IF ours were to be a nation that learns from history, we, and in particular the political class, would have known that there are matters, contentions and disagreements that citizens would describe as little and of no significance but when viewed critically they would discover such issues do have capacity not only to disorganize society but to throw everybody off balance. Every day in our polity such developments are thrown up across different parts of the nation. We have the herdsmen menace, hundreds are dying and we are looking the other way. Southern Kaduna is boiling and we are laughing over it and we are making a caricature of the legislative aim of government, giving the impression that our own democracy can do without a strong legislature. We forget that the possibility of dictatorship is very high if we have a weak legislature. I will leave those ones because the focus of this discourse is the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), choice of a substantive chairman, Ibrahim Magu and the Senate. The attempt to pick a chairman for the EFCC has become such a difficult exercise. At some point the fallouts created concerns and before we knew it, it had grown into a controversy.
Concerns and controversies for a nation at our level of development is not a bad thing. Concerns represent new understandings, discoveries and possibly omissions that would require clarifications or corrections. It is agreement on the possible path to take that may make the issue a contentious one hence controversial. Regarding the case in question, at the beginning the concerns thrown up were germane. For instance, it is right to ask to know how long an appointee can remain on “Acting” capacity just as it was important to review the Senate’s procedure for confirming or rejecting a nominee, especially that of Magu given what transpired and eventually led to the first rejection of the nomination of Magu. What would have been a simple matter left the realm of concern and graduated into what I would call a big and nasty controversy when the Senate, began to act as if the issue ought to begin and end with them.
Keen watchers of our nation’s politics began to even fear when it started looking like the legislature would dictate to the executive who to appoint and when to do so. At the point we are the issue is raising dust and the citizens are afraid what the development may lead into, but as usual our political leaders are saying it is normal and that it is part of democratic practice. I don’t agree with that position, like I said earlier there are little matters like this we would say don’t matter but for those who know history it should matter very much because some of these developments, if not well handled, become gateways to disorganization of the society, annihilation of a people and the institutionalization of dictatorship.
If the people in power don’t know this we should tell them that issues surrounding the selection of a chairman for EFCC is becoming a threat to the peace and stability of our dear nation; some of them in both the executive and legislative arms may not know this and that is why it is imperative to alert them on the dangers ahead. As a result of how the nomination and confirmation processes have gone, we are now hearing views’ saying except provision is expressly made in the Constitution; the President may not be under obligation to obey bye laws regulating the matter. If such a position is not an invitation to anarchy or dictatorship, I wonder what else would be. Now to the issues: the nomination of Ibrahim Magu for EFCC chairmanship is right, he is a Nigerian and from what I have read about him I think he has the relevant qualification, training and experience, I would also not fail to express some concerns about only northerners being nominated for that sensitive position since the body was created, nevertheless this is just by the way. I have heard the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo speak on the muddling or poor handling of Magu’s presentation to the Senate by the executive and how he spoke about independence of units under the presidency to work at their own discretion. Autonomy is a good concept in democracy but the fact is that it does not apply in every circumstance. The presidency is one unit under the president and in practical operation it must be a case of unity in diversity. The war which the Department of State Security (DSS) took to the Senate is what they should have taken to the President and a position taken which would have crystalized in the President looking in the direction of Magu or not talking to him at all.
Where administrations run on sound basis, potential nominees are not informed of possible appointment until issues surrounding their security status have been confirmed and passed and then they are informed and their approval secured; it is embarrassing to nominate somebody and he publicly declines, how much more getting to the Senate and a unit under the presidency is struggling with the President to say who between them is right or wrong; this is nasty, an embarrassment and if taken a little higher sign of disorganization and clear infighting among presidential aides. Those who say the President should not submit the EFCC chairman to the Senate for confirmation do not mean well for this nation, you don’t need to be a lawyer to know that all rules regulating governmental activities, business and general conduct cannot be included in a Constitution and that it is for this reason nations all over the world rely on bye laws and judicial pronouncements and precedence to make up; it will be wrong to say because our constitution mentioned the National Electoral Commission and National Population Commission, we should stop at that point, they won’t require additional regulations to be able to give efficient service, such a position cannot hold water. Acts are usually a product of a well constituted parliament and ought to be obeyed and like the lawyers have always told us every law should be obeyed until overturn by the appropriate organs, why they are now sounding different now looks curious.
The President should be mindful of this: those on “Acting” positions should have a time frame and I am suggesting it should not be more than one month. I say so because if things are done properly issues of ‘Acting’ appointment should not crop up at all. The President can represent Magu and there is no limit to the number of times he can do so but there is what is called unseen government protocol and convention, where there is sanity and the intention is government for the greatest good, if the leader re-presents up to three times, good judgment will suggest he drew the nomination and make a replacement, after all in a nation of millions of persons it would amount to the greatest irony for any one man to carry the tag of indispensability. For the Senate it would amount to bad politics and negative motive not to reconsider their position if there are new grounds to do so. We must help the President to make a difference.