Why ‘go to court’ mantra is dangerous for the country, by Modebelu
Lead Promoter for South East Development Initiative (SELDI), Ikenna Modebelu, spoke with LAWRENCE NJOKU on the implication of the executive imposing leadership of National Assembly on the lawmakers, the need for the judiciary to remain impartial. He also assessed the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The economy of the country appears to be on standstill after the general elections. What do you think is responsible for this?
There are several issues, in my own estimation that are responsible for the current economic upheavals in the country. This includes the general feeling of disenfranchisement in the political process of 2023; the outcome of the elections, which many believe went against the run of play, following the level of mutilation in the electoral papers we have seen; interviews of INEC’s participants in the elections who went as far as saying they were held at gunpoint to declare results, which fell short of the estimation of most Nigerians.
The announcement of the outcome of the presidential election did not generate the level of acceptance it ought to have generated. There was no jubilation, an indication that people are not happy. The incidence of voter suppression, voter intimidation in most places despite the assurances by INEC that it was ready to conduct one of the freest and fairest elections, among others made the people return to their shell since the election results were announced. Everyone appears to be waiting for the outcome of the court on the petitions over the presidential election to give the country a direction again.
That is why the court should be careful in looking at the petitions, so as to provide the leeway for the country once again. Some of the altercations that followed the 2023 presidential election have really created tension and we think that the court needs to do the needful. The economy is not spared, as it cannot blossom because of the outcome of the election.
There are calls for INEC’s restructuring; that it is dangerous to place power in the hands of one man to determine a winner in an election of presidential magnitude. What’s your take on that?
I agree totally about institutional revamping in Nigeria, which must stem from constitutional amendment or changing constitutional provisions because there is absolutely too much power being exercised by certain individuals in certain institutions. There are too many powers whether it is in the INEC chairman, presidency or any other head of government agency. There is need to whittle down the powers being exercised in some institutions to make our democracy to work well. You can see the jostling in the Senate on who will be the senate president and at the moment, the way it is going is like the President has the sole responsibility to appoint who should be there. That is dangerous.
When that is done, you can begin to imagine the kind of legislation that would come from the senate. Now, the INEC chairman announced the outcome of the last presidential election, not minding the criticisms surrounding it. If there was a kind of Electoral College that probably had sat for one or two days after the election to deliberate on the outcome, I believe that they would have come up with a recommendation that would have been more acceptable to the people than what the INEC chairman solely did. The rush with which he announced the result and gave out certificate of return when there were issues concerning the process made people believe that he was compromised.
One mantra that the 2023 elections threw up is, “go to court”. The development is raising suspicion on whether the judiciary is still the hope of the common person. What are your thoughts on this?
It is a new mantra in the political lexicon of Nigeria. As far as Nigerians are concerned, “go to court” is the beginning and end of impunity. What it means is that some Nigerians are no longer afraid of court proceedings and pronouncements and when they tell you to “go to court,” it means that the court is also in their pockets. Otherwise, why should somebody commit a fraud and tell you to go to court? You cannot do such in England or established climes. You cannot threaten somebody and said if you don’t like it, go to court. What it means is that the judiciary is compromised and there are precedents to that when you take into account that the judiciary at some point produced a governor known today as, “Supreme Court Governor”.
A person who came fourth in the election later became number one. So, the mantra “go to court” is a mockery on the judiciary. It shows the level, which that important arm of the nation has been reduced. It is an aggregate vote of no confidence on the Nigerian judiciary, and I must warn that the judiciary should begin to redeem its image with the electoral cases before it. The judiciary must rise to re-establish the confidence Nigerians have in it, like in the days of Justice Oputa and other icons when the country was exchanging judges with other countries. So, it is a golden opportunity for the judiciary to redeem its image because some Nigerians believe that the elections, especially that of the presidency was rigged.
What can be the implication of this kind of development, “go to court “in the nearest future?
Truth is that there is no future in that kind of development. It means we are headed for a lawless country where institutions of justice dance to the tune of the moneybags. It will lead to anarchy and deepen the level of impunity in the system. Look at the way the issue of Nigerians returning from the war ravaged Sudan was handled even when $1.2 million was voted for the transaction. Certain things need to change for the country to move forward. It will be dangerous if we continue to gloss over issues threatening to divide us as a people while trying to satisfy the yearnings of a few.
On May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari will leave office. What can be your honest assessment of his government?
Buhari has played his part and is on his way out. When the regime came in 2015, they promised three major planks – they said they would tackle insecurity in six months; there will be one dollar to a naira and they will bring corruption to the lowest level. Today, however, the scorecard is available for all to see.
On the issue of security, what used to be in the Northeast when Jonathan was there has metamorphosed to every part of the country. They now hijack trains and if care is not taken, they may be shooting planes down very soon. Remember the last time the President wanted to go to Katsina from Abuja, it was rumoured that they had to go and settle because the terrorists seized vital equipment. When some leaders said we are in a failed state, it does not mean that people will not be moving around, but it means that travelling from point A to B is becoming difficult. When we were younger, we can take off from Enugu even in the night by road to Lagos and you can chose to drive yourself. So, the issue of insecurity is totally a failure on the part of this administration.
In economy, we have become the poverty capital of the world. In all the human development indices, Nigeria is at the lowest of them – Misery Index, Child Mortality rate; economy is on its knees. A bag of rice was N8,000 but today over N45,000. Cost of services and food items are on the high side. Corruption has quadrupled. Inflation is on the high side. Certain grants from foreign donors coming into Africa no longer come into Nigeria due to corruption. Most people don’t know the level of nepotism the Buhari administration institutionalised in this country and this is the worst form of corruption. Because of nepotism, the first 10,000 civil service jobs are held by one segment of the country and their cohorts. So, Buhari has not done any good to the nation by instituting nepotism in the polity. Recently as much as $12 billion was used to purchase few fire trucks for the airport.
As a businessman, how did you see the last attempt to redesign the naira notes?
I call the naira redesign a total hoax. Only the Federal Government should be in a better position to say what it means by the naira redesign. It was a colossal failure and that was because they were not prepared for it; it was poorly executed and came at a wrong time. The reasons behind it were never met and nobody cares. It is just that we don’t measure aggregate loses of policies on the economy in this country; otherwise we would have known that trillions were lost as a result of the policy. It almost wreaked the economy and put several lives in danger. Most businesses have still not recovered from it and nobody has apologised over the development.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo has recently enthroned a new President General in Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. The development has also thrown up fresh controversy. How would you react to this?
There is always controversy in every leadership emergence at Ohanaeze Ndigbo. So, the controversy over Chief Iwuanyanwu transmuting from being the chairman of Elders’ Forum to President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not new. What I can tell you is that his emergence is positive and with time, it will impact on the Igbo. This is because; Iwuanyanwu is a recognised figure in Nigeria. He has played his part both in the private and public sector. He has Igbo interest at heart, he is fearless, and he is non-tribal. He understands the matrix of the constitution of the people of Nigeria and I believe that he will do well. He has played in various sectors – in the media, aviation, construction, insurance, sports and politics. He has played his part and with this position and his experience, I believe he will make a mark in uplifting the Igbo, which he has been talking about. He is aggregately a very good choice at this stage.
One issue that has plagued Ohanaeze is the divergent views of people in the name of Ohanaeze Ndigbo? What should be your advice to Iwuanyanwu on this?
I believe he has a huge assignment in his hands and this includes ensuring very strong Ohanaeze Ndigbo that should be the voice of Igbo people. Ohanaeze seems to have been dwarfed by controversies that had often resulted in parallel leaderships. I think he should begin by reaching out to the various socio-cultural groups and bring them together to suppress other voices and make Ohanaeze the paramount voice for Ndigbo. He should also play a national politics of inclusion, which will help for further integration of Igbo in national affairs. Once he can get the voices to come under the umbrella of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, then he has succeeded. He should spend time to continue to insist that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the apex body for Igbo affairs