For this purpose, there are two major attractions, either the above or that in view of unlimited complaints on the political scene, our first two military rulers, Major-General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi and General Yakubu Gowon, deserve some apology. Of course, posthumously, in the case of Ironsi. This is all the more so because of an important observation President Muhammadu Buhari made lately. According to the man (Buhari), Nigerians are too forgetful. The man was and is still correct.
The situation is not helped by the fact that, by our general self-confession , history is not taught in our schools. Do teachers themselves know anything about how politics was handled 50 years ago? Even if they know, they must have forgotten. How old were they then and how old are they now? But the truth is that, if they were 20 years old 50 years ago, they must have retired by now, The choice of the above headline is deliberate to attract their attention, among others.
A good example is the pattern of the cry for restructuring or amendment of the constitution. How did it begin? Who were those who brought us to this situation? Why are politicians too afraid and unwilling to adopt the best approach? Following the abortive coup of January 1966, General Ironsi abolished the regions and adopted 24 provinces to administer Nigeria as a unitary state. There were violent protests throughout the north against unitary state and the 24 provinces. Today, 23 of the rejected 24 states have been converted into states by subsequent military regimes. The only province not yet a state is Ijebu province. Under Ironsi, Middle Belt was darling of the North, indeed about the sole kingmaker in the counter-coup of July 1966. Today, the same Middle Belt also demands restructuring separate from the North. An irony, but a worse irony still today, is that even under a federal constitution, there is widespread criticism that the country’s stance is more of a unitary state as was under General Ironsi. But nobody dares mention Ironsi or Decree 34 of 1966. It is essential to note that Buhari merely inherited the present constitution.
Following the counter-coup of July 1966, General Gowon abolished the unitary constitution and restored the regions and even though under a military regime, the four regions, East, West, North and Mid-west, all operated freely. In view of the prevailing uncertainty on the future of the country, our neighbour, Ghana, arranged the Aburi reconciliation meeting between Ikemba Ojukwu and Yakubu Gowon. The points of agreement at Aburi between the two men were not only monumental but also historic, when compared to today’s demand by politicians for restructuring or amendment of the constitution. Regions remained intact. Regions controlled their resources. Regions were to endorse public appointments, specifically, in the armed forces. Regions were to control their police force, etc. That was 1967.
For unstated reasons, permanent secretaries, top government officials and, of course, ambitious politicians, desperate for power, all descended on General Gowon on his return to Lagos from Aburi, Ghana. Not only did they disagree with Gowon but were more concerned with their own career and future political prospects rather than Nigeria’s peace and national interest. Indeed, these arrogant fellows even portrayed General Gowon as naive and unaware of the implications of the agreement. Fifty years later, the same civil servants and politicians have turned round to demand what they rejected and misled Nigeria into a senseless civil war. Anytime these politicians come up with their demands, which, by the way, are legitimate, the restructuring they are now demanding is not their idea, having been mostly agreed at Aburi, under the chairmanship of Ghana’s late former Head of State, Lt. General Ankrah.
Instead of allowing General Gowon to implement the restructuring he secured at Aburi in 1967, politicians and civil servants postponed the time till today they are emphasising state police, resource control, return to regions, etc. We need luck to get them through. When they were flaunting state creation before General Gowon, the impression created was that that would solve all Nigeria’s political problems. Instead, state creation became a political cake not only demanded by every part of Nigeria but also fine bara offered to those who neither needed it nor requested for it mainly to sustain political edge.
Gowon created 12 states and the constitution still remained flexible with the semblance of regionalism. Murtala Muhammed/Olusegun Obasanjo came in 1975. By the time Obasanjo handed over to elected civilians in October 1979, he abandoned everything parliamentary system. He earlier made Chief Rotimi Williams, chairman of Constitution Drafting Committee. It is, therefore, not true that former Head of State, General Abdulsalaami Abubakar, introduced presidential system to Nigeria. General Abubakar, in the hurry to return the country to civilian rule in 1999, merely dusted up Obasanjo’s 1979 presidential system.
Since the change from parliamentary to presidential system of government in 1979, Nigeria has had no political peace. Buhari, in particular, is having the brunt, which is surprising because, unlike two of his predeceedors, he, Buhari, has no hankypanky to breach the two-term tenure, ending in 2023. He has no vested interests and must not dare what failed others everytime. The regimented system also collapsed under Obasanjo as he resisted all calls to decentralise throughout his eight-year tenure. He deceived Nigerians with his attempted third term under the guise of the 2005 constitutional reforms.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, a minority, failed to live up to that status as he failed to see his tenure for Nigerians or, at least, his minority group. Jonathan arraigned a constitutional conference in 2014 and, instead of implementing the reforms, said he would do so after being re-elected in 2015. That was an attempted political con, for which Nigerians were not prepared.
Restructuring, especially of the police, will not in any way undermine Buhari, as being portrayed particularly by his supporters in the North. With police effectively under the control of governors, it wiil stop the complaint of Benue’s Samuel Ortom against the unceasing killings in the state and/or Simon Lalong in his cocern for the safety of Plateau State people. What is more, northern PDP and APC governors are no less silent in the demand for state police. This is the moment to yield to popular demand. Here is the illustration. National Assembly resolved during Obasanjo’s tenure at Aso Rock to name the National Stadium, Abuja, after Bashorun MKO Abuja. Obasanjo gave the impression that would not happen on his dead body. But the same Obasanjo ended his tenue and left Aso Rock. He is still alive. MKO Abiola got his honour. The glory for conferring that hnour fell on President Buhari.
Another inglorious exit
It is becoming fashionable for African holders of public office on the world scene to, on the eve of their exit, pick on happenstance to cover up their shortcomings, if not inadequacies. The latest is the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Mrs. Fatou Bernsouda, who is retiring from that post. Her passing shot was that Philipine President Rodrigo Duterte should be investigated for crimes against humanity. By all means, President Duterte should be investigated but if the outgoing prosecutor could not carry out that assignment, to whom is she passing the buck?
Ghanaian ex-United Nations Secretary General, deceased Kofi Annan, did not go as far as that but, all the same, left office with poor marks, an advertisement not enviable for Africa. Here was a United Nations assistant secretary general, Kofi Annan, that was in charge of ensuring the safety of Bosnian Muslims during the civil war leading to the disintegration of Yugoslavia that left about 8,000 helpless victims to be massacred by Bosnian Serbs. Only last week, the ICC Appeal Court confirmed the life sentence earlier passed on leader of the murderers.
And of course, throughout the ordeal of Nigeria’s Basorun MKO Abiola, the late UN chief completely avoided the issue, despite worldwide attention. Then, suddenly and mysteriously, Abacha died. Guess the first foreign visitor to Nigeria. The same Kofi Annan, in an attempt to steal the show. Unfortunately, Abiola died suspiciously. Kofi Annan’s sin became compounded.
In any case, she was placed in her job at the ICC to help minimise bad governance in developing countries, especially Africa. Sadly, on Nigerian matters, she failed colossally. A complaint was lodged with her in 2015 to prosecute Patience, the wife of former President Jonathan, who had called on Nigerian voters to stone leaders of the rival opposition party. What was the ICC retiring prosecutor’s response? As if that was not bad enough, protesters in the #EndSARS row in Lagos last October lodged complaints with ICC, demanding investigations into the conduct of army operations. The Nigerian complainants were buoyed with the ICC prosecutor’s assurance that there was sufficient case to be investigated for crimes against humanity in the killings during the protests. While waiting for that investigation, the Americans, waded in that there was “conclusive” evidence that there were fatalities in the shootings.
That was what the ICC investigator Fatou Bensouda was waiting for as she forgot all about investigating the #EndSARS in Lagos.
Retiring? Good riddance.