Banire: Musings of politico-scholarship
If we are to carry out a socio-political impact assessment of Barrister Muiz Banire’s public interventions, it must begin from his exposition cum exploits as a former Commissioner of Environment in Lagos State.
Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire was not a nowhere man as at the time he came into public office. The lawyer had been imparting knowledge to young men and women that yearned earnestly to become lawyers at the University of Lagos. And as he handed out lectures, Muiz also joggled his time with innate interest in politics and public life.
Whether out of love or just as a passing fancy, the proud member of UniLag Faculty of Law, exposed his interest in politics around 1990 when the then military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida experimented with diarchy. Having devised the enabling culture for political cohabitation of military and their civilian counterparts, two political parties were laid out in the fashion of parallel lines.
Muiz tilted a little to the left of centre and found himself in the Social Democratic Party (SDP), but did not raise a finger to contest for any elective position. But having been admitted into the club of partisan politicians, the law lecturer joined in the mobilization and to canvass votes for his party. It happened that one of those who sought and flew the SDP flags in the senatorial zones was Ahmed Tinubu. Though SDP lost the governorship poll to its rival twin, National Republican Convention (NRC), Tinubu made it to the Senate until the military changed tactics.
When Babangida stepped aside, and late General Sani Abacha, kicked out Chief Ernest Shonekan and other members of the bunch of ‘bloody civilians’ in the Interim National Government, Banire recoiled to the campus and continued with his intellectual transactions with law students.
Yet, as he trained the emerging lawyers, he continued to look out through the windows of the lecture halls, watching to see how the motions in the polity would translate to movement of political forces.
That opportunity chanced barely five years later; out of the ashes of SDP and NRC emerged the All Peoples Party (APP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Among those who made it to the AD was the law lecturer. One thing led to another and it happened that the winner of the governorship election of 1999 was Senator Bola Tinubu, the same Ahmed Tinubu that went to the Senate on the SDP ticket in 1992.
The lawyer’s romance with politics seemed to have paid off as he was no longer a stranger to politicians in Lagos State by the time the AD won the governorship poll. Consequently Governor Tinubu did not appoint a stranger when he nominated Muiz into his cabinet. And that appointment served as breaking the fallow grounds for the man.
Within the period of twelve years in public office, Banire’s steps changed, his orientation went through a political transformation and he started dreaming dreams of leadership. His voice could be heard without a query as to who he is or where he is coming from. He has been speaking ever since, sometimes as a public intellectual and at other times as a partisan politician.
He may not be confused about the topics he chooses to tackle, but most often, his audience fails to place his message on its correct context. For instance, as deputy national legal adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Banire caused some sort of panic in the party’s fold at the build up to the 2015 election.
Apart from warning against the culture of imposition that was playing out in the party, Banire predicted that the party was about losing the governorship of Lagos State for the first time in 16 years. Given what happened during the governorship election, particularly the close-marking PDP gave the APC; a lot of people believe that Muiz did not sound false alarm.
There is nothing to suggest that Muiz has his head in the clouds when he is engaging in public advocacies. But the presumption that the former Transport and Environment commissioner wants to be governor without bowing to a godfather, takes the shine out of his social postulations.
And in this period of cloud computing and cloudy relations, Banire’s cloudy communications seem to be rooted in the ambivalence of his position. Readily, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), presents as a private citizen who is driven by the need for change in the social sector. But, many people of voting age in Lagos and Southwest Nigeria see him as politician with an eye on the Government House.
Not that alone, the musings of Muiz do not maintain a constant refrain. Hearing him speak or take positions on social issues, you are wont to ask: What do you seek to achieve in your interventions? His answer: “The need to compliment the effort of the government in the change crusade as it practically impossible for them to do everything.”
Whether it is to compliment or complement, Muiz displays passion. When you see him dress up in school uniform to talk to students, it is his way of communicating the need for collective approach to solving the nation’s problems. The puzzle is that despite the partisan and populist flavouring of his interventions, Muiz is not an independent. He is a party man who wants to maintain the identity of an independent minded social crusader. In this, he cannot be equated to the late Ayodele Awojobi, who though trained and qualified as a Professor of Mathematics/Engineering went back to school to train as a lawyer, so as to be able to tackle social inequities litigiously.
Muiz’s membership of a political does not allow him to walk a straight line in some of his public utterances. For instance, after dissecting the evils of imposition, he could not agree to obvious examples of imposition. “If you have a godfather who has imposed you on the people, it’s the godfather that you are accountable to and in most cases what you find out is that the accountability in that instance is a tribute. That again does not boost the morale of the party members; it causes a lot of factionalisation.”
Yet, when taken up on perceived instances of imposition of candidates, Muiz prevaricated, denying that his former principal and Babatunde Fashola, were not products of impositions.
Perhaps, Banire’s ambivalence could be excused on the fact of his personal acknowledgement as a professional in politics and not a politician. From the law teacher, we learn that you can be in politics without being a professional politician, since according to him, it is professional politicians that are disposed to corruption and bending the rules.
He believes that it is impossible to fight for the society from the outside, stressing that “you have to be inside to make the required impact.” This may be why the politicians treat with quiet disdain and suspicion as they have come to view his posturing as that of an arrogant academic enamoured of public office. Yet, he taunts the professional politicians with his claim that there is a huge deficit of good people in politics.
Recently, Dr. Banire noted that fighting corruption does not lie in picking up people and taking them to court. Many people thought he forgot his position as the acting national legal adviser of the ruling party, which main policy thrust is anti-corruption. Muiz was making his point that the structure and legal framework for the battle should be laid out as the starting point.
Asked to choose his role model, Muiz did not vote for Tinubu, rather, he settled for Professor Jelili Omotola, whom he said he learnt so many things from. From that position, it could be rightly said that while Muiz Banire’s mind is in the academia, his heart is in politics and public service, though he has sworn not be a judge.
As Lagos State Commissioner of Transport and later, Environment, Muiz brought his knowledge in property, transport and environmental laws to bear on his assignment. And at a time when the menace of herdsmen is occupying public discourse, his books on Juxtaposing the Land Use Act and The Limit of Consent Provision in the Land Use Act, should help to situate him properly.
If in 2019 Banire does not feature in any electoral contest, perhaps people will begin to take him serious or ask him to choose where he best belongs: Academia or Politics. Before then, we are waiting to see how many Banires he would have cloned in his new gesture of grooming young hearts.