BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
The arrest and trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the outlawed IPOB, is going to dominate the news for many months to come. The trial promises to be a cause celebre, one of those rare cases in which politics, criminality and sensation are mixed with high drama. It is indeed a fitting irony that Kanu, despite his frenzied rhetoric, including referring to his country as a zoo, he was still sober enough to carry a Nigerian passport. We look forward to many more sting operations that would bring to justice leaders of Boko Haram terrorist group and other outlaw organisations.
Many of the young supporters of Kanu roaming the streets of Igboland, believe that they are campaigning for the rebirth of the ill-fated state of Biafra. They think that the last Biafra War has ended. It has not. The last Biafran War cannot and would not be truly concluded until the leaders of the Igbos decide to return the body of Colonel Victor Banjo to Yorubaland. Banjo was an accidental Biafran. He died for Biafra.
Banjo was executed on September 22, 1967 at the end of a secret trial ordered by Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Head of State of Biafra. He was 37. Banjo’s dark end was the sorry denouement of a brilliant career in the Nigerian Army. Those executed with him were Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Phillip Alale and Sam Agbam.
Banjo was at the centre of a web of events that climaxed in the Biafran invasion of then Mid-West State (formerly Mid-West Region and later known as Bendel State and now divided into Edo and Delta states). Ojukwu, the Head of State of the Republic of Biafra, had asked Banjo to lead the invasion as the commander of the Biafran 101st Division. The invasion ended badly and that may have been what earned Banjo his death sentence.
By 1966, Banjo was one of the few Yoruba officers in the Nigerian Army, which was then dominated by soldiers from the North and officers from the East. After the first coup of January 15, 1966, Major-General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi, became Nigerian first military Head of State and the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He decided to work with younger officers of the rank of lieutenant colonels whom he appointed as military governors. That action might have been due to the fact that all the senior officers of Northern Nigerian origin have been killed in the first coup. The lone survivor was Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon whom Ironsi quickly appointed the Chief of Army, a position that was vacated by Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo who had now gone on an overseas course.
All the surviving colonels and senior lieutenant colonels were retained in the Defence Headquarters in Lagos to work with Ironsi. Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, the most senior officer, became Ironsi’s deputy. Colonel Shittu Alao moved to the fledgling air force. Banjo had earlier been appointed as the first Nigerian commander of the Engineering Corps of the Nigerian Army. That appointment was to be his passport to hell.
On January 17, 1966, two days after Ironsi came to power, Banjo was invited to State House Marina, ostensibly, to meet the new ruler. There he was seized by soldiers, led by Lt. Colonel George Kurobo and Major P.A Anwuna and detained at the Army Officers Mess. He had told his wife and children that he was going to work. He never returned.
For some days, he was kept in the comfortable environment of the Army Officers Mess. Then he was transferred to the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, Apapa. Banjo felt he had been unfairly treated and he petitioned Ironsi. Ironsi ignored him. Then on July 29, 1966, Ironsi was in Ibadan for a meeting with traditional rulers across the country. After the meeting, Ironsi retired to the Government House, where his host, Lieutenant Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, the young military Governor of the West, treated him to a lavish dinner. That night a group of coup makers, stormed the Government House and kidnapped both Ironsi and Fajuyi.
For three days, Nigeria had no government. Then on August 1, 1966, Lt. Colonel Yakubu Jack Gowon, a lanky bachelor of 32, was announced as the new Head of State. Banjo was happy with the development. Gowon was his friend and old mate. He believed he would soon be out of prison. He was wrong. He petitioned Gowon for his freedom, but Gowon ignored him also. Instead, he was moved from Kirikiri Prison to a prison in Eastern Nigeria. When Ojukwu declared Eastern Nigeria as the independent Republic of Biafra, he ordered the release of Banjo and made him the General Officer Commanding a Biafran army division.
At the beginning of hostilities, the West and the Mid-West had tried to maintain some neutrality, not allowing troops to be deployed from their territory against Biafra. However, Ojukwu ordered a blitzkrieg against the Mid-West and within 24 hours almost the entire region was occupied. The invasion was led by Colonel Banjo.
The mission of Banjo however was beyond Mid-West. He was to lead the Biafran invasion of the West and Lagos and proclaim the independence of Western Nigeria from the Federation. The success of that invasion was to cause serious rift between Ojukwu and his old friend Banjo. Banjo objected seriously to the appointment of an Igbo man, Lt. Colonel Albert Okonkwo, as the Military Governor of the new Republic of Benin. Banjo felt a soldier of Mid-West origin should have been appointed. Ojukwu disagreed.
Ojukwu promised that Banjo would be proclaimed the military governor of the new Republic of Western Nigeria. Banjo believed that such a governor should be a partner and not a subordinate to the Head of State of Biafra. Ojukwu disagreed. Of course, Banjo would not concur that Ojukwu should appoint a military administrator for Lagos. He regarded Lagos as part of the West.
The disagreement between the two men was protracted and ultimately costly. Ojukwu insisted on having his way and in the end Colonel Okonkwo was made the Head of State of the new Republic of Benin. The delay in Benin allowed Gowon to rally Federal troops and Colonel Murtala Muhammed led the Second Division to confront Biafran forces at Ore, Ondo State. They were joined by troops from the Ibadan Garrison Command (IGC), led by Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo. The Biafrans were routed and the new Republic of Benin was quickly buried.
It is time for Igbo leaders to identify where Banjo was buried and return his body for proper burial in the land of his ancestors. Despite the travails and tragedies that befell him, Banjo stood for principles that only heroes could have espoused in the face of serious personal peril. No true lover of freedom would agree to all those conditions that Ojukwu tried to impose on Banjo. Rather than the lion to carry the hunting bag of the tiger, let each hunter hunt alone.
What can we really and honestly make of twenty-two years of unbroken democracy in the country? When Babangida and his military travellers wanted to bequeath their brand of democracy to us, many were deceived to believe that they meant well for the country. From 1985 to 1993, the nation was dribbled the way the Maradona and his kitchen cabinet knew best! From Option A4 to two political parties (Social Democratic Party and National Republican Convention), we were all fooled. June 12, 1993, was to be a watershed in the annals of our political evolution, but it was destroyed.
The presidential election of June 12, 1993, produced M. K. O. Abiola with Babagana Kingibe, his running mate both Muslims as winners of the annulled presidential election. God bless Nigerians who put aside religious bigotry and sentiment and voted in Abiola and Kingibe. Regrettably, for illogical, self, and unpatriotic reasons, Abiolas mandate was scuttled. Then the macabre dance started. Earnest Shonekan, a lawyer and businessman was brought in as the Head of the Interim Government with General Abacha superintending over his affairs. It was the worst scenario that ever emerged in the nations political history.
For three months, the nation became rudderless, and anarchy took over the land. The people took to the streets demanding the restoration of the mandate freely and fairly given to Abiola. Capitalising on the situation, Sani Abacha dislodged Shonekan. He became the Head of State from November 1993 until his death on June 8, 1998. Abdulsalami Abubakar was sworn in to assume the leadership of the country following the mysterious death of Abacha. Abubakar was in a hurry to hand over and in the process, left many things undone. And things that were done were full of the contraption and land mines.
The worst document ever bequeathed to a nation was a fraudulent Constitution that has become our albatross. General Abubakar assaulted our intelligence and collective aspiration by giving his own brand of the constitution that was never discussed, debated, and agreed upon by the people of this country nor its representatives. No referendum. Indeed, it was after Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in on May 29, 1999, that the voodoo Constitution surfaced. The euphoria of the newfound democracy, even with the time bomb, prevented the country from demanding a Peoples Constitution. We are now carrying the cross of our naivety, indiscretion and unbridled trust of the military leadership that ruled the country despite their notoriety for deception, maladministration, and mind-management.
Since May 29, 1999, the country has been plagued by monumental problems making the essence of democracy largely a mockery. Obasanjo presided over our new democracy like a ruthless and uncompromising leader. He hardly spared any opposition. The Odi people, the Zaki Biam massacre, the dislodgement of Southwest (save Lagos State) governors through deception, the turbulence in the National Assembly, the abduction of Governor Ngige, and other atrocities perpetrated during his regime did no credit to him. The privatisation programme of his administration was a disaster. To his credit, he got the country off the hook of the World Bank and the International Monetary Funds debt debacle. The global system for mobile telecommunication (GSM) was introduced during his administration.
After eight years (remember the Third Term Agenda that the full and true story is yet to be revealed), Obasanjo foisted Umaru Musa YarAdua on us. A calm, humble but sickly man, he could not achieve much before he transited to the world beyond. His short administration was characterised by policy somersault as his medical condition could not allow him to firmly take charge of the administration of the nation. His deputy, Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in with the invocation of the doctrine of necessity, as the country’s President. It is however, on record that he addressed the Niger Delta imbroglio.
Jonathan started well but events later proved that he was ill-prepared for power. He had too many powerful people with different agendas in his administration. He was portrayed as a weakling. Despite his claim to scholarship as the first President with a Ph.D degree (Zik never had a Ph.D degree), his administration was bereft of intellectual concord and direction. It is lamentable that his administration produced the worst set of treasury looters in the country infamous history of treasury looting and decimation of our common patrimony. However, Jonathan was not arrogant with power. He was a gentleman who never believed that his ambition was worth the blood of any Nigerian. The Boko Haram sect that levied war on the country from the era of Obasanjo was critical to his fall from power.
General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president on May 29, 2015. Nigeria and Nigerians craved for change in our socio-economic, political, security, and structural arrangements. Unfortunately, the last six years have been quite harrowing, excruciating and debilitating. Initially, we were confronted by the declining health status of our President. After several months of treatment, he was stabilised. But the country health was devastated in the process. Many critical issues could not be attended to, and the nation was left in mumbo jumbo.
The six years of PMB has been a mixed bag. In the provision of infrastructure, we must give it to his administration. Many of our critical but neglected infrastructures are being attended to. The road, rail and air transportation systems are being given fillip. Attempts are being made to get some of our poor people out of poverty.
On the downside, the economic situation of the country is still comatose and has defied solutions. Our monetary and fiscal policies are intractable leading to the pauperisation of the citizenry. The country’s currency is now akin to the old Italian lira and Ghanaian cede! Our external reserves are on the downward swing. Most states in the federation are heavily in debt and can hardly survive without massive borrowings. The country is heavily indebted, yet we are behaving like the proverbial prodigal child by attempting to extend facilities including rails services to the Niger Republic when we cannot satisfy the nation!
Insecurity has plagued our nation and the worst is happening under the administration of PMB. No part of the country is immune from insecurity. Insecurity rears its head in different perspectives including kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, insurgency, internecine conflict, and the rest of them. They all appear intractable despite the enormous resources being deployed to combat them.
Poverty and unemployment have taken over the country, notwithstanding what the government is telling us. It is now so bad that our country has been labelled the poverty capital of the world. Our youths are moving out of the country in droves because of unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Corruption, despite the claim of government, is still hydra-headed and untamed.
Perhaps the worst legacy being bequeathed to us as a nation is parochialism as the government of PMB is not remorseful about concentrating major appointments to his part of the country. This attitude is affecting national cohesion and integration. Members of his cabinet and close aides only tell PMB what is pleasing to his ears. In his own case, PMB appears unperturbed about the happenings around him. We cannot continue this way.
Our country is not a federation. Neither are we practising true federalism. Restructuring that most parts of the country are craving for is being ignored. Things are definitely falling apart in the country, and it is only desirable that we wake up from our lethargic status.
A new Constitution for the people by the people to replace the voodoo and pseudo-Constitution foisted on us by General Abdulsalami Abubakar is the only way to security, sanity, good governance, and development. The twenty-two years of unbroken democracy have been a curse to the nation. We can turn things around by doing the right things. If the right things are done, the country can take its pride of place in the comity of blessed nations.
Democracy should be a blessing, not a curse. It is so far, so bad!
Yusuf, Ph.D, is a lecturer at the University of Lagos.
Founding father and President of Zambia, Kenneth David Kaunda (1924-2021) would be remembered as one of those rare revolutionaries that won independence without bloodshed.
Kaunda led with exceptional love for humanity and emotions for his people. Though he was politically imperfect, his foibles forgivable, he remains an icon of nationalism and of courageous leadership that today’s African countries need urgently.
Fallout of his utopia was a weird idea about political opposition in a democracy. He reckoned that tolerance of opposition in a multi-cultural and multi-party democracy could only embolden enemies to undermine his rule and tear the country apart. So, for 26 of his 27 years in power, the strongman-president was hostile to opponents, silenced and imprisoned dissents like Simon Kapwepwe and kept shifting the goal post of the ruling party to prolong his stay in office. With a firm grip on the wheels, Kaunda routinely won presidential elections unopposed with 80 per cent majority.
After years of hesitation, Kaunda’s Zambia submitted to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1989, introduced austerity measures that cut off food supplies to the people. Attendant riots and multi-party elections in 1991 got him booted out of office in a landslide. By then, his stature had diminished with more than 70 per cent of the people living in poverty and the country indebted to the tune of $7 billion.
Warning by the Federal Government that practitioners of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) would henceforth face trial and may be imprisoned for four years and/or fined N500,000.00 cannot be more timely and appropriate, considering the very harmful effects of the practice on hapless girls and women.
Genital mutilation is considered to be one of the most controversial and not-so-widely discussed harmful traditional practices (HTP); and though it is outlawed, has endured. For its tenacity to survive threats and campaign against it, the government will need to go beyond its warning and intensify public education and mass enlightenment, to eradicate it completely.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. This is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. On February 6, 2003, Stella Obasanjo, the then First Lady of Nigeria and spokesperson for the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation, made the official declaration on “Zero Tolerance to FGM” in Africa during a conference organised by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. Then the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights adopted an international awareness day on FGM to turn global searchlight towards eradicating it; and in 2012, the UN General Assembly designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, with the aim to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of this practice.
Although FGM, also referred to as ‘‘female circumcision’’ is a universal problem practised in some countries in Asia and Latin America; it is primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The UN notes that globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. The practice is declining in many countries. But the global body warns that at its current levels, with rapid population growth in countries where it is concentrated, it will significantly increase the number of girls subjected to it.
In Nigeria, the 2018 NDHS states that 20% of women age 15-49 have been circumcised; and 19% of girls age 0-14 are circumcised. Specifically, during the sub-zonal media briefing in commemoration of the 2019 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, organised by FGN/UNICEF Programme of Co-operation (2018-2022), as part of the UN’s efforts to eradicate FGM; the Chief of Field Office, UNICEF, Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh stated that statistics indicate that the country ranks third highest among practising countries in the world. Although Dr. Conteh explained that some of the state governments have good policies and laws, they have been slow in follow-up and implementation.
Female genital mutilation is one of the traditional rituals that prepare girls for womanhood and is being fuelled by myths, preconceptions and diverse ignorance about social expectations. It nonetheless remains a violation of women’s reproductive rights, puts their lives at risk and is harmful to their unborn children. To many people and groups across the belt of Africa, FGM is considered variously a cleansing ritual, a female rite of passage, a guarantor of chastity, a boost to fertility, or to male sexual pleasure and a cure for ‘‘sexual deviance.’’
Although some Africans defend it in the name of cultural tradition, females who undergo FGM face long-term physical, psychological, emotional, mental and social consequences as FGM leads to complications like severe pain, urine retention/painful urination, menstrual problems, keloids, shock, genital tissue swelling: due to inflammatory response or local infection, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), obstetric fistula, perinatal risks; and psychological consequences. Death can be caused by infections such as tetanus and haemorrhage and psychological consequences.
Furthermore, FGM violates the human rights of women and girls, contravening established principles, norms and standards including non-discrimination on the basis of sex; the rights to health, physical integrity and life; the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the rights of the child.
In 2015, world leaders overwhelmingly backed the elimination of FGM as one of the targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, calling for an end to FGM by 2030 under the goal of Gender Equality and elimination of all harmful practices. This goal is achievable and Nigeria must act now to translate that political commitment into action. To eliminate FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, including at the national level, new policies and legislation protecting the rights of girls and women to live free from violence and discrimination. Government should ensure the integration of female genital mutilation in humanitarian and post-crisis response, particularly in the North East.
Given that societal pressures often drive the practice, individuals and families need more information about the benefits of abandoning it and the media should sensitise them. Campaigners against FGM should focus on human rights, gender equality, sexual education and attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences. Meanwhile, religious leaders should strike down myths that FGM has a basis in religion. Since the practice is a source of livelihood, government and corporate bodies should organise skills acquisition programmes for the practitioners in order to equip them with the necessary skills to take up other legitimate means of livelihood and quit the barbaric act.
The killing of Ahmed Gulak, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former political adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, again by “unknown gunmen”, is a clear indication of the palpable state of insecurity in the country and a signal that no one, not the mighty nor the low, is safe anymore.
Reports of killings across the country have become a daily occurrence to the point where most incidents no longer make headlines. Even more troubling is the statement by the Police, about Gulak’s failure to travel with security escorts or notify the security agencies of his travel plans; again, an acknowledgement of the crass abnormality of insecurity that has befallen the nation.
This is another instance where Nigerians would be told they require the permission of security agencies to move freely within the country, as it would be recalled that following the killing of 43 farmers in Borno State, in November 2020, the presidency had criticized the farmers for visiting their farms without obtaining “clearance” from the security agencies. What then becomes of the average Nigerian that is unable to afford the luxury (now a necessity) of a police detail? With the sporadic attacks on police formations, particularly in the southeast, it has become obvious that the safety of even the security personnel is not guaranteed.
Although the Police have announced the arrest of some suspects allegedly involved in the dastardly act, the announcement should not signify an end to the investigation on the motivation of the perpetrators, particularly as the killers were speculated to be members of IPOB, the outlawed organisation that has since denied its involvement. The police need to show publicly and convincingly what makes the killers IPOB members; and whoever they are, they should be subjected to the full rigours of the law. The incident has further tilted the balance of the fragile peace on which the nation currently stands towards a precarious brink.
While a section of the public believes the killing to be politically motivated, as suggested by the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma in a press conference, others have been quick to advance the theory of the southeast and northern Nigerian discord, which has prompted the Arewa Consultative Forum to issue a travel advisory, dissuading Nigerians of the northern extraction from travelling to the South-East. This is an unhealthy development that can be redressed only by bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Gulak’s murder is highly condemnable whatever may be the motive, as no Nigerian going about his lawful business deserves to be gunned down criminally for any reason whatsoever. His death should not add to the statistics of unresolved murder cases in the country, the list of which is endless, including the late Attorney General of the Federation, Bola Ige, National Vice-Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Marshall Harry, PDP Lagos State Governorship aspirant, Funsho Williams and others. These unresolved cases, particularly as they involve high political figures, continue to question the competence and or integrity of our security agencies. Nigerians need answers, and the sooner one is provided the better. It will be in assuaging the already frayed nerves of many Nigerians who have become highly disillusioned by the dismal low value to which the Nigerian life has been reduced.
More importantly, Nigerians need their government to rise to the occasion and, as expected of any government deserving of the name, address the spate of insecurity across the nation. Nigeria is on the brink of a descent into a state of anarchy and the government is already late, but not too late, in taking the right measures to address the situation. The people have had enough of the talking without acting.
Stakeholders are all in agreement that the current security architecture has failed to address the nation’s security challenges and have propounded the decentralization of the Police Force to better aid community policing. Granted that the constitutional review process is on its way, Nigerians are worried about the true intent of the political elite who from experience have only stood to serve its own selfish interest at the expense of the common man. It is in the interest of the country that the exercise will not become unduly politicized to the extent of losing its true aims and objectives.
The international community is watching and the country’s leadership needs to demonstrate that it can secure the lives and property of citizens, and that government is capable of handling the country’s domestic issues as they arise. Security agencies have been the centre of focus for a while now and this is an opportunity for them to redeem an already battered image by employing international best practices in unravelling some of these matters. At a time like this when the country’s economy is tottering on all fronts, government more than ever needs to assure foreign investors of the safety of their lives and investment.
While Nigerians have not had the best of services from its security agencies, they must however realise that security is the job of every citizen, and as such, all must work to assist the security agencies, given their limited resources. People should promptly report all criminal elements in their midst to the relevant security agencies for appropriate action.
Members of the community where I live did not start a vigilante group because the Nigerian minister of Defence asked us to protect ourselves. We decided to over the spate of robberies we were experiencing in our community in Benin City. The nature of these robberies resembles the kind perpetrated on residents by Boko Haram – they are directed at the vulnerable and women. Sometimes, they are regular and at other times irregular, depending on the time of day and depending on the level of vigilante observed by residents. When the criminals observe that residents may have gone to work, they break in, steal household items and make a break for it. At night, they lay ambush at victims at very isolated spots frequented by poor and struggling women, and take their phones, hard-earned cash and make a dash into the nearby bushes. The other day, a co-resident with her son, was attacked and robbed of all they had eked for the day; a policeman’s daughter was victim as well. There are many more.
This had otherwise been a relatively peaceful and quiet community, considered by some as very safe to live. Incidents in the past involving herdsmen leading their herds into cassava and corn fields and destroying same were resolved after a meeting with the cattle herders. Residents took it for granted that since the airport is close by with an air force post, a police post and a correctional facility nearby, they could at least sleep with two eyes closed and snore into the bargain. But after a sporadic shooting incident and robbery just adjacent to the nearby police post and residents were robbed without police response, the scales fell from the eyes of these residents: that this is a to-your-tent-o- Israel kind of community, with life short, brutish and security for sale to the highest bidder.
In our case though, residents decided to come together to hire local people to patrol. In spite of the fact that we have to pay for water, irregular power supply and contend with high cost of living, we taxed ourselves mercilessly to pay for the services of those patrolling our community by night. But lo and behold, our efforts paid off – in the arrest of a suspect in broad day light – and not by the vigilante we had contracted to patrol but by a bloody civilian policing his community himself. After the arrest of the suspect, and after untrained interrogation (our threat to chop off the suspect’s arm nevertheless) was not yielding any information that could lead to revealing the gang perpetrating these robberies, the community decided to do the needful and hand the suspect over to the local police post.
The police outpost told the residents to take the case elsewhere because the case was beyond them. They had no resources – vehicles, manpower and funds to investigate this matter. Among items found on the suspect included a blood-stained t-shirt. At the other police post, and in the hands of trained personnel, the suspect confessed to having a gang, armed with cutlasses and locally made guns with which they carry out their criminal enterprise. He revealed where his gang was hiding, and to investigate further, the police said they needed a vehicle and ‘mobilization’ to be able to conduct such an investigation. Because we were unable to raise the kind of money to hire a vehicle and ‘mobilize’ the police to conduct a thorough investigation, we were utterly dismayed to learn that the suspect was to be released into regular society.
From the beginning of year 2021, Edo state has experienced unprecedented criminality ranging from cultists fighting one another to kidnappings. Pundits refer to Edo as a den of robbers and kidnappers. The celebrated incident of the Nigerian-American who was kidnapped and killed after ransom was paid further sent shivers down all our spines.
But in all this, what has the Obaseki government been up to? In January, there were reports of a move to start a neighbourhood watch project. It was to look like the Know Your Customer, KYC programme that banks usually carry out for due diligence purposes. We all clapped and applauded at that announcement knowing the positive outcome it would have for security purposes. But as we speak, we are not sure what has come of that announcement. The Edo government also has a security outfit aka Wagbaizigan, Stop Crime (in Edo language). In a report by ThisDay 13th December 2020, Obaseki was quoted as saying that ‘we have trained and graduated 800 community police personnel and other 1,200 will soon be called up for training in the next few weeks. We are investing in the police training school in Ogida police barrack to make it a permanent and proper training facility’. But with Wagbaizigan and the ‘trained and graduated 800 community police personnel’ in Edo state, crime festers. If you live in Benin City, and you are still not home by 8pm at the earliest, your life is at great risk. Don’t try to be at Sakponba Road, the King’s Square (Ring road), 2nd Junction, New Benin, Agbor road by Guinness, the bypass and the road leading to Ogbemudia farms any time after dark.
In February 2019, and according to FAAC, Edo received a gross total allocation of N4, 439, 862, 053.25 ($USD11, 668,490). In the light of the intractable security uncertainties in this state, budgeting $USD2million out of the above amount looks like a sensible thing to do. But in our case as a small community, we wouldn’t be needing to fund and mobilize the police to conduct an investigation if the police get some reasonable fraction of the said monies allocated to fight crime, criminality and its allied appendages. Before we make our appeal to Gov. Obaseki, we call on the Federal Authorities to consider state police to check the recurrent and capital incidences of insecurity in Nigeria.
If the Federal government is unable to fund or reform the police, why is it pussyfooting with letting it go for the regions to organise their own security? That said, we appeal to Governor Obaseki to go beyond the rhetoric of training and graduating community police personnel, activate his neighbourhood watch project, rev the Wagbaizigan and increase funding for police beyond the N5million he is alleged to give the police in Edo state monthly. Edo, and Benin City especially, is fast becoming a den of robbers, kidnappers and life is being measured in coefficients of uncertainty and fear.
In fairness to the Muhammadu Buhari administration, it has taken some steps aimed at facilitating business transactions. These include the Executive Order 1 signed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in May 2016. Also, following the World Bank annual rating, which placed Nigeria 131st position among 190 economies rated, the government also took some steps towards further making its dream of bringing the rating up to 70 by 2023, in tandem with its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). It was in pursuance of this objective that the government also came up with a new Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) which was signed into law on August 7, last year, for the purpose of bringing in new perspectives in the handling of commercial transactions in the country.
Salutary as these initiatives are, and in spite of their inherent challenges which the government is contending with as expected with such new ideas, another area that requires urgent attention is the prohibitive transportation costs of goods from the ports to their respective destinations, even within the Lagos metropolis. If not quickly addressed, this is capable of undermining all the other efforts aimed at facilitating business transactions.
What obtains with regard to haulage of goods from the ports is simply incredible. How, for instance, do you justify a situation where an importer pays more than what he spent to import his goods in transporting same from the port to final destination?
A few examples will suffice. A Nigerian who decided to relocate after spending about 30 years abroad soon realised the folly in his decision to ship his belongings with a view to reducing the cost of settling down. But his wisdom was turned to foolishness, no thanks to the ubiquitous ‘Nigerian factor’ that has become the fall guy for everything untoward. The man was slammed about N1.3m to convey the 40 feet container to his residence in Ikeja. Many other people are caught in this quagmire.
According to this newspaper, quoting a Financial Times report titled “Nigeria’s port crisis: the $4,000 charge to carry goods across Lagos”, business entities pay more than $4,000 to truck a 40ft container 20km to the Nigerian mainland. Interestingly, this is almost as much as it costs to freight a container from China which is about 12,000 nautical miles away from Nigeria.
How can any business do well in a situation such as this? Even blue chip companies would feel the heat of such excessive haulage cost, not to talk of the many business enterprises that are struggling, having been bogged down by other encumbrances, among them epileptic power supply? Indeed, an entrepreneur answered the question on behalf of others in similar circumstance: “I practically had to beg the truck owner before he accepted to collect N950, 000 from Tin Can port to this place (Ogba). What is the total profit on the goods that I have to pay so much? I am not in business to make a loss, so, unfortunately, I will have to transfer this cost to the final consumers,” she said.
This is the issue. The extra cost will eventually be borne by the usual beast of burden in the business mix: the consumer. But the implication by no means stop there. Ultimately, demand for the goods will begin to shrink, leading to contraction of the economy, job losses and eventually social dislocations and rising crime wave.
The government must be ready to address the issues that gave birth to this ugly development. Perhaps not much has been achieved in nipping this development in the bud because, rather than seeing it as a product of corruption. The government is looking at it as an issue of demand and supply. But something gave birth to the demand and supply crisis, even if that is what we choose, for the sake of convenience, to adduce to be the cause. President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, put the issue in context:
”Somehow, a driver that has spent two weeks on the queue has to make up for the lost days by charging more; he also has to make up for the bribes he has to pay,” he said.
Jonathan Nichol, Chairman, Nigerian Shippers Association (Lagos chapter), corroborated this aspect of corruption: “It has never been like this in times past. Official and unofficial compulsory payments are made on every cargo movement. Trucking has become a big challenge.”
The media has drawn attention to this development in several reports and editorial comments. Why the long arm of the law has been too short to apprehend a few persons as scapegoats on this sordid affair at the ports is puzzling. It is also a paradox since the access road to the Tin Can Island Port has been restored.
Although there is so much optimism about the Electronic Call-up system just introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as panacea to the problem of high haulage cost, it would require a renewed vigour on the part of the government and the NPA to succeed. We say this because, as we are removing one clog in the way of inefficiency at the ports, another is rearing its ugly head.
We must be ready to do things differently at the ports to complement other measures aimed at facilitating business transactions in the country.
Too often, President Muhammadu Buhari has appeared – to citizens, commentators, and even his supporters – as too silent on burning national issues. The perception is not misplaced, going by his relative lack of reaction to multifarious incidents, including rabid insecurity plaguing the country, charges of ethnic cleansing and domination, as well as the recent #EndSARS protest. The president has tended to keep mute and relatively aloof of the occurrences, until very late, when too much damage has occurred.
Being the head of a representative democracy that requires regular engagement with the electorate, the leader is reasonably expected to talk to, talk with, and generally keep in touch with the people through the many channels available in this 21st century. In these times, Buhari’s silence is not at all golden.
Regular and clear communication between a leader and the led is a sine qua non for both effective administration and successful leadership. For if, as a leadership-training expert John Maxwell says, leadership is influence, the potent means of a leader to influence people is effective communication. It is the oil in the machinery to influence. Whereas there are two sides to the meaning of silence, a leader who aims to achieve great things for his people through them must communicate with them; he cannot, should not, remain silent too often, too long. The silence of a ruler gives room in the polity for rumours, speculations and possibly undesirable repercussion. And these happen quickly in the technologically-wired global village that the world has become.
Granted that there is a time, a season, and a place for everything, there is indeed a time to speak up and speak out; there is too, a time to remain silent. In the latter case, silence is, in popular parlance, said to be golden. Silence can be a form of thoughtful restraint from speaking for the reason that it is at that time, a better or wiser cause of action. Golden silence is an act of wisdom. On the one hand, the silence of a man, and even more potently, of a leader can be a strategic weapon. Wisely applied, it keeps the other side guessing and even confused, to the calculated advantage of the silent.
On the other hand, the silence of a leader can indicate contempt or disdain for the led; an I -can’t- be- bothered -what -they – think –say- or do attitude. This wooden silence is certainly not wisdom, for a ruler, or anyone else. Indeed, as an implicitly provocative act, it is also a risky strategy. Persistent, protracted silence of a leader tends to show him as clueless, as one who is overwhelmed by the job and who simply knows not what to think, say or do about the demands of his office. As his government muddles, wobbles, and fumbles, so will the fortune and fate of the people and of their country. This can be tragic not only for himself, but for the country he heads.
Hydra-headed criminality has virtually taken over this country. In recent times, there is not a day that precious human blood is not shed somewhere on the soil of Nigeria. North and south, east and west, citizens are kidnapped, raped, murdered; homes are burnt and farms are destroyed. With a regularity that is somewhat nauseating, Nigerian leaders elected to assure the security and welfare of the people content themselves with expressing their regret, commiserate with the victims, and promise firm action against the criminals. And then fall asleep, so to speak, in the comfort of their official homes and offices maintained at public expense. But that is when they speak up at all.
Banditry is lately, the buzzword for large groups of murderous herdsmen on the rampage with the confidence of who can stop us. They are well armed with AK-47 guns, grenade launchers, and vehicle-mounted guns and well supplied with ammunition. This is happening in a country where all arms are supposed to be licensed by the Police; where indeed, the authorities had long ago ordered that such arms be surrendered.
If leadership is a trust, if the primary purpose of government is to guarantee the security and welfare of the governed, if the very first virtuous purpose of leadership is service, then the failure of Nigerian leaders in these respects is too palpable. The evidence is all over: from the debt- burdened, under-productive economy, through the chicanery of unrepentantly parasitic politicians, to the dysfunctional state of the Nigerian society. Only those who still benefit from the current sorry situation (and there is quite a number spanning the various elite groups) will have the nerve to assert that all is well with the country. It is sufficient to say that Nigeria is not on course to the greatness it deserves. And the blame falls on its leadership.
At the highest level of constituted authority, the silence to the dangerous drift of Nigeria into anarchy is deafening, notwithstanding the sporadic statements of media aides speaking for the Presidency. Presidential spokespersons do have a role to play in the polity, but Nigerians did not elect media aides as political leaders. No. The electorate invested Mr. Muhammadu Buhari with full authority and powers to manage the country’s affairs in the best interest of all. They expect periodic report to the people on how well he is getting on with the job. No spokesperson can articulate this better than the man on the job. And, the means to do this include formal media chat, response to the pressmen questions at occasions, televised address on issues of national urgency such as herdsmen banditry, the state of the economy, and the roaring call for a truly federal system of government. The alignment – or mismatch between the verbal and nonverbal communications can speak volumes about the integrity of a leader.
Nigerians are not necessarily looking out for oratory eloquence; but they care for substance of what their president says. A leader who has nothing to hide about his performance will confidently defend his actions and omissions. Nigerians know that Buhari is human, not a saint. Elected into the presidency after three rejections, he is expected to speak to Nigerians with the conviction of a leader doing his honest-to-God best to serve the greatest good of the greatest number. Wooden silence has no room in genuine leadership. Middlemen as spokespersons and script technicians will also not replace the direct communication between the president and the citizenry.
A leader that does not communicate limits his leadership potential while one that communicates maximizes his leadership. At a time that tries the soul of Nigerians, silence is not a virtue in governance. If President Buhari desires to influence Nigerians in a meaningful, result-oriented way, he must communicate much more with them. There are no two ways about it.
The world will not be destroyed
by those who do evil, but by those
who watch them without doing anything.
Let us pause for a while and remind ourselves of what it would look like, if Nigerians lose their sense of reasoning and embrace anarchy in this age of technology advancement and the great awareness that the 21st Century has exposed mankind to. Also, we should ruminate that after half a Century years of Nigeria’s servitude to three years of civil war, it is a matter of regret that some misguided political elite since inception of President Muhammadu Buhari administration have been in constant ethnic and religious dialogue with history in negative ways.
Sadly, some prominent members of the political elite unguided utterances seem to beckon the above ugly experience witnessed in the country to repeat itself. This underlines a big problem, hence, the chairman, National Peace Committee (NPC) former Head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar recently cautioned state governors who are brandishing their tongues carelessly to be more temperate in their utterances in order not to instigate civil unrest in the nation. He said: “People who are old enough recollect what happened during the civil war. What were the things that led to the civil war? People from different states were being attacked, killed and their property destroyed, and people started migrating to their states of origin. And this is what is happening now…” The above warning is clearly lost just as the lessons of the civil war seem a child’s play in self hating Nigerians who would exult at such a despicable incidences of killings across the country to degenerate into a civil unrest. That the nation has been under the mercy of insurgents, bandits, kidnapping and herdsmen atrocities name it, for over a decade is absolutely disturbing. But what makes it even more worrisome is the paucity of fund that has become the annual harvest of security services budget. Hence, their constant romance with inadequate equipment and their inability to arrest the security challenges. In the face of their handicap, government officials keep saying our security services are up to the task. Yet, the crave for economic progress, peace and stability in the country continue to get slimmer by the day while the lust for anarchy, chaos, bloodshed, destruction and perpetual domination and subjugation of others seem to be the order of the day. It is shameful that the federal government’s body language and inaction continue to ignite the perpetuation of evil in the country, from its craftily blurred line between partisan or ethnic interest over the nation’s overall interest. Of course, that brings to bear the spate of bashing criticism of the ruling party over its poor handling of the security challenges among others facing the nation.
Surely, when there is clearly no path to peace, when every cause of action leads to chaos and anarchy then unity and proclamation of one Nigeria we so crave for would become partial. One of the most impressive aspects of President Buhari inauguration speech in 2015 is his declaration that he is for nobody but for all. Regrettably, as the administration progressed, President Buhari seems to allow himself to be held hostage by ethnic and religious sentiments. This is obviously illuminated from his predilection in appointments and siting of major projects in the northern region. And the growing grave yard silence and toothless statements from federal government about tackling insecurity, lawlessness and herdsmen brouhaha across the country.
As President, Buhari bears a special responsibility for every Nigerian life and property which he swore an oath to protect. In the short term, herdsmen and cattle business seems more important than tackling the burning issue of insecurity, unemployment and infrastructure deficit facing the country. Hence, the unnecessary pettiness and sympathetic allegation by the presidency the other day when it echoed that criminal herders are being tried and convicted in the South West. By the way, is the law suppose to protect criminals, that the federal government had to raise an alarm over criminal herders prosecution? If found guilty, should criminals whether herders or otherwise not pay the ultimate prize as defined by law? As it were, the calumny of facts occasioned from unguarded statements mostly from Miyetti Allah, is helping to heat up the polity. The group which is defined not by any political ideology but by an affection they have towards their business of cattle rearing have become so daring in recent times. However, the blithe assumption by Miyetti Allah arguing with audacious confidence that Nigerians (herders) are free to carry arms for self defence can only encourage the upsurge in small arms and light weapons in the country. It is even more worrisome that some state governors from the north express their support to weaponise the herders through their body language and public defence.
It is particularly disheartening to note that governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi state who recently said: “They (herders) have no option than to carry Ak47 because the society and government are not protecting them… it not their (herders) fault, it is the fault of the government and the people, you don’t criminalise all of them…” In the face of all these, the federal government chose to turn a deaf ear and refuses to recognise the legitimate danger of such careless statements therefore, denounce and caution proliferation of arms promoters.
The measure at which insecurity bore the stamp of panic in the country has not only drawn international attention but has spawned and encouraged ethnic regions to set-up their own security architecture for self defence. In the northern region, we have the Hisbah, while Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) operates in the South West, now side by side with Amotekun, formed recently in the same region. Of course, the South East is drumming to everyone’s hearing that it has no intension of truncating the already moving train of its region’s security network. The South East committee chairman, Major General Obi Umahi said: “…the South East is the most secure geopolitical zone in the country today…the region governors have banned open grazing…they have done things about the security infrastructure. I am also aware that each state has motorised its security network…” What all these inflammatory dialogue and regional securities imply is that the window of unity to show that Nigeria is truly one, is rapidly closing. And it is hard to imagine how peace and unity that once defined Nigerians as the most happiest people on earth could sink any lower from the antics of those perpetrating evil. Therefore, President Buhari should overcome his flaws and use his charming charisma to urgently bring back Nigeria on the stead of peace and unity.
It is just as well that Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, saw the need to “clarify” his widely reported assertion that herdsmen have the right to go about brandishing AK-47 rifles because they need to defend themselves. Amid the outrage provoked by herders’ killing of hundreds of innocent people across the country, Governor Mohammed declared at the closing ceremony of the 2021 Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Bauchi State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists penultimate Thursday that herdsmen have no choice but to carry arms because of the insecurity they encounter while herding their cattle through Nigerian forests, particularly the attacks on them by cattle rustlers.
“The Fulani man is practicing the tradition of trans-human pastoralism,” he said. “He has been exposed to the dangers of the forests, the animals and now the cattle rustlers who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, his cows. He has no option but to carry AK-47 and defend himself because the society and the government are not protecting him.”
As it would be expected, his pronouncement sparked widespread anger, particularly in parts of the country that have been at the receiving end of the horror unleashed by killer herdsmen. Among those who expressed anger were two governors, Daniel Ortom of Benue State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, who have had to experience the herdsmen’s reign of terror firsthand.
Expressing shock and disappointment at Mohammed’s statement, Governor Ortom, whose government had to conduct mass burial for 72 Benue indigenes on New Year day in January 2018 after the terror unleashed by herdsmen reacting to the enforcement of the state’s new anti-grazing law, challenged the Bauchi governor to point out the law that permits herdsmen to carry Ak-47 rifles. Ortom wondered why a colleague governor who took the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would take the lead in violating the provisions of the same constitution by calling for lawlessness. Governor Akeredolu, on his part, wondered what would become of the country if other governors encourage their citizens to carry arms in self-defence.
Impelled by the widespread condemnation of his statement, Governor Mohammed issued another statement on Sunday purportedly clarifying the earlier one in an attempt to justify same. But the so called clarification was nothing short of adding insult to injury; a specious afterthought so arrogantly tendentious to qualify as a ploy meant to call the bluff of the governor’s traducers. The significance of the statement is not the clarification it purports to seek but the realization on the part of Governor Mohammed that the earlier one was unbecoming of a statesman.
In the clarification statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mukhtar Gidado, the governor said his primary objective was to avert “the dangerous prospect of a nationwide backlash as tempers flared and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria. By extension, the governor made it abundantly clear that it will be inappropriate to label any one tribe based on the crimes of a few members of the ethnic group.” He then added that the reference to Ak-47 “was simply (meant) to put in perspective the predicament and desperation of those law-abiding Fulani herdsmen who, while carrying out their legitimate cow-rearing business, have become serial victims of cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping and assassination.”
The legitimate question that flows from the clarification is which part of Nigeria does not experience the air of insecurity for which Governor Mohammed is advocating Ak-47 for the Fulani, sometimes in worse dimensions? In Cross River State, for instance, hapless medical doctors have been the targets of kidnappers and armed robbers in recent times because their troublers perceive them as the most prosperous professionals in the state. Should doctors in the South-south state now carry arms because their lives are under threats of kidnapping and armed robbery?
As a journalist, I have lost count of the number of my colleagues who have been robbed, abducted or assassinated. In the recent EndSARS protest hijacked by hoodlums, both TVC’s and this newspaper’s offices were attacked by gunmen who also set fire to the buildings that house the two media organizations. Would these be justifications for media practitioners to carry arms? In Borno, Lagos, Adamawa and other states, there have been reports in recent times of schools invaded by insurgents or hoodlums to abduct students and teachers. The question Governor Mohammed should answer is whether teachers and school pupils should now carry arms because they desperately need to defend themselves in the face of the glaring failure of government to do so.
Clearly, Governor Mohammed has no one but himself to blame for the vitriol his infamous outbursts have drawn from well-meaning Nigerians. And he deserves no pity because his descent from the zenith of grace to the nadir of infamy was a personal decision. It is a form of misfortune that the good people of Bauchi State are saddled with a leader whose utterances can be so reckless in a matter that borders on national security.
Obviously exasperated and frustrated by the multifarious crises confronting and grossly devaluing higher education in the country, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, over three decades ago, advocated that universities in Nigeria be shut for a year, during which their problems would be intensively studied and enduring remedies found. Not a few at the time considered Soyinka’s suggestion extreme and outlandish.
Despite the emergence of scores of well funded and managed private universities in the country over time, the crises in public universities, which still cater for the vast majority of students, that prompted Soyinka’s call, persist; and have even worsened in several ways. This makes us wonder if taking radical steps to address the challenges of public universities much earlier, as Soyinka had suggested, would not have been a stitch in time, that would have saved us from the current utter dysfunction.
Last year, public universities, at both state and federal levels, lay prostrate for ten months, as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) undertook a ten-month strike that commenced in March and was called off on 22 December 2020. With the Federal Government agreeing to pay the N40 billion earned academic allowances demanded by ASUU, another N30 billion for the revitalization of the education sector, as well as the arrears of salaries owed the university teachers, ASUU called off its strike.
Parents and students heaved a sigh of relief, hoping that the prolonged disruption of academic activities in the universities, with the attendant negative financial, social and psychological implications, had been put behind. But alas! From February 5, another strike, this time by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), has disrupted activities, in federal universities across the country.
Reports in the media indicate that the industrial action, by the non-academic staff unions, has resulted in the piling up of uncleared refuse, abandonment of toilets and bathrooms to filth, disruption of power and water supply, as well as healthcare services, in many of the affected institutions. These support services are the job of striking NASU members. Also, routine students’ registration, accessing of transcripts and even critical security services, have been disrupted. These are the core duties of SSANU.
This means that, even though lecturers are at their duty posts, meaningful academic activities can hardly take place in this kind of environment.
The grievances of the non-academic staff include the alleged non-payment of their minimum wage arrears, rejection of the Federal Government’s Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) — just like ASUU — as well as opposition to the Federal Government’s sharing formula for the N40 billion earned allowances negotiated with ASUU, which reportedly allocated N30 billion to the academic staff.
It is difficult to understand why these two unions did not raise these issues during the ten-month ASUU strike. Their concerns could have been addressed alongside those of the academic staff, thereby averting the fresh round of industrial crisis in federal universities.
Again, if the non-academic staff had left the struggle for the payment of earned academic allowances to ASUU, can they justifiably complain if ASUU members are allocated a larger share of funds released for that purpose? In any case, if they are described as earned academic allowances, it stands to reason that lecturers will be the major beneficiaries.
Even then, the lesson to be learnt is that there are other stakeholders in the universities beyond lecturers. In future, the Federal Government should address problems in the universities holistically ensuring that the interests of all parties are taken into account at all times.
Still, the root of the problems confronting Nigeria’s public universities is insufficiency of funds to enable the system function efficiently and meet its onerous responsibilities. Despite the current economic fragility and consequent paucity of funds, governments at all levels must accord better funding of universities appropriate priority.
On their part, university administrators must manage available resources more transparently and prudently, while also more effectively tapping the universities’ huge, yet unrealized, potentials to raise funds autonomously. We urge that the current strike by non-academic staff be urgently resolved to restore normalcy in these institutions.
Amid growing insecurity and tension pervading the land, Nigerians are understandably concerned about the 2023 general election: its feasibility, credibility, and whether their votes will count.
Necessarily, however, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant agencies or organs of government must not relent in perfecting the election machinery to a reasonable level. It is true, as INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said, that amending the Electoral Act without a commitment from stakeholders to do things differently, cannot guarantee free and fair elections. Nevertheless, the first step of amending the law to plug loopholes for irregularities will be a huge step towards achieving free and fair elections in the country.
The proposals now sitting before the National Assembly are based on observations of previous elections, recommendations by critical stakeholders comprising security agencies, political parties/agents, domestic and foreign observers and members of the public. Nigerians have witnessed how politicians continue to take advantage of the loopholes in the current electoral legal framework, to exploit the process and truncate the will of the people. There is need for an electoral legal framework that will amongst other things, guarantee the autonomy of the Commission in the management and operations of its affairs, without the undue interference of the government of the day. The critical players involved in the passage of the amendment bill should appreciate its importance to the development of our democracy and should not allow themselves to be swayed by political sentiments.
But the INEC boss was succinct when he said: “The Constitution and Electoral Act can enhance the electoral process if the electoral management body, political parties and the electoral actors, the security agencies, the media and civil society organisations, effectively play their roles.” Indeed everyone has a role to play. Religious, traditional and community leaders should openly but sincerely speak out against violence, irrespective of the partisan leaning of the community. In the run-up to the 2020 governorship election in Edo State, many observers had feared that the process would be marred by violence owing to the acrimony between the major actors and that the ruling party might deplore its “federal might” to influence the election’s outcome. However, the process, though not perfect, was adjudged to be relatively fair, partly because critical stakeholders played by the rules.
The Commission plays perhaps the most critical role in the electoral process serving as both facilitator and regulator. Incidents of missing ballot sheets, late arrival of materials and other logistics such as last-minute postponement of elections only serve to discourage the electorate who already entertains a deep mistrust for the process. The lack of confidence in the system is largely responsible for the attitude of most Nigerians refraining from playing an active role of either voting for candidates of their choice or vying for political office. The Commission must thus ensure that adequate preparations are made for a smooth process.
Politicians on their part must understand that irrespective of their party affiliations, the common goal is the provision of good governance for the people. Election should never be a ‘‘do or die affair’’ and no aspirant is worth spilling blood for. Political positions are a call to service, not personal enterprises motivated by profits or bloody sports for which violent and fatal competitions are means. Experience has shown that arms provided for political thugs during elections, end up being tools for robberies and kidnappings after the election.
Nigerians must realise that ultimate power rests with the people, and the best way of exercising this power is through the electoral process. In spite of the number of intellectuals, men and women of integrity that straddle the various works in the country, Nigerians have had the misfortune of being led by persons of questionable characters who rob the nation of her commonwealth and put her development in reverse gear. This is because those who know better chose to disassociate themselves from the process thus leaving the political space to urchins. As the saying goes, evil triumph when good men do nothing in the face of tyranny. Nigerians must own the electoral process, first by acquiring their permanent voters’ card, turn out to vote on days of the election, and make sure that their votes count to elect a responsible and responsive government whose ultimate interest will be the security and welfare of the people.
After about five years of complaints about hostile relations between farmers and herders in the country, efforts by herdsmen to dispossess farmers of their land is getting worse by the day. This came to a head when the governor of Ondo State issued an order to herdsmen without registration and permit to be in the state’s forest reserves, to leave within seven days. This announcement drove the country apart with the consequence that ethnic leaders and organizations went into frenzy, in issuing threats against each other.
Shortly after the onset of the crisis still awaiting solution, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State called for a federal law to ban the movement of cattle from the core North to other parts of the country: “My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and to the southern part of Nigeria … There should be a law that will ban open grazing; otherwise, we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers; and cannot control the cattle rustling, which is affecting us greatly.”
As it is expected in a democracy, there have been quick reactions to the governor’s call. For example, some PDP members of the Senate have endorsed the Kano governor’s suggestion. Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South, and Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba South, expressed agreement with the governor.
On the governor’s proposal, Senator Olujimi said: “If enacted into law, it resolves what we are facing at the moment across the country, though it may look discriminatory, as it is not good enough for us as a country because we ought to live together as one. But happenings at the moment are scary, frightening, disgusting, disheartening and damning.”
While the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central, said: “If a law was made as proposed by the governor, it would not only be unconstitutional, but also go contrary to the part of the constitution which stipulates that Nigerians, irrespective of state of birth or nativity, had right to freedom of movement.”
Although Ganduje’s suggestion may not be perfect, just like the country’s Constitution or any other constitution, the proposal from the Kano governor ought to be viewed as a problem-solving approach to what seems to have become a crisis of confidence, between people and governments of farming communities in southern Nigeria and the Middle-Belt states, and herding communities in northern states.
Undoubtedly, insecurity has deteriorated across the country to the point that it should be of concern to every citizen. And one of the manifestations of a failed or failing state is the lack of capacity by government to sustain safety and security of citizens’ lives and property.
We, therefore, consider that this is a good time for leaders of thought and patriots, across the land, to search for solutions to the ongoing crisis over insecurity, especially the intermittent violence between herding and farming communities. If farmers in the South and herders from the North had lived in relative harmony most of the post-independence years, the deterioration in the relations between two communities, critical to food security in the country, need to be frontally addressed, before the problem festers any further.
We, therefore, find it commendable for citizens, across political divides, to search for solutions to threats to the country’s peace and prosperity, if not to its territorial integrity. We see the suggestion of Governor Ganduje as one of many suggestions deserving of attention from national leaders.
We exhort cultural and political leaders to pay attention to suggestions that can de-polarize the polity and society. Ganduje’s proposal is an opportunity to search for solution to the farmer-herdsmen crisis and other allied security problems facing the country at present.
Ganduje’s call for commitment to establishment of modern ranches (otherwise known as Ruga in the country), to make open grazing superfluous to nomadic herdsmen; and the call for immediate ban on cross-country grazing of cattle, to induce governments to invest in ranching, could not have come at a better time.
This is especially so, as the governor has demonstrated the power of example, from his own government, to support his proposal. Ganduje’s call for a successful implementation of the ranch model, or Ruga in cattle-producing states, has a huge potential to address some of the problems of insecurity in the country, especially from herders from foreign countries.
As no crisis disappears without intervention, we believe that the time is ripe for sincere and deep consultations across the country, towards finding solutions to the ongoing crisis between farmers and herdsmen. Reducing the present tension in the country calls for sincere reflections on the part of cultural and political leaders including the president, the lawmakers, cultural leaders, and political party members.
This is not a right moment for political grandstanding by political leaders. A country with a history of a civil war, of which President Buhari himself was a hero, should not take chances when its fault lines seem to be experiencing irresponsible aggravation.
Given that peace and harmony are indispensable to achievement of peace and harmony in a diverse federation, we urge all patriotic citizens, including the president, political party leaders, and traditional rulers, to consider Ganduje’s recommendation as a kernel for formulating solutions to the current attempts at self-paralysis.