Dancing towards the brink
These are not the best times for our dear country and its citizens. The long simmering face-off between the presidency and the national assembly reached the boiling point this week. It would be naïve, foolish even, to dismiss the national assembly resolutions passed on to President Muhammadu Buhari on June 5, as no more serious than a storm in a broken tea cup.
Well, it might indeed be just that. Mutual antagonism and posturing are familiar games in the political kingdom. Still, we do not need this. It heats up the polity and subjects it to unnecessary stress. However it ends, there would be a political price to pay as the country renegotiates its way back to normality.
No one need be told that things are rapidly falling apart. The honourable members chose their points carefully in a way that they would resonate with fellow Nigerians. They hinged their 12-point resolutions on Buhari’s “systematic harassment of humiliation of perceived political opponents.” They want, among other things, “strict adherence to the rule of law; sincerity in the fight against corruption by not being selective; the security agencies must be given a marching order to curtail the killings of Nigerians; (and that) the president must take immediate steps to curtail the growing rate of unemployment.”
They know that these and other points in the resolutions are widely and loudly whispered down the length and breadth of the country. The national assembly appears to have taken its case to the Nigerian public. It has threatened to invoke its powers if Buhari does not comply with the resolutions. The threat of impeachment thus hangs in the air. This is not a trifling matter. The threat might dissolve in the usual give-and-take of politics but that it should arise at all at this time points to how badly the face-off has deteriorated.
Taken together, it seems to me that the resolutions boil down to one fundamental demand on the president: change your style of governance. Democracy is said to be participatory because it is an inclusive government. Under our form of government, the three arms, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, must work in harmony for the nation and its people to reap the benefits of the government of the people. The executive is only the first among equals. It cannot afford to treat the other two arms shabbily or with contempt without doing some damage to the principles and the best practices in democratic governance.
We must persuade the two parties to go softly, softly. They must urgently stop what appears to me like a heady dance towards the brink. We must not let this house tremble or, perish the thought, fall. I find it particularly worrisome because this new development comes on the heels of some disquieting crises rocking the nation. We cannot pretend that all is well when all is not, clearly, well.
Take the political parties. We go to the polls in less than one year from now to either return the incumbents in the executive and the legislative branches of government to power or replace them with new faces. I do not think the disorganised parties give us much hope in a smooth conduct of the general elections. None of the parties, 68 or so of them, is fully in control of its affairs. They are all so riven with crises that even the ruling party, APC, appears to be swaying in the wind.
The political parties, being the engines of democracy and governance, good or bad, must get their acts together and raise our hope in their capacity to lead rather than drag us through the mud in the name of election victories.
Take the irony of power. A few weeks ago, the Senate invited the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, to appear before it to throw light on some issues that had attracted the attention of the honourable members. He refused to honour the invitation. The Senate felt insulted, and rightly so, and resolved that in view of his behaviour and disrespect, he was “unfit to hold position in and outside Nigeria and an enemy of democracy.”
A heavy indictment. Kpotum, as indeed, one would expect, did not find it funny. It pitted him against the Senate leadership. In what looks like a revenge mission, he exceeded himself this week when he ordered the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to report to the force headquarters within 48 hours to respond to allegations made against him by the robbers who raided a bank in Offa, Kwara State, a few weeks. They claim to be thugs working for Saraki and the Kwara State governor.
The last time I checked, Nigeria was not a police state. Sure the IGP has his powers but ordering the number three citizen of this country to report to him within 48 was clearly a misguided misuse of that power. He has his problems with Saraki just as Saraki has his problems with Buhari. But none of that excuses his order, since modified. This is not about Saraki nor is it about arguing that no one is above the law. Of course, we know that some people, by virtue of their birth or faith or wealth or position are above the law. But that is beside the point. If Kpotum can do it to Saraki, what stops him from doing it to the president when the fancy catches him?
We must see his order as a more serious problem afflicting the polity but as part of the problems between the national assembly and the presidency, hence as part of the resolutions under reference, the law makers demanded that “the harassment and humiliation of lawmakers by the executive must stop.” The systematic denigration, if not outright desecration, of our democratic institutions, speaks ill of what we make of our democracy and governance. The senate is the upper legislative house in the National Assembly, the second arm in our form of government. No one who occupies the position of senate president can be treated like a common criminal without doing some grievous damage to our collective sense of decency, honour and respect. The senate president is not just a senator; he is also in the line of succession to the presidency under our constitution. If the chief law officer of this country feels he has a right to treat that office with contempt, he desecrates that high and important office. We lose.
Take the insecurity situation in the country. Now we have the following categories of killers who operate with impunity in various parts of the country and keep our hearts going kpu, kpu, kpu: armed robbers, Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and the latest murderous category, bandits. Nor should we forget Kanu and his indigenous peoples of Biafra agitation.
The deepening insecurity situation confronts Kpotum with serious professional challenges he needs to tackle to prove himself as our chief law enforcement chief. I think he owes it to himself to leave politics to the politicians. It is obvious that if the president had left the containment of our security challenges to the Nigeria Police Force things would have gotten much worse than it is at the moment.
These are also the challenges that Buhari faces. He has a duty to unite the country and make it secure and peaceful under his watch. Perhaps, he should spare some thoughts for his style of governance. I do not think it is serving him properly at the moment. He was hailed as a new sheriff in town on assumption of office in 2015. His hailers wanted to promote his image as the authentic thief-catcher. He needs to live down that image now. The sheriff and the president have nothing in common. There is more, much more, to ruling a country than catching thieves, necessary though that might be. A strong president is not necessarily a sheriff. He would be a dictator. The lone ranger mentality is alien to democratic governance.
This, to double underline it, is Buhari’s watch. He can settle his rift with the lawmakers, make them sheathe their swords and let peace reign. He can also take steps to ensure that all interests, personal, group or sectional, are subordinated to what is best for us as a nation.
No comments yet