September 27, 2022

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Atiku announces Okowa as running mate
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Tayo Oke
Assuming Nigeria was in a parliamentary system, where an innocent citizen (a Christian) was brutally attacked and burnt alive by a mob of religious bigots in the name of Allah, in the northern state of Sokoto, for having committed ‘blasphemy’ and nothing has been said, on camera, by anyone in government. Assuming, also, that the shoe was on the other foot, that the barbaric act had been committed by a Christian, on an innocent Muslim, in the name of God. Do you imagine the Prime Minister would have kept mum? And, if on top of that the cost of living has been skyrocketing for the lifetime of the government; dozens of innocent citizens languishing in various kidnappers’ dens all over the country; petrol and gas prices going up on a weekly basis; university students shut out of school for a whole academic year due to industrial action; a “technically defeated” Boko Haram terrorist group still marching in and out of the citadel of the Nigerian military establishment, the Defence Academy, in Kaduna, untrammelled and undetected.  The Prime Minister, as the head of government, would have faced a vote of no confidence in parliament and the government would have fallen. With a breath of fresh air, the nation would have secured another chance at calm and renewal. As if that was not enough, then, let us add the spectacle of a government literally tearing itself apart, ministers and political appointees running around like ferrets in a sack, chasing party political slots in the forthcoming general elections. The Prime Minister would have been held accountable in parliament within days, if not hours. Now, can you picture a Prime Minister—retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari or Goodluck Jonathan or Olusegun Obasanjo—getting up in a rowdy parliamentary session, answering urgent questions on their feet?
The presidential system operates as a shield for a taciturn leader, who communicates mainly through his ‘body language.’ The system gives him control over security, economy, education, road transport, electricity, etc, yet, no direct accountability to the citizens. Once elected, it is virtually impossible to hold Mr President to account, because the system runs on a ‘fixed term’ interval. There is the trigger of an impeachment in-between, where warranted, but the process is deliberately cumbersome, as to render it almost unusable. This is the case in countries operating a presidential system all over the world. Hardly anyone gets impeached. The only one in recent memory was the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye in South Korea in 2016; accused of abuse of power, coercion and other misdemeanours, she was not only impeached but was also prosecuted and sentenced to 25 years in jail. It was the second time an impeachment of that nature had happened since the birth of the country in 1948. The first time it happened, in 2004, it was overturned by the country’s Constitutional Court.
Some say the presidential system offers stability, yes, but that is conditional upon the checks and balances mechanism working as they should. Checks and balances do not appear to have much meaning in the Nigerian context, where the Federal Government only exists in name only. All governmental authorities emanate from the centre. The Nigerian Federal Government owns roads, hospitals, schools, power supply, army, police and other security agencies, oil rigs, minerals and pretty much everything that counts. It is no wonder, therefore, that ministers act with impunity much of the time. No consciousness of service, no public morality, no shame. For example, the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, was in the middle of negotiations over the universities’ prolonged strike action but, it turned out, his real interest was running for president. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, supposedly a neutral umpire for public justice, started running a campaign for governor of Kebbi State from his office, bought the N50m nomination form from the APC, started disbursing largesse (“exotic cars” and all) to stakeholders in the state. The governorship race in the state is said to be one of the most tightly contested in the country. It is a state riven with factions; the APC has two parallel secretariats in Birnin Kebbi, the state capital. The resources of the Attorney General were earmarked for use and were already being deployed for the benefit of Malami in his quest for power. Faced with the choice of either quitting his office or running for governor, he baulked. Being Attorney General even for another twelve months is too much to resist. He ‘withdrew’ from the race and begged to be allowed to remain in office. Malami is not the Attorney General of the Federation; he is Attorney General for the All Progressives Congress.
The most egregious of the breaches of public trust came from Gordon Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who has been using his position, clandestinely, to campaign for president for the past one year at least. Some ‘Good Samaritans’ had allegedly purchased the N100m nomination form for him, plus a number of branded vehicles being driven around the Eagle Square, in the Federal capital, Abuja promoting his candidacy. When he was suddenly confronted with the presidential directive to resign and focus on his ambition to become president, alongside other ministers desirous of the same thing, he had the effrontery to mount a legal challenge to that in open defiance of the president. He hired the chirpy Mike Ozekhome, the sagacious Senior Advocate of Nigeria, aka Senior Advocate for political street fighters. Emefiele instructed him to argue before the courts that S. 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022, which says “No political appointee at any level shall be a visiting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election,” does not apply to him, as he is a “public servant” and not a political appointee. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria has clearly taken his lawyerly role rather too seriously. He ought to have advised his client that although expected to be ‘independent’, there is no central banker anywhere in the world, who is not a political appointee. And, for very good reasons too.

If you think the legislature can be relied on to check on the excesses of the executive and its palpable contempt for the public, you are wrong. Members of the National Assembly had initially passed on to law S. 84 (8) of the Electoral Act 2022, which forbade them from participating in their party convention as delegates. They did that without realising its broader implications, especially in an election year. They hurriedly assembled, in an emergency sitting, to amend the section to accommodate both elected delegates as well as “statutory delegates” i.e., politicians of all hues, particularly, the elected ones, to partake in the whole gamut of the primaries and general election processes.

Finally, is the position of the vice president and incumbent governors running for president. The directive to resign does not apply to them because they are not political appointees of Mr President’s. So, they are allowed to dip into government resources (official jets, money, a retinue of staff, etc) to further their political campaign. This is plain wrong. Vice presidents or governors cannot, and should not, use the accoutrements of their office to prosecute their political campaigns. If and when the vice president uses his official jet for a political campaign, he should settle the bill from his own (already deep) pockets. But, then, who cares? The financial market is looking at all this, especially, the way in which the CBN governor has brought the bank into disrepute, as capital ebbs away from the economy by the minute. Then, again, who cares? Warning. A dysfunctional government, in a dysfunctional democracy, is a prelude to anarchy.
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