Fellow Nigerians, I don’t know about how you feel but I think our country is on a dangerous slide. Unless a miracle happens or something is deliberately done to arrest the combustive situation, we may be heading for a cataclysmic fall again. I know those who lack a sense of history and those currently profiting from the mess can dismiss this as a storm in a tea pot but it is much more.
The APC ruling government in Nigeria is on war path with itself and seems hell bent on sel-destruction. Ever since the Party sacked the profligate PDP in the year of our Lord 2015, APC has not been able to settle down to govern and strange enough, the party apparatchik has looked on helplessly with arms akimbo. Most of the promises made during the campaigns have not been kept or met. This has led to many thinking the party did not expect to win and power was virtually dumped on them by the rampaging and ravaging PDP, led by President Goodluck Jonathan.
On a personal note, I started feeling the negative vibes early in the life of the government, the reason I scribbled my first desperate memo to Baba, President Muhammadu Buhari. I was pleasantly shocked when I received the call to meet with the new President Buhari from my childhood friend and brother, Femi Adesina, the Presidential spokesman and I honoured the invitation. Based on the discussions we had, I heaved a sigh of relief thinking, perhaps, this was going to be a refreshingly different government under a born again democrat. Hallelujah, I shouted! But as days rolled over days and months climbed over months, the situation began to deteriorate. It took forever for various appointments, including Ministerial appointments, to be made and when they eventually came, there was really no big deal to warrant all the merry-go-round that preceded the announcement. Up till now there are several parastatals and agencies whose boards have not been inaugurated. That is just not tenable to say the least.
Trouble started from the moment the leadership of the National Assembly was being constituted. It was apparent the APC mafia was angered by the emergence of certain elements who outfoxed them. One would have expected them to come together, for the sake of the nation, and pretend that nothing really happened, and move on to fight another day, but alas! It promptly became a roforofo (free for all) fight and we’ve not seen the end of it, nearly two years on. While all this hocus-pocus was going on, our dear beloved country continued to haemorrhage ceaselessly without sympathetic undertakers in sight. APC operatives acted as if they had all the time in the world. And before long, the PDP began to regain its gait and confidence, and even the earlier dethroned Jonathan started smelling like roses and, but for the atrocious war of attrition ravaging his own Party, PDP, his possible return to power would have become a feasible project much to the consternation and dismay of all well meaning Nigerians. Nigerians, in their sorry state of déjà vu, were beginning to wonder what befell them.
Those who had the guts to speak up openly about the disaster waiting to happen were dismissed as wailing wailers thus plagiarising Jonathan’s spin doctors so unabashedly. A government of change began to copy some of the bad habits of its predecessors in tone, banality and even rascality. Some of those we expected to stand up for democratic principles were the same people promoting a potential descent into full blown dictatorship and total disregard for the rule of law for very personal reasons. They forgot that it was the respect for democracy and democratic institutions that got them into power in the first place. Otherwise President Obasanjo and lately President Jonathan could have decided to suborn and demolish those institutions and cling to power. The new leaders were ready to set fire to a whole village in order to catch a few rats, provided those rats were not of the same disposition as them, and, notwithstanding the fact that they are in the same Party. In that process, they have virtually locked the different tiers of government at loggerheads that may eventually destroy our necessary institutions.
Nothing could be more devastating as practically obliterating our judiciary and attracting public odium to that hallowed arbiter of law and justice in the name of sanitisation. The last hope of the common man is the belief that those entrusted with doing justice will do so without fear or favour. But when the Executive damages the judiciary by embarking on a calculated pogrom which smears the reputation of all judges, rather than the few bad eggs as well as effectively cows those remaining, then all such hope is lost. The change in this sector can still be achieved without bringing the whole roof tumbling down.
In a similar vein it is disastrous to dismiss the entire National Assembly as a den of robbers just because some people are angry with a few members or with their staggering and outrageous emoluments. We must never forget that no matter how corrupt we claim they are, Nigerians voted for them in their collective wisdom or stupidity. These legislators are part and parcel of our larger society. They consist of different political parties and persuasion. No Party can wash its hands clean in the controversial stigmatisation going on. I have watched with incredulous dismay the consistent assault launched on the National Assembly designed to bring down a necessary institution that should ordinarily check the excesses of the Executive and wonder what happened to our sense of history. What guarantees, or alternatives, do we have for now that can assure us that the Executive is totally above board and we can afford a one Party and one man rulership? People may complain about mediocrity in the National Assembly but there is similar mediocrity in the Executive. Whilst that of the National Assembly may be managed because of the collective decision-making that must necessarily occur in those hallowed chambers, the same cannot be said of the Executive where one Minister regularly individually takes decision which inevitably downgrades and denigrates our collective existence. Similarly the National Assembly is not solely guilty of benefitting from the stupendous emoluments that has so outraged the Nation. Nobody truly knows how much members of the Executive earn because their perks and allowances are not subject to the same kind of transparency and detailed scrutiny that those of legislators now attract.
No matter how much we ridicule this second tier of government, there is nothing we can do to sack them or replace them with a different parliamentary system without undergoing rigorous and expensive Constitutional readjustment. Those encouraging certain individuals to disregard and ignore an important arm of government may be cutting their noses to spite their faces. What we are playing with is invitation to anachronism and even anarchy. We must endeavour to tolerate each other and avoid the bullish misuse of force against those we hate or detest. There are still ways of sanctioning public officials and there is none other than through the judicial process. And no matter how slow, sluggish and corrupt that may be, so be it. It is sad and saddening seeing well-informed people encouraging the Executive to take on the National Assembly by totally disregarding them. This is reckless and reprehensible. In fact, what I foresee is a situation whereby such people encourage the Executive to unleash physical terror against the National Assembly. This should never be contemplated.
We have great lessons to learn from the new American President, Donald Trump after his bill repealing and replacing OBAMACARE failed to sail through. He simply pulled back. Yet this had been one of the strongest planks of his campaign. Despite being the maverick President that he is, President Trump did not put any further pressure on the legislature, in which his Republican Party holds comfortable majorities, to back him and do his bidding. That is an object lesson in the practice of democracy. What some people want in Nigeria is to eat their cake and still keep it. We cannot want democracy and still romance dictatorship. There is no way for the use of brute force in democracy. The power some people are ascribing to President Buhari can only be possible under the military. No such power exists today and for good reason. Many still complain of how much they allegedly believe President Buhari and Major-General Babatunde Idiagbon abused their powers under military rule when such abuse of power can be termed to be the very nature of military dictatorship.
I’m happy that it seems that the necessity for both arms of government to complement each other is now resonating with our President. He needs to move closer to the National Assembly, especially members of his own Party. By now, he would have seen the futility of fighting on all fronts while Nigerians are suffering and groaning. I was delighted to read that a committee has been set up, headed by the efficacious Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to look into the perennial altercations between the Executive and the Legislature. I pray they find a lasting solution to this intractable debacle. The reality on ground is that if all options to impeach those you don’t want fails, you have no choice than to co-exist systematically.
By far, the most disastrous of all is the attempt to drag the Department of State Security into the mud. This is a formidable arm of our national security and there is no question that they’ve been upgraded over the years to become an elite institution. If we insult them for doing their jobs because we disagree with reports that don’t favour our friends, then Nigeria is doomed. It is easy and very reasonable for anyone who says he has been defamed by DSS to go court. No one should be allowed to destroy a great institution that has been delicately put together. For now, we need them to continue to work effectively and nobody’s personal ambition or animosity should rise above our State Security. We must always remember that nobody is indispensable. Indeed, it will be an insult to our collective intelligence to insist that only one man can do one job for even the President is not indispensable. That is what life teaches us above everything else. Our propensity for self-help when things are not going well for us should never be allowed to become a permanent habit. What I see clearly is that some influential Nigerians must always have their way by fire by force. Nothing seems too sacred to be destroyed.
Enough of these self-immolating wars of attrition.