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Kamala Harris: the memo Nigeria never got

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 27, 2019 California Senator Kamala Harris speaks during a rally launching her presidential campaign in Oakland, California. – US Senator Kamala Harris faces questions from American voters January 28, 2019 as an official White House candidate, a day after formally declaring her 2020 bid to become America’s first black female president.By launching her campaign early — a year before any primary votes are cast — the California Democrat leapfrogs several party luminaries waiting in the wings, and a few who have already entered the race, to become the de facto frontrunner in a burgeoning field that may ultimately feature dozens of candidates seeking to oust President Donald Trump. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP)

Two germane things happened during my month-long official vacation: One, the so called ‘Lazy Nigerian Youths’ took to the streets to demand for an end to police brutality. I covered the protest and witnessed how the leaderless group of young men and women coordinated themselves and marched across Lagos and other parts of the country.   I must say that it was a much more modest protest compared to the U.S. Black Lives Matter campaign.

It’s worthy to note that #EndSARS was the first major protest by the Nigerian Youths’ and it was successful. The second event witnessed was the election of Kamala Harris, the daughter of an immigrant of Jamaica and India origin, becoming the first female vice president, in the US, and the first black senator from California and a former prosecutor.

But in Nigeria, that’s a memo our leaders never got, our leaders are still in denial that the world is a global village where religious, tribal, race sentiment never come to the party, but competence.

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In 2012, the then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, declined to administer oath of office on one of the appointed justices of the Appeal Court. The decision of the CJN was sequel to a petition challenging the state of origin declared by the judge, who was nominated under a slot reserved for Abia State.

The CJN decided to step-down the swearing-in of Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, following agitation from some quarters that going by the prevailing judicial policy in the country; she is not qualified to represent Abia State.

The petitioners contended that Justice Jombo-Ofo who was then serving under the Abia State judiciary, lacks the requisite locus to take a slot meant for the state since she was originally from Anambra State, notwithstanding the fact that she is married to a man from Abia State.

Again, in March 2020, the Cross River State Government was enmeshed in controversy over the appointment of a substantive chief judge of the state. The most senior judge in Cross River State, Akon Ikpeme, who ought to be appointed the chief judge in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution and legal tradition, was disqualified by the state Assembly because of her family ties with neighbouring state, Akwa Ibom.

Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, instead nominated the second most senior judge, Maurice Eneji, to replace Mrs. Ikpeme as acting chief judge, an action which lawyers in the country said is unacceptable. Mrs Ikpeme is of Akwa Ibom parentage. She was born in Calabar, Cross River, when Akwa Ibom was a part of Cross River. She is married to a man from Cross River, and has been working for decades as a judicial officer, including being a director of public prosecution, and a judge in Cross River.

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Cross River State House of Assembly, declined to confirm Ikpeme as the chief judge on the grounds that she could become a ‘security risk’ to the state because of her ties with Akwa Ibom.

These two instances were not only a slap on the judiciary, but our unity, the one-Nigeria we all want. Diversity ought to be seen as a blessing because the true wealth of any nation is its human capital, but that is not the true reflection of what’s happening in Nigeria
While some of us may not like former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but we cannot deny the fact that he had the first diverse kitchen cabinet in the history of the country. Tinubu looked beyond Lagos State while constituting his cabinet as governor in 1999.  He appointed Prof Yemi Osinbajo from Ogun State, as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; Wale Edun from Ogun State as finance commissioner; Rauf Aregbesola from Osun as Commissioner for Works; Fola Arthur-Worrey from Delta State as Commissioner for Lands; Ben Akhabueze from Anambra State as Commissioner for Budget and Planning and Lai Mohammed, who was then Chief of Staff, from Kwara State.

But after Tinubu and Lagos State where people from everywhere in Nigeria can hold a political office, contest for an election and win, how many other state embraced that?
We are giant of Africa and religion and ethnicity should by now not be our problem.

Eniola Daniel is a journalist in Lagos State.

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