RESIGNATION PRESSURE ON VP JONATHAN: To Squat or Squash Nigeria’s Democracy
Just like the story of Caesar which most people are familiar with come the role of Brutus is the same issue transpiring between those who felt they know every radar to Nigeria than the model of the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, his vice?
But the safety policy says; if you’re sick, stay home. I believe Nigeria has a mandated sick leave for Mr. President but regret the turbulent pressure to tumble this government. By now we should be praying for this country and not threatening the captains. Dr. Jonathan is President Yar’Adua in accordance with the constitution. He is doing the job in place of Mr. President. What then brought in the looming civic coup and resignation pressure?
If in the absence of Mr. President, the vice become left in tortuous and convoluted state, the nation appears to have conceded that those undemocratic alliance which can never be recognizes in the committee as the democracy-practicing nations. When the previous government began peace talks, the two principal parties at the peace talks were the government and the party stalwarts. Our government will continue what was begun two years ago. When we resume negotiations, those who pressurize this government to resign will come up with their case for scrutiny. Obviously this means that the world too recognizes the Yar’Adua/Goodluck regime as the sole representative of the Nigerian people.
The push for Dr. Jonathan to resign is a civic coup that stands in the way of the citizens when accused of a crime by the state and when trying to seek bail from the court — a proposition absolutely inconsistent with the concept of the ‘rule of law’ that presupposes an accused ‘innocent until proven guilty.
One-size-fits-all” government sick leave mandate must come in place because it forces democracy to make the state run with social value. If the plan of those pressuring the Dr. Jonathan is to create a situation where he would resign for the Senate President David Mark to take over, who then is more capable and judicious than this administration? Can three months elections spare Nigerian democracy? In the event that the President is unable to complete his term, what did the constitution say?
If not for tribalism, Jonathan can not run a wasteful government rather can push for fair and responsible lawmaking. He believes in Limited government, Principles of our founding fathers, Constitutional adherence, Traditional value, air and honest government and Personal responsibility .Running a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, I see this Doctor leave himself free to regulate the national pursuits for industry and improvement, who may not take from the mouth of labour the bread it has earned.
Even from Nigeria history southern head-of-state/president has ever encouraged any aggression on Nigeria’s part towards every Nigerian citizen. Invariably, Nnamdi Azikiwe, a president from the south has worked for peace, especially within and after the civil war. The Arewa’s might have often felt disappointed by south’s refusal to be more categorical on issues such as the National Islamic-adoption to suppress Christianity, but we have freedom of worship which this democracy entails. The standard line pursued by all southern presidents including Obsanjo and Azikiwe has been to urge every Nigerian to work for peace.
And again, the Yar’Adua administration has deftly handled a violent political crisis and appears strengthened as he heads into talks with opposition parties and the militants who resist his economic reforms alias the 7-point agenda. Those are policies upon which Mr. Jonathan contributed immensely. At least 30,000 people were killed in the last six months Islamic-sect protesters stormed government buildings, sabotaged government effort and battled with the president’s supporters in four opposition-controlled northern regions. To be fair to the Yar’Adua/Jonathan government, it inherited a policy bereft of any terms of engagement. The state of denial and deceit that characterized the 7-point policy was best illustrated two years ago when the regime imbibed enemies within the government.
Faced with threats to the country’s existence, what is important is not only what each government is doing but how it is doing it. A political party in power has to serve a national purpose. It has to promote national security and development which depends upon respect for the rule of law. Statecraft is not about holding occasional meetings and making off-the-cuff remarks. Leadership requires discipline, recognition of the challenges and the government’s response to these through its policies. The government’s articulation has to be credible. People long for a coherent, well-thought-out future strategy which can win their hearts and minds.
Nigeria experienced representative government for slightly less than quarter of its 39 years of existence. The rest political time tables were marked by military or quasi-military rules. Though still functioning within the ambit of the constitutional government, the present government, it is admitted by all, including the law adviser, is a PDP-backed government and they have the final say in the running of the state. The army chief, however, was humble enough to say that the army, like any other institutions of the state, is part of the government. They take order from the government of the day. But when one sees the same army chief talking about new form of politics, new form of democracy as well as the ideological basis of the Nigeria state, one remembers the old days when things were in the making for General Abacha’s politics of Nigerian nationalism or Buhari command-mate; General Idiagbon in his takeover to rid the country of corrupt politicians.
But national and international situation has changed since then. It is easy to talk about those old periods, but difficult to go that way as the people of this country and all others have matured. But the vulnerability has remained as the representative government which functioned for the last 10 years has been made unworkable by naked corruption, greed for power and the partisanship of the people in power. Every organ of the state was made obliged to serve them and not the people who are the source of their power, at least by the provision of the constitution. But nobody cared.
Nigeria’s journey towards representative government started with a bang when power-monger politicians came out with a constitution within a matter of one year of its existence. Looking back to the military days, it took nine years to frame a constitution after it came into being. And, in the meanwhile, an elected constituent assembly was dissolved and the results of the election to the state assemblies, particularly that of the six geo-political zones, were not accepted with grace by the power in the centre and democratic rights of the people were curbed time and again by imposing governors’ rule in the states and establishing government in the centre by manipulation. And that constitution also could not last long as the military intervened and martial law was imposed throughout the country and the so-called new brand of democracy and politics was introduced by them to perpetuate their control over state power. While political liberty remains the driving force for a people organized as a state, the government of the state in a democratic dispensation is expected to ensure ‘rule of law’ so that the citizens can exercise that liberty, without any fear, to achieve their economic and cultural emancipation.
However, Nigeria, some 120 million Nigerians in other words, is in the grip of a pervasive fear these days, thanks to the Damocles’ sword called Rule Of Law hovering over i
ts heads —against the powers that may brutally deny the citizens their inalienable right to the freedom of speech, bans the right to dissent and takes away the right to assemble to register protests against injustice even when their livelihood is destroyed systematically, their houses demolished within no time, their jobs taken away without paying for the labour already used by the state while their fresh employment opportunities remaining absolutely uncertain.
There is, however, no ‘official ban’ on media freedom yet; but the culture of fear unleashed by the quasi-military clique of power hungry politicians waiting to come and shred Nigeria into fruitless entity. But God forbid! These evil politicians who are cross-carpeting from AC into PDP and again LP and APGA if not PPA have generated a considerable amount of self-censorship among media practitioners over the ill-health of President Yar’Adua. Moreover, the intimidating phone calls to varying degrees though, to discharge their prime professional responsibility to provide readers/viewers with public information influencing the national life of the people. Even if not intimidated, with the imminent civic coup on Dr. Jonathan, the media cannot exercise all its freedom, say the freedom to disseminate the dissenting views of the citizens, when a citizen cannot express dissenting views or protest against the views of the establishment without risking punishment in a state of emergency that the nation is now suffering under. Thereby, media freedom cannot be seen or judged in isolation from the democratic freedom of expression of the people in general. It would, therefore, be an act of naivety on the part of members of the media to bask in the complacence that they are free when others are not.
It is these experiences of the military days and the long-drawn struggle leading up to the Liberation crisis and freeing the country from the clutches of military rule that prompted the leadership of this democracy to support and frame a constitution which put the fundamental rights of the people at the top and went onto see that a secure representative government took the charge of the country. This country was made a federal (people) republic and all powers in the republic were vested in the people to be exercised on behalf of them.
The sliding down from these constitutional principles led to the beginning of the end of not only the representative form the government but also the other principles enshrined in the constitution as the reflection of the aspiration of the liberation struggle. The first blow came when the government of the time, within a matter of one year of the framing of the constitution, by an amendment (the second amendment to the constitution) to take upon the state power to declare dignity on every Nigerian whether from the south or the north (when it comes to leadership) and to suspend the fundamental rights of the people on whose behalf the state was supposed to act. But the most fatal blow to all these rights of the people came with the amendment to the constitution which not only did away with the representative government but with all the tenets of democracy and the achievements of the democratic struggle within the military era.
It opened up the path for the conspirators and the enemies of this democracy. The situation was summarized in the judgment by the Supreme Court on the electoral suit between this administration and Buhari/Atiku. Even the push for Dr. Jonathan to resign is a civic coup that stands in the way of the citizens when accused of a crime by the state and when trying to seek bail from the court — a proposition absolutely inconsistent with the concept of the ‘rule of law’ that presupposes an accused ‘innocent until proven guiltier though, the Constitution Fourth Amendment Act, dated 25th January 1985, changed the constitution beyond recognition in many respects and in place of parliamentary form of government on the basis of multiple party system a presidential form of government, authoritarian in character on the basis of a single party was brought about overnight thereby.
Fundamental rights to form free association was denied, all political parties except the government party were banned and Members of Parliament, who did not support that junta lost their seats though they were elected by the people. Freedom of the press was drastically curtailed; independence of the judiciary was curbed by making the judges liable to removal at the wish of the Chief Executive; appointment control and discipline of the subordinate judiciary along with Supreme Court’s power of superintendence and control of subordinate courts were taken away from the Supreme Court and vested in the government. The change was so drastic and sudden. Friends were bewildered. Enemies of the liberation had their revenge and the critics said with glee that it is all the same whether damage to democracy is caused by democratically elected persons or by undemocratic means, like military coup.
The subsequent events of history have shown the correctness of these observations. This country went through a long period of killing, coups and consecutive period of military and quasi-military rule for about one and a half decade. The constitution of this country, through fifth and seventh amendments, was changed beyond recognition. The principle of the liberation struggle was thrown away; basic principles of democracy and democratic behaviour were done away with. The state coffer and the state machineries were used to form military conundrums. The institution of election and election commission was made subservient to the wishes of the military rulers. The manipulation of election results were done not only by stuffing false ballot papers into the ballot box, but also by changing the results by announcement in the media, which was sarcastically dubbed by the critics as ‘media coup.’ It did not stop there. The rubberstamp parliaments were filled up with goons who were brought into the political process deliberately to ward off the political elements from the political arena. Corruption was institutionalized. Nigeria went through the blackest part of its history.
The mass upsurge of 1999 opened up the opportunity to re-establish the representative government in Nigeria through that year’s amendment to the constitution. The aspiration of the Nigerian people was fulfilled. The parliamentary form of government was back and new journey towards a democratic system began. But the old habits die hard and the concentration of power in the person of the president turned the whole system into an elected autocracy. The sovereign parliament was made dysfunctional both by the treasury and the opposition. The members of the government party would not ask any question about the executives lest they are ousted by the use of article 70 of the constitution which bars any members to vote against or abstain from vote against his party. And the opposition would not join the session of parliament on the plea that they were not allowed to talk or heard about issues of governance and other national issues.
The politics at the same time following the footsteps of the earlier autocratic regimes became criminalized and corrupt. The 16 years that followed the changeover of representative form of government saw how politics and the whole political process, election and parliament became captive in the hands of criminals and corrupt people as well as the communalist forces. The unbridled partisan politics, politicization of the administration, sheer loot of the economy made the country absolutely ungovernable.
Added to it was the rise of religious fundamentalism and militancy which not only threatened the peace and social stability of the country but also the very basis of the state. This had also, in the background, become a headache for others in the nation.
It is in this background the country has seen the new imposition of emergency and quasi-military rule, having a civili
an caretaker government in the front, and the armed forces in the background. Though this government immediately after taking over power promised election and reverting back to elected representative government, the roadmap for election has been stretched to the end of 2007 and not without uncertainty about journey towards election through that road. And politics has also become victim of this situation.
The most pertinent question which is often asked about why Nigeria, which has come to existence through a long period of struggle for democracy during the military days and a valiant freedom struggle which attracted the attention and appreciation of the whole world, has to go through such experiences repeatedly. The answer lies in the very nature of the state which was imposed on it after independence and the class characters of the rulers who ruled the country throughout these periods. Though Nigeria made a definite break with military through the liberation struggle, the remnants of that autocratic state were pieced together and re-imposed on the new country. The whole system of running of the state of the past was continued and it soon caused clash with the aspiration of the liberation struggle.
The ruling class which ascended to power of the new state was not capable of translating those aspirations into reality, rather found it convenient to amass wealth by way of loot and plunder. And hence it was necessary for them to revert back to authoritarian rule which ran through one-party rule to consecutive military regimes. The changeover to representative government could not turn the tide as the whole system had decomposed to such an extent that nothing could be done without a revolutionary change in the polity and a determined leadership. Unfortunately, Nigeria lacked both. In the meanwhile, the change in the world situation made things worse. The victorious march of the free market economy opened the door for loot and plunder, corruption and criminalization of the economy further. And in these the donor countries and donor agencies lent their helping hand in exchange of handing over of the whole economy, and politics too, to their hand.
Thus the plight of people who fought time and again for a democratic setup and a democratic representative government is still continuing and would continue further if a total change in the polity is not brought about. And it is not a matter of words, but a matter of struggle. The new generation is to take over responsibility from the predecessors who achieved great victories, but failed to keep and advance it to the derived goal for which the people fought so long.
The government should be seen to promote the common good. If it is not seen to be putting its house in order, then any wake-up call might be too late to ward off what has unfortunately come to be seen as the beginning of the end of Nigeria’s democratic interlude. Reverting to a military dispensation is not the solution; it has always ended up being a part of the problem in Nigeria.