Baba Suwe’s Arrest: the Case for Less Government

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Much has been written and said about the arrest on drug charges of popular actor and comedian, Omidina Babatunde popular known as Baba Suwe; but little has been said about the uncomfortable reality it exposed of the rights of Nigerians especially in relation to the powers of our government.

While Baba Suwe’s lawyer will have field day with their threatened (and rightly so) billion dollar suit for the botched arrest, detention and public disgrace (some say slander and career threatening libel) by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, not much has been said by our lawyer class about the seeming lack of finesse in the ways NDLEA conducted this arrest and the media parade that exposes what otherwise common citizens encounter at our various law enforcement agencies on a daily basis. A case for very explicit constitutional amendment and laws prohibiting illegal search and seizure should be made to prevent these kinds of incidents happening again.

To make matters even worse in the Baba Suwe saga, it was even reported that BabaSuwe was subjected to several medical examinations, tests and operations without his consent or that of his lawyers”. There is definitely cause for alarm; because if it can happen to Baba Suwe it can happen to all of us. Civil Liberties are in place to protect ordinary citizens against the outsized powers of the government; the very foundations of Nigeria’s problem can be traced to an all powerful government that is intrusive, dangerously pervasive and need to be reined in! Call it the tea party treatment for Nigeria; we simply need less government not more.

Nigeria’s government at all levels has simply proved incapable of arising to the challenges of our modern society, and in more cases than one is the very obstacle to our progress and development. Take for example, the simple exercise of registering a company and investing in the economy. A quick trip to the Corporate Affairs Commission will reveal the most corrupt agency of the Federal Government: more corrupt than even the Police and Customs combined together!

It costs you officially couple of hundred naira to clear a company name, be rest assured however that such simple exercise which is nearly automated in most advanced economies will take you twenty eight days and guaranteed rejection unless you use the service of the professional lawyer (that bribes on your behalf) or do the bribery yourself! Indeed, the arcane rules of CAC which mean a mere desk officer behaves as if they are charged to impose misery and take away the first joys of entrepreneurship (naming your idea) from the entrepreneur, than encouraging free enterprise will more than guarantee that your seemingly innocuous idea of investing in Nigeria will become a nightmare!

Trying to check the authenticity of a registered company will mean you either have to pay a thousand naira and be on the queue for sixty days or pay the desk office hundred and fifty times that amount and get your answers instantly! Simply put what we have in CAC is a Corruption Affairs Commission and not a serious clearing house for free enterprise!

In Nigeria government is the problem not part of the solution. This is why even as our government officials spends billions every year on overseas travel to attract foreign investments, according to the World Bank-IFC our country is ranked 133rd among all nations of the world in ease of doing business, and it has only been getting worse under the current administration. If the local investor cannot make hard way, how come Mr. Jonathan and his governors think it will be any easier for a foreigner? Our government’s priorities are misplaced!

Speaking about big and large government, one need to hear it directly from the guardian of our nation’s currency, Governor Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank; in his now famous discourse, he called for totally rethinking the current wasteful and large spread of government at all levels starting from the wasteful National Assembly. Why in Pete sake is the national assembly not convened on a part time basis? Do they really need more than 60 days in a year to legislate? Why do we need a bicameral legislature in the first place? Harkening back to Mr. Governor, why do we need 36 nearly bankrupt states? Or why do Mr. Jonathan need 50 ministers and 62 permanent secretaries and counting?

The sheer size of Nigeria’s government is not only crowding out valuable private sector initiatives, but it is getting in the way of innovation. Most Nigerians wait for the day they’ll “hammer” using a government contract while the land lie in waste for Agriculture, Eco-Tourism, Green Energy and various other initiatives that need not be rethought but simply borrowed from others. We are educated and highly intelligent people, yet the government have crowded out our best by pushing them into the predatory banking industry or overseas where they develop other men’s land.

Think about it, what does Nigeria’s government actually do right? This is especially true of the all big and powerful central (comically called, “federal”) government; customs, immigration and security are in tatters, as the internal security and policing of the land have been jeopardized. The economy, our currency and industries are in state of disrepair; so are our airports, railways and roads! Our power industry is a powerless one; even as our educational institutions have become glorified brothels where we churn out half baked graduates and glorified school certificate holders!

What does the government of Nigeria do for you that you cannot do for yourself? You produce your own water through your borehole; you have your own generator to supply your water; your sewage is processed in-house in that pit in your backyard; even your security is provided through the mercies of your dog and the mai-guard! Indeed, when it boils down to it you send your children to private school or overseas if you want them to get an education; and if they manage to step outside our borders you very well know they cannot depend on any Nigerian Embassy in that land to look out for them.

What is our government good at except for looting, stealing, maiming and/or harassment of her citizens? It is clear that what Nigeria needs now is less government in our lives. The so called government of Nigeria has done more evil than good for us. They manage to destroy the very fabric of our society i.e. our morals, with the corruption peddled in high places. It was as such not so surprising that even at simple National Honors event organization, the federal government under President Jonathan still failed! Are we cursed? This is a ceremony they organized, and not enough medals to go around?

It is time for us to rethink the very concept of government and radically seek to cut down their influences in our lives starting from our right to obtain fair hearing, freedom from illegal search and seizures and against self incrimination. These basic rights must be codified in our laws and Baba Suwe may again never dream of many weeks of nightmare running into the all powerful and insidious government of Nigeria!

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