BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
…Honours Beko Ransome-Kuti
SEVEN years after late human rights activist, Dr. Bekolari Ransome-Kuti passed on, most of the ideals he fought and died for have not been achieved, National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said.
Noting that Ransome-Kuti trod on the path of consistent advocacy for the enthronement of democracy and good governance, the former Lagos State Governor said the late activist would have been in the trenches fighting against pervasive corruption, amendment of our flawed constitution through sovereign national conference, fiscal federalism, devolution of power and electoral reforms, if he was alive.
In a speech to mark the seventh anniversary of Ransome-Kuti’s death yesterday, Tinubu said: “When Dr. Bekolari Ransome-Kuti died on February 10, 2006 at the age of 65, I lost a friend, a brother, a soul mate and a comrade in the struggle for the realization of the Nigerian project. But far and above my loss is the loss that Nigeria suffered. For, on that day, one of the custodians of the conscience of the nation died and, alas, we still feel his absence.
“Several of the issues I have raised here are issues Beko would have mobilized the people for. He would have mobilized the people to rally against the greed of our leaders and the violation of the constitution. The Federal Government manipulates the judiciary and employs unilateralism as a tool of governance without much challenge. What is going on? Beko would have rallied the people to challenge the government and protest these anti-people and anti-democratic actions. But sadly, he is asleep.”
He said it was proper to celebrate the life and times of Beko and deliberate on the state of the Nigerian project – a project to which Beko Ransome-Kuti dedicated his entire life.
Tinubu used the event to call for a reflection on the fundamentals of the Nigerian nation, the 1999 Constitution; “the law that gives validity to all other laws and specifies the basis of our co-existence as a nation. The constitution should be a law that we subscribe to, having fully agreed to its contents. It should be a law that every Nigerian can identify with, that every Nigerian can defend with his life. Sadly, this is not the case.”
The Third Republic Senator said that every Nigerian cannot defend the constitution with his life because “the 1999 constitution is a document that does not meet the needs of the people and does not reflect their will” as it was fashioned by a few persons selected by the military junta and not the people.
His words: “Today, the 1999 constitution, as contradictory as it is, is still being applied in a unitary fashion that is inimical to running the country like a proper democracy. That is why we are still having problems about its operationalisation with an inefficient, greedy and over-bloated Federal Government engaged in constant power grab with the states and local government. Responsibilities meant for the States and Local Government are being contested for by an already cumbersome Federal Government. The 1999 constitution is unworkable and it is not of the people, by the people and for the people.
He added that: “No wonder, due to the cumbersome nature of the constitution and the abuse it constantly suffers, it has become difficult to fight corruption at the centre. The overbearing nature and excessive powers it offers makes effective supervision impossible. The rationale behind the creation of the 36 states of the federation was with a view to bringing development closer to the people.
“However, most of these states have “Unfunded Mandates” because of a central government that gobbles up almost all the resources and in a constant grab for power and more resources. This negates the very essence of democracy and what should be the spirit of the constitution. Matters better left to states to administer are being contested for by a fat belly central government”.
The Central government runs a multiplicity of bodies that are duplicative and a waste of resources that can be channeled to other tiers of government. For instance, why do we need a Ministry of Police Affairs when we have the Police Service Commission? Why would the central government dictate to states or warehouse the funds meant for developments in the states under the Sovereign Wealth Fund? Nigeria runs a defective federalism. Beko would have fought against these issues. And that was why until he passed on he was an undying advocate for the convocation of a national conference.”
As a way out, Tinubu canvassed the convocation of a national conference to give to Nigeria and Nigerians a people’s constitution, allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to function independently, devolution of power to the federating units and creation of state police.
“It is not only the process of the enactment of the 1999 Constitution that is faulty and undemocratic, the contents of the constitution are also inimical to the operation of democratic governance and the realization of the aspirations of the federating units and the peoples of Nigeria.
He listed some areas in which the 1999 Constitution falls short of the democratic tenets and leaves the aspirations of the Nigerian people unfulfilled as power distribution, fiscal federalism and control of the police.
Devolution of power
His words: “The federal government is too bloated and for efficient delivery of services and value to the country. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over about 68 legislative matters while it shares concurrent jurisdiction with states on 30 legislative matters. Where there is a conflict between the two on the exercise of such powers, the position of the Federal Government overrides that of the states. This should not be the structure of a truly federal state. It is also impracticable and ridiculous to expect the federal government to effectively offer services such as the maintenance of urban roads, protection of the environment, secondary school education, disposal of refuse, etc as provided in the 1999 Constitution.
“The Federal Government controls about 52 per cent of federally collected revenue, leaving only 24 per cent for the 36 state governments. The implication is that while states struggle to discharge their responsibilities because of scarcity of funds, the Federal Government is surfeit with resources resulting in the mismanagement and inefficient deployment of resources. Call to mind the recent Subsidy and Pension scams. The constitution ought to give effect to the enablement of the federating units.
“The 1999 Constitution puts the control of the Armed Forces and the Police Force under the Federal Government. The same constitution also designates the State Governors as Chief Security Officers of their respective states. This is a largely meaningless provision as the police do not report to them.
Also, valuable time is wasted in cases of security challenges because police authorities seek approval for action from the federal government rather than the governors who are on ground and who feel the impact of such security. There is therefore an urgent need for a provision for state or community policing and on this occasion, I renew the call for the amendment of the constitution to provide for the establishment of state police forces with defined duties and sufficient powers to cater to the security needs of the states.”
INEC and electoral reforms
“Even though INEC is funded from source, it is not allowed to function independently. Its operation is perverted and the current government interferes anywhere possible in its operation because of greed for power and control. The issue of the full employment of the biometric system for our elections is still pending. If a war-torn country such as Sierra Leone uses biometric system for its elections to ensure One Man, One Vote, why would Nigeria refuse to apply the system? If countries like Ghana and Kenya have implemented the same biometric system in the conduct of their elections, what is Nigeria still waiting for? The adoption of the full biometric system is a demand we must all demand for before the next round of elections. The constitution should guarantee the independence of INEC.”