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‘2016: Diary of a Columnist (I)’

By Muhammed Adamu
Biafra and the secessionist right of a minority revisited

AND although the American  Constitution, as Abraham Lincoln posited “contained no prohibition of secession or enforcement language to preserve the Union”, it did –like all other democratic constitutions- specify an oath of office mandating the President “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”.

And if so, what can be more deserving of the President’s ‘preservation’, ‘protection’ and ‘defense’ -in a constitutional democracy- than the territorial integrity of the State? And thus said experts that in the true interpretation of ‘sovereign power’, “since the people had not vested the President with the authority to fix the terms of separation”, Lincoln was right to make “war the inevitable consequence of secession” and to declare himself “constitutionally unable to stop it”.

And as Lincoln himself eloquently said, whereas the secessionists had “no oath registered in heaven to destroy” the union, he as President had “the most solemn one to ‘preserve’, ‘protect’ and ‘defend it’.”   

Lincoln said whenever “the people grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.” The phrase ‘the people’ without doubt refers to the ‘majority’ not a ‘minority’ of it. A minority can only hope to court the cooperation of the ‘majority’ peacefully to secede.

Hypothetical  scenario

But since according to Lincoln, “Unanimity” on the one hand “is impossible” and “the rule of a minority” “is wholly inadmissible”, anarchy or despotism –he warned- would be “all that is left” if the rule of a ‘democratic majority’ was rejected.

Said he, even in the hypothetical scenario that the U.S. were ‘not a government proper’ but merely an association of states in the nature of ‘contract’, that contract could not be “peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it”; because, whereas “One party to a contract may violate (or)… break it, does it not require” he asked “all, to lawfully rescind it?” The right of the Igbo ‘minority’ or any other ‘minority’ for that matter, to secede from a constitutionally governed Nigeria must be located in the complex hyacinth of these jurisprudential argument. And in all honesty it is a right concurrent with –if not inferior to- the right of the democratic ‘majority’ to deny. 

Still on Buhari’s appointments: Those who once strained logic to disprove the ‘good’ inherent in the equitable principle of zoning’, were the same ‘pious priests’ of ‘geo-ethnic balance’ who vilified Buhari for not applying ‘federal character’ even in the appointment of his ‘personal’ presidential aides. But you dared not to remind them that Jonathan had in fact only one northerner of note –namely his Principal Secretary- on the entire team of his own ‘presidential aides’. You are the ethnic bigot who dares to bring this up and not ‘they’ who choose selectively to moralise about it. Jonathan’s team of presidential aides was virtually an ‘all-South-South’ list mostly of his Ijaw kinsmen with some gratuitous sprinkling perhaps of a few south easterners many of whom now feel obligated to play the vengeful mourners-in-chief of his lost bid for a second term. 

The justice we must seek should be the ‘equitable’ distribution of national resources and not necessarily the ‘equal’ appointment of those who distribute the resources. By the way what does it matter if ethnic groups are ‘equally’ represented in appointments but do not get an ‘equitable’ share of the common resource?

Or what does it matter if they are ‘un-equally’ represented but are ‘equitably’ provided for from the common resource? In any case, if we are to distribute appointments ‘equally’ instead of sharing resources ‘equitably’, how do we go about it? By regions? Why not by zones? -to achieve balance. By states? Why not by LGs? -to achieve spread. By ethnic groups? Why not by tribes? -to create a sense of belonging! Why don’t we do it by household? -to achieve the utopia of ‘EQUALITY’ we always wanted!

The Trump-Hillary Conundrum: For the Americans, there is not the luxury even of settling for that proverbial ‘lesser evil’ -because in reality each of the two ‘evils’ is equally as fiendish. In fact, there is no better example of the universal un-redeeming power of ‘democracy’ than the ‘no-choice’…between Trump and Hillary what we have competing for votes are NOT the personifications of ‘republican’ or ‘democratic’ ideals.

 Nor are Americans having to choose between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ candidate, because no matter how the world is divided over Trump and Hillary, we are unanimous on one thing, namely that both of them are debouched –morally and otherwise…. And between the ‘Trump-said’ or ‘Hillary-said’, the one thing that is left un-said is that both of them cannot wait to get their hands on America’s instruments of offense -to harm the world…

Notwithstanding who wins between Trump and Hillary, the ‘right’ of ‘might’ in international politics will continue to take precedence over both ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ imperatives. America will continue to keep no ‘permanent friends’ or ‘permanent enemies’; but she will be more determined even to assert the ‘permanence’ only of her ‘interests’. Whoever emerges U.S. President, will continue to ride roughshod over both the written and the unwritten rules of international law.

June 12’s Enemy  Judges: Justice Mustapha, like the late Justice Bassey Ikpeme –who granted the dead-at-night judgment leading to the annulment of June 12- was one of those hand-in-glove with the Abacha junta in its desperate efforts to bury the ghost of June 12 by keeping its acclaimed winner under judicial lock and key… not a few unconscionable politicians, lawyers and judges were prostrate at the foothill of Abacha jackboots offering advice on how to tame the genie of June 12 to create an imperial presidency for Abacha.

Inglorious  politician

In retrospect IBB, to secure the trust of Nigerians in his rather unending Transition Programme had promulgated a Decree ousting the jurisdiction of courts in any suit seeking to stop the 1993 presidential election. In fact his second in Command the late Admiral Aikhomu made a habit of bragging about the regime’s fidelity to its Transition promise and citing this decree as proof thereof. But behind the scenes the government was working with an inglorious politician, Arthur Nzeribe under the dubious ‘Association for Better Nigeria’ first to de-campaign the election and eventually to use the courts to abort the process.

Justice Mustapha must have been carefully selected too as the first trial judge who in the course of a long, tortuous trial neither hid his aversion for June 12 nor his readiness to compromise the judicial process in the service of the military junta in power…. Justice Ikpeme granted an order, in disregard of an outer decree – which she should not have- stopping the conduct of the June 12 election; the electoral Chief Humphrey Nwosu rightly disregarded that order and conducted the election; Justice Saleh granted an order –which like Ikpeme’s, was in breach of the ouster decree- stopping further announcement of the election results; the same Saleh followed with another order declaring the election ‘null and void’ –in disregard of the Electoral Commission’s pending appeal against Justice Ikpeme’s first injunction. And then Babangida, relying on Justice Saleh’s last declaration, announced that the election stood annulled!

Troubled   economies

Even the world’s acclaimed quintessence of the ‘free market’, -the American ‘economy’-, is not entirely immune to the vagaries of the voodoos of capitalism. And so it has always been for every capitalist economy; so much that it can safely be said that ‘periodic slump’ is the veritable hallmark of any ‘free market’ economy. Economists often warn that whenever an ‘economy’ beats all odds to ‘bubble and bubble’, watch out soon for the ‘burst’!

 Meaning that no matter how well run, capitalist economies essentially are prone to ‘boom and bloom’ even as they are inexplicably susceptible to sudden ‘doom and gloom’… Even with the cleanest ‘bill of health’, any capitalist economy can sooner be in Intensive Care, than a man with a ‘heart attack’….

Man has deliberately created a Frankenstein system of capitalistic economy and to whose unpredictable monstrosity even he, has become a perpetual victim. But this ‘unpredictable monstrosity’ he calls ‘market forces’ rather that what it truly is, ‘forcing the market’. ‘Market forces’ are the soulless factors that reward ‘opportunism’ and often punish ‘industry’. Yet, they are celebrated today as the defining criteria for ‘free trade’. ‘Free trade’ is NOT ‘free’. The irony is redolent with the tease of William Keagan, in ‘The Specter of  Capitalism’ where even as he insists “Communism has failed”, he also admits that “capitalism has not succeeded.” 

Paddings, proposals and approvals: A budget is not padded merely because the legislature, following due legislative process, and for reasons mutually appreciated by parliament and the executive, has moved monies from one subhead to another; nor is a budget padded merely because parliament -following due legislative process- and for reasons of even-spread (duly communicated to the executive), has moved proposed projects from one location to another. 

A budget is not padded where parliament, for good reasons (mutually appreciated by it and the executive), steps down projects from the budget. In fact, a budget is not padded merely because one member of parliament out-lobbies other members to attract –within the bounds of legislative norms- more projects to his constituency than others to his constituency where others fail to.

But a budget is padded –notwithstanding due legislative process has been followed- where parliament unilaterally increases the overall budget sum as proposed by the President who alone knows the capacities and limits of the executive in raising those revenues.

 Thus, the saying that ‘parliament may ‘reduce’ but cannot ‘increase’ the budget’ because it is not privy to the ‘ways and means’ of the executive. A budget is padded where  parliament –in spite of the due legislative process- unilaterally, imports into it entirely new projects, and it is immaterial that the legislature merely substitutes proposed projects with new.

A budget is padded if a member, or any group of chambers exploiting  the privilege of their positions, connive(s) with any agency of the Executive to over-allocate funds to particular projects with the intention thereafter that any one or all of the conniving parties benefit from that superfluity.

Tactical  retreat

And a budget is padded if after passage by both chambers and before or after harmonisation any member(s) import(s) into the budget new subheads or juggle(s) existing ones for the benefit of their constituencies and without the knowledge of other members.

OBJ: The NASS He knows: It was the barefaced insistence –for selfish motives- by both chambers of the NASS to execute capital projects side by side with the supposedly arduous task of lawmaking, that prematurely sung the Nunc Dimittis of the Chuba Okadigbo Senate Presidency. He and several other senators and members of the House were indicted by the ‘Senator Idris Kuta Probe Report’ for fraud in the execution of several NASS Complex contract projects which they had awarded to themselves.

But the indication that removing Chuba was merely a tactical retreat -to assuage public opinion- and not a surrender, was that the Senate thereafter decided, at one of their usual conspiratorial executive sessions, to dump the Kuta Report by passing a mock-heroic resolution pardoning all indicted members… Thus the claim recently by the Saraki Senate that all crimes and misdemeanors of a legislative kind are essentially the internal affairs of the Senate and not subject to the investigative powers of the police or the prosecutorial rights of the AGF, is a mindset traceable to the permissive precedent already set by the Senate on the Kuta Report.

‘NASS: THE OUTLAW AS LAWMAKER’

We are stuck today with a Constitution that has not only placed ‘unlimited power’ in an arrogant and greedy legislature, but one too which has unwittingly provided ineffectual checks on such cantankerous arm of government. In 17 years, we have already grown a monstrous legislature peopled mostly by egotistic, despotic and selfish lawmakers who, contrary even to the ‘doctrine of the rule of law’ feel no qualms legislating for their own personal aggrandizement. If our legislators are not busy ‘abrogating’ electoral laws to pave a way for their political interests, they are desperately attempting to ‘amend’ the criminal code to escape justice or the Constitution, to acquire immunity against the scrutiny of  the other arms of government.

Our lawmakers have attempted in the past even to make laws ousting courts’ jurisdiction; they have defied the orders of court; they have declared the Auditor General of the Federation incapable of looking into their accounts. And now the Saraki Assembly is telling us that the criminal conspiracy to forge the Standing Rules of the Senate is merely the ‘internal affairs’ of the Senate ….Nigerians are virtually resigned to the belief that they are always stuck with assemblies that are unworthy of the moral high ground on which they place them. And now we are virtually hoisted in the petard of a constitutional conundrum. Those who should amend our defective Constitution to correct anomaly are the ones drunk with the nectar of its superfluity and are therefore unlikely to legislate to abrogate the pleasure.

To be concluded


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