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Dumping of confab report is betrayal of mass trust, says CLO

By Sunny Ogefere
02 June 2016   |   2:41 am
Mr. President has similarly not shown leadership by refusing and or neglecting to visit any of the communities destroyed and where the herdsmen killed local farmers including many woman and children.
Igho Akeregha, President of the Civil Liberties Organisation

Igho Akeregha, President of the Civil Liberties Organisation

Igho Akeregha, President of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) reviews President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance so far as well as the status of Nigeria’s federal structure and concludes that there is still a long way to go. He spoke to SUNNY OGEFERE in Lagos. Excerpts

One Year of Buhari’s Administration  President Muhammadu Buhari rode to power in Nigeria in a manner only comparable to the annulled June 12 presidential elections clearly won by late Chief Moshood kashimawo Olawale Abiola.

The President had made three previous botched efforts to win the Nigerian presidency but only succeeded in 2015 after a grand political coalition of some four mega parties smoothened the path for him, including unprecedented massive support by many voters from the South West.

President Buhari’s one year presented many Nigerians a rare opportunity to examine the administration’s key policy thrust. In very practical terms, the President cannot be said to have delivered hope to Nigerians within the period under review.  For example, in the two key areas of insurgency, insecurity and anti corruption crusade, the President clearly approached the battlefront as a sole combatant without carrying his team along. It is to be conceded that Boko Haram’s capacity to deliver its violent strikes at targets, at will, may have been significantly reduced such that the group can only now attack soft and vulnerable targets. One cannot therefore conclude that the administration has effectively dealt with the group.

Herdsmen threat

While unrelenting bloody assault by Boko Haram on targets located mostly in the North East have subsided, fresh threats posed by Fulani herdsmen have decimated large farmlands and communities in North Central and in the Southern part of the country. It is therefore a valid argument to contend that Mr. President managed to supplant a more vicious terror gang for the decimation of Boko Haram. Beyond the herdsmen threat that seem to be opening up old fault lines in the country, the President’s glaring incapacity for ingeniously managing fresh crisis posed by pro Biafra agitators and the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, have exposed the administration’s underbelly.

This week, the mainstream media reported clashes between pro-Biafra elements and Nigerian security forces. The authorities mismanaged the clashes as security forces resorted to extreme and excessive use of force to kill many of the agitators who also fought back. The administration has also deployed warships and fighter jets to the troubled Niger Delta region to combat itinerant militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers. The CLO strongly condemns these heavy-handed approaches in dealing with unarmed protesters in the east and the disproportionate force deployed in the Niger Delta to subdue the Avengers. During the last one year, the Buhari administration has also faced scathing criticism for disparate handling of the murderous cattle rearers from the north and dissimilar agitation in the south.

Mr. President has similarly not shown leadership by refusing and or neglecting to visit any of the communities destroyed and where the herdsmen killed local farmers including many woman and children. Unfortunately, the President is the Patron of Miyetti Allah, the umbrella group of all Fulani cattle rearers in the country. Tragically, in the last one year of the administration, there have been contentions that the pastoralists have killed more people under the nose of Mr. President than Boko Haram or any militant group in one year. It is also instructive that none of the Fulani Nomads have been arrested and prosecuted for the unrelenting crimes of arson, maiming and murder.

Anti-corruption war

President Buhari has gained wide acceptance for taking on public office holders who are suspected of pilfering public funds. For the first time in many years, the Nigerian leader has traversed major western and eastern European countries canvassing a repatriation of stolen assets to Nigeria.

However, the President’s strategy in generally referring to his country as corruption-laden has drawn the ire of citizens who believe his anti-corruption campaign is casting a slur on the integrity of every Nigerian. Although, many Nigerians want the country cleaned up of corrupt officials, Mr. President has taken flaks for apparently selecting his targets.

The CLO is convinced that President Buhari has a full dossier of corrupt individuals in the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) but have turned his eye the other way from recovering ill-gotten wealth from his APC membership. This behaviour of Mr. President is not consistent with best global practices and the process therefore lacks credibility. There is a general consensus that the President must be courageous to bring his key backers in the last general elections that also have corruption matters on their necks, to justice. This way, he will be taken seriously but the body language of the President does not suggest any enthusiasm. The general performance of the president in the last one year is dismal and not momentous.

Rule of law

By May 29, 2015 when the Buhari administration came to office, the rule of law had been significantly enthroned and deepened. Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, the judiciary operated unfettered but this goodwill is no more. The judiciary is now working under tremendous pressure and the government now arbitrarily ignores court judgments. For some Nigerians, the country may be headed for dictatorship. So far, a number of individuals arrested and detained since the Buhari administration came to power are being held against court rulings.

The Nigerian federation

Clearly, the Nigerian federation is at best a ‘unitarised’ federation. The federating units are caged and reduced to beggarly status, which the Deputy Senate President aptly described as “feeding bottle federalism”. Component units of the federation routinely queue at Abuja to be handed running cost as monthly allocation. Nigeria relies mainly on Oil, as it’s major source of revenue.

Interestingly, oil is exploited in abundance in the Niger Delta region in the South while the North produces most of the agricultural produce. Income from oil is paid directly in the federation account from where it is shared out to the federating states. But the proceeds from agriculture go directly to the farmers who do not have to bother with the federation account.

The inequity in resource ownership and distribution is at the root of the national crisis bedeviling the country and several attempts have been made in the past through conferences to resolve the differences. The 2014 national conference encouraged by former President Jonathan received wide acclaim for its far-reaching resolutions. President Buhari has however not shown any interest in implementing the critical recommendations of the conference report expected to resolve many of the issues. Many Nigerians remain disappointed that President Buhari may be shying away from implementing the crucial outcome of the conference because of its alleged impact on Northern domination of the country.

The provisions of state of origin, religion, sex and other obnoxious provisions in the constitution for appointment into public employment and appointment are antithetical to merit and the true spirit of national development. The unwillingness of Mr. President who came to power on a popular mandate to implement the Confab report remain a betrayal of the mass trust invested on him by Nigerians.

The Nigerian model of a federation defeats the essence of true federalism where the independence of the federating units is its hallmark. In Nigeria, the federating units have neither fiscal independence nor control of the Police and other critical institutions of governance. It is at best a mockery of true federalism that seeks to reward lazy and indolent federating units at the expense of other virile components. In totality, hopelessness and punctured expectations dominated the first one year of the Buhari administration.