Open grazing: Buhari and the rest of us – Part 2
It is not just that the President is unjustifiably advocating and defending an outdated open grazing policy, he is equally amassing all arsenals of state power, in aid of this sinister agenda, that blows ill wind everywhere. His aides, especially his media aides, are daily falling over themselves to attack, abuse and insult the people of Nigeria and their elected representatives, who dare to raise their voices in opposition. Seventeen Governors of the Southern part of Nigeria met in Asaba a few weeks back to voice their opposition to open grazing. They were rudely chastised by one particular Garba Shehu, who does not carry the mandate of the people, in very pedestrian and childish language. The Governors of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, met in Uyo to demand true federalism, state police and transparency in the management of our national resources. The same aide of the President reigned invectives upon them uncontrollably. Mr. Femi Adesina, another media aide to the President, has since joined the inglorious fray, not sparing even the elders and describing patriots and genuine activists as anarchists. Thus, the Presidency has become more of an albatross to the people of Nigeria, operating in totalitarian tendencies which pitch the President against the rest of us.
This is certainly not the Nigeria of our dreams, where life is no longer safe, where terrorists and bandits hold sway, where the cost of living has become totally unbearable, where unemployment has climbed the roof and where we have descended into the Hobbesian state of sheer brute and naked force. The President cannot claim to have been elected into office simply to divide the people into tribal and religious clans or to ruin the economy, such that survival has become a nightmare for a greater percentage of the populace. Surely and certainly, we did not elect the President to trample upon the fundamental rights of the people in curtailing the exercise of their freedom of expression and we did not elect the President to relegate the Constitution into permanent oblivion, in the daily rigmarole of his officers, in their warped and subjective interpretation and application thereof.
Rather, the President was elected to achieve peace, progress, unity and prosperity for the people, to respect and promote the fundamental rights of the people, to uphold the Constitution at all times and at all costs and to galvanize the people to achieve national cohesion through deliberate inclusive policies.
From all indications, the President and the Presidency are totally ensconced in cocoons of their comfort and allure of power, as to place themselves above the people that they govern. It is stated in section 14 of the Constitution that:
14 (1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby declared that –
(a) Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria form whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
(b) The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
(c) The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
According to the Constitution in the sections quoted above, there is no government without the people, there is no government in the absence of security and welfare of the people and the government cannot claim to function in the absence of active participation by the people. One then wonders where the President and the Presidency derived the power to impose open grazing on the people, the source of the unguarded utterances of the media aides of the President and the rationale for silencing all voices of dissent through scaremongering and unprovoked verbal assaults. The government cannot be greater than the people, or seek to lord its unpopular policies over them willy-nilly, in a nation that is based on democracy and social justice. That cannot and should not happen, especially for the propagation of an agricultural policy that has become archaic universally.
Nigerians want restructuring, we want true federalism, devolution of power, resource control and other fundamental policies that will guarantee a united Nigeria. Nigerians are all opposed to the illegal idea of open grazing and they are all unanimous in this, save the President and the Presidency. If what we practice is democracy, the President has to yield to the reasonable demands of the people of Nigeria, in the interest and for the common good of all.
Adegboruwa is a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
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