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Calling for real governance across the land

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Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

The conundrum a ‘Law and Governance’ column often faces in a country where politics takes precedence over governance and the law is only meant for a subset of society, is whether to broach a theoretical issue and discuss jurisprudence or tackle the numerous ongoing crises across the country.

It seems today’s column will be more of the latter.

In Lagos State, the government is writing the names of private government contractors into legislation.

Supporters of the Ambode administration have argued that mentioning the contractors in legislation does not confer a competitive advantage on either of the named contractors, because being named does not guarantee continued contracts.

However, questions remain about the validity of ad hominem laws (i.e. laws that specifically mention persons) and also around how any semblance of competitive tenders can be had for the services in question when the current contracts come to an end.

There are many that would query whether it is possible at all to have a competitive and transparent process in Lagos State – a state which, for all its claim to being progressive, refuses to be transparent with its budget and finances.

There continues to be a problem with taste and sensitivity in many levels of government.

From the red carpet rolled out to welcome the President in Dapchi, where the now-returned students had been kidnapped, to his statement in Benue that he does not need to show his face whenever a massacre takes place (one is tempted to sympathise with him on that count, with such a high incidence of mass killings), it is clear that sounding the right note in this age of instant, round-the-clock communications, is still a challenge for the President and his communications team.

Speaking of communications, the recent public spat between the minister of communications, would-be Governor of Oyo State, and one of his sacked aides was painful to read.

Not only was the quality of the exchange inversely proportional to the bombast with which both sides desperately attempted to ‘communicate,’ it put the minister and his immediate predecessor in such stark relief that one wonders how much of a priority ICT is to the current administration.

And in the week when one of their number finally broke senatorial ‘omerta’ and revealed the long-hidden salary that legislators are paid, videos of the singing senator and his dancing counterpart have been widely circulated on social media.

The distinguished singing senator, under legal fire and threat of recall, menacingly threatened the governor of his state, who is supposedly behind the recall attempt.

The dancing senator, always the life of the party, threw down again in another dance-off.

Of course, everyone is entitled to live their personal lives but Nigerians must ask what returns we get for our investment in our senators. N15m a month, for what, exactly?

Meanwhile, the pastoralist crisis continues to rage. Farming communities continue to suffer death and pillage and there are many claims that the incidents are grossly under-reported.

Commentary on this crisis by our leading journalistic voices across traditional media, to my mind, has focused a lot on unity but not so much on justice.

The irony, however, is that nothing threatens the unity of people, especially diverse people, more than the notion of the absence of justice.

And what is this justice? That the application of the law to similar facts will yield similar results, regardless of who the actors are. That the rights of all citizens will be upheld equally.

That the custodians of state force and security are not selective in their response to incidents. That this justice is not only done, but is seen to be done.

In a startling intervention, General TY Danjuma has added his voice to the herdsmen crisis, advising all Nigerians to defend themselves because ‘the Armed Forces are not neutral’.

He said a lot more, using a few more tasty expressions, which should give everyone pause. On the one hand, the class captains of the Class of 1966 are turning their backs on their classmate who currently sits in the office of the Presidency.

For those who wish to see a more dynamic administration in 2019, one that is more likely to face the issues of the day with the urgency they deserve, this is probably good news, the trouble with that entire class of ’66 notwithstanding.

On the other hand however, when a man of TY’s stature makes the kind of allegations he went on record to make, things are definitely not well and it is not the time for fancy columns on law and governance.

Those columns assume, like economists, that ceteris is paribus, but this is not the case. As my satirist alter ego would say, “there is no chill in the land!”.


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