By Tonnie Iredia
One reason why Nigeria’s political system is so rough is because of its winner-takes-all arrangement. The loser of an election in Nigeria is consigned to the sideline of a beggar where he gets nothing. As a result, our politicians do whatever can get them into office and seek to remain there for as long as destiny permits.
Once a leader leaves office, he returns to the level of the rest of us and as we hear may never get even a phone call from all the praise singers who hitherto ministered unto him and every member of his extended family. This was what occurred to me as I read the report during the week of a piece of land previously allocated to former first lady, Turai Yar’Adua now reallocated to her successor, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan.
I really didn’t quite understand why the media gave so much prominence to the story. If it was to draw attention to how badly our former leaders and their spouses are treated, the isolated case can hardly make the point. Who remembers the spouses of all our other first citizens?
To take a piece of undeveloped land from a former first lady does not seem a strong point to me when compared to the decision some years ago to cancel the naming of the National Centre for Women Development after Maryam Babangida who initiated and executed the project.
Perhaps some people may have developed some sympathy for Turai after reading the story but I didn’t perceive it so because we cannot distance undue influence from both the allocation and reallocation. So the former first lady may get sympathy but the present mother of the nation would get the land bearing in mind that it is not just in a choice area but that it is as large as18, 000 sqm.
That is precisely what the game of power is all about. Turai herself and some associates of her late husband exercised it not too long ago when they were in power. I remember the story of a friend, a distinguished engineer who some years back answered the plea for Nigerians in Diaspora to come home to contribute to national development.
He eventually became the Chief Executive of a federal agency. During the Yar’Adua era, he was for no reason suddenly replaced one day by a crony of those in the corridors of power. A month later, the former President had cause to discuss his agency and requested for the officer.
When told he had left office, a visibly shocked President reportedly learnt from his aides that the removal was allegedly sanctioned by him! Besides this type of story, the two big ladies who are now reportedly at war over a piece of land were in the Villa when the former President was smuggled into the country from a medical trip without the knowledge of the then ‘Acting’ President. They were witnesses too of how the latter was blocked from seeing his Principal. It was a power game which cannot now be a big deal because of the swapping of roles.
It is the turn of Dame Jonathan to shine and it is only fair to let her be hence from the latest authentic record, she has an upper hand in the tussle for the land in dispute. For a number of reasons, whatever document any previous owner of the land holds-on to is a worthless piece of paper. First, the appropriate authority, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory is expectedly behind Dame.
Second, the technical framework for the determination of land ownership in Abuja- the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS), must have by now used its special technology to capture the new owner. No one should get me wrong here. I am not implying that the AGIS machine is the same as the DDC machine of our electoral body.
They are not the same. In the case of AGIS, its operatives can edit the information in the system but whatever is captured remains intact until it becomes necessary to manipulate it again. On its own part, the INEC machine does not need to be operated at all; it has its own temperament and it edits itself at will making it hard to be sure of what information is in the record at any point in time.
Consequently, a person’s name captured by the INEC machine can be in the voters’ list today and be out tomorrow. It can also return any day depending on the election and in which State it is holding as we saw in the ‘one man one vote’ free and fair elections in Edo some two weeks ago. That does not happen with AGIS; once a person’s name is captured, the certificate of occupancy (C of O) is his until further notice
Unfortunately, the lucrative trade in the C of O business is usually not quite elegant. Many people who are deserving of it hardly get it whereas many touts around the land market in Area 11 and the one opposite the Municipal office in Area 10 Garki, Abuja have many for several plots.
However, some are fake. To go to court to determine which is genuine tallies with the rule of law but is exceedingly expensive. Apart from our culture of justice for sale which has gained much ground of recent, a court case may last beyond the life time of the plaintiff.
Second, there is the fear that anyone can easily be jailed for contempt if the judge has the same disposition as the one in the Federal High Court in Benin that so treated a serving State Attorney General a few months ago. It is therefore almost fruitless to initiate a court case against a more powerful person especially if the other party is government or its top official or spouse. Happily, the case between the former first lady and the present one is being handled differently because Dame Patience is a bundle of talents.
She is powerful but patient hence her powerful side is the one seeking peace in the matter. She is the woman of the moment hence the land in question is to house the framework for peace which the nation urgently needs at the moment. She is conscious of the vagaries of power hence she already has her eyes on the verdict of history. So, before a future first lady grabs the controversial land and even the building, she would have been home bound to hold-on to what no one can take from her- a Secretary that is Permanent.
Before then, she has to use her peace initiative to fight our current insecurity. She needs to gather Nigerian mothers especially those in the troubled areas of the country to a continuing retreat where they will be aggressively mobilized to get their children to shun violence. It is a case for reorientation where through dialogue and persuasion, our women will become converts and active apostles of peace. It may work better than the mechanical Joint Task Force.