By Dele Sobowale
“I am beginning to wonder how many fools it takes to make the term “My fellow citizens.” Honore de Balzac 1799-1850 in LOST ILLUSIONS.
Two weeks ago, the Senate Committee responsible for the oversight functions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, submitted its report to the whole Senate and promptly threw the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, NASS into an uproar. According to the Committee, President Buhari had proposed four people for the Board of the EFCC. Sending recommendations to the NASS for appointments to Boards of various organs of the Federal Government is one of the cardinal duties of a President under our constitution. To some extent he enjoys wide discretion in that regard. But, that power is somewhat reduced by other provisions of our laws – including the need to reflect the Federal Character of our nation – which consists of over one hundred ethnic groups. Those who crafted our current constitution were keenly aware of the problems that could be created if any leader of Nigeria fails to adhere to the principles of fairness to all concerned when making appointments.
“The word should be a cousin to the deed. “ Plato c428-347 BC
Mr. President had made two contradictory announcements in the past. In the first he had vowed to reward only those who voted for him. Perhaps, realising how “un-presidential” that was, he changed his tune by proclaiming that he was for everyone and for no-one. Almost four years into his government, we are learning that the first words he spoke represent his real instincts. He rewards only some of those who worked and voted for him. The rest can “go and die” – as the Chairman of his party – the All Progressives Congress, APC, told a poor woman street-trading in Benin City a few years ago. In almost three and half years, the President had taken good care of the North when everybody knows that the South provides the bulk of the revenue for running the FG. It has been a case of “monkey work baboon chop”. Meanwhile, the few fortunate southerners in government want the rest of us to disregard the mounting evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that there is a problem with this style of appointment. The case of the EFCC Board is only the latest in a series of such examples proving that fairness is not a trait associated with recent happenings.
It is a fact that a list of four people was sent for appointment to the Board of EFCC. It is also a fact that for a federation primarily divided into North and South, the list forwarded instead of being equally divided – two North and two South – had three Northern candidates representing all the three zones of Arewa. But, only one Southern candidate representing the Southwest. Nobody from the South East, SE, representing one of the three largest ethnic groups or from all the dozens of ethnic groups in the South South, SS, was considered good enough. Deliberate marginalisation of a broad segment of Nigerian society cannot be more openly demonstrated. The question is: whose fault?
“Some great misfortune to portend; no enemy can match a friend.”
Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS.
While the President carries the major blame for this outrage, the next most culpable person is the Chairman of the Senate Committee who is from the SE. To be quite candid, it is difficult to understand what the Senator wanted to achieve by speeding up the process of committee approval of the nominations and bringing the matter to the whole Senate. If ever a Senator had the chance to strike a blow for fairness for his own people, this was it. As Chairman of the committee, he could have delayed the report for as long as necessary – possibly until after the 2019 elections in the hope that a favourable outcome will lead to withdrawal of the obnoxious list. Years from now, long after he might have left the Senate, the man will regret making that costly mistake. One thing is certain in light of these appointments; there is absolute disdain for the SE and SS – irrespective of what those now receiving crumbs from his government say about it.
A few weeks ago, the President, in what the British called “a moment of absent mindedness” announced that he was ready to sign, without qualifications, the Petroleum Industrialisation Bill, PIB, if presented to him. By last weekend the story changed. He will now sign only if all Nigerians agree to it. That is the real position and again Buhari is not totally at fault.
Twice, under President Jonathan, the first SS President, even if accidental, a PIB was sent to the NASS. Jonathan and Mrs Diezani Alison Madueke, the Minister for Petroleum Resources, both from Bayelsa, sent the bills without making any effort to get them passed. Instead, second term ambition was the main focus. The thought that they could liberate their people in the oil-producing areas never crossed their minds. I know because of my direct involvement in the struggle for PIB. If GEJ and Madame had spent as much energy on getting the bill passed by the NASS, Buhari would not have it to toy with now.
As an aside, Jonathan’s autobiography, recently released, demonstrated such grievous errors of judgment as to leave no doubt that the man was unfit to be President; perhaps not even a governor. As a professional writer and having assisted in writing biographies and autobiographies, I strongly believe that no President or Prime Minister, especially one voted out of office, should attempt an autobiography until about ten years out of office and when the tide of history had become more favourable. Even then, a favourable biography written by someone else is highly recommended. The third party can make all the claims and excuses the subject wants made without generating the heat which GEJ’s book did. All the rejoinders coming in have painted him a liar and his excuses convince nobody. He took no responsibility for anything and that means he was never in charge of his government. The fact that so many military service chiefs have forfeited colossal amounts of money to the EFCC is conclusive proof that his military commanders were just stealing money – not fighting Boko Haram and he either didn’t know it or didn’t care. Either way, it was un-presidential conduct and nothing to be committed to an autobiography. He betrayed the Niger Delta by not fighting hard for the PIB.
As it is, the PIB, which would have actually started the restructuring process, might never see the light of day – unless Buhari is no longer President. The gamble those agitating must take is to put their efforts behind getting Atiku elected. But, even that leaves the question: will he support PIB? If a “son of the soil” from the SS could ignore PIB, why expect somebody whose primary constituency is against it once elected?
“If a man fools you once, shame on him. If twice; shame on you.”
Again, last week, the FG announced N22 billion allocated for the Second Niger Bridge. Military Heads of State and civilian Presidents must assume that all the Southeasterners and people of Akwa Ibom amd Cross River who will benefit greatly from the bridge are fools. All of them from Obasanjo as Military Head of State to Buhari promised to build the bridge. OBJ made three unfulfilled promises, GEJ two. Buhari is making the seme pledge. As usual, the promise will be redeemed after the coming election. Invariably, nothing happens after.
Once more, the “rope a lot of dopes” strategy is at work. But, before the people of the SE fall prey to another false promise, they should ask those making it to tell them what happened to the Lagos–Ore—Benin—Warri–Calabar rail line work on which Nigerians were told would commence before the end of the first term. At least that is one failure which cannot be attributed to Jonathan. If current patterns should serve as guide, there will be no bridge after the elections.
Mark my words.
AKWA IBOM AGAIN!
“Leopards never change their skins.”
Or their behaviour for that matter. The article on this page, two weeks ago, warned about the resurgence of violence in normally peaceful Akwa Ibom State. Hitherto, the unruly behaviour leading to bloodshed had been limited to overzealous young “political stalwarts”. On Friday, December 14, 2018 another element was added to the sad record which the people of the state would like to put behind them. Mrs Aisha Buhari was visiting the state for a function. The visit started badly at the Victor Attah International Airport.
Well established protocol calls for the President’s wife to be received first by the wife of the State Governor – before she is introduced to other important people – irrespective of the political affiliations of the two women.
There has never been a precedent in Nigeria or elsewhere for any other woman – no matter her status, past and present – to flout the protocol. But, on the day in question, according to news reports, a woman (name withheld), not the wife of Governor Udom Emmanuel, actually stepped forward to receive Mrs Buhari and had to be restrained by FG and State Government protocol officers.
From statements attributed to her husband, who obviously saw nothing wrong with the breach of etiquette which could have erupted into partisan violence, it would appear that the fear expressed in some quarters about the origin of violence in this peaceful state might not be unfounded after all.
The first appeal should be directed at President Buhari. He should not politicise violence in any state – AKS in particular. Jonathan’s failure to act from 2009 to 2011 resulted in the loss of about 170 people with nobody brought to justice for any of the murders.
The second prayer goes to the Inspector General of Police and the DG of DSS. If people again start getting killed in AKS, it will not be by accident. It will be premeditated homicide because those in power in 2009-2011 made sure crime paid handsomely. People will die needlessly as long as some people believe they can get away with it.
Mrs Aisha Buhari reportedly was trapped in the plane for twenty five minutes until sanity was restored on account of assumed immunity from prosecution for what was an offence. Others not so highly placed might lose more than minutes to the same sort of acquired impunity. It happened before. The only way to put a stop to it is for all the people of the state, and indeed Nigeria, to condemn what happened in the strongest terms.
We all must remember that nobody has a monopoly of violence once it is accepted as standard operating procedure.