By Ajibola Abayomi,
July 1, 2018.
A civil society organization, OneVoice would not stop reminding key players in the Nigerian project on the need to keep the Nation on the right footing as we look forward to 2019 poll.
In reviewing the state of the Nation, Pastor Adedeji Adeleye Chair, OneVoice Media Committee make the below submissions titled: “Threats to democracy & expectations for 2019 general elections in Nigeria” at a parley with the media and other stake holders at Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Ilupeju Lagos, Thursday 28 June, 2018
While Nigerian citizens, particularly civil society organizations and other non-state actors are increasingly calling for more transparency and accountability in democratic elections, there are growing national concerns on the possibility of the 2019 general elections being disrupted by various forces. Increase in hate speeches, inflammatory statements and offensive documentaries have become regular feature on social media, print and broadcast media. The National Human Rights Commission in March 2018 said it has received 783 petitions, so far, on hate speech.
Number 2: Some concerns too are being expressed on the continuous, constant executive-legislative feud, sometimes degenerating into absurd unthinkable non-issues such as ‘lack of respect for the National Assembly’ allegedly by the President or his men; re-ordering of election timetable; demand for & sharing of money; refusal by many NASS members (senators & Reps) to honour invitation by EFCC and Police either on corruption charges or criminal offences etc.
Number 3: The monstrosity with which Fulani herdsmen continue to massacre innocent Nigerians in hundreds and thousands cause for grave concerns. Added to this are still the rampaging Boko Haram insurgency in North east; Zamfara Bandits in North west; Militant Fulani Herdsmen in North central; militant Fulani Herdsmen and Kidnappers in South east; militant Fulani herdsmen and Badoo cultists in South west; militant Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and militant oil thieves in South south and other ethnic militias or separatist movements all over the country. The phenomenal upsurge and worsening spread of these killings portend dangers not only to our fragile democracy but also to the success and outcome of 2019 general elections.
Number 4: Also, there are concerns regarding the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies particularly the Police and Department of State Security (DSS) and Civil Defense Corps in ensuring transparent, free, fair and credible elections. This is why prominent leaders, under the aegis of Southern-Middle Belt forum, rose from a meeting early June 2018 to call for the replacement of INEC chairman regarding his inability to conduct a credible 2019 elections.
It must be noted however that past elections in Nigeria have been compromised through bribery of electoral officials and security agents by politicians and government appointees; violence, thuggery, carnage and destruction of lives and properties, all in a ‘do or die’ battle as winner takes all.
Therefore, these concerns are not without foundation. They constitute potential threats to Nigeria’s nascent democracy and if not curtailed, could derail the 2019 general elections.
From the above, we identified four categories of national concerns. The first and third have been addressed by OneVoice at many of its media parleys and conferences while we expatiate on two and four here.
The origin of the frosty relationship between the National Assembly and the executive arm of government is best traced to the uneasiness that characterised the sharing of political offices after the victory of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 election.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) wing of the APC better known now as nPDP, which eventually took over the leadership of the National Assembly, did so against the interest of the ruling party, which already had anointed candidates for all leadership positions in the legislative arm.
The Saraki-led PDP wing had felt seriously cheated by all other wings such as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) all of which had already shared and benefited from the political offices available.
And since then, the PDP wing of the ruling party has continued to struggle to retain its leadership of the National Assembly despite continuous opposition and offensive from the ‘original’ APC, which controlled the entire executive arm and the security agencies.
All the areas of legislative-executive feud can be summarized thus:
- First, the arraignment of Saraki in August 2015, before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for allegedly falsifying his asset declaration form among other charges. The case is still pending.
- Basic contentious issues that degenerated into what has become serious problems for both arms of government to the extent that even ministers, heads of government departments and agencies including security agencies now find it easier to disregard resolutions of the National Assembly than to uphold them. Examples of such Senate versus Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) issues are the ones it had with the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd); Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu; Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Attorney-General & Justice Minister Malami, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun and many others.
- Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, who is now having his own issues with the Senate, may not have originally set out to disregard the upper chamber’s resolutions but he may have succumbed to bandwagon effect. The IGP face-off with the Senate began when he refused to honour the invitation of the Senate to appear before a committee that was investigating some serious allegations made against him by Senator Isah Missau, an APC member from Bauchi State. The IGP simply went to court to declare the invitation illegal. But the court ruled otherwise. Even though he later came, ego had been bruised. In the current case, the Senate had for three times invited him over its investigation into alleged mishandling of Senator Dino Melaye as well as the increasing killing and insecurity across the country. The IGP refused to honour those invitations even after the National Assembly leadership had met President Muhammadu Buhari and got assurances to the contrary.
- Delay or failure of many heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in turning up to defend their budgetary allocations. This attitude can only arise from the fact that there is no respect from the executive arm for the legislature.
According to Saraki, the relationship between the legislature and the executive, which ought to be based on the policy of engagement and collaboration, is being frustrated by the actions of some officials in the executive arm. While lamenting the challenging political environment, Saraki also disclosed that out of the 240 nominations from the presidency, the Senate had confirmed 227 and rejected only 13 nominations, yet, the executive felt otherwise rather than appreciating the painstaking role of the legislature
Saraki argued that tinkering with the budget by the National Assembly is not an affront but a constitutional duty but the executive felt otherwise, insisting that the power of appropriation as contained in the 1999 Constitution in terms of the power to propose projects and assign funds for same rests with it. The legislature too has always insisted that the power of the purse belongs to the people, which it represents. The legislature had always relied on Section 80 (1, 2,3 & 4) of the constitution to support its pre-eminence claim on the power of appropriation. But the executive often finds a leeway provided in Section 82 of the same constitution, which allows it to spend public funds up to six months in the absence of the Appropriation Act. This power tussle continues to cause delay in passage of the budget by NASS as witnessed in 2017 and 2018 both taking six months each.
- Lack of executive respect for the NASS leadership. A peace deal between it and the leadership of the National Assembly ahead of series of the debate in the chambers on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) was disrupted when Security operatives at the entrance of the Presidential Villa stopped the bus conveying the National Assembly leadership from entering the complex. They claimed that only the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were to be allowed entry. The 20 leaders of the legislature turned back as the two presiding officers insisted on entering the Villa as one body. But a quick intervention by the president, who dispatched his Chief of Staff, helped to douse the tension and prevented further strain in the relationship between the two arms of government.
- Constituency projects for lawmakers. In 2017, another source of tension between the legislature and executive is the running battle over quest for substantial implementation of constituency projects of the lawmakers. The Constituency Projects are designed as a take home for the lawmakers to showcase their impact in their respective constituencies. Through this channel, the Federal Government sets aside the sum of N100 billion for projects that would be executed in the 469 Senate and federal constituencies in the country. The lawmakers are to nominate the projects they feel represent the pressing needs of their people while the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are to execute the projects.
But there have been arguments as to the failure of the executive to release adequate funds for the projects so nominated by the lawmakers. It is a source of controversy which will not go away. With less than 15 per cent of performance ratio of the projects in 2017, the lawmakers have called for complete carryover of the projects to the 2018 budget.
To most political watchers, it was believed that the frosty relationship had thawed. But Tuesday’s resolution on June 5, 2018 brought to light the fact that the National Assembly has reached a point of no retreat, no surrender. Never in the history of Nigeria’s democracy has the two chambers gone into such co-operation and collaboration against the executive like they are doing at the moment. It was the first time the National Assembly would sit in a joint session on matters besides receiving the national budget or a foreign dignitary since the return to democratic rule in 1999.All issues that had pitched the legislature against the Presidency including those of budget implementation, appointments, extra budgetary expenditure as well as disregard to parliamentary resolutions got to a climax in that joint session.
Twelve resolutions were passed during the joint session. The resolutions were essentially a no confidence vote against the President’s performance particularly his handling of cases of insecurity, corruption, and governance. It was learnt that the lawmakers agreed among themselves that on the issue of insecurity, the President has achieved very little because of the deadly operation of killer herdsmen across the country. Hence, the charge to the President that “The security agencies must be given marching orders to curtail the sustained killings of Nigerians across the country and protect lives and properties of Nigerians as this is the primary duty of any responsible government”
The issue of increasing persecution and harassment of political opponents was also said to have attracted attention at the close door meeting at the end of which a position was taken that “The systematic harassment and humiliation by the Executive of perceived political opponents, people with contrary opinions including Legislature and Judiciary by the police and other security agencies must stop.”
The fear of losing this democracy to the many breaches of key democratic pillars and ingredients was equally a dominant issue. It was resolved eventually that “There must be strict adherence to the Rule of Law and protection for all citizens by the President and his appointees.” And to demonstrate that it was ready for a fight, the National Assembly made it clear that “The President must be held accountable for the actions of his appointees and must be ready to sanction those that carry out any act which will ridicule or endanger our country and democracy.”
On the fight against corruption, the joint session resolved that government should show sincerity in the fight against corruption by not being selective and also prosecute current appointees that have cases pending against them. The need to protect democratic institutions as a way of promoting democracy was a key topic during the discussion. Accordingly, lawmakers were in agreement that “the sanctity of the National Assembly should be protected and preserved by the Federal Government of Nigeria by not interfering in its business and prosecuting those who invaded the Senate to seize the mace.”
The joint session demonstrated its concern about threat to survival of democracy in Nigeria to the extent that it resolved, “National Assembly should liaise with international communities through the IPU, APU, ECOWAS, CPA, Pan African Parliament, EU, UN, US congress and UK Parliament to secure our democracy. ”Other aspects of the resolution include the fact that “Democratic elections must be competitive and inclusive by removing the present reign of fear and intimidation particularly as we approach the forthcoming 2019 elections. “The National Assembly will work closely with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Trade Unions and NGOs to further deepen and protect our democracy”.
The joint session also reviewed the growing frustration in the country as a result of negative trends in the economy that required proper and urgent attention. It therefore declared “The President must take immediate steps to contain the growing level of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria especially now that we have advantage of the oil price having risen to $80 per barrel.”
Allegations of plots by the executive arm of government to remove the presiding officers of the National Assembly also attracted attention during the session. And to send the signal that the officers are still very popular and acceptable among lawmakers, the meeting resolved, “Both chambers of the National Assembly hereby pass a vote of confidence on the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the entire leadership of the National Assembly.”
However, the legislators resolved to “reaffirm our earlier resolution of vote of no confidence on the Inspector General of Police who does nothing other than preside over the killing of innocent Nigerians and consistent framing up of perceived political opponents of the President and outright disregard for constituted authority, both executive and legislative.”
Perhaps the aspect of the resolution that conveyed the feeling of the National Assembly at the moment is one in which it said it will not hesitate to evoke its powers if nothing is done to address the resolutions. Indeed, it was later revealed by a member of the Buhari Parliamentary Support Group that lawmakers had actually begun to mobilize others towards the impeachment of the President.
The question arising from all these is how can government make progress in the country, in the face of these crises between the executive and the National Assembly? As 2019 general elections beacon, can we have assurances of credible, free and fair election, devoid of violence and loss of lives?
What to expect as we move towards 2019 general elections
Impliedly, some of the outcomes of the ongoing executive-legislative feud can be seen in the length of time it took the assembly to appropriate the 2018 budget, the face-off between the IGP and the Senators (notably Missau, Melaye and Saraki). The feud is adopting a dangerous dimension that endangers the Nigerian democracy which could mar the outcome of the 2019 elections.
Why? Since 2015, any time the Senate President Saraki has a case to answer either in the court or with the police, it has been his practice to drag the entire senate into the mud along with him, so much that senators will begin to issue unprintable threats against President Buhari; or rejection of the president’s nominees or budget delay or queries issued on spending by the executive supposedly not appropriated.
It is therefore pertinent that OneVoICE intervenes at this point, hence the need for this media parley
The recent implication of the senate president in an armed robbery that took place at Offa in Kwara State is also not unconnected to the executive-legislative misunderstanding. The Offa armed robbery incident and the involvement of Kwara state officials throws up the issue of arms proliferation and the arming of thugs for the purpose of thwarting elections.
Understandably, many political observers had predicted that 2015 elections were expected to test Nigeria’s unity following several prophesies (US saying that Nigeria will break by 2015) and theories, but nothing happened. Nigeria is still united. However, as 2019 beacon, could this be the year of break-up? This is because at no time in recent history did we approach an election season with so much anomie in the land. Nigeria is currently so disunited and dysfunctional that anything worse than this will require a new definition of disunity. In 2015, we had some internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in the North East only but as we approach 2019 we have IDP camps in the North East (courtesy Boko Haram), North West (courtesy Zamfara Bandits), North Central (courtesy Militant Fulani Herdsmen), South East (courtesy militant Fulani Herdsmen and Kidnappers), South West (courtesy militant Fulani herdsmen and Badoo cultists), South South (courtesy militant Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and militant oil thieves). How INEC will handle this logistics nightmare should be a subject of worry to the Commission instead of acting as ‘fortune teller’.
There is so much uncertainty regarding 2019 elections that it creates palpable fears in the land. First, many nationalities in Nigeria have taken positions regarding the future of Nigeria. Many still believe that there is some benefit in Nigeria remaining one big country with many nationalities. But such belief has to do with ‘for that to continue to be’, the country has to be restructured in order to cure the country of the chronic instability, corruption, profligacy and dysfunction that has brought the country almost to its knees since the Military usurped power in 1966 and dislocated the arrangement made by the founders of modern Nigeria for a viable, thriving and mutually beneficial federation with strong federating units.
Some other nationalities especially in the core north feel that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria or its structure and will like to see Nigeria wobble from one crisis to another and continue to shed innocent blood daily.
And then there are some other nationalities that feel that Nigeria is a lost cause. They look at the contradictions – ethnic bigotry, religious intolerance, manifest injustice, entrenched greed, sustained retrogression and the ‘we must rule mentality and they conclude that the only lasting solution is to let the nationalities go their separate ways in peace.
To this last group belongs Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and many from his nationality. Currently, we read in the newspapers that many other nationalities especially in south-south and the middle belt share this viewpoint, having tasted a little of what the South East has suffered in the Nigerian federation for years. So it is clear that we are going into 2019 a much fractured country with different nationalities holding different views about the future.
While some are willing to have discussions on what to do, first to avoid any cataclysm that may be imminent and second on how to rearrange the relationships to assure future prosperity of all stakeholders in the Federation, some have already become impatient that they are already taking it out on the rest of us by different acts of violence and malfeasance.
This is evident in the current state of affairs in Nigeria where it is as if we are in a state of war, one new killing field every day and yet some people think all is well.
We think INEC should begin to create scenarios as to what will happen if the election does not hold in 2019. That is a possibility, even if remote. Some nationalities have insisted that there will be no elections in 2019 if the restructuring of Nigeria does not happen, resulting in a new constitution before elections. They opine that the cosmetic piecemeal amendments of the 1999 Constitution being undertaken by the legislature is only begging the issue and only a brand new constitution written by the true representatives of the federating nationalities will satisfy their demand.
There is therefore the likelihood of increasing political tension or overheating up of the polity in Nigeria as the 2019 elections beacon.
Also, there is an increasing political consciousness among Nigerians ahead of the 2019 general election, especially now that civil society groups are setting agenda for would be candidates and political parties before the electorates. For instance, the umbrella association of civil society groups in Edo State known as Edo Civil Society Organizations (EDOCSO) is a leading light in this direction of agenda setting role.
Since our elections are always a ‘do or die’ battle as winner takes all, the 2019 elections may likely experience massive rigging and the peoples’ votes may not count so much in the elections. Because INEC and the security agencies (as presently constituted) cannot midwife credible, free and fair election. Nigeria’s security architecture is highly skewed in favour of the ruling APC and largely compromised by partisan interest of the northern hegemonic Fulani oligarchy.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
If the Plateau State government or Berom people were to return 300 cattle which the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), allegedly claimed were rustled from cattle herders, will the Miyetti Allah members who kill for cattle be able to return back to life, even one of the over 100 souls murdered in place of the “stolen” cattle?
Why is it so much easier to murder people – children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers – created by God in his own image whose lives can never be replaced by the cowardly murderers than to seek legal recourse and restitution including the return of the cattle said to be stolen. What manner of gods do these people worship? Why are they so given to such primordial and beastly bloodlust?
If it is true that 300 cattle were rustled and stolen, that is a criminal act that security and legal authorities ought to investigate, prosecute and secure convictions for long jail sentences including the return of cows to due owners. But to attack sleeping villages and kill defenceless folks in cold blood in the name of vengeance is the ultimate criminal act of murder that following due investigation, prosecution and conviction ought by law lead to the hangman’s noose. For there is no way, the blood and lives of those murdered can be replaced by the killers.
As it were, the security and legal agencies have a strong lead in the various statements allegedly issued by Miyetti Allah including that the murder of the Plateau 100 plus is consequent upon the rustling of 300 cattle.
For instance, Danladi Ciroma, the Chairman, North Central zone of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), reportedly declared that: “These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.” So Ciroma is against the killing of human beings, yet he knows the killing is retaliatory. What then is he and his members doing to stop the blood orgies?
Miyetti Allah has for the umpteenth time reportedly justified the taking of human lives for stolen cattle. Yet nothing happens to the group. It is not on record that its members have in the years past of horrible bloodletting been invited or arrested by security agencies to explain their role and statements in the wanton murder of hundreds of citizens of this country.
What is President Buhari doing in this particular regard, save wring his hands in mock sympathy and pretend as if Miyetti Allah who he is patron of, are not only claiming and justifying open murder but issuing bold incendiary statements that can only come from terrorists supported by central political power. This is a group that appear bent on driving this country to fractious tribal or religious if not another civil war.
This arrant insensitivity to the death of thousands of Nigerians over the years and the seeming impotence of the President and security agencies to deal with the bloody challenge and curb the arrogant excesses of the killers which Miyetti Allah increasingly supports must cease now.
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