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Setting an agenda for the incoming government (2)

By Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN
22 May 2015   |   6:32 am
LET us design a holistic reward system for adherence to and respect for propriety. Let us take the campaign to our schools, churches, mosques and community meetings. Let us conceptualise a curriculum that emphasises this across board from our nursery schools to the tertiary institutions. Political systems such as communism and socialism, though with their…

LET us design a holistic reward system for adherence to and respect for propriety. Let us take the campaign to our schools, churches, mosques and community meetings. Let us conceptualise a curriculum that emphasises this across board from our nursery schools to the tertiary institutions. Political systems such as communism and socialism, though with their overt shortcomings, have ingrained methods of inculcation.

What I am clamouring for today is the awakening of our national court of conscience, which Mahatman Ghandi said is higher than the court of justice and supersedes every other court. It is time that the nation adopts the Yoruba ‘omoluabi’ concept as the foothold of its socio-political orientation; because, regardless what might be the painstakingly designed policies and meticulously executed programmes of the incoming government, I dare say it will all be motion without movement. As the Yoruba people say, “iwa loba awure” (good character is the greatest talisman). Was it not Vice-President Joe Biden of the United States of America who said, “fighting corruption is not just good governance, it is self-defence, it is patriotism!” The incoming administration should not be the sole combatant in this fight. In defence of our businesses, families, our society and indeed our nation’s future, we must join in taking up ‘arms’ against corruption.

What is more? Ranking next to the challenge of corruption in the nation, are power generation, insecurity, an ailing economy and a skewed federal structure. Like the American dream, resolving these challenges forms the crux of the average Nigerian’s dream. Nigeria presently generates a paltry 2,800 megawatts of electricity for its about 150 million populace, compared to South Africa’s 40,000 megawatts for 50 million people and Brazil’s 100,000 megawatts for a population of 201 million people. Even Ghana generates about 2,111 megawatts for its less than 24 million residents. The import of this is that all we have in Nigeria is 22.8 watts for each Nigerian, while Ghana, South Africa and Brazil boast of 88.6 watts, 1,093 watts and 3,252.6 watts per resident respectively. Little wonder that manufacturing companies like Dunlop and Michellin departed the shores of the country to set up shop in Ghana. If something drastic is not done about this albatross, I fear that we will yet witness even more damning exodus of companies operating with our borders. This government must revisit and constructively rework the present power generation and distribution policy of the Federal Government, particularly, in the area of privatisation. While this might indeed be the way to go, I opine that the process must be more holistic and transparent, and must permeate every ramification of the industry, ranging from generation to distribution. We must find a way to harness various sources of power generation, solar, hydro, wind and gas. We are fortunate as a nation to possess all of these in abundance. A revamped and functional power sector will no doubt lend a much-needed impetus to our quest for economic growth and development.

Our ailing economy leaves much for concern and worry. I read in the 8 May, 2015 edition of the Punch Newspaper that the Minister of Finance averred that the nation is currently experiencing a 50% drop in revenue. It is unfortunate that we are in this situation despite the patent warning signs before now. We shouted and begged when we had the windfall, that the rainy day should be saved for, yet the handlers of our economy acted like the biblical prodigal son, only that we have no wealthy father to run to for help. However, the story of Singapore again comes handy. The current hardship might also be a blessing in disguise; just the necessary stimulant the nation needs to wean itself from its injurious and injudicious reliance on oil. We now have no option than to explore other means of income generation. For one, I am of the opinion that all the distinct divides of the nation should concentrate on what they are comparatively good at. Agriculture in the west, the leather industry of the North, and the business acumen and the manufacturing capacity of the East. Again, we must make the most of other natural resources we have. Serious attention should be given to the resuscitation of our exploration qua prospection machineries for tin, lead, zinc, iron ore, rubber and coal. It is worthy of note that these resources dot the various regions of the nation and developing them will help address the perceived imbalance and lop-sidedness in our fiscal federalism. The unnecessary bureaucratic clog in establishment of businesses and investment in Nigeria must be addressed. It is appalling that Nigeria presently ranks 170th among 189 countries in terms of ease of doing business. We might need to do a more detailed study of Singapore and its policies on investment and establishment of businesses to rework the Nigerian clogged system.

Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) makes the security and welfare of the people the primary purpose of government. It is a notorious fact that various governments over the past sixteen years have made attempts to posit answers to the nation’s security challenges using the same template, howbeit unsuccessfully. While it might be of importance to retrain security operatives and upgrade the arsenals, it is my position that a more radical reworking of our security architecture is needed. It has been argued by security experts that security is first of all ‘local’. Hence, effective internal security begins from communities, villages and immediate societies. It is therefore an anomaly that Nigeria has continued to operate this excessively centralised security set-up. The incoming government should set machineries in motion to decentralise the Nigeria Police Force, using the United States of America model; such that while each State controls its police force, the Department of State Security will act as the ‘federal police’ with jurisdiction on crimes or issues which affect the republic. Put bluntly, Section 214(1) of the Constitution which asserts that there shall be only one Nigeria Police Force is very unrealistic, untenable, impracticable and ‘unfederal’. In the city of London alone, there are not less than ten Police formations, while in America, even some Universities, apart from states, cities, towns and counties have their own Police formations. With much respect, a good number of sections in our Constitution are oppressive and unworkable, and I dare declare them as constitutional retardation.

Time will not permit me to talk about health, education, housing and infrastructural development. I am, however, duty-bound to comment on the judicial structure of this nation. Martin Luther King Jnr. enthused that “law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” This nation is fortunate to have a professor of law and a former Attorney-General of a state, who gave a complete face-lift and content enrichment to the Lagos State judiciary as Vice-President. This feat should be repeated at the centre. We must begin with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, then move on to sanitizing the judicial sphere. I must not be understood that my call for sanitizing the judicial sector tantamounts to a call for the government to pocket the judiciary. Far from that. The judiciary must be respected and recognised as an independent arm of government, just like the executive and legislature, and, it is not and never inferior to either of the two. Part of sanitizing the judiciary entails proper funding and making it self-financing. Thank God for majority of our Judges who shun corruption like a plague, and who would deliver judgments based on facts and law and not on extenuating over-bearings or influences. However, my take has always been that a single bad egg can and will always give our judiciary a bad name, and stigmatize the vast majority of excellent judges. Thus, the few bad eggs, when and where identified, should be shown the way out, while more thorough and painstaking efforts should be put in place at appointing new judges. The judiciary itself, through some of our serving judges should stop the fanfare of randomly issuing ex parte orders of injunction against the National Judicial Council (NJC) in the performance of its constitutionally assigned duty of putting machineries in motion at disciplining erring judges, as this practice has virtually crippled the Council. The Nigerian judiciary has been constitutionally ‘unitarised’. This is unfair and unjust. An agenda for decentralising the judiciary should be quickly put in place. State or Regional Courts of Appeal and Supreme Courts should be allowed to flourish and decide cases to finality within their different spheres, zones and regions. The Federal Government has no business establishing a federal judiciary to handle state matters, whether criminal or civil.

3.13 If there is a Nigerian dream, nay a people’s agenda, I am not in doubt that it will in substance read thus:“a Nigeria where merit matters, corruption is contemptible, streets are safe, houses are lit, factories are powered, people are empowered, schools are citadels and courts are sacred.” The words of Alexandre Dumas, the famous French writer, resonate with the election of President elect Muhammadu Buhari and my brother, Vice-President elect, Yemi Osinbajo: “It is quite rare for God to provide a great man at the necessary moment to carry out some great deep, which is why when this unusual combination of circumstance does occur, history at once records the name of the chosen one and recommends him to the admiration of posterity.”

The expected agenda as articulated above is no doubt ‘a great deep’ our incoming leaders have been saddled to carry out. At the end of the ‘duty-tour’, would we be able to recommend them to the admiration of posterity?
3.14 Nigerians expect from the incoming government that it should not be business as usual or as casual. Interestingly, the President-elect would seem to me to appreciate this, for, in his acceptance speech on April 1, 2015, he posited thus: “Our long night has passed and the day-light has broken across the land.” Nigerians would hold him to this sacred vow. The new government should not expect a long honeymoon. Nigerians are in haste and at the same time touchy, aggressive, nervy and readily/easily provoked or get nauseated. The fault is not wholly theirs, but substantially that of successive governments. The incoming government must give true meaning and bearing to democracy, and make it, indeed, and in practical terms, the government of the people, by the people and for the people. We must for once and ever, do away with the idea that the easiest way to become a mandarin millionaire is to find your way either to the Governor’s office at the State level, the Presidency or Vice Presidency at the Federal level, or sneaking to the National Assembly, or lobbying to become a Minister. Mr President-elect has given a solemn promise, which is akin to a covenant, that he will declare his assets publicly, before assuming office, and also do so after leaving office. This is in keeping with the wordings, contents, meaning, expectation, intent and tenor of the Constitution. Other elected and appointed Public Office holders must follow suit. May I, humbly recommend to the incoming government, the alluring and evergreen words of Franklin Roosevelt, a former American President on the very essence of democracy: “There is nothing strenuous about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are: equality of opportunity for youths and for others; jobs for those who can work food on the table for our citizens, security for those who need I; the ending of special privilege for the few; the preservation of civil liberties for all.”

The incoming government has to do something urgently and drastically about our warped federalism. It is an ‘unfederal’ federalism. Whatever is distilled to be good from the recommendations of the just concluded National Conference must be implemented and engrafted in the Constitution. Nigeria is fragile, delicate, frail, complex, convoluted, prolix, big and large.

That election has been won by the opposition party would not be a guarantee and/or should not be taken as an assurance of the solution to our problems. The problems should be identified and tackled, and we should not postpone the solutions to them. Unless and until Nigeria is truly federalised, I am afraid if we would not be living on borrowed times. This is not an apocalyptic statement by any stretch of the imagination.

Ad infinitum, one can go on setting agenda for the incoming administration, dwelling on the tangible to the intangible, the actual to the spiritual, the economic to the infrastructural; and meandering from health to education, peeping into both the environment and ecology, and analysing, with every force, the ingredients of good governance and democracy. But I do not have all the time in the world to do all these within the short period assigned to me. Hence, I urge the audience to accept the summarized version of an agenda as presented in this discourse. But before I leave the podium, permit me to sound a note of warning that Nigeria and Nigerians should not under any guise or disguise, act or omission encourage or enthrone a one party state. A robust opposition is an elixir for a sustainable democracy. Therefore, the incoming administration should not stifle, annihilate, obliterate, muzzle or ‘kill’ any opposition party; and neither should it ever boast that it would govern for sixty years! It is only God that rules forever! If the incoming government should beat its chest at anytime, it should only boast in the Lord; for it is written: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Host” – Zachariah

To God be always the glory.