CONSIDERING his age, it would be easy to say that Pa Micheal Oloyede’s(not real names) grasp of history is equally ageing. But it would be risky for anyone to maintain that view, as he is always quick to bring up issues of the past. One does not need to spend an hour with the octogenarian to know that he worked with the Customs and Excise Department(Nigeria Customs Service). For this writer, the encounter with the Oyo state born senior citizen in Lagos, was more or less like a history lecture, as he spoke on various issues, particularly burning national topics.
“We worked for this country. Unfortunately, what we have now is the opposite of what we envisaged on October 1, 1960. I attended the celebration at Tafewa Balewa Square and I watched as the Union Jack was lowered down, my son I was emotional at that moment, I still have souvenirs of Independence anniversary in this house,” he said, adding “it is unfortunate that my generation may not live to see a country where lost opportunities are regained.”
This explains, why it would not be out of place if Oloyede, who retired in 1990 is described as a sad man.
And when he was prodded if he was actually a sad man, he said: “There are a lot of things happening that does not give me joy at this phase of my earthly sojourn, how do I explain to others that kids who were serving their nation were butchered, what about the issue of minimum wage and pension that is nothing to behold, it is sadnning, I started work at P & T, which was Post and Telegrams in Kaduna in 1945, things were not like this.”
Having raised the issue of the recent killing of National Youth Service Corps,NYSC, members, which was an offshoot of the April 19, presidential polls,VanguardFeatures,VF, informed him that a panel has been set up to investigate the violence.
“I am aware of it my son, but that is not the issue, we have had a lot of panels on violent crisis, what was the result of the panel’s findings,” he asked.
Pa Oloyode is not the only person, who is skeptical if the panel would not be another goose chase.
For instance, Executive Director of Newstime Foundation and a Non-Violence Advocate, Mr. Tony Oyatedor said, “though I am not saying that Mr. President did not act well by setting up the panel, but we have had similar panels in the past and we have situations, where they did not implement the reports
“I call on all Nigerians to stop the killing. These senseless violence has so far claimed the lives of countless people . Those who survived the violence are in various hospitals nursing injuries of varying degrees. Many of them with permanent deformities. Nigeria must have peace that attracts development. Evil can only thrive when people of good conscience keep quite. Silence is a moral crime. We will teach leadership and politicians that you can be and must be victorious without having victims.”
Past panels report in govt archives
This growing concern about what becomes the fate of the outcome of the report, VF gathered is not unconnected with past reports on civil disobedience, which perhaps have remained in government shelves.
Consider this: It is on record that a number of panels had been set up by Federal and State governments, particularly in Borno, Gombe, Bauchi and Plateau states. These panels had reported their findings, but that up till date, their findings had not been implemented by the Federal or State governments.
A more recent case of non implementation of panel reports, is the Solomon Lar report on Jos crisis.
Little wonder, at the peak of that crisis, the Plateau State govenor, Governor David Jang asked the Federal government again and again why the Solomon Lar report on the Jos crisis was not implemented. The governor was of the view that the non implementation of that report contributed in no small to the worsen of the crisis.
The 28-man committee, headed by former governor of the old Plateau State Chief Solomon Lar, was raised on February 1 after the sectarian crises on January 17 and 19, 2010 which claimed several lives and properties, and which were also the continuation of the violence that followed the November 2008 Jos North Local Government Election.
The panel submitted its report last year, as at the time of filling in this report, VF can reveal will a measure of authority that government is yet to implement its findings.
With those reports begging to be implemented, many cannot stop asking the fate of the Prince Bola Ajibola panel, set up by the Plateau State government, as well as the Emmanuel Abisoye presidential panel, set up by the Federal government.
Instructively, nobody has been punished for the repeated carnage in the city. Same fate had befallen the panels that probed the various religious riots in some parts of the north.
Many see panel of enquiry as a ploy to buy time
This situation has led to people losing confidence in the administrative bodies. The average Nigerian now sees the panel of inquiry as a ploy to bury any issue and buy time so that people can then forget for the serious crimes committed by the sponsors and perpetrators of the violence.
This feeling, cut across tribes, religion and age, as people are unanimous on the need for panels to be taken serious by various governments.
“I am particularly concerned about the Solomon Lar/ Yahaya Kwande Panel which was set up by the President. Mr. President inaugurated this panel about a year ago, but till today; nothing is heard of that panel,” Elder stateman Tanko Yakasai reportedly said.
He argued that the current post-election violence in some parts of the North would not have happened if the reports and recommendations of the Solomon Lar/Yahaya Kwande panel on the Plateau crisis had been published and implemented as it would have served as a deterrent to those wishing to repeat similar actions.
“This has created a tremendous amount of skepticisms in the minds of Nigerians that when government announces the setting up of a panel, that it is done to pacify the public; that it is not intended to get at the root causes of the problems,” he added.
Why failure to implement findings?
Nonetheless, these discordant tunes have popped up questions, on why the recommendations of any administrative panel have not been implemented.
“The leadership of this nation has not demonstrated a strong commitment about the country’s future, while we as a people have failed to hold the government accountable, that is why everything about sectarian crisis usually ends the day the panel submits its report,”Oyetador enthused.
He further stressed, that “If we hold past governments and present government responsible for this fashion of setting up fruitfulness panels, we must also do same to ourselves for failing on our part, no government official is a master servant, they are all public servants, we do everything in our own power as a people to solve the problem.”
Regardless of these discordant tunes, further checks by VF revealed that there are people, who are optimistic that the 22-man panel, would not tow familiar routes.
A member of the panel, Mr. Peter Esele, belongs to this group.
Esele, who is the Chairman of Trade Union Congress,TUC, told VF that he is optimistic that the panel would not betray the expectations of Nigerians.
When prodded on the fears that the team’s eventual findings, might end up like others before it, Esele said, “I am a member of the panel, so I cannot say whether it would be like past panels of enquiry or not. I cannot predict how the outcome will be treated. That is only left for Mr. President.”
Continuing, he said, “What I can say is that we have a job at hand and I can assure you that we are going to do our best within the mandate given to us. It would now be left to the government to implement our findings.”
Another person, who believes that the panel cannot afford to fail is the Founder of Odua Peoples Congress,OPC, Chief Fredrick Fasheun.
He opines that the events that influenced the formation of the panel is painful, thus the government may not treat the eventual findings of the panel with kid gloves.
“The background to the formation of that committee of enquiry is painful and the nation needs to dig down to find those behind the killings and prescribe punishment. The painful nature of the violence would propel the panel to do more. People should not dismiss their capability because of our past history,”Faheun noted adding that, “I don’t think the government will not implement the findings because we are in a new era. What we have now is new king, new era, so we expect the government to issue white paper when the panel concludes its job.”
It will be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan set up a 22-man panel to investigate election violence which claimed the lives of hundreds during the last elections in the country.
The panel was mandated to identify the spread and extent of loss, damage to means of livelihood, assess the cost of damage to personal and public properties and places of worship and make appropriate recommendations on how to curb such violence in the future.
Other terms of reference for the panel include to investigate the immediate and remote cause(s) of the pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom state as well as the tide of unrest in some other states of the federation following the presidential election and make appropriate recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence.
The panel is to ascertain the number of persons who lost their lives or sustained injuries during the violence; identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood and assess the cost of damage to personal and public properties and places of worship and make appropriate recommendations; to investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend how to stem the tide of illegal flow of such weapons to the country; and to examine any other matter incidental or relevant to the unrest and advise government as appropriate.
Violence marred celebration of progressive march
“This unfortunate development was meant to mar what would have been a celebration of the progressive march of our democratic process,” President Jonathan said at the inauguration of the 22-member panel, led by senior Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu.
In his response to the mandate placed on the panel, the chairman of the presidential panel, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu expressed profound appreciation to Mr. President for the great honour accorded them by the appointment as well as for the unique opportunity to be of service to Nigeria at this time of great national distress and need.
Sheikh Lemu expressed that he is saddened by the fact that the acts of electoral violence which this panel is constituted to investigate ironically occurred around general elections widely acclaimed by local and international electoral observers and monitors of being the freest and most transparent in the annals of Nigeria’s history.
The Chairman said he is optimistic that the findings and recommendations in the course of the assignment when diligently applied will go a long way in eradicating according to him, “these seemingly intractable acts”.
The recent spate of election violence across the country claimed at least 500 hundred people according to a report from a local civil rights group.
Many of the affected victims were women and children and also members of the NYSC who were drafted by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] to work as election officials
Members of the panel include former Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Mr. F. F. Ogunshakin, Lateefat Okunnu, immediate past Chairman of Punch Newspapeer, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, Rev. Father Idowu Feron, Alhaji Muhammadu Danmadami, M. B. Wali Esq., Dr. (Mrs.) Timiebi A. Koripamo-Agary, Trade Union Congress (TUC) national President, Comrade Peter Esele, Alhaji Muhammed Ibrahim, Prof. Femi Odekunle, Amb. Ralph Uwuchue, Alhaji Bukar Usman, Sheikh Adam Idoko, Major General Mohammed Said (Rtd.), Barrister P.C. Okorie, Arc. Shamsuna Ahmed, Major General L. P. Ngubane, Alhaji Sani Maikudi, Rear Admiral I. Hotonu and a serving National Youth Service Corp member.