“The first lesson I learnt in my military training is to never reinforce failure. What we have now is failure. It will be foolhardy for Nigerians to reinforce failure by re-electing an ineffective and incompetent government in 2019”
–Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday, April 2, 2018
Nigerian politicians are at it again! They have started to heat up the polity ahead of the 2019 general elections scheduled for the first quarter of next year. On Monday, March 26, 2018, the Peoples Democratic Party apologised to Nigerians for mistakes the party made while in power. The National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, pleaded for forgiveness at a public national discourse on “Contemporary Governance in Nigeria.” Secondus apologised to Nigerians for “impunity, the imposition of candidates and other mistakes made in the past.” He assured Nigerians that under his watch, there would be no imposition of candidates or any form of impunity in the party’s activities.
The All Progressives Congress made a heavy weather of the apology. The party asked Nigerians not to accept the PDP’s apology and urged the party to make restitution for “looting” the treasury during its 16-year hold on power at the centre. The ruling party further asked all the PDP members who have allegedly defrauded the country to return the stolen wealth as a sign of true atonement for their sins. Meanwhile, the Federal Government had hitherto prevaricated on the execution of the judgment delivered in July last year by Hon Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016 brought by SERAP ordering the government to publish the list of Nigerian treasury looters. The judge had asked the Federal Government to tell Nigerians the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.
The APC saw a golden opportunity to hit at the PDP when the latter made public apology for its sins. It quickly rushed to the press last Friday with names of six PDP chiefs currently being tried in court for alleged corruption. This was followed up with a list of 23 others on Sunday, April 1, 2018. A list referred to by cynics as an April Fool’s list. Of course, many Nigerians were not impressed with the lists for several reasons. I had expected the Federal Government to publish names of those whose cases had been fully tried and suspects convicted by courts of competent jurisdiction, and not people still being tried in court. If at all the party wanted to grandstand by publishing the lists, they should have been appropriately labelled lists of suspected treasury looters! Under the Nigerian law, an accused is deemed innocent until proved guilty.
Another point of departure I have with the APC on the published lists of alleged looters is that they contained only names of the main opposition PDP members. No member of the APC was included in the lists. Are Nigerians to assume that all the APC members are saints and all the PDP members are sinners? Incidentally, a former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri, had in a perceived retaliatory move published names of 10 APC members whom he classified as being corrupt. Like those published by Alhaji Lai Muhammed for the APC, Reno’s list is also of those who have been dragged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on corruption allegations or those under indictment by panels of inquiry. As of the time of writing this, neither the Federal Government nor the APC has yet to react to Reno’s list. It will be interesting to read what will be the defence of the APC. After all, as the old saying goes, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
Truth be told, the Federal Government and the APC are on a wild goose chase by trying to demonise the main opposition party. To my own mind, every political party, the entire 68 of them we currently have on the register of the Independent National Electoral Commission, is made up of the good, the bad and the ugly people. Just like the church named All Saints Church, it is a fallacy of overgeneralisation. Most elected representatives of the people irrespective of the political party that sponsored them for election are responsible for the nation’s woes. A pot should not be calling the kettle black. The APC should remember the wise saying that a person who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. In my own estimation, there is nothing the PDP did in its 16 years in government at the centre that the incumbent APC government has not manifested in its three years in power.
A case in point is the illegal and unconstitutional extension of the tenure of the current National Working Committee of the APC. It will be recalled that on February 27, the APC extended the tenure of the National Working Committee of the party for 12 months. Citing Article 13 of the APC constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the functions of the convention, the party said NEC decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC members and other executive committees at various levels for another 12 months, starting from June 30, 2018.This action has led to a lot of controversies with the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, and the Lagos APC distancing themselves from the position of the NEC. Similarly, an aggrieved member from Imo State, Mr. Okere Nnamdi, dragged the APC to the Federal High Court in Abuja asking it to sack the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee of the party.
Okere said the APC NEC erred in law and acted illegally, unconstitutionally in view of the combined reading of Section 223 (1) (a) and (2) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Section 85 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Article 13 (3) (ii) of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress 2014 (as amended)” Exactly a month after the initial decision, President Muhammadu Buhari publicly ordered his party to rescind the decision to extend the tenure of the NWC. According to the President, after due consultations, it became imperative to overturn the resolution to extend the NWC’s tenure as it contravened Article 17 sub-section 1 of the party constitution which recommends a four-year tenure for all elected officials. The President further stated that the tenure extension contravened the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which requires elected officials to present themselves for re-election after four years. He, therefore, stressed the need for members to avoid constitutional infractions which could make the party vulnerable to litigations.
The APC has yet to rescind that controversial decision. Rather, the party decided to set up a committee to look into the issue. Nigerians should also not forget how the party leadership tried in vain to impose principal officers including Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives on the National Assembly in June 2015. Will a party like this make bold to say it has strong internal democracy and observes constitutionalism? Why is the party afraid of holding congresses and convention as and when due? I am of the opinion that if the party intends to conduct a transparent and credible congresses and convention, it should have nothing to fear. It should remember the saying that he who must come to equity must come with clean hands. Heating up the polity in order to gain undue political advantage ahead of 2019 polls is unwarranted and antithetical to democratic ethos.
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