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Business-as-usual cabinet without Abuja indigene

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President Muhammadu Buhari

It is his privilege to nominate anyone he likes. It is our right to examine the nominees and has our say. But as chief executive of the federation, he will have his way. In the same vein, it is still our responsibility as citizens to return our verdict on the quality of the cabinet this brand new senate will certainly clear tomorrow. The President of the Senate as a candidate pledged that the senate he would preside over, would not be a ‘rubber-stamp’. Indeed, he has set the tone for the kind of senate he will lead with the just-take-a-bow-and-go’ standard that has just been set. I understand the president’s men are smiling (not to the bank please) that Senator Bukola is not even in the senate to ask why portfolios were not attached to the nomination as demanded four years ago – though without success.

Don’t get it twisted, this is a business-as-usual cabinet in the making – to take only the governing party’s followers to the next level. This cabinet, like the last one, cannot take the most populous black nation on earth to any glorious level. But there is nothing we can do about it now. Alan Paton, author of ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ counsels the aggrieved at such a time like this: “when the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house, But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm, he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house”. President Buhari is like a storm here and so about him, we can do nothing other than finding a way of rebuilding the nation from the rubble it is right now. Just as a former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar will be doing this week with a ‘National Dialogue’ in Minna, the capital of Niger state.

If the National Assembly in Abuja were to be truly our people parliament, members would not have chosen to go on holiday at this time when a crisis of nationhood has hit the fan and the country’s leadership appears clueless. What manner of representatives of the people would go on vacation and leave crisis management to a slow leader in a time of emergency? But Paton said we can rebuild our house! Thank you General Abubabar for the ‘Mission in Minna’ for peace and reconciliation.

Meanwhile, I hope that the Chairman of the Joint Session of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan is aware of the public perception of the Senate as a tragicomedy already. Is the senate leadership aware that trouble began for the Upper House when it could not screen well the first major nominee to it, the Chief Justice of the Federation? There was indeed some technical mediocrity from the way the CJN nominee then, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad contextualised ‘technicality in law’. Why were there no follow-up questions when the Acting CJN who was being screened to be Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) could not explain what “technicality’ in contrast to ‘substance’ means? The slipshod manner the current senate screening of the ministerial nominees has been handled so far leaves a residue of a sour taste in the mouth. The foundation of the mediocre screening was a failure of the senate to demand attachment of portfolios to the nominees. That failure aided the take-a-bow-and-go culture, which has been a public relations tragedy for the senate and indeed the nation.

No wonder last week Nigeria was among the low-middle income countries that were adjudged under-performing in the creation and utilisation of innovations, according to the 2019 Global Innovation Index (GII) just released. While the shoddy senate screening was in progress on Wednesday last week, the GII noted that Africa’s largest economy performed below expectations compared with the level of economic development in the country. Other underperformers in the low-middle income group are Ghana, Zambia, El Salvador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Nigeria only moved up four places to 114 out of 129 countries ranked in the 2019 GII from the 118th position it attained in 2018. Meanwhile, the top three economies in terms of innovation in sub-Saharan Africa are South Africa, Kenya, and Mauritius. As Nigeria was missing among the innovation achievers in the continent, five countries, which emerged in terms of innovation relative to their level of development, from sub-Saharan Africa are Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi, and Madagascar. This is why it is a sad commentary on Nigeria’s affairs that the powerhouse of innovation in a democracy, the parliament where policies and programmes are made through legislation, has just created the first two negative impressions.

Indubitably, the first sector to reform as far as innovation is concerned is education. Only quality in education makes the difference (in innovation) you find in North America, Europe, Asia, (South Africa and Egypt) in Africa, etc. When last did our national assembly organise any special sessions on the funding of qualitative higher education? When did any budget defense sessions become rowdy over a disagreement on education quality, the only known weapon of country and global competitiveness? What else can trigger innovation other than Research and Development’s (R&D’s) robust funding? Does Nigeria’s federal legislature have a functional library where its researchers can dig deep and collect data on the parlous state of education at all levels in Nigeria? Will innovative technologies flow from the many ministries and agencies that the president would want to fill with 43 ministerial nominees? In 2017, there was a report that Google could not find well-equipped Computer Science Departments in any of the 170 universities in Nigeria and so had to take its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Centre to Ghana (with nine national public universities and three institutions in the Chartered private tertiary institutions category) where they found a university in Accra that could support it. This is one setback that should set Nigeria’s representatives in the federal legislature thinking – about the next level of innovation. Not the next level of the celebration of mediocrity we find everywhere despite 170 universities. It will be useful if the national assembly in Nigeria is used to ‘rubber-stamp’ robust reform in education that will lead Nigeria, our Nigeria to be a centre of excellence in Research and Development. I have been writing here that we need better, and not more universities. Will there be redemption songs for Senator Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila’s 9thAssembly Assembly? Only time will tell!

Will Buhari disobey the court on Abuja indigene in the cabinet?
Even if President Buhari celebrates the failure of the senate to ask him to submit portfolios of his controversial ministerial nominees, he doesn’t have the right to disobey a Court of Appeal declarative judgment on the inclusion of an indigene of Abuja in the cabinet. It is curious that the issue of inclusion of an Abuja indigene in ministerial nominees was treated casually last week before the screening began in the senate. It is more curious why the only Senator representing Abuja, Senator Philip Aduda, an indigene who raised the issue didn’t stress the jurisprudential significance of a January 2018 Court of Appeal ruling on the issue and show the Senate a copy of the judgment to drive home his people’s point. I had on Sunday, June 9, 2019, referred to the landmark judgment in an article here on ‘Abuja indigenes and their ministerial slot as necessary evil’

I had then stated that there is still no one to hold responsible for the plight of the original inhabitants of Abuja other than the president, their elected Governor. Most of the time, the FCT Minister, the Permanent Secretary, FCT Administration, and the Executive Secretary, FCDA does not come from FCT. They are residents and politicians from other states of the federation who cannot be reached by the oppressed Citizen Jessica Danladi… Citizen Jessica was used as an illustration of oppressed natives of Abuja. She could not secure admission into even a federal university in the north, despite excellent performance in JAMB and the university’s examinations.
Court judgment ignored?

The January 15, 2018, judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal (on Musa Baba-Panya (Appellant) Vs President FRN, and AGF, Danladi Jeji, OIDA, President), which removed ambiguity from Section 229 of the Constitution, made “a declaration that the indigenes of FCT, Abuja are entitled to ministerial appointment into the Federal Executive Council’.

The Appeal Court also made, ‘A declaration that continuous refusal, failure or default by the previous and present Presidents to appoint an indigene of FCT, Abuja as a Minister is a flagrant violation of the constitutional right of the indigenes of FCT-Abuja’.

The same Court of Appeal ruling signed by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, et al, gave an ‘An Order compelling the 1st respondent to the immediate appointment of an indigene of FCT-Abuja as a Minister of the Federation forthwith’.

I had also then noted as a reminder: ‘So, as the President ruminates over the colour of his new cabinet, he should remember that there has since been a Court of Appeal judgment on the legality of including an indigene of FCT-Abuja on the Executive Council of the Federation. He does not need any consultation on this anymore. It is legal to do so…’

It is necessary for the president to note that since the Attorney General of the Federation did not appeal the January 15, 2018 judgment two days after the Counsel to FCT indigenes and plaintiff Mr. Musa Panya, filed Forms 48 and 49 ‘notice of disobedience to court order’, the judgment is deemed to have been accepted. And so, the implication is that the judgment can’t be appealed again. Therefore, before the post-execution process of contempt proceeding against the office of the president is filed, the President who doubles as ‘Governor of Abuja’, according to the 1999 constitution, should act fast. Before it is too late, he should obey the Court of Appeal’s judgment on ‘Abuja indigenes and the Cabinet’. President Buhari should not allow this Abuja indigenes’ human rights issue to be part of an emerging story of serial disobedience to court orders. I wish the President Godspeed!


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