The judge who nullified the self-delusion of banishing and restricting the movement of former Kano emir Sanusi away from his domain might probably not realise he (the judge) was putting his name in history by, with a stroke of the pen, rescuing traditional rulers in that part of the country from being humiliated in the future by temporary public office holders, be they politicians or military rulers. It may be true, according to the religious philosophy of these emirs, that God gives and withdraws power to and from whom He pleases. But the same God curbs the misuse of power by these tormentors on earth notorious for inflicting man’s inhumanity on man, all in the name of God. In such a controversy, these powerdrunk elements must be challenged by emirs at the only theatre of arbitration, the law courts.
Justice Anwuli Chikere’s ruling was the reverse of an action of Kano State government, which went beyond bounds in an irresponsible exercise of a power that does not exist. With this judgment, we should be able to celebrate what is clearly, once again, a fresh judicial reminder to state governors of the limit of their power over traditional rulers, specifically in the north and generally all over the country. But being Nigerians, we either have short memories or we are recidivists notorious for repeating the same offence. Some other governor, especially in the South West, north, Edo and Delta will still indulge in the futility of toying with the security of tenure of traditional rulers. Such governors must always be dragged to court for well-deserved humiliation.
Part of the problem is that victims of misuse of power of purported deposition and deportation of emirs by northern state governors allow manipulation by the powers-that-be to rubbish the security of tenure of emirs. It was a political bad habit by the state, best known to have been exercised for the first time in the defunct Western Region in 1954 when the Action Group government purportedly deposed the then Alafin of Oyo and father of the current Alafin, Oba Adeyemi III. The move was a political vendetta against reigning monarchs in a vain attempt to whip then into line of supporting the ruling party. Riots occurred throughout Oyo kingdom in the run-up to the 1954 federal elections lost by the Action Group. In a petty response, the regional government instituted the Lloyd Commission of Inquiry with the disguised aim establishing a flimsy excuse for deposing the traditional ruler of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi II. The Lloyd Commission report, much to the disappointment of Western regional government, completely cleared the Alafin of any responsibility for the riots. To the shock of Nigerians, the West regional government totally rejected the Lloyd report and proceeded to depose the Alafin and banished him to Lagos where he put up with a great humanitarian of that time, mr. N.B. Soule (Nuru Oniwo), a Beninoise resident in Nigeria. The Alafin and his eldest son, the Aremo of Oyo, lived and died in exile in Lagos.
The West regional government, buoyed by the deposition of the Alafin in 1954, similarly deposed another traditional ruler, Oba Fadina, the Olota of Ota, following anti-tax riots by the people. The government succeeded in these depositions because of the notorious weapon, the Chieftaincy and Deposition Law with which the traditional rulers were deposed, contained a clause that completely barred law courts from inquiring into the legality or otherwise of any action from that law. Such was the feudalistic and authoritanian chieftaincy law.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the defunct Northern Region, similarly deposed Sir Muhammadu Sanusi as Emir of Kano in 1963 and banished him to Bauchi. However, at the exit of the military in 1979, the new Nigerian constitution guaranteed the right of any Nigerian to fair hearing of any allegation against him to afford the chance of defending himself and the right to move from any part of Nigeria to another. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State exercised ignorance of fellow governors who violated the constitutional rights of of fellow citizens, especially traditional rulers. That was the import of the (latest) court ruling that no Nigerian (including emirs) can be punitively restricted to another part of the country from his (citizen’s) choice. The first in the North to exercise such ignorance was ex-military governor of Sokoto State under General Sani Abacha’s regime, Brigadier-General Muazu, with total disregard for the law.
The very idea of governments in Nigeria humiliating traditional rulers in the country should not be tolerated, but the undemocratic nature of military rule might be infringing the plight of traditional rulers under military rule. However, in an atmosphere of democracy in which every citizen must enjoy his rights under the constitution, there is no compromise on the fundamental human rights of traditional rulers. That was the message of the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, which even before assuming office in 1979 vouched to depose the oba. And the effort was made by Ogun State government in1981. The Awujale challenged his purported deposition in a court of law. In 1984, the court upheld Awujale’s right under the constitutiion not to be suspended, deposed or banished as provided by the Western Nigeria Chieftaincy Law, which foreclosed any court proceedings into government action, and contradicted right of fair hearing and freedom of movement under Nigerian constitution.
Despite Awujale’s victory in asserting the rights of traditional rulers not to be humiliated by states, that rascality is still in practice in northern parts of the country. There was the case of Sultan Dasuki deposed by military governor Brigadier-General Muazu but apparently because the deposed Sultan did not challenge the matter in court, the then Governor Adamu Aliero, in 2006, merely summoned Emir Mustapha Jokolo and informed him he had been deposed and banished to Nasarawa. Emir Jokolo successfuly challenged his purported deposition so far at the high court and Court of Appeal, Kaduna. The final judgment is to come up at the Supreme Court.
The motto of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s defunct West African Pilot was “Show the light and the people will find the way.” Emir Jokolo showed his royal colleagues the light to appreciate that governors are not gods. Former Emir Sanusi pursued that path lit by Emir Jokolo. Both emirs have jointly obtained the Freedom Charter for Emirs in the North. Emirs in the North must, henceforth, be bold to face up to state governors. It has nothing to do with ethnicity, religion or confrontation. It is a question of human rights against misuse of power. Every emir in the North must again read the ruling of Justice Anwuli Chikere and keep the copy for everyday reference.
Once again, the National Assembly
Reports (during the week) indicated a row in the National Assembly over the proposed renovation of the building at a whopping sum of N40 billion. The concern here is more over the huge amount than the job initially done, which warranted the renovation in the first place, after barely 20 years. A building of that standard to require such renovation at a cost only the government could be misled to afford?
The latest incident is the latest in the series of expenditure involving the National Assembly. There seems to be just no control or common sense. Before now, the controversy was on the purchase of hundreds of new cars for members of the House of Representatives, purportedly for oversight functions, at a time Nigerians were being persuaded to run for their lives in total lockdown of the nation as a major control over a fast-spreading COVID-19. Public outcry against that scandal forced the planned distribution of that largesse to be suspended. Were Nigerians ever informed thereafter when the new cars were eventually distributed to these already over-pampered, overpaid and reckless members of House of Representatives who had never been known to care a hoot about the feelings and/or sufferings of the public on any issue? It all shows how we are taken for a ride by these people.
Throughout, President Muhammadu Buhari has been conveniently hiding under the ideally well-intended principle of separation of powers to allow these spoilt brats to get away with unlimited various kinds of luxury, while ordinary Nigerians are deliberately further impoverished left, right and centre. While Nigerians are in that situation of abject poverty, information was still arrogantly and provocatively sneaked that petrol and electricity would cost more, while prices of foodstuffs have virtually thrown the citizenry into begging or starving, the current two stark options. Where are Nigerian students, the self-styled human rights advocates? Why should the working class (still) reckon with trade unions, which, in reality, are partners in the regression of the ordinary man on the street? These collaborators have the self-assurance that the poor have no staying power to resist any aggressive, indeed, crushing economic policies.
What is the latest rubbing of salt into injury? While ordinary Nigerians have been prepared for outright economic clobbering in the new year through astronomical increase in the cost of everyday sustenance, the other side continues to fortify itself with luxury in every sphere of life. When renovation of the National Assembly was projected about 18 months ago, we sharply criticised the idea, especially at a huge sum of N25 billion. Still, the guys ignored our opposition. As a mark of their contempt for Nigerians, despite the urgency with which they rushed their plan through, in the midst of the sufferings of ordinary Nigerians, the opposite side unilaterally increased the cost of renovating their parliamentary mansion to N40 billion from the original N25 billion.
When did they increase the cost? Even if N40 billion is for the construction of a new National Assembly complex, is or should that be our priority in view of Nigeria’s poverty rated by international agences as the worst in the world? Do Nigerians know what these opposite people have done? They increased the cost of modernising their National Assembly by at least 60 per cent. Yes, 60 per cent of N25 billion is N15 billion. Would Ghanaian parliamentarians ever indulge in such financial recklessness? Would Togo, Rwanda, Egypt, United States or Britain ever indebt their country, all in the name of financing a deficit budget, including renovating or rebuilding a National Assembly? Ghana’s parliament was used by President Kwame Nkrumah at the country’s independence in March 1957, compared to Nigeria’s put into operation only in 1991.
Watch out. These people will soon come up with stupid explanations that the increase of N15 billion in the cost of modernising Nigeria’s National Assembly was due to variation in the contract. Who is the contractor anyway? What is the controversy on the contract all about? These people are concerned with the variation in the cost of their luxurious parliament. Don’t Nigerian workers, instead or indeed simultaneously, deserve variation in their poor wages and salaries of N30,000 per month? How many Nigerian governors pay that amount in the same country where each member of National Assembly collects not less than N15 million per month as allowances?