By Tony Eluemunor
Taciturnity in trying times, when any president should mount the national dais and reassure the citizenry, has been the hallmark of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. His presidency, which has notably been fast in condolling other parts of the world, would grow reticent when disaster strikes at home, especially, when suspected Fulani killer herders are to blame.
Then a change came just days ago. The presidency was speaking in quiet unmistakable terms and quoting the national constitution as the absolute law book on which our rights are grounded.
Why? What brought about this change and a recourse to the Constitution?
Answer: We have been told that security agencies have uncovered unconstitutional change of government plans. A coup is a coup, and it is condemnable and the security agents and agencies should do their work for which they are adequately primed with the needed cash; finish.
What really bothers me is the newfound need to bring all the powers and strength and endowments of every government apparatus and war arsenal to ensure that this constitutional provision on how administrations can be changed, is not breached. No, my worry does not stem from the mere fact that this constitutional provision has been recognized and is being enforced. Sincerely, I applaud that fact, because for any group of persons, be they soldiers or politicians, to come unelected into the presidency, is to deny the citizenry their most basic of rights; that of choosing their leaders. Without it, the people are slaves.
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Even though I am being tempted to ask whether the constitution made any hints towards ensuring that the national character should be respected where necessary because of the very nature of Nigeria, and whether that has been obeyed by the Buhari administration, I have other matters to focus on now. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that the 1999 Constitution’s Section 153 established the Federal Character Commission to check against undue bias and undue favouritism in appointments against or in favour of any section of the country.
The constitution says: “…the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Unfortunately, I have never heard those shouting about unconstitutional this and unconstitutional that rave against the unconstitutional disregard for the federal character principle. What brought about this shameful prioritization of constitutional dictates? Could it be that one issue of constitutionalism touches directly on the NUMBER ONE? That is shameful.
Why? I answer thus: there are also rights so important that without them the right of electing a leader disappears. Please remember that Chapter 1, Section 4 of the constitution states that in the country there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex, the following fundamental human rights and freedoms, namely: the right to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property.
And the Vanguard newspaper of Thursday, May 6, 2021 published this: “25, 452 persons sacked from 10 communities by armed herders in Monday’s attacks—Benue govt.” Hey, presidency people, the military, DSS and police, are those Benue unfortunates unworthy of constitution protection? If not, why has the hue and cry over constitutionalism not been raised over their plight? Why has the presidency kept quiet? From the same newspaper came this: “Tension in Abuja over influx of migrant herders from Niger Republic. Again, there has been no condemnations from the presidency, yet, when it suits it, it talks about protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria. A country that non-nationals enter into and leave at will has no territorial integrity.
This brings us to the awful, dreadful, outrageous and appalling thoughts Robert Clark (SAN) vented recently; that President Buhari should declare a state of emergency, call in the military for a four-year dictatorship, because politicians have failed Nigeria since 1999.
Dear, Robert Clark, please answer these questions: Have soldiers proved to be messiahs fully inoculated against political failures? What has earned this role for the military? Is it the institution’s past leadership records? Have military regimes not been overthrown by soldiers in the past for sheer ineptitude? Buhari was once a military head of state; his record whether as military or civilian leader is enough to give the military a bad name. Have you checked Buhari’s dis-unifying tendencies? What wonders has he wrought on the economic front? Has he lightened Nigeria’s foreign and domestic debts or cost of governance at the centre? What was the Naira’s exchange rate with any currency in 2015 and what is it today?
A retired Gen Buhari has so far failed on the national security front as Boko Haram, bandits and killer herders have collectively become Nigeria’s greatest danger. Obasanjo was there for eight years and nothing changed.
Check the position Nigeria now occupies in all global indices of development and see to what depths we have plummeted. Now this: what if the military appoints Buhari or Obasanjo (retired Generals) to lead that NEW ADMINISTRATION? Would that make that administration angelic? “You can’t be wrong and get right” so sang Jimmy Cliff in the 1970s—when you were an enchantingly handsome up and coming lawyer. Despite your outlandish proposal,
I don’t see you as down and going—but you presented a poor brief. And I condemn it. We might even end up with OBASANJO’s OR BUHARI’S THIRD TERM. Or, Another Abacha era!!! Most of all, the dire situation the constitution envisaged for a state of emergency imposition has not arrived. Another election is just around the corner. We might just get it right then.