THE ASYMMETRIES IN OUR NATIONAL LIFE
“The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” – Prof. Wole Soyinka
Once again, the Voice of Reason considers it necessary to intervene on pressing national issues as we have always done, in order to halt the steady spiral of the country into the abyss of anarchy. Many problems in the polity have been identified as being worthy of statesmanlike deliberation and contemplation. All these issues, if not properly and timely addressed would lead to chaos and finally, the disintegration of the country.
Human Rights and Dignity: As responsible citizens, we are aware of the need to maintain Law and Order at all times, for the good of all in society. However, we feel it necessary to state that government has a bounden duty at all times to recognise and respect the Human Rights and Dignity of Nigerian citizens. These rights include the right to lawful assembly, as well as the right to free speech. The arrest and subsequent detention of Omoyele Sowore, the erstwhile presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, for the “crime of a call for revolution” which is neither known to Nigerian statutes on criminal law, nor to the Constitution of the country, is a worrisome development.
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
By Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller
As a reminder, newspaper archive pictures and headline news abound in the public space depicting General (rtd) Buhari (as he was then known) and top notch APC leaders in a public march against insecurity under Jonathan’s government, as well as an outright call for Revolution against the government of President Jonathan. In none of these cases were security forces deployed against the then APC opposition whilst they exercised their constitutional rights to conduct peaceful public protests against a sitting administration. We need to be alert to check an insidious establishment of a dictatorship in a democracy we all fought for.
Repression is often the parent of violent revolt. The hurried release of El Zakzaky after the protests by IMN turned bloody and the subsequent subtle threat from Iran is another case in point. El Zakzaky was granted bail by a competent court and was awarded compensation, the Government ignored the court order until things took a nasty turn. In this instance, the Government of Iran has openly shown support for the proscribed religious body. The spectre of a proxy war by foreign powers on Nigerian soil looms menacingly large on the horizon. VOR advices the government of the day to tread cautiously in the minefield of global geopolitics, and seek a diplomatic or political resolution to the problem. We are a Democracy, and it is necessary for governments, just like individuals to respect The Rule of Law. This includes the prompt obedience of Court Orders
Security in the South West, and the rest of the Nation: We acknowledge the recent, if belated initiatives announced by our governments – State and Federal, to bring an end to the spate of kidnappings, armed robberies and other violent acts to which our people have been subjected, especially when they travel between our cities. We know now that while there has been indubitable evidence of the involvement of itinerant herdsmen in many of the incidents, some of the incidents have also been carried out by local criminal elements. We urge that herdsmen, who are supposed to interface peacefully with their host communities should be disarmed across the nation. Effective security measures should be worked out with citizens, including the traditional institution in every locality so that the high level of fear and distrust currently permeating life in our communities may be doused, and our communities may continue to live in the love and amity they have always shown one another.
The Security Architecture of Nigeria which has been completely appropriated by the Fulani ethnic nationality to the absolute exclusion of all others can be interpreted as a preparation for war against the other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The Miyetti Allah militant group issues a 30-day warning and threat to the whole of southern Nigeria. No action by government. A group gives a deadline to quit the North to citizens from a major region of Nigeria, accompanied by clear threats of repercussion for failure to comply. The DSS did not deem it fit to invite anyone for questioning. Herdsmen and ethnic bandits (some of them foreigners) openly carry AK47 around the country, often in plain sight of our security forces. Government literally looks the other way. On the other hand, as soon as other groups and entities, which appear unfavoured by, or opposed to this government, plan or mobilize for a constitutionally-guaranteed protest – even if peaceful – the security forces seem to rapidly recover their zest and zeal for the strong-arm enforcement of police powers. Nebulous pronouncements of intent to use CCTV or Drones are not enough to enhance the confidence of all ethnic nationalities across Nigeria
We urge that the Security Architecture of the nation be reviewed, and that fresh blood and new thinking be injected into the hierarchy of our Armed Forces to enhance their motivation and effectiveness
Effective steps should be taken to commence a State Police System to further enhance the sense of trust and safety in all our communities. In the interim, all Police formations should be tasked to introduce a system of Community Policing, in order to build trust in their local communities. The use of Policemen as bodyguards to a large number of State and non-State persons, thereby depleting the numbers of policemen available for conventional police work should be stopped forthwith. In their place, a corps of suitably trained and licenced ex-servicemen may be made available for citizens and officials who require bodyguard functions and are ready to pay the appropriate fees.
Devolution on the road to Restructuring: We would like to see effective discussion and commencement of practical action on the need to devolve more powers to the federating units of the nation in order to ensure greater equity, participation and effective development. Enhanced and empowered States may collaborate effectively as conceptual regional entities, using the model of the DAWN initiative of the South-West, until a more organic regional system is agreed upon.
Welfare and Equipment of Our Armed Forces: We urge that everything possible be done to enhance the welfare and combat efficiency of our brave members of the Armed Forces, who are fighting terrorists on different battle-fronts. The nation must acknowledge their endeavour and sacrifice at all times. In all situations, the individuals and their families must always be accorded the dignity they deserve
Equity and Transparency: We urge that equity and transparency be shown in the allocation of all federal appointments, and that even the appearance of nepotism should be abjured by government and its agencies, as this is the only way to ensure a sense of belonging and equal participation among all Nigerians. Despite the long hiatus between the conclusion of the elections and the nomination of ministerial candidates, the list of appointees can only be described as lack-luster and uninspiring. Some members of the incoming Federal Executive Council are tainted by corruption. The National Assembly is equally morally compromised with the many having pending cases before the courts or are under investigation by EFCC or ICPC. The shoddy confirmation process in the Senate is disgraceful and gives the impression that we effectively have a Rubber Stamp legislature in place.
According to James Madison, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Our Economy is in a parlous state, despite the fact that we have some of the best brains in the world in all areas of human endeavour. The Budget Process continues to be devoid of Accountability and Timely management. There is neither accountability nor development discourse and planning We urge that a Special Summit featuring acknowledged experts from home and the diaspora be convened to come up with an implementable blueprint for future revival.
Power is still a major problem in our country, hamstringing SMSEs and major Industries alike, and leading to poor quality of life for citizens. We urge a Strategic Review of all present and past efforts in this area to come up with a workable solution with clear time-lines.
There is a high rate of Youth Unemployment that needs to be addressed through a local ‘Marshall Plan’ that should involve massive public works and other measures.
To compound a less-than-impressive management of the country’s economy, Buhari’s government is fast becoming one with increasingly obvious instincts towards autocratic and unconstitutional deployment of democratic power. To an extent that even the now legendary capacity of his government to sometimes (or often) manipulate public-interest information and events, is no longer able to conceal its misdemeanours against the spirit and letter of our evolving constitutional democracy. We would like to have a definitive statement from government that RUGA has been abolished, and not ‘suspended’. Governments – State and Federal should put resources in the creation of Ranches and Farm Settlements for all livestock as a way of creating employment for youths. Consequently, we call on all State and National Assembly members of Yoruba Origin to ensure that bills pertaining to establishment of RUGA or a Repeal of Land Use/Waterfront Acts as currently being proposed by the Central government are voted against without any reservation. Instead of backing the establishment of RUGA or abolition of Land Use/Waterfront Acts aimed towards taking the control of land out of the cover of Governors, we encourage our parliamentarians to ensure that bills that will help to restructure Nigeria’s political, economic and social structures are enacted and voted for.
Finally, our legislators irrespective of parties have been derelict in their duties. They have continued to collect obscene amount of money in spite of the dwindling state of the economy while the minimum wage is elusive to the workers. Not a single voice has been raised against this anomaly. They hardly fight over policies, the only areas of disagreement is how to share “juicy positions” Governance has been reduced to an endless cycle of contract awards and preparation for the next election to the detriment of progressive actions. They should remember, the people may be deceived for a while, a final day of reckoning is not too far away.