Few hours back, I stumbled on a publication by a very respected online medium [premium times] of excerpts of what is said to be Nigerian government’s white paper on the origin of the ongoing deadly terrorism spearheaded by the armed Islamic extremists known in popular Hausa parlance as Boko Haram which when translated means that education is sinful.
From what I read, it is the thinking of the current Federal Government, which set up a presidential panel made up of local experts who investigated the upsurge in the deadly attacks of the armed insurgents, that politicians were the masterminds of the armed bandits that are now ravaging most parts of Northern Nigeria in the guise of waging war against selected government institutions, the Nigerian security agencies, Christians and some moderate Muslims. At the last count, over 5000 persons have been slaughtered by these murderous gangs of Islamic religious extremists.
In the government’s white paper sighted by the online medium, the Nigerian government blamed some powerful politicians in the North East for setting up well -armed and fortified gangs of political thugs whom they used to rig the 2003 and 2007 governorship and national elections in their respective states but soon abandoned these armed gangs with their guns and other sophisticated weapons intact which led them to align themselves with the then radical Islamic preacher Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf whose centerpiece of his sermons was to oppose the validity of the secular constitution operational in Nigeria.
These armed youth later metamorphosed into hardline terrorists after undergoing unspecified foreign terrorism trainings in Chad. The government’s white paper, now gazette, was said to be silent on how to deal decisively with these identified political kingpins who set up these armed political thugs that now transformed into the biggest terrorists organization in the West African region.
The White paper on the Boko Haram insurgency in my thinking is severely deficient in the sense that it never mentioned the widely held suspicion which was even leaked out by the immediate past National Security Adviser to President Jonathan, General Patrick Azazi that the internal crisis within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] on the insistence of the current President to run for election in the 2011 Presidential election rather than allow a Northerner complete the second term of the late Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’adua two-terms in accordance with the so-called zoning arrangement, was instrumental to the upsurge in the terror attacks by the armed insurgents.
The above narratives bring us to the all-important question of why the contemporary Nigerian Politicians never learn from mistakes of their predecessors which is the fundamental cause of the seemingly unprogressive and the stunted growth of Nigeria’s democracy.
Just before President Olusegun Obasanjo was forced to quit after he completed his constitutionally protected two terms of four years each as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he made surreptitious attempts using some surrogates in the National Assembly to undermine the constitution by plotting to change the constitutional term limit to allow him continue perpetually in office. But for the vigilance of most Senators who later saw reason with Nigerians who vehemently opposed the undemocratic plot, Obasanjo would have succeeded in foisting a one-party state on Nigeria.
President Jonathan who succeeded his late boss- Umaru Musa Yar’adua has also not fared better in the area of respect for dissenting voices especially as it concerns his rumored interest to run for another term of four years in 2015 after serving out the last two years of the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s Presidency and his four year tenure.
With clear two years to the 2015 general elections considered as one of the most critical elections in Nigeria’s political annals, the current President who has not openly declared his interest to run has however displayed some body languages that point to the direction that he will surely contest and that indeed he may not be favorably disposed to any intraparty contest by way of party Presidential primary which is an essential component of democracy and constitutionalism.
While his foot -soldiers outside of the highly partisan executive council of the federation are positioning themselves to ensure that the current President who may face one of the toughest opposition from Northern Politicians, gets soft-landing in the contest for who would fly the Peoples Democratic Party’s flag for the 2015 Presidential election, his supporters who are holding some of the juiciest offices in the Federal Cabinet are busy exercising arbitrary powers aimed at undermining the lawful activities of some persons in government at the state levels considered as rivals to the President’s 2015 Presidential ambition.
It is strongly rumored that the River state Governor Mr. Rotimi Amaechi who is serving out his second four year tenure, is interested in running for the prestigious office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that he will run with a Northern candidate who will likely be the Niger State Governor Aliyu Babangida [PhD] or Sule Lamido of Jigawa state.
And since this rumor has refused to die even with several denials by the River state Governor, the President whose position in 2015 may be challenged if this widely held political rumor turns out realistic, has started a well -coordinated hostile activities aimed at undermining the authority of the River state governor.
The first major move was the fictionalization of the Nigerian Governors Forum headed by the River state governor through the setting up of a parallel Peoples Democratic Party’s Governors forum headed by a hand-picked chairman- the governor of Akwa Ibom state Mr. Godswill Akpabio.
The election into the Chairmanship position of the Nigerian Governors forum is scheduled to take place next month and the rumor mills are aflame that the Presidency has single- handedly decided to sponsor the Katsina State governor Mr. Shema to run as the sole candidate for the plum position of the Chairman of the governors forum even when the constitution of the Nigerian Governors Forum allows the incumbent to seek a second final term of two years.
A member of the Federal cabinet and the minister of state for education Mr. Nyeson Wike who incidentally was brought into the political fray by the current River state governor who made him his Chief of Staff during his first four years is said to be funding a faction of the River state Peoples Democratic Party that somehow managed to win a pyrrhic victory in the Abuja High court presided over by the discredited Judge Mohammed Talba who ruled that the hierarchy of the River state Peoples Democratic Party which has been there since the last election was no longer the valid winners even as the judge replaced them with the faction purportedly sponsored by the minister of state for education who is said to be eyeing the River state government house in 2015 and is now perfectly being used by the Presidency to get even with Governor Rotimi Amaechi now regarded as the arrow head of those positioning to replace President Good luck Jonathan in 2015.
As if these series of surreptitious attacks against the person and office of the River state governor were not sufficient enough to satisfy the sycophants who surrounds President Jonathan, the Aviation authority headed by a lady who actively coordinated the 2011 Presidential campaign of President Jonathan- Stella Oduah has taken political rivalry to a new absurd level by ordering the grounding of the private jet, a Bombardier -BD 700-1A11 [Global Express] owned by the River State Government on the puerile and illogical reason that it was flying illegally in Nigeria since it has no proper Customs documentation.
The Director of Airworthiness Standards of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Mr. Benedict Adeyileke was quoted by the Nigerian Media as stating thus; “The controversial aircraft on the service of Governor Rotimi Amaechi is operating illegally in the country, as it lacks documentation to enable it operate here”.
This latest drama played up barely twenty four hours after the same aviation authority stopped the aircraft from leaving the Akure Airport after it conveyed the River state Governor and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from Owerri, Imo state where the duo attended the funeral of the late sister of the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Mr. Emeka Ihedioha.
The aircraft was only let off the hook in Akure Airport after the aviation authority discovered the stupidity of not allowing the Speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is number four in the order of national protocol from flying out of Akure with the same aircraft that brought them in the first instance.
The aviation officials had initially claimed that the pilot of the aircraft failed to pay the landing cost at the Akure airport. These claims concerning the aircraft in question have been debunked and dismissed as tissues of lies by the River state Governor’s spokesman Mr. David Iyofor who issued a detailed statement whereby he professionally reeled out the facts about the authentic validity of the aircraft to fly in Nigeria having satisfied all requirements and had indeed been flying long before this emerging scenario from the presidency.
The grounding of the aircraft belonging to the River state government which is primarily targeted at scuttling the movement of Governor Rotimi Amaechi first as a citizen of Nigeria and then as the governor of River state and the chairman of the Nigerian governors forum is not only illegal but unconstitutional just as this is perhaps the lowest any sane government can get in displaying crude and primitive arbitrary power.
In the seventh schedule of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria of 1999[as amended] which contains the oath of office of the office of President, the holder of the highly exalted office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is constitutionally obliged not to take official action that will be clouded by his selfish interest.
A significant body of the oath of office which is inviolable and sacrosanct stated as follows; “…I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ILL-WILL….”
The decision by President Jonathan to order the grounding of the aircraft of the River state government just because he does not like the face of the current River state governor directly breaches the relevant section of this seventh schedule of the Nigerian constitution aforementioned.
The Presidency must desist from undermining the sanctity of democracy which allows for freedom of political choices and he must also stop forthwith all actions directly or indirectly that infringes on the constitutional oath of office he swore before he assumed office soon after the 2011 Presidential election. It is unethical for the Presidency to be seen promoting those tendencies that will bring about the proliferation of politically motivated crises all across the country. Several political scholars have warned of the danger of stifling opposition voices and the disaster such fascist tendencies foist on any democracy.
Gregory Fox and Brad Roth in their book “DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND INTERNATIONAL LAW” had warned political leaders to stop promoting those practices that create undue tension and divisions in the polity but should allow for all voices to be heard even if they are opposed to the leader’s political position or ideology.
They wrote thus; “In the World that emerged after the collapse of the fascist and communist ideologies, the principal cause of war has become unfairness and anomie. How the means of a good life are distributed among peoples and persons and whether people and persons are adequately consulted in the decisions that determines their life-prospects: these are the principal determinants of war and peace”.
The decision by the Presidency through the aviation minister to ground the aircraft belonging to River state government so as to frustrate and undermine the authority of the governor of River state is both unfair and is an act of anomie and/or lawlessness and must be reversed forthwith.
The judgment of history on the Jonathan administration will be harsh if it continues to promote unfair policies and anomie which are responsible for the spate of unrests that have resulted in the killing of scores of Nigerians by armed non-state actors.
The verdict of history will also be very harsh on Jonathan if on one hand he claims to be a democrat but at the same time using his presidential might wrongly to witch-hunt his perceived political opponents just because of his ambition to run for another term in office come 2015. He must therefore rein in all those reactionary elements that are masquerading about as his foot-soldiers and desecrating democratic ethos in the guise of pursuing Jonathan’s 2015 political goal. Nigeria is bigger than any one man’s ambition not matter how highly placed.
+ Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, blogs @www,huriwa.blogspot.com.