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The war fronts of Yar’Adua

By Tony Momh
I AM not comfortable with the many wars President Umar Musa Yar’Adua wants to prosecute. The fronts are too many, and I may be wrong, but I doubt that he can cope.

No, I am not saying he should accommodate indiscipline, threats to our lives and property or breaches of the constitution. But where there are so many fires to put out and he opens his eyes wide and sets fire where no seer would have predicted one, then someone dangerous must be close by to be trusted but must have a mission to derail him.

For I do not have any other example of an unnecessary and diversionary step as writing a letter to the Governor of Lagos State on the 37 local council development areas and giving the state an ultimatum to wind them up because they were being operated as full-fledged councils.

This in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court has pronounced on the status of those councils which the State House of Assembly created in 2002.  We will not have time to discuss the many wars the president has to fight and the amount of energy needed to tackle them.

Suffice it to say that these wars include the seven-point agenda of this administration and their execution on the one hand and the total absence of serious commitment on meeting the basic needs of the people of this country on the other.

Look at the agenda and decide for yourself how much the areas listed have affected your life where you find yourself today in our country — provision of critical infrastructure like electricity, transportation, telecommunications, waterways and national oil and gas; food security; national security and intelligence; provision of health, education and functional social safety nets; land tenure changes and home ownership under the Land Reform Act; Niger Delta Development; and wealth Creation

Whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, the provision of  the means to secure the welfare and security of the 150 million people of Nigeria is a war to be fought and won.  And the many areas of stress arising from non-performance or some other failures are other wars to fight.

In the latter category, in order of currency, is the letter to Lagos State on the councils; the Islamic militants on the rampage against government organs and institutions in parts of the North; the controversy over relocating or transferring the upgraded petroleum institute in the Niger Delta to Kaduna; the amnesty to the militants of the Niger Delta and what flows from it; the closure of universities because of the ASUU strike; the posturing of Niger Delta States governors on issues affecting the region; the threat of the National Assembly to do something about non-implementation of the 2009 budget, et al.

How many wars have you counted? I mean those that are wages of promises to be met and those that have come from mischief, greed to control or sheer ignorance of what to do.

The good part of President Yar’Adua is that when he is confronted with the facts, he changes gear. This is what his predecessor was always accused of being incapable of. It is because the president can still look facts in the face and retrace his steps, where he discovers he is wrong, that I now look at the latest war front he has opened in the South West.

By that letter to the governor of Lagos State, the president switched the anger flowing in the direction of the Niger Delta militants who bombed the Atlas Cove to Aso Rock in Abuja. Imagine the smiles, from molar to molar, of those who wish the president more errors that will bond disparate groups in common struggle against the central government that has failed to meet its own share of the contract with the people to secure their welfare and security.

The truth about the councils, however, is that this matter was rested by the Supreme Court and it is the rightness of it and his choice of due process that made the president himself release the funds that were stacked away for years by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. If the president now has a problem with Lagos State on the councils, he should do what he told Governor Mimiko of Ondo State to do when he sacked council chairmen who were installed in a questioned election by Dr. Agagu. Abuja asked them to stay there and told Mimiko he knew what to do. Go to court, he was told, and he went to court.

Everyone is asking the Federal Government to do the same thing. If what Lagos State is doing in Local Government administration is not acceptable, then the Federal Government should go to court, to the Supreme Court, if that court’s pronouncement on this very issue is in doubt!  So the only constitutional interpretation of  the ultimatum of the Federal Government to the Lagos State Government is that the Federal Government will go to court if the Lagos State Government does not dissolve the 37 bodies in question. For the avoidance of doubt, the rights of everyone is settled in our constitution.

In spite of massive collusive efforts to deny the fact, through what we have done to the process of choosing our leaders, the people of Nigeria retain sovereignty. Section 14 (2)(a) of the Constitution is unambiguous in making it loud and clear. It says sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria. Whatever powers are exercised by organs of government – legislative, executive or judicial – must be locatable in the constitution.

This is why I have always said that our 1999 constitution is a documentation of delegated powers. Anyone who exercises any power outside the clear provision of that constitution is a thief of that power and must be stopped.
Local government council “establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions” is an exclusive affair of  the state government.

The role the National Assembly must play is defined in section 8 (5). It has nothing do with amendment of the Constitution. It is a simple administrative chore of adjusting the number of local councils already in the Constitution, and in performing this duty, the National Assembly has  no questions to raise. I cannot locate in the constitution the force behind the claim that the National Assembly must “approve” the law which a state house of assembly  makes in establishing a council.

But what happens when, as we have seen, the information that councils have been created is unattended to by the National Assembly?  The courts cannot force them to do their job. I do not know what else a state can do than operate the councils it has created under whatever name it chooses until the National Assembly wakes up to its duty of documenting the action of the state.

The president should come to Lagos, just as he did the other day when he visited Bayelsa State and Imo State, and he will be happy he did because Lagos is working. Oh yes, it is.


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