One of God’s blessings on Africa is the richness of our sayings. Here in Nigeria, specifically, South West, against lower standard or gross misconduct, a culprit is admonished to copy the nearest shining example like a better gifted dancer in a gathering. It is the most refined form of rebuke. Underlining that stricture are the best intentions, wish or at least hope for an inevitable change, especially as events in various spheres contrast to Nigeria’s.
Six months ago, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, emerged from general elections with a new mandate but not comfortable enough to go it alone in case of economic imperatives for Europe’s strongest economy and one of the strongest in the world. Since that time, Chancellor Merkel had been negotiating for a coalition government with the various minority parties, a common feature when necessary after elections in that country. From the first few weeks to many months, the seeming outgoing administration kept negotiating for a new coalition. The civilised features of the six-month search for a coalition government in Germany should be a shining example for Nigeria. Throughout, the smooth political atmosphere was never disrupted by hustlers in the system parading as leaders.
Of course, there were wheeling and dealing. But uppermost on all sides were strictly national interests and the welfare of ordinary German citizens who voted for the near-stalemate. While negotiations lasted for six months, none of the seven active political parties, including the maverick Greens, undermined another or sold out the people’s mandate for convenient self-serving political purposes. Chancellor Merkel in particular never encouraged criminal carpet-crossers from rival parties in a do-or-die affair, to remain in government after three terms of four years each. In return for that admirable statesman-like gesture, all members of her ruling party never plotted overnight against her while rival opposition parties never attempted to subvert the people’s mandate. After successfully concluding negotiations for a new coalition government, Merkel remains the Chancellor (equivalent of Prime Minister) .
Herein lies the lesson for Nigeria where, should the country, under parliamentary system, face the near-stalemate as was in Germany, any corrupt tactics, carpet-crossing through group ethnic/religious solidarity, money influence or ministerial offers, would have been employed either within the ruling party or opposition party, a form of corruption that has been institutionalised in this country. For the avoidance of doubt, the six months it took President Buhari to compile his ministers must not be compared to Chancellor Merkel’s six months in search of a coalition government. Under a presidential system, there was never any threat to Buhari’s mandate.
As a sovereign nation, South Africa is unique in partcular standard. Before majority rule, apartheid system operated during which, no matter how distasteful, the ruling white settlers set some standard among which was transparent governance, such that at the collapse of the apartheid system, political leadership fell on a rare human being, Nelson Mandela. Not only did the man maintain but he also improved on the integrity on governance, a legacy he inherited. For a man who spent 27 years in jail in pursuit of majority rule, it was remarkable that Mandela was in office for only one term of four years before voluntarily quitting office into retirement. That distinction throughout his tenure and the rest of his life could ideally have been trans formed into some national ideology. Only two administrations after Mandela (less than 16 years later), Mandela’s legacy has been rubbished.
President Jacob Zuma, one of Mandela’s successors, was not only humiliated out of office but has also been slated for criminal trial on allegations of large-scale corruption during his tenure, a rare punitive measure in Africa, since such leaders perpetuate themselves in office. A lesson for Nigerians, especially notorious state governors whose sole aim is to be elected and make their billions. Remarkably, heads of government in South Africa don’t enjoy immunity under the constitution. Not helping matters is the complicit Nigerian judiciary, whose members, through lawyers as conduit pipes, routinely amass wealth and property. The supposed major financial crime prosecuting authority in Nigeria seems to deliberately misperform in its duties by leaving escape routes for otherwise big convicts to escape through technical points under the law.
Way back in 2007 and unknown to the French, the then President Nicholas Sarkozy, much against election rules, allegedly collected foreign funds from Libya’s Muamar Gadaffi, who, after ruling for 42 ears consecutively, presided over his country’s billions of petro-dollars such that he neither knew how nor where to spend the money. Gadaffi later faced the people’s revolt during which he was lynched. Lately, his beneficiary, ex-French president Sarkozy, spent two days with French police interrogating him on the Libyan financial contribution to his 2010 presidential campaign funds. This should be a lesson not just for our politicians but especially for Nigerian security agencies on their effectiveness in monitoring foreign contributions to election funds. A former French president held for two days under interrogation by the police which, in the past, took orders from him? Are Nigerian politicians taking note?
By far, the most impacting political lesson is for Lagos State government and the ruling party, All Progressives Congress. Until lately, Lagos State would appear to be the most secure for any group in charge of Alausa. That would be before the recent public resentment against the outrageous rise in land charges. Owing to its cosmopolitan status, Lagos State electorate must be appreciated as the most discerning and cannot be taken for granted. Mentality of those in government that Nigerians would pay whatever levy after initial protests is outdated. The fact that after a dubious and so-called reduction in the rate of new land charges, opposition and protest have not abated should make the message clear. Governor Akinwunm Ambode assembled his privileged class, billionaires, landed gentry, industrialists and manufacturers and desribed them as stakeholders. That is only insignificantly true as they have acquired more billion since May 29, 2015. Hence Ambode’s “stakeholders,” in some kind of stage management hailed him with the revulsion that not only was the new land charge affordable to them but also very liberal.
It will be politically suicidal for Ambode and APC to be reckoning with his fake stakeholders who would not go out to vote. The genuine stakeholders for Ambode are residents (who in fact are tenants or at best struggling landlords) of Ajegunle, Somolu, Ikorodu, Akowonjo, Badagry, central Lagos Island, Alapere, Ketu, Ikotun, Idimu. These are the genue voters to whom, ironically, landlords will pass, through increase in rent, whatever financial stress the new land charges may pose. Ambode should try trips to these heavily-populated settlements and compare their feelings to those of his fake stakeholders.
Here is a question for Governor Ambode.What has changed in the earning capacity and/or purchasing power of poor and helpless Lagos residents and genuine stakeholders since May 29, 2015, to warrant the astronomical indirect hike in rent? It is not too late to pre-empt an on-coming political lesson inherent in public reaction to the new land charges.
CJN’s response to National Assembly
Ordinarily, those charged with specific powers under the Nigerian constitution should be allowed to exercise their function. Specifically, the judiciary is to interpret the law as exercised by the executive or the National Assembly. It might also be the law under that purpose that the National Assembly wrote the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, on the suit filed by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the amendment of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly, a suit yet to be determined by an Abuja high court judge.
The observation here, therefore, is not on the suit. Rather, it is on the letter to Chief Justice Onnoghen wrongly claiming that the judiciary has no power to check the National Assembly from possibly exceeding its power. In 1961, Justice Daddy Onyeama, at the Lagos High Court nullified the National Bank Inquiry Act rushed through parliament by the Federal Government under Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa in an attempt to probe finances of the defunct Western Region government. Justice Onyeama also refused federal attorney-general Taslim Elias’ desperate bid to apply the blue and delete objectionable sections of the inquiry act. Instead, Onyeama halted the probe, which already commenced sitting in Lagos.
Still on whether or not the National Assembly can be obstructed, through judicial process, from performing its legislative function, what is the record of the National Assembly since 1999 on this controversial claim? Certainly, members of the National Assembly are either ignorant of or pretend to be ignorant of their record or are suffering from amnesia. In short, National Asembly members are exhibiting two different but contradictory views. Today, National Assembly is wrongly laying claim to be sacrosanct in its power to legislate. Whereas, the same National Assembly members shot themselve in their feet by halting themselves through a court ruling from carrying out their legislative duties. This particular case must interest the Chief Justice, in responding to the letter from the National Assembly.
Under Obasanjo’s presidency, seven members of the House of Representatives displayed to Nigerians and the world the sum of three million five hundred thousand naira said to be from Aso Rock, with the claim that the amount was meant to induce them to impeach serving federal House Speaker Ghali Na’Abba. Each of the seven members of the House of Representatives owned up to being offered five hundred thousand naira, equivalent of today’s five million naira. The former Speaker, had, through strict mornitoring, been checking federal expenditure under Obasanjo;s administration. Hence, the probability was there that, as claimed by the seven members of the House of Representatives, the money was sent from Aso Rock to instigate the Speaker’s impeachment. To ascertain the truth, the House of Representatives, under Ghali Na’Abba as Speaker decided on a full probe.
As the probe commenced on the source of the blood money, a dissident section of Representatives headed for an Abuja high court to obtain an injunction permanently restraining the probe panel from inquiring into the source of the bribe. The injunction was granted and that was the end of the story till today. Both former Speaker Na’Abba and former the House of Representatives member Macebuh are living witnesses. That was how the National Assembly set the precedent of halting the legislature from performing its functions.