In autocratic and despotic regimes, the term ‘national interest and national security’ is used as a bogey to cover multitudes of despotic and authoritarian infractions on the rights of the citizens. These infractions range from killings, disappearances, detentions without trials, assault on rule of law by way of ouster clauses, disobedience to court orders and even usurpation of legislative powers. When such despotic application of power is challenged the usual response by the offending regime is that such breaches of the constitution were required for ‘national interest and national security’.
It is in the light of the foregoing that we can understand the Buhari regime blatant disobedience to court orders and its justification on the altar of ‘national interest and national security’.
Declaring open the 2018 Annual General Conference of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at Abuja last week, President Muhammadu Buhari emphatically declared that the very bedrock of democracy and republicanism, the principle of Rule of Law must be subjected to ‘national interest and national security’. But the questions are: what is national interest and national security and who is the custodian of ‘national interest and national security’? Who interprets or determines what Nigeria’s ‘national interest and national security’ is, and when it is at danger or threatened?
Nigeria is or pretends to be a democracy. And being a democracy is hoisted on certain parameters or principles among which is ‘Rule of Law’, which in any case is the cardinal point of any democracy. Without ‘Rule of Law’, I doubt if any country can claim to be a democracy. But what is ‘Rule of Law’? It simply means a country whose government is subject to the overriding powers of the Constitution and the Law and not man. That “all powers of government and administration must be conducted in accordance with the law – and that every holder of public office is subject to the Law”. And this principle of Rule of Law’ operates at two levels: at the level of constitutionality, that is, that in a rigid constitutional state, the Written Constitution is supreme. This obtains in Nigeria where Section I of 1999 Constitution declares its supremacy. Secondly, at the level of government where the powers of government and its officials are limited by, and under the law by way of curbing caprice and discretionary power of the government and officials. Even before modern constitutionalism as embodied in the American Constitution of 1787, Bracton, a 13th century jurist and philosopher wrote that the king shall not be subject to men, but to God and the Law, since law makes the King.”
The principle of ‘rule of law’ has been sufficiently adjudicated to a point that there shouldn’t be any confusion or ambiguity in its purport especially in the locus classicus of Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu. It is in the light of this that one is disturbed by the presidential declaration before the very gathering of gods of the Law in Nigeria comprising the Chief Justice of Nigeria and his brother Justices, Judges, Senior Advocates, thousands of lawyers and their friends that rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of “national security and national interest.” Hope the Nigerian President was not misquoted! And he found support for this bizarre declaration in the alleged decisions of Nigerian apex court giving recognition to this proposition. After reading this declaration in national dailies, I can confess I am terribly afraid.
My fear is that since the President has hoisted his arbitrary powers to protect ‘national security and national interest’ on the portals of judicial authority of Nigeria’s ‘apex court’ and declared same before eminences grises of the law and the judiciary no other power can restrain him. No wonder, the attacks on the Judiciary and Legislature. Nigeria is in trouble! When the President and his officials can hoist their breaches of the Constitution and Laws of Nigerian and justify them on the principle of judicial precedents then just know that there is real trouble as there can be no end to the interpretation or reinterpretation of the judicial precedents to justify unlawful actions and constitutional breaches that go contrary to extant decisions of courts in individual cases.
Fascism and despotism usually start from the seemingly innocuous and nebulous concept of ‘national security and national interest’. Most governments that transformed into authoritarian, despotic and fascist usually start from this nebulous term of ‘national security and national interest’. Talk of Russia under (Tsar Nicholas (1 and 11) of whose rules degenerated into despotism that finally culminated in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the earlier French equivalent situation under King Louis that ignited the French Revolution of 1789, the Fascist Franco regime of Spain or the despotism of King Charles I of Britain that sparked the Glorious Revolution or British King George III’s draconian ‘Coercive Acts’ against the 13 colonies that culminated in the American Revolution and War of Independence and several other instances. Autocracy and despotism destroy rule of law, but have never succeeded anywhere in the world as world history has established.
And I think, Nigeria had better take heed lest authoritarian proclivities drive the country into unmanageable crisis. And talking about ‘national interest and national security’: is Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution no longer the repository of national interest and national security which realization lie in observing its provisions and conducting the government of Nigeria in accordance with its provisions that guarantee the observance of rule of law and due process. Anything to the contrary will not only damage Nigeria but signpost its death knell inexorably. It cannot be otherwise! If the constitution of Nigeria is the solemn receptacle and reservoir of Nigeria’s national interest and goals and the court is the custodian of that document and its interpreter, it behoves the executive branch led by the President not to do anything that will amount to sabotaging the well-laid structure of the legal order that guarantees the enjoyment of rights and other social desiderata. The survival of Nigeria lies in observing rule of law!
There is no way the President or his officials can rely on the judicial precedent to act contrary to the positive orders of regular courts. So where a high court has adjudicated a matter and comes to a decision, the Federal Government or the President is duty bound to obey that decision until it is set aside on appeal. Doing otherwise is a subversion of the constitution and the law and such illegal action imperceptibly destroys the nation. This much has been handed down by the apex court in the case of Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu where it declared that “none of the three organs of government must exist in sabotage of the other, or else there is chaos or there is no Federal Government. Executive lawlessness tantamount to a deliberate violation of the Constitution” and such sabotage is an impeachable offence.
Let the President be properly guided that he cannot rely on judicial precedent to interpret a positive order of court. His remedy lies in seeking judicial interpretation in the courts in all cases that call for determination of the rights of all persons or authorities in Nigeria. Not otherwise!
2019: The people will decide what happens
In Nigeria today, there is this deep division when it comes to the concept of one Nigeria; a division between those who are fearful of the government, a government that has abused and tortured the people in every ramification. I don’t know any section of the country that is spared of the impunity of this government. No government has destroyed the hope of the people and believes in the country as this government has done. Against inclusivity which will herald harmony and unity, the government chose a system of exclusivity that ended up breeding all manners of conflicts. That these levels of devastation were achieved within three years gave credence to the often said fact that it is easy to destroy than to build.
The people that are disillusioned rightly or wrongly feel the country is irredeemable, they want a new nation other than Nigeria, and on the other hand are those who in spite of the woes still believe in Nigeria first; they believe that Nigeria can be reformed and that a restructured Nigeria is better than a fragmented Nigeria.
Between these two groups of Nigerians, I do not know where the majority lies but what I do know is that I belong to the group that believes in a restructured Nigeria in a manner that is fair to all. I believe in a reformed Nigeria where the government will be fearful of the people and not the people fearful of the government. We believe Nigeria was founded by our forefathers and built on their sweat hence we must continue to work with other believers to achieve the Nigeria of our fathers’ dreams and of our dream. There is no way things will continue this way, we must talk and continue to speak to the conscience of the people in power and those that aspire to be in power, to make them understand that it is possible to make Nigeria great and that Nigeria of our dream is possible.
We are on the march again. In 2019, we the people will determine what happens. We are human beings who can think and can reason. We must think, think and think. We must determine to enthrone decency, integrity and good governance in our politics. We shall raise the issues and demand answers. We can refuse to see the facts as they are before us or cling on to the usual sentiments of religion and tribe by voting wrongly and complain later. The choice is ours to make.
In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was sold to Nigerians as a messiah. He made several promises upon which he was elected. Promise is a debt and the only cure to debt is pay. Buhari as an incumbent must step forward with his scorecard and show us what he has done with the mandate given to him and how what he has done has impacted positively on our lives. Whether 4 is better than 8 or not, we do not need new promises from him.
We will determine if the selective fight against corruption has curbed impunity and waste in governance. For instance, we will determine if those that drained states like Akwa Ibom for 16 years are now the saints to save the state because they switched over to APC. Under the ‘saint’ Nigeria is ranked the 148th most corrupt nation in the world, up from 136th in 2015.
When the previous government was fighting insurgency, the then opposition APC now ruling government said it was a fight against the North, that it was a war against Islam and a way to depopulate the Muslim population so as to pave way for Christian domination. Borno elders canvassed that only a vote for one of their own will end insurgency. They had their way and the rest is history. Boko Haram still sheds bloods. Over two million lives have been lost to insurgency. We will determine if we are safer with this government or not.
The lazy Nigerian youths, the over 16 million Nigerians who are unemployed will decide whether they want a government that will create jobs or a government that will destroy existing jobs. They will decide if the current unemployment rate which stood at 33.1% is acceptable or not.
The North contributes over 70% of the out-of-school children in Nigeria. To bridge the gap, the PDP government led by Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner, built and equipped Almajiri schools across the North. Under Buhari, the schools are camping soldiers rather than school children. The result is that 13.5 million children are currently out of school.
The issues are endless and we can go on and on. In the past three years Nigeria’s debt to GDP grew from 12.4 to 21.3%. Within the same period, Nigeria’s manufacturing production fell from 7.5% to 3% while the NSE growth reduced to 1% from 29.7%. Industrial production fell from 13% to -3%. Food inflation rose from 10% to 21% and average economic growth reduced from 6.6% to 0.61%.
Under President Obasanjo we got a huge debt relief which stimulated economic growth. We were debt free until 2015 when this government came to power and with their mindless borrowing escalated our external debt by over $11.47 billion, and another $2 billion lost from fleeing foreign investors.
Before they came to power, APC told us that subsidy is a lie and that there is nothing like subsidy price. Today they claim to be paying $3.85 billion in subsidy price, the highest by any government, and this is even after they increased fuel pump price from N87 to N145. Nigerians will decide.
2019 is going to be about the issues that affect the people not about propaganda, lies and blackmails. 2019 will not be about tribe, religion or ethnicity. Thankfully, both President Buhari and former Vice President Atiku are both Muslims from the North, and in their 70s, so the issue of religion and ethnicity could be strongly diminished in our politics for the first time.
I am opposed to President Buhari’s re-election not because of his age, religion or ethnic background. If such primordial sentiments mean anything to me I will not be excited about the possibility of an Atiku ticket. Atiku like Buhari is a Muslim, a northerner and in his 70s.
My opposition to Buhari stems from the facts that he lacks the capacity and competence to lead. Even if we decide to give him an extra 30 years he will still not make a difference other than worsen an already bad situation. His lack of competence has become a daily embarrassment. Take, for instance, his Executive Order 6. Forget the fact that I am opposed to the very idea of Executive Order 6 which usurps the powers of the courts, but how did names of dead people find their way in the list? How do we reconcile the fact that some of the names being banned from travelling are persons who are already captives and in government custody? The reoccurrence of dead names on every list compiled by this presidency makes one to wonder if there is any mysterious affinity surrounding the regime and the dead. Indeed, we are in a big mess and only we the people can determine what happens next.
Social media: The pros and cons
In recent times, social media have seemingly dominated the information world. It is obviously distinct from other existing media networks in various ways.
For instance, it operates in a dialogic transmission mode – many sources to many receivers – in contrast to print and electronic media that operate under a monologic transmission mode, one source to many receivers. It can simultaneously connect as many sources and receivers as possible.
There are numerous positive roles of social media networking in nation building. Though it’s a relatively new advancement in technology, it has made the world seem like just a minute clan owing to its ability to simultaneously connect millions of people from different localities across the globe, as well as spread news within a shortest time frame.
Hence, it makes information go viral that it could be assess from any locality. It enables one to reconnect with his/her old time friend or schoolmate. In addition, it helps people to stay connected to each other at all times.
Social networking is a great way to meet entirely new individuals and entities. One can easily discover persons or groups that are into his social/business interests. Online dating is currently more common than the traditional pattern of dating, and it’s worthy of note that many happily married couples today met online.
On the other hand, social media is at the moment the fastest and easiest way to promote goods and services; and it gives such products a different dazzling look, thereby encouraging the audience to patronize them.
Entertainers these days don’t need to be on television/radio before they could be heard; they can globally market their brands online with ease. The most fascinating part of it remains that the brand in question would be known by countless countries within a twinkle of an eye.
The social media equally helps to catch and convict criminals. People are usually ignorant of the consequences of what they post online. Often times they post, albeit ignorantly, pictures or videos of themselves doing illicit things. In the same vein, they also place bragging posts regarding various ‘minor’ crimes they have committed.
The law enforcement agencies invariably visit these sites towards fishing out the bad eggs as well as to trace a suspected culprit. The sites also assist the agencies while prosecuting any suspect in their custody.
However, it’s imperative to note that there are equally negative impacts of social media on mankind and the society at large. There are several falsehoods on various social media platforms; such information or propaganda can stir up panic and severe misinformation in the affected area.
Although it helps to start new relationships, it had on the contrary succeeded in ruining or terminating various other existing relationships. The ability to easily share people’s privacy, such as nude pictures and videos, on social sites has constituted several nuisances in people’s real life. It suffices to say that it puts trust to a limit.
Cyber bullying is not left out. Having access to people’s lives at all times is not encouraging, because such avenue helps many online fraudsters to lure their potential victims into their net, hence taking advantage of their vulnerability.
Sometime in 2012, one Miss Cynthia Osokogu was reportedly cajoled to a hotel room via social media. At the said venue, she was brutally gang raped and therein murdered by the fraudsters. Similarly, people are duped through social networking under the guise of ‘buying and selling’. The fact that you are not seeing who you are conversing with is enough reason to worry.
Prospective employers use the social media to scrutinize, and consequently discriminate their intending employees. They would delve into the profile of the jobseeker and by so doing, would acquire all the needed private information about him or her.
Employers always use this mechanism to their advantage and in most cases, to the detriment of the applicant. Among all, one of the greatest plights attached to the social media remains that people are fast becoming addicted to it. This kind of craze causes a lot of distractions for people in their respective fields of endeavour.
On the other hand, most people while conveying messages on social media prefer using symbols, smileys, abbreviations or what have you, to writing words in full. This syndrome has gone a long way in causing a great decline in the people’s grammatical ability.
Hacking is another worrisome factor that can’t be overlooked while discussing the social media. Internet hackers can intercept your account under a certain guise or by gaining access to your password. Considering that most users of the social media aren’t professionals indicates that people are liable to constantly fall victim.
It would be ideal to regulate the day-to-day usage of the social media with a view to sustaining decency and legality. All stakeholders including families, communities, schools and religious bodies are required in implementing the proposed regulation.
Aside legislation, the leadership of the above key institutions can institute a law binding the users of social media within their respective jurisdictions. The parents/guardians, for instance, can determine when and where cell phones should be used by their wards. Self-control will also help to avert several misfortunes that could befall the users of the platform.
Above all, individuals, groups and corporate organizations are advised to maintain a complicated password on their various accounts and endeavour to change it regularly, to avoid hacking.
The social media is a viable platform, but its intrigues, intricacies and technologies call for thorough mindfulness and wisdom while using it. Think about it!
•Nwaozor, a policy analyst and rights activist, writes via email@example.com
APC primaries crisis: Blame governors, ‘strongmen’
The outcome of the governorship and legislative primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has invoked memories, early in the year, of the ward, local government and state congresses, which triggered a mass defection of “aggrieved, dissatisfied and disgruntled” members to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and some fringe political parties.
Already, naysayers are prognosticating another imminent “exodus” from the party to the PDP that managed to “bury” internal differences by appeasement with “automatic tickets” that couldn’t fly in the APC even when the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) wanted some exceptions to the rules.
The National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is under the hammer for allegedly igniting a “civil war” in the party. But that’s farther from the truth.
Besides being drafted in to arrest the cataclysm that the “political nomads” from the PDP had planned for the APC with their defections, thereby leaving it an empty shell; part of Oshiomhole’s strategy was to return the party to the ordinary members through direct primaries, to elect people for executive and legislative portfolios.
And that would mean breaking with the norm: from the over-bearing influence of serving and former governors, and other political heavyweights, who want everything their way or the highway. The resistance to this “new normal” was manifested in the APC primaries.
Owing to the shenanigans of the political combatants, it’s a tale of crisis, confusion and controversy in many states. In extreme cases, blood flowed in an otherwise “family affair” to choose a community of representatives.
As the primaries held in the states, to meet the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deadline of midnight of October 7, the power-brokers wanted to produce their “preferred” candidates, and also ensure that “antagonistic” aspirants did not emerge for governorship or legislative assemblies at the national and state levels.
Through inducement or intimidation, they majorly succeeded in imposing candidates, and mollifying the opposing or divergent voices. But from all indications, many aspirants and their backers that stood up to the governors were equally strong-headed, and prepared to bring the house down on everybody, no matter the political consequences for themselves and the APC. Consider what transpired in Zamfara and Rivers states, and you would see the level of desperation of politicians!
To prevent the “strongmen” in the party from disenfranchising many aspirants, the NWC adopted direct primaries. And despite its stand on aspirants going to the grassroots to test their popularity, it bent over backward to offer “automatic tickets” to “loyal” and “endangered” aspirants.
Thus, it would be an “unkind cut” to slam Oshiomhole for allegedly favouring some with automatic tickets, and not extending same to others. From the standpoint of loyalty to the APC, and the “endangerment” of some aspiring members, those that were “rewarded” merited it.
For instance, Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), notwithstanding all pressures, refused to defect, along with his colleagues, to the opposition in the National Assembly. Sani staying back stymied the exodus from the APC.
Yet, he faced a determined opposition to return to the Senate from Governor Nasir el-Rufai, who defied reported entreaties from President Muhammadu Buhari and Oshiomhole to rethink his position on Sani. In the circumstances, would it be out of place to offer the senator an automatic ticket?
What about Lagos State? Serving senators were reportedly given automatic tickets, but the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, one of the architects of direct primaries, kicked. He said all aspirants must go to the voters, not minding that the “largesse” would have benefited his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
Having put the aspirants through direct primaries, Mrs. Tinubu (Lagos Central), though unopposed, polled 89,494 votes to get affirmed. Olamilekan Solomon (Lagos West) emerged winner with 378,906 votes. But Gbenga Ashafa’s case had a “k-leg.” An alleged “uncleared” House of Assembly member, Bayo Osinowo, was drafted in, and he polled 247,743 votes for Lagos East. Ashafa eventually dropped his third term bid.
In Niger State, there’s controversy over alleged automatic tickets to incumbent senators, David Umaru (Niger East), Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North) and Mustapha Sani (Niger South), who, however, claimed that they won handsomely at the primaries, but that those they defeated were cleared as the candidates. They protested to the APC national headquarters, to remedy the situation.
It’s the same story in Ondo State. The automatic tickets offered to Senators Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North), Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) and Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) did not cut ice with the locals. The eventual primaries produced Tunji Abayomi (Ondo North), Alasoadura (Ondo Central) and Lucky Aiyedetiwa (Ondo South). But the NWC stood by its initial offers to the incumbent senators!
There’s Adamawa State, where the APC needed to protect, and compensate the only female senator in the entire Northern Nigeria in the current National Assembly, Binta Masi (Adamawa North). Still, local politics held sway, and she was elected unopposed.
In all these cases, there’s a clash of “local politics” with the desire or otherwise of members of the NWC. Should Oshiomhole be blamed for trying to ensure a fair game in the states?
The issue of favouring some and disfavouring others shouldn’t arise. The “automatic tickets” were not for all comers. The NWC only came in where it perceived great injustice was in the horizon or to protect the interest of very loyal members – and not the ambitions of others that wanted to ride to office because of their closeness to those in power.
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