrated and even litigated on it to no avail. (See Joseph Onyekwere, Persons with disabilities bill and the burden of presidential assent. Published by Gaurdian Newspaper of March 9, 2015).

Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010. Since then, civil society groups and people with disabilities have called on the government to put it into practice. In 2011 and 2015, the National Assembly passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2009, but former President Goodluck Jonathan declined to sign it into law. The bill for the new law was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate joint committee in November 2016, but was not sent to Buhari for his signature until December 2018.

Consequently, On January, 23, 2019, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, was signed into law by Muhammadu Buhari. This was done after 9 years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it. It also stipulates a five-year transitional period for modifying public buildings, structures, and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities.

The law will also establish a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to housing, education, and healthcare. The Commission will be empowered to receive complaints of rights violations and support victims to seek legal redress amongst other duties.

The enactment of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act is only a first step in the fulfillment of Nigeria’s obligations under the CRPD. Authorities should now put effective measures in place for its full implementation to ensure equal treatment and participation of people with disabilities across Nigeria.

HOW PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES CAN CONTRIBUTE THEIR QUOTA

Persons with disabilities of Nigerian ancestry and decent, both home and abroad, can indeed, contribute their quota to the current government through the following:
1. Championing Legislations: Persons with disabilities can be at the fore-front of influencing governmental policies through sponsoring of bills in the National and States Houses of Assemblies to make laws for the protection of persons with disabilities. Since Nigeria has already signed the Treaty on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, (See the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: List of Signatory States and Regional Integration Organizations. Available at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/conventionsign.htm), the Persons with disabilities can influence an Act of the National Assembly ratifying same in accordance with Section 12 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

2. Make proposal to the Federal Government on the need to extend the wind of the doctrine of change to persons with disabilities so as to secure concessions from all arms of governments and all tiers of government on the need to reserve a quota –say 10 % of executive and judicial positions- strictly to qualified intellectuals with disabilities.

3. Promoting public awareness of the need to see persons with disabilities as equals and thereby effectively eliminate discriminations

4. Influencing political parties to reserve a particular number of elective political positions (especially legislative positions) exclusively for qualified persons with disabilities.

5. Directing and investing the intellectual prowess of disabled tertiary intellectual Dons towards general public education geared towards influencing change in societal perception of persons with disabilities and moulding government decisions towards positive policy changes regarding persons with disabilities.

CONCLUSION

Persons with disabilities constitute an integrate part of our society. They should be optimally involved in all facets of development.

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Opinion

The Oracle: Harnessing the Potentials of Nigerian Intellectuals with Disability…(Pt.1)

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…for Positive Contributions to the Government

By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

There is no doubt that persons with disabilities have often been disadvantaged and have suffered some forms of discrimination at one time, or the other, in the society. Some of the movers and shakers of this world, were disabled intellectuals who made contributions of gargantuan proportion to the advancement of civilisation and yet, have been relegated to the background as if being disabled equates to lack of potentials. In this paper, we shall briefly discuss ways to harness the potentials of persons with disability both at home and abroad for purposes of national development. Before then, it is apposite to examine the meaning of disability.

DEFINITIONAL TERMS

According to Wikipedia, Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime. “Disabilities” is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions (World Health Organisation: Disabilities. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/ Accessed 15/12/15). Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus, disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Individuals may also qualify as disabled if they have had an impairment in the past or are seen as disabled based on a personal or group standard or norm. Such impairments may include physical, sensory, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Mental disorders (also known as psychiatric or psychosocial disability) and various types of chronic disease may also qualify as disabilities (DisabledWorld. Disability: Benefits, Facts & Resources for Persons with Disabilities. Available at: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/ Accessed 15/12/15).

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), one out of every seven people in the world—or some 1 billion people—has a disability. Between 785 and 975 million of them are estimated to be of working age, but most do not work. While many are successfully employed and fully integrated into society, as a group, persons with disabilities often face disproportionate poverty and unemployment (ILO, Inclusion of persons with disabilities. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/skills/areas/inclusion-of-persons-with-disabilities/lang–en/index.htm Accessed 15/12/15). Acknowledging the fact that persons with disabilities are imbued with vast and sometimes untapped) potentials, the World health Organisation made the appeal that governments should step up efforts to enable access to mainstream services and to invest in specialized programmes to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities. (World Health Organisation: New world report shows more than 1 billion people with disabilities face substantial barriers in their daily lives. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2011/disabilities_20110609/en/).
In order to effectively discuss the potentials of disabled intellectuals to nation-building, let us consider the barriers and obstacles which the society has advertently or inadvertently, erected on the paths of disabled persons.

BARRIERS ERECTED ON THE PATH OF DISABLED PERSONS

Societal stereotyping of persons with disabilities is the most egregious barrier suffered daily by disabled persons. They are made the scum of the earth, rejected, overlooked, dejected and relegated by the society of which they are part of. Because of such prevailing societal mindset, it is more difficult to get employed, have a carrier, get married, or even get loved as a person with disability.

Denial of access to equal opportunity, integration and self-representation through the lack of appropriate resources which is the result of bad and uninformed planning. This is also as a result of non-communication – verbal and non-verbal-as well as written, e.g. no effort is made to communicate with people who are blind, or whose hearing or speech is impaired or is severely disabled.

The lack of accessible public transport is perhaps, one highly discriminating barrier persons with disabilities daily confront. Without this resource, they are forced to see the world from their windows or in more fortunate cases, their street. They are restricted, relegated and handicapped in movement. The majority of people with disabilities cannot afford their own transport due to the inadequate social securities and the lack of employment opportunities.

The lack of physical access to the built environment is another hurdle a physically challenged person has to surmount. The way houses, institutions and offices are built with no provision or considerations for disabled persons are alarming. How will disabled persons gain equal opportunity, realize integration and attain self-representation if they cannot get into educational and other institutions, libraries, places of recreation, churches, mosques, malls, in fact most places?

POTENTIALS OF PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES

People with disabilities have the skills to pursue meaningful careers and play an important role in any country’s educational and economic success. In fact, experience with disability can offer a competitive edge when it comes to work or nation building. Richard Okoro Eweka, properly captured the great potentials of person with disabilities when he wrote thus:
“Despite the cruelty fate has brought their way, people living with disabilities have proven over the years that there is ability in every disability. They are not saying it to keep faith alive or for us to read to be motivated, but have been able to show it in different ways that they can achieve and attain any desired goal in life that they set for themselves irrespective of the state of deformity. They all have several evidence to show for their determination to succeed and have attained greater height than those without disabilities. The evidence of their successes have further convinced us that they are gifted people just like every other able- bodied men and women around. They have shown the world that disability in any form is an open invitation to take the world by surprise and that they are not made to beg. Some physically challenged persons in our society have come out stronger than the able people in their chosen career. Some have become entrepreneurs and employers of labour despite their disabilities. Some others have become preachers of the word of God, given hope to the hopeless in the society and the world at large. Some others have found strength in singing to lift the soul of those that have lost hope in themselves or those who are distressed with the challenges of life”. (Richard Okoro Eweka, ‘Harnessing the Ability in Disability’. The Nigerian Observer of 3rd July, 2014).

The protection guaranteed in Human rights treaties, and grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should apply to all. Persons with disabilities have, however, remained largely ‘invisible’, often side-lined in the rights debate and unable to enjoy the full range of human rights.

CLOSING THE GAP OF DISABILITY

In recent years, there has been a revolutionary change in approach, globally, to close the protection gap and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same standards of equality, rights and dignity as everyone else. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2006 and entered into force in 2008, signalled a ‘paradigm shift’ from traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approaches to disability to one based on human rights. Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said, “The celebration of diversity and the empowerment of the individual are essential human rights messages. The Convention embodies and clearly conveys these messages by envisaging a fully active role in society for person with disabilities.” (Statement by Ms. Louise Arbour UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of the 8th Session of the Human Rights Council – Celebration of the entry into force of the Convention on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol – See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=8366&LangID=E#sthash.4m9d82aN.dpuf).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Recognizing and respecting differences in others, and treating everyone like you want them to treat you, will help make our world a better place for everyone”. (Kim Peek).

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Opinion

The Oracle: Nigeria Nation, the Past, Present and Future (Pt. 2)

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By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

The first part of this treatise was a historical survey consisting of several segments: starting from Lord Lugard’s rule to Nigeria’s first prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the first Coup D’ etat (Ironsi and Gowon); the civil war; from Gowoin to Murtala Muhammed; from Obasanjo to Shagari; the Buhari Era,; the Babangida regime; from Shonekan to Abacha; the M.K.O Abiola Declaration and finally the Abdulsalam Abubakar regime. In today’s instalment, we shall continue with a review of the Abdulsalam regime to Obasanjo’s regime, after which we shall peep into the future of the Nigerian nation and discuss the proposals for constitutional amendment. Read on.

FROM ABDULSALAM ABUBAKAR TO OBASANJO

Abdusalam organized and conducted an election in 1999 where political parties contested. The parties included the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD), and All Peoples Party (APP). Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as the winner of the presidential election under the umbrella of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The result of the gubernatorial election showed that AD won all the six states in the South West geopolitical zone, while All Peoples Party won nine states and the Peoples Democratic Party won the remaining states. Obasanjo was sworn in on May 29, 1999 as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Those who knew his earlier military style of leadership were not expecting so much from his regime. While others thought that because of the mental torture he underwent during Abacha’s regime, coupled with his harrowing and awful prison experience, he will perform well. Little did Nigerians know that the man at the helm of affairs was going to be a vindictive man. Little did Nigerians know that the man who claims to be a “Born Again Christian” will have no regard for fundamental human rights and little did Nigerians know that what Obasanjo would operate “rule of might” and not “rule of law”. Little did Nigerians know that incessant increment of petroleum prizes shall be the order of the day. Just barely a year of Obasanjo’s administration, precisely on June 1 2000, Chief Obasanjo increased pump price from N20:00 to N30:00 per litre. Obasanjo’s attitude towards fighting corruption can best be described as cosmetic. He sent a bill to the National Assembly sometimes in 2001 for the establishment of that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which was formally signed into law in 2002. The object of the Agency is to fight corruption, but Nigerians soon realized under Obasanjo’s regime that rather than using EFCC to fight corruption, it was used principally to fight opponents. Whoever was perceived as against the Obasanjo Government became easy target for the EFCC. Chief Olabode George who today is being prosecuted for corruption charges by the EFCC was once given a clean Bill of Health by the same EFCC under its former boss, Obasanjo.

Obasanjo sometimes in 2001, set up the truth and reconciliation Commission headed by Hon. Justice Chukwudufi Oputa. Up till date, neither the report nor the recommendations of the Commission are known. To buttress the point that his ant- corruption crusade was cosmetic, selective and pselldo, Obasanjo fought effortlessly to recover some of Abacha’s loot, but nothing was done to the people who looted Nigerian treasury and are still alive. In fact, Chief Gani Fawehinmi is his book titled “Petrol Price Increases In Nigeria: The Truth You Must Know” succinctly put it as thus:
“A new twist has been added to the shame of corruption in Nigeria. Under Obasanjo’s government those who are opposed to him, i.e the Abacha are made to refund part of the loot but none of them has been charged to court for corruption under the criminal code or panel code. Neither the short nor the long arm of the law has ever touched those who supported the Obasanjo regime to come to power. They kept their loot, which they now use to attempt to destabilize the nation. When some of us asked Mr. President to go after them, he retorted that we should provide evidence even when a blind man could see it and deaf man could hear the sound of the fraud”.

Gani posited further that: “When Mr. President rightly deployed all the security agencies to find out where the loots of Abacha were kept, he refused to deploy the same agencies to find out where the loot of the Babangida and his collaborators were kept. Obasanjo has added a twist that: “If you support me your loots are protected, but if you are opposed to me, your loots will be exposed and even when they are exposed you peel off a part of the loot and you go scot-free”.

Under Obasanjo’s regime, rule of law was totally kept in abeyance. He flagrantly disobeyed court orders at will, including orders made by the apex court of the land, the Supreme Court. Even in the case instituted by the Lagos State Government over the creation of Local Governments, the Supreme Court ruled that the Local Government creation was inchoate, but that the Federal Government should release the local government fund of Lagos State, the judgment Federal government did not obey throughout Obasanjo’s regime. Obasanjo believe that he knows better than the entire Nigerians. He does not accept somebody’s view because he believes he has a better view. Obasanjo continued his open hatred for the Abiola’s family including M.K.O himself, even when the National Assembly passed a resolution that the National Stadium in Abuja be named after M.K.O Abiola, he never complied with the said resolution neither did he in anyway immortalize Abiola. Obasanjo never at any time of his administration acknowledged that he rides on the horse of M.K.O Abiola. If not for the death of M.K.O Abiola, the Northerners would not have conceded the presidency to the South West and how would have Obasanjo emerged? Anybody who dare opposed him automatically becomes his enemy. This is evident in how he controls the Peoples Democratic Party leadership at will. During his 8 years tenure. PDP had four different chairmen which included, Solomon Lar, Banabas Gimade, Aidu Ogbe and Ahmadu Alli. Nigerians agitated that Obasanjo should convoke a Sovereign National Conference where the problems of Nigeria will be discussed and solutions will possibly be preferred, instead of Sovereign National Conference he set up National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) whose delegates were handpicked by the same government. Neither the report nor the recommendation of the conference saw the light of the day under Obasanjo’s regime. Which means that millions of tax payers money that was expended on the conference is nothing but a waste. The same way Obasanjo administration wasted billions of Dollars on power project which never transcended into stability of electricity. Obasanjo’s regime, Nigerians could not boast of any tangible or meaningful achievement. No water, electricity was in comatose, joblessness was the order of the day among graduates, security situation degenerated as the rate of armed robbery and assassination went on unabated. Till date, the killer of the Attorney General of the Federal Chief Bola Ige are today walking freely the street of Nigeria. Nigeria is still rated one of the most corrupt countries by Transparency International inspite his kangaroo anti corruption crusade. The Climax of the Obasanjo’s Administration is the so called tenure elongation. Though Obasanjo had come out openly to say that he did not seek for third term. But the question on the lips of Nigerians is that if Obasanjo did not sponsor those who people to campaign for third term for him, why then did Obasanjo not stop those people who were campaigning for him? Why did he have to wait till the third term has been aborted before he came out openly to deny sponsoring it? Till now allegation still ranges that so much money was expended on the third term saga. We therefore call on EFCC to investigate properly the veracity or otherwise of these allegations. We also renew the agitation of Nigerian that the Obasanjo administration be probed.

Nigerians heaved a sign of relief when the third term was finally aborted. Nigerians thought that their next leader will pass through a transparent election process, little did they know that a man that was imposed on Nigerian for eight years will also bless and impose his own political God son on Nigerians. When Governor Ayodele Fayose the former Governor of Ekiti State was asked to screen nominees of PDP for the presidential race, Musa Yaradua was not one of those persons who went for the screening exercise. Little did Nigerian know that Baba set up the screening committee to direct peoples attention. Musa Yaradua came out as Kastina State Governor and contested for the presidential primaries. He emerged the winner after so many people have been told to step down for him. Musa Yaradua emerged as the winner of the April Presidential Election amidst critism of observers both within and outside Nigeria, who widely condemned the election as not free and fair. But the INEC Chairman Prof. Marice Iwu said that contrary to the opinion of the international observer, the election is free and fair. Well, since the result of the election is now a subject of litigation before the Supreme Court, we shall dabble into it.

Some people have described the Yaradua administration as too slow in responding to the economic crisis of the country. Nothing and indeed nothing has charged. No pipe borne water, light situation has not improved, employment is still at its lowest ebb, security is nothing to write home about. The rule of law policy of the Federal Government has not been fully tested. Just few weeks ago, Channels Television in Lagos was short down by security operative, on the basis that, it allegedly reported that the president has purportedly resigned his position as the president due to his poor state of health. This act is barbaric and is an unbecoming of a government who claims that it upholds the rule of law. A law abiding government would rather go to court and challenge any act that is perceived illegal or unlawful instead of resorting to using security agents to unleash terror on its citizens and corporate establishment.

THE FUTURE

The point must be clearly made that Nigeria future depends on the policies of its today leaders. A country can only be guaranteed of a better future if the today’s leaders have a good vision which can transcend meaningfully into a better tomorrow. Nigerians ran to America and Europe today because they have leaders who rule with a purposeful vision.

Firstly, the syndrome of “winners take all” must be changed. To guarantee a better tomorrow, our political attitude must change. There must be a paradigm shift starting from the INEC Chairman to INEC Commissioners. There must be a complete overhaul of our electoral system such that electorates can express their wishes through the ballot box. A situation where the INEC Chairman said in a recent interview that “America has a lot to learn from Nigeria” it’s appalling and must be condemned by all well meaning Nigerians.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

There is no gainsaying the fact that the 1999 Constitution does not reflect true federalism and the wishes of the Nigeria people, simply because it was an imposition of the Military Junta.

Therefore, the 1999 constitution must be amended. Nigerians must have inputs in the amendments process. I must also say that there is no perfect constitution anywhere in the world. Even the constitution of the United State of America is not perfect. The operators of the constitution are the ones who give effect to the tenets of the constitution. The members of the National Assembly are hereby warned to desist from mischief making and personal interest, to avoid a repetition of the third term saga.

Giving the quality of brilliant people we have in this country, Nigeria has the potential of being one of the most economic viable country in the world. However, will such people be allowed to get to the position of leadership? Not until our political orientation changes, not until our vote begin to count, not until our leaders have the interest of the masses, not until corruption is reduced to the bearest minimum, the manifestation of all these will guarantee a better future. (The End).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“There is beauty and power in unity. We must be united in heart and mind. One world, one people”. (Lailah Gifty Akita).

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