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Task for the incoming president – Part 2

By Editorial Board
14 March 2023   |   4:10 am
Take the rule of law. The document says rather vapidly: ‘A Tinubu government will operate on the premise that the rule of law is paramount’; that ‘all citizens are equal before the law and our administration will ensure that all Nigerians are afforded equal treatment under the law.’

APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu

Take the rule of law. The document says rather vapidly: ‘A Tinubu government will operate on the premise that the rule of law is paramount’; that ‘all citizens are equal before the law and our administration will ensure that all Nigerians are afforded equal treatment under the law.’

The non-adherence to the rule of law by persons and institutions (but in truth persons) in charge of Nigeria’s affairs is essentially at the root of its hydra-headed problem. Just two examples: the constitution, imperfect as it is, contains enough provisions to make the country far more stable and progressive than obtains. But if and when the highest public officer in the land arrogantly, blatantly, insensitively violates the injunctions of the constitution on federal character and inclusive government, good governance is at risk.

The fundamental operating document for governance creates three independent arms of government. But it also grants the judicial arm powers to adjudicate on areas of disagreement and stipulates that the decision of courts of competent jurisdiction ‘shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons.’ Alas, the president from Tinubu’s APC party, President Muhammadu Buhari, chooses, in disdainful violation of Section 287(1) that ‘the decisions of the Supreme Court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons…’ to overrule the decision of the Supreme Court in respect of the continued use of Nigeria’s old currency, following his government’s decision to redesign the currency into new notes that are unfortunately in acutely short supply to go round.

As the saying goes, if the fish begins to rot from the head, the rest of it is ‘irredeemable.’ Will the APC purge itself of this behavior such that the rule of law is not only mouthed but observed, and be seen to be so? The incoming administration must demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt its commitment to subordinate itself to the laws of the land, no matter how unpleasant it finds it. Like security, rule of law, ‘a government of laws, not of men’, in the succinct words of John Adams is too, ‘the bedrock of a prosperous and democratic society.’

Federalism, decentralisation of power, and resource control are aspects of an overarching persistent demand for the restructuring of Nigeria for a more just system and a better balanced federal structure. These nagging issues literally cry for urgent attention.

The Guardian has repeatedly maintained that a restructured Nigeria to reflect its composition as a federation of diverse nationalities  and resources will quickly remove many of the grouses, including elections into the presidency, that generate acrimony, dissent and even threatened separation. Tinubu’s APC recognised this in its 2015 manifesto and indeed promised to ‘Initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.’ The party never did. It is gratifying that Tinubu and his team recognise that ‘too much power and resources have been lodged at the federal level.’ It promises to ‘amend our national governance architecture such that states are afforded the autonomy and resources needed to better serve the people.’ He should know the deep and positive benefits of this step for, as governor, his plan for Lagos State was obstructed by arrogant use of federal power by the Obasanjo administration. So, the Tinubu-Shettima team says it will review the constitution ‘to ensure that states are given greater control over certain critical matters’ including ‘crime prevention.’

The Tinubu government must do all within its legitimate powers to return Nigeria to the federal system of governance as globally understood and practiced. The largest black country, and a beacon of hope for other African countries, cannot afford to continue to be an aberration in the community of nations, to deny itself a realisation of its manifest destiny. It is wrong; it is not acceptable. The incoming administration is lucky to have enough documented ideas to consult and work with from many reports and recommendations by serious-minded Nigerians. These range from the 2014 National Conference Report, through the Justice Uwais Report and the Oronsaye Report, to the numerous studies of the problem of Nigeria waiting for implementation in the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).

If Tinubu is truly committed to stopping the characteristic waste of public resources, surely he will not need to set up committees to generate ideas on researched and settled political, economic, and social matters of Nigeria.

Whatever notions Tinubu had held about the youths of this country have been redefined for him by the voting pattern of the presidential election. Whereas his action plan committed him in broad terms to do the needful for, according to their paper, the130 million 15–35 year old segment of the Nigerian population, Tinubu has devoted three paragraphs of his first public address as president -elect to speak directly to them. “Now, to you, the young people f this country, I hear you loud and clear.’ I understand your pains, our yearnings for good governance, a functional economy, and a safe nation that protects you and your future’ he said. 

It is a pity and a shame that it took first the tragic EndSARS protest and lately the votes of self-assertion of February 25 to wake the older generation of Nigerian leaders to what should be a normal duty to the younger generation. Now that the youths have not only spoken but are gearing to take charge, no government can dare take them for granted. Tinubu would do well for his administration and his country to listen more to and meet the legitimate yearnings of the youths. As they organise better, the fortune of political office seekers and holders will increasingly be determined by young people. In a fast-changing digital, technology-driven world, his programme for youths will need updating and upgrading not periodically, but daily. We so urge him.
To be continued tomorrow

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