Eminent legal icon, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, recently advocated a violent and bloody revolution as the only remedy for the ills confronting our thoroughly corrupt and abused country and its peoples. It is pointless detailing a cacophony of woes perpetrated and being perpetrated by all the sectors of our population, as these are well known to the average Nigerian.
My intervention in this article, is to explore other alternatives to Professor Nwabueze’s prescription, which retired General Theophilus Danjuma has dubbed as being blind to friends and foe.
One cannot but be sympathetic with the erudite professor in his exasperation, as all the known agents of peaceful change in civilized societies, are either comatose, complicit, or non-existent in Nigeria. The selected (not elected) legislative houses, at all levels, are riddled with corrupt practices that stink to high heaven. The judiciary is irredeemably tainted by its own rotten eggs, aided by the greedy so-called learned members of the Bar. Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria’s heads of government at state, regional or national levels were/are either corrupt and/or protected corrupt ministers/commissioners appointed by them. The advent of the military into governance in 1966, is now known to be a misadventure. Successive military rulers upped the corruption ante, save for Generals Buhari and Idiagbon, who showed some restraint in corrupt acquisition wealth and tried to instill some discipline in the polity.
General Babangida recently identified the dearth of enlightened and matured Nigerian Youth as justification for his determination to return to power, as a democratically elected president, despite the fact that he and others, committed a most heinous crime of annulling a free and fair democratic election in 1993. Where, one may ask, are the so-called “new breed” politicians that Babangida bred between 1985 and 1993? They must probably have matured into adept 419ers, drug barons, ‘do or die’ election riggers, who now populate our legislative assemblies and government houses as honourables, distinguisheds and excellencies.
Looking in the direction of our religious leaders and traditional rulers for liberation of the weak from the oppression of the powerful, one will quickly beat a retreat, as the weekly/daily sermons in churches and mosques, sound like ‘do as I say’ preachments, when the heads of these institutions are known to be very comfortable in collecting the stolen ‘blood’ money generously doled out to them, by corrupt public officials. Some traditional rulers even willingly collude with corrupt governors in their states, to the detriment of their people.
The last bastion for the defense of the people against corrupt rulers is the civil society, aided by a responsible press, as the fourth estate of the realm. We all know that the Nigerian press is not unlike the press in other countries, who do their publishers’ bidding. The publishing houses that can be said to be independent can be counted on the first three fingers of ones right hand. Corrupt public office holders own or influence ninety percent of both electronic and print media in our country. Those who pay the piper dictate the tune, as the saying goes. How about the so-called civil society? May the gentle soul of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi rest in perfect peace. He was the quintessential sole civil society Nigeria ever had. The Campaign for Democracy and a myriad of others also showed up in the days of the late Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti. Unfortunately, since 1999, the civil society has been hijacked by politicians, who use their cronies, as fronts in these organizations. Even in the Save Nigeria Group, that came into being during the Yar’Adua succession crisis, there are people, on the payroll of known politicians, apologies to Pastor Tunde Bakare and Professor Wole Soyinka.
Aware of all the above, and the entrenched hold of corrupt officials on all levels of governance, Professor Nwabueze concluded that only a violent and bloody revolution can liberate Nigeria and Nigerians from the strangle hold of its inhuman oppressors. My plea is that the eminent Professor’s prescription, should be our last resort, if all other non-violent alternatives fail. General Danjuma’s laissez faire hope of waiting for the emergence of one ‘good’ leader is not an alternative worthy of consideration.
My suggested alternatives include a combination of the following in pursuit of specific objectives, targeted at correcting identified shortcomings in the polity.
Abatement/Elimination of Corrupt Practices:
The main reason why corruption thrives in Nigeria is due to the lack of certainty of the sanctions in our existing laws. All the organs of government responsible for enforcing sanctions are compromised, because they are also corrupt. What we are left with is to fashion a strategy for deterrence. We should find a way of making it unattractive to engage in corrupt practices. I suggest a simultaneous establishment of Assets Verification Commissions, by law in all the 36 states and in Abuja to accomplish the following:
A) Compel all public office holders since 1960, to submit in an affidavit, details of all their assets. Surviving children of those deceased should do the same on behalf of their departed parents.
B) Members of the public should be encouraged and protected to submit sworn affidavits in respect of any asset of any public office holder, of which they have information.
C) Each person should be given an opportunity to defend the legitimacy of his/her declared assets and those identified by others.
D) Any asset that can not be justified within the legitimate earnings of a public official, should be made to revert to
E) A public official not satisfied with the Commission’s decision, should have recourse to an Appeals Court for adjudication of the issues involved.
This alternative relies heavily on the political will of incumbent office holders, who will have to pass the necessary legislation at the National Assembly to set up the Commissions, if and only if, President Jonathan is willing to send a draft Bill to the National Assembly. It is any body’s guess as to whether, the National Assembly, as presently constituted will be willing to pass such a law, when they have refused to pass the Freedom of Information bill into law. Hence, the exasperation of Professor Ben Nwabueze. No blood will be spilled, nor will anyone go to jail. Thieves will just be made to regurgitate their ill-gotten wealth.
Revisit The Whole Concept of The Geographical Expression, called Nigeria
It is a well known fact that Nigeria is a nation of Ethnic nations. The ethnic nationalities bundled together by British Colonialists were politically co-joined with their neighbors without their consent. The allure of political independence submerged the centrifugal forces that tended to make regions drift apart. Immediately after independence, the centrifugal forces resurfaced; the Midwest was carved out of the Western Region, while the minorities in the Eastern and Northern Regions were ignored. Then came the elections of 1964/65, followed by the advent of the military and the civil war. One is amused when our military leaders beat their chests and proudly proclaim that they fought a war to keep Nigeria together. Who asked them to go to war? Were they not the ones who brought the war on hapless Nigerians? Enough of this bragado of fighting to keep Nigeria one, please! The time has come for Nigerians to reassemble in a constitutional conference to decide once and for all, the terms of our union and our engagement. The imminent ‘zoning’ crisis within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, makes it more imperative for us to go back to the conference table. The burden, once again, is on the incumbent office holders, the President and members of the National Assembly, who should take the necessary actions to convene a conference that is representative of all the ethnic nationalities.
The outcome of the proposed conference, if convened, will determine the way forward for Nigeria and Nigerians. To shy away from this task, is to bring into focus, the allure of Professor Nwabueze’s prescription. The alternatives above are bloodless and non-violent. All the noise about zoning or no zoning, about electoral reforms, about free and fair elections, are soothing balms that can not be expected to cure the monumental ills of corruption that imperil, what we now call Nigeria. Those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable. I pray that Professor Ben Nwabueze lives long enough to witness the desired change.
Culled from www.saharareporters.com