One of the greatest tragedy of our nation is the malaise of collective amnesia. Nigerians, like people shipwrecked and about to be swallowed by raging waves are always eager to clutch at any raft thrown their way.
Every pre election cycle since Solomon Lar led a group of 34 eminent Nigerians to write a famous letter that led to the formation of the People’s Democratic Party, has been a season of letters. This include the Obansajo blistering Open Letter to President Jonathan towards the tail end of that Adminstration. A letter that, in no small measure, bolstered the fortunes of the opposition and led to the election of President Mohamadu Buhari.
There have been other letters since then. At about this season every four or Eight years since the days of Lar’s G34 a group of Nigerian elites come to gether (or one of them in the case of OBJ) to pen a letter ostensibly in the interest of the nation. The letter is always timely and speaks to the mood of the nation, usually dripping with Messianic posturing, populist ideas and highfalutin English with which they regale and secure the support of the freedom hungry populace. After that they sit down to share the “spoils of war” leaving the people in limbo. Those shortchanged or who fall out along the way, leave quietly to lick their wounds and wait for the next election.
Next election, the group or another one that missed out on the previous power sharing gather to write another letter and the people debilitated by the disease of collective amnesia lap it all up and poised themselves again to be used as canon folders.
This season is somewhat different. We now have powerful state actors involved. We have equally progressed from letter writing to issuing of communiques.
How laudable this is. It will however show more seriousness if the all powerful Governors from the affected regions and other interested regions could also get their National Assembly and Houses Assembly members to issue a similar communique. The will signpost how far they are willing to go.
Right now the bottom of it all looks hollow to me and I am sorry to dampen the spirit of all those who see the current development as the road to the El Dorado
It might as well be because as the saying goes, “God can, in the Great Scheme of Things, use even Lucifer the Devil to do a thing for the good of mankind” but for me it is déjà vu all over.
The Southern Governors demands are commendable and will surely deepen democracy and national cohesion if implemented but some of them are outright dangerous in the light of the fact that there are other even more urgent and critical “restructuring” constitutionally guaranteed yet begging for attention that will promote accountable governance and return power to the people that are deliberately being ignored by the governors who are asking for more powers. These are things within the powers of their Excellencies which do not require grandiose cross country meetings or communiques to achieve. They are legislative, judicial and local government autonomy.
Today we celebrate the Governors for being able to stand up to the overbearing attitude of the federal government. Bola Tinubu stood up to Obansajo over the seizure of Lagos State revenue allocation. He succeeded at the end because the constition protected him. In similar manner, we have seen a National Assembly under Saraki stand up to the Federal Government under President Jonathan.
The Governors and National Assembly are able to do this because of the constitutional independence they enjoy. The same Constitution grants financial autonomy to the state legislature and Judiciary. Why is this independence being denied? Judicial and legislative staff accross the nation have been on strike for months. What this means is justice is kept in abeyance or suspended for as long as the strike lasts so also is legislative business in the various states. Two most critical Arms and signpost of democratic governance grounded to a halt and we claim to be in a democracy?
Imagine a day that a State House of Assembly or a group of local government Chairmen are able to gather and issue a communique to challenge the policies and actions of a Governor? Wouldn’t that strengthen democracy and accountable governance. Is lack of accountable governance not the major cause of our national crises? Or are the governors irreproachable and the President is?
My take is that until the basic things are done and the foundation upon which democracy rests is strengthened, we will continue to run around in circles.
It is this lack of attention and utter disregard to first principles that makes the current effort sound hollow and looks to me like yet another posturing for power sharing in 2023.