By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Few weeks back, the media savvy governor of Ekiti State Mr. Peter Ayo Fayose inaugurated his campaign for the highest political office in the land in the election that has already been scheduled by the electoral panel for the year 2019.
Hardly had he ended his press briefing on this thematic political issue before the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) warned him to stop the campaign.
INEC was of the opinion that it was too early in the electoral calendar for political campaign which would herald the Presidential election that is about two years away.
But since that colorful declaration of intent of Mr. Fayose of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many other political interest groups have heightened their open campaigns for one candidate or the other.
Those who have sprang up to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to re-contest for a second term did not even listened to the warning on early campaigns as issued by the INEC seen as being excessively pro-All Progressives Congress – the party that produced President Buhari in 2015.
Then on Wednesday November 29th 2017 in faraway Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire during the Summit of African Union and European Union, President Buhari gave his notice that he will indeed seek for reelection come 2019.
Buhari’s subtle declaration is yet to elicit any warning from INEC which jumped up very rapidly to warn the opposition politician Mr. Ayo Fayose to stop his presidential campaign.
Buhari’s declaration also followed the impactful departure from the All Progressive Congress of his Kinsman Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who was once a Vice President of Nigeria for eight years between 1999/2003.
Atiku’s departure from APC was anchored on what he alleged was the lack of internal democracy within the newly formed All Progressives Congress which came into political reckoning when the then incumbent president Dr. Goodluck Jonathan gave Nigeria the good luck of ceding power to an opposition party after a highly contested election in 2015.
The All Progressives Congress is an amalgamation of several parties including Buhari’s CPC; Bola Tinubu’s ACN and a remnant of All Progressives Grand Alliance from Imo State that emptied themselves into the newly formed alliance in obedience to the poorly performing governor Rochas Okorocha.
The APC was also able to wrestle power because of the overwhelming financial contributions of some disaffected governors of the then ruling political party-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some of their Senators including the current Senate President – Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The erstwhile Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is said to be on his way back into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the party that made him Vice President for eight years.
But certain political principalities are already critical of the move by Atiku to dump the APC to find his way back to his former party homestead.
Most of those who threw these punches at the direction of Atiku Abubakar are known to be paid supporters of President Buhari who himself had on two occasions switched allegiance from All peoples parties to set up his CPC and then the All Progressives Congress that resulted from the political amalgamation of some individuals who were bent on displacing Dr. Jonathan from office in 2015.
But come to think of it, which amongst most politicians in Nigeria has ideological discipline to stay in one political party in and out of power?
The total truth is that even from 1999 when there were only fewer political parties, almost all of these parties lacked unique identity and ideological leanings that would fundamentally make them uniquely different from each other.
At that time, one of the biggest political thinkers chief Bola Ige of blessed memory described the existing political parties as five leprous fingers of one hand.
The philosophical epithet written about these earliest political parties by the late chief Bola Ige, a senior Advocate of Nigeria, was because he participated in the authorship of the so-called manifestoes of all the political parties. Bola Ige exited his party known as Alliance for Democracy to join his kinsman Obasanjo to form the PDP-led Federal Government. He was murdered in Ibadan as a serving Federal Attorney General.
Also from 1999 till date, one distinguishing characteristic of politicians is the capacity to switch allegiance at the speed of lightening just so that the selfish interest of seeking for power by all means is achieved.
Politicians in Nigeria are known to hold fast to the shallow, untenable and ethically deficient saying that in politics there is no permanent friends but permanent interest.
I therefore beg to differ from these political band-wagonists of our time who pay more attention to individuals than on ideologies.
I hereby declare that I am neither for Atiku Abubakar nor for Muhammadu Buhari but for a true Nigerian nation state governed with the fear of God and strict adherence to democratic principles and constitutionalism.
I hereby repeat what is written in first Corinthians, Chapter three, verse four as follows: “some of you are saying “I am a follower of Paul, others are saying I follow Appolos, or I follow Peter, or I follow only Christ Jesus.”
In obedience to the critical thinking of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher who said that “I think, therefore I exist,” I will say that Nigerians should think only of how to make Nigeria a peaceful home for all citizens whereby all citizens are equal partners.
In making our choice and decisions, for who is best suited to steer the ship of Nigerian state in 2019, we must look beyond the fantasies of thinking that the solution to our numerous problems lies squarely with either the two old men called Atiku or Buhari.
Far from it!
Let me state that the reasons for believing that neither Atiku nor Buhari holds the magic wand to our problem is because the clear inability of the duo to concretely address the Nigerian situation when each one of them was and is opportune to hold political offices. In fact, each one of them are sources of much of these developmental challenges confronting us.
I begin with Atiku Abubakar who as the then Vice President was allowed by his political principal Chief Obasanjo to oversee the economy for a brief period before both of them started internal warfare to wrestle political power.
It remains a huge fact that poverty, unemployment, insecurity and above all, corruption were the major developmental challenges that were not sufficiently tackled.
Rather, what happened was that members of the political class embarked on a buying spree of publicly built assets in the guise of the spurious privatization exercise. NITEL and NICON Hilton were sold to politicians and Nigerians were shortchanged. Many other strategic national assets were sold out to this political clique.
Both the then President Obasanjo and his vice were fingered in the repossession of several strategic national assets sold at giveaway asking prices and ever since their departure from offices they live like kings.
Volker Treichel, a lead Economist with the World Bank summed up the unemployment situation in Nigeria as follows: “shift of employment into family agriculture. Growth of employment in the agricultural sector is consistent with the absence of improvements in agricultural productivity; strong agricultural performance reflected primarily the rise in the prices of agricultural commodities; share of people outside the labor force and outside training has remained constant, and for the youngest age bracket rising – rising youth unemployment.
This expert also informed us that; urban informal sector not adding much labor; creation of contractual wage jobs in the rapidly growing sections of the economy was unable to compensate for the loss of wage jobs in the public sector, parastatals and ministries, leading to a decline in wage employment.
Fast forward to the Buhari –led dispensation and what is notoriously known is that in the last two years and more, unemployment has skyrocketed even as the bad economic situation nosedived to a state of recession which lasted for over a year and even when the political statisticians told us that we have exited economic recession, millions of jobless Nigerians have no jobs coupled with the rapid breakdown of law and order occasioning social and organized violence.
Thousands of Nigerians whose lives are threatened by a range of forces including freelance armed killers like armed Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram terrorists and kidnappers have decided to take risk by attempting irregular migration through Libya.
These mass exoduses have led most Nigerians to be trapped by the armed Libya gangs who are now auctioning those compatriots as slaves.
In the last two years, there have been several cases of extralegal killings by soldiers and police and there are the extremely high levels of intolerance of dissenting opinions. There is a climate of lack of respect for the orders of competent courts of law. In the concluding part of this piece we will read what the Chief Justice of Nigeria has to say.
But again, may we be reminded that President Buhari returned from nearly four months medical vacation in the United Kingdom and ordered military clampdown of unarmed members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which followed the reported agitations by this group for self-determination.
The current government employed the backdoor rule to declare the pro-self-determination platform as a terror group.
This same government has done nothing to stop the incessant violent attacks of farmlands by armed Fulani herdsmen who are kinsmen of the President.
The aggressive attacks of dissenting voices are antithetical to democracy and constitutionalism.
Robert S. Peck, a graduate fellow at Yale Law School has written as follows: “Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom,” Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo wrote in 1937. Free speech has long been accepted in the United States as a fundamental right, but it did not originate with Constitution.”
Since Nigeria’s Presidential system is patterned after the American system, it is therefore inexplicable why opponents of the federal government are bombarded and attacked. Then the worst case scenario is the lack of respect for duly issued verdicts of the Court in compliance with section 6 of the Constitution of Nigeria.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, recently, publicly attacked President Muhammadu Buhari to his face accusing him of running a government that that has a gross disregard for the judiciary and the rule of law.
Justice Onnoghen, who spoke at the opening session of the 2017 All Nigeria Judges’ conference, said there was urgent need for the President and his Executive arm of government to learn to obey court judgments and orders.
The CJN while addressing President Buhari directly maintained that obedience to court orders ought to be considered by other arms of government, especially the Executive, “as a strong motivation for the fight against corruption and the entrenchment of the Rule of Law in our country”.
Justice Onnoghen said Nigeria should learn from countries like Kenya and the United States where he said there is “Rule of Law in practice”, with their Presidents and government agencies, respecting court decisions that are against the interest of the government in power.
The CJN further demanded total independence of the judiciary from any form of external pressure from other arms of government in the discharge of its duties.
He said: “Closely linked to the independence of the Judiciary is the need for governments and institutions to obey court orders and judgments.
“Today, Nigerians easily refer to the recent Supreme Court judgment in Kenya and some Court Orders in the United States of America and conclude that the judiciaries in those countries are doing better than ours.
“They, however, forget to mention that President Uhuru Kenyatta promptly accepted the judgment annulling his victory in the August 8, 2017 Presidential election and agreed to a re-run against his opponent.
“In similar fashion, the United States Department of Immigration did not wait for a presidential directive to allow immigrants from seven Muslim countries continued access to the US as soon as a court struck down President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning citizens of these countries from entering America.
“That is the Rule of Law in practice and I urge the other arms of government, especially the Executive, to consider the obedience of court judgments and orders as a strong motivation for the fight against corruption and the entrenchment of the Rule of Law in our country”.
Observers said that It would be recalled that the President Buhari-led government had since refused to obey some court directives, including orders that granted bail to the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, as well a judgment that ordered immediate release of detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife.
Recall also that the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, had on May 29 when the country marked its democracy day, also scored President Buhari’s administration low on respect of the rule of law, saying it was “appalled at the continued detention of certain individuals in blatant disobedience to court orders”.
Therefore, any great lover of Nigeria should reject Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari and opt for a younger progressively minded patriotic Nigerian who is incorruptible and empower such a statesman to steer our ship of state out of our current situation of dysfunctionality and autopilot stage.