Is the Human Memory that Short?

The recently conducted 2015 General Elections clearly demonstrates the commitment of Nigerians to participate in the democratic process of electing their leaders through the ballot box. Nigerians voted, waited patiently for the votes to be counted, results announced at the polling units, moved to the collating centres, held vigil until final announcement of results.

The Channels Television Correspondents that worked tirelessly  informing viewers  of developments across the 36 States of Nigeria with heart rendering  images of  the very old, the sick being pushed in carts to polling units,  a voter who had left her sick child in a hospital in Maiduguri  to cast her vote,  Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-East Nigeria who turned out in thousands to cast their votes despite the threats of attack by Boko Harma, horrifying images of voters who lost their lives in Rivers State, reports of  intimidation and harassment of others, the youths that held vigil outside the INEC office in Bauchi to protect their votes despite the curfew imposed by the State Government and so on an so forth.

These images represent the collective determination of Nigerians to effect change in the manner in which their country was being governed.  Unfortunately, the politicians have soon forgotten the numerous sacrifices made by Nigerians in the just concluded elections and are now spiting fire and brimstone in the struggle for leadership positions in the National Assembly. The leadership of the APC needs to be reminded in case it has forgotten too soon that internal wrangling; uncompromising stand on issues, impunity, imposition of candidates; lack of internal democracy and lack of consensus were the very demons that paved way for the defeat of the PDP at the polls. Reports emanating from the incoming 8th National Assembly are very disheartening and discouraging. The APC is in a deep crisis. The Godfathers are after its soul.

Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara are determined to contest the Senate Presidency and the Speakership of the House of Representatives come rain come sunshine. The duo have rejected the anointed candidates of the APC namely; Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. Their supporters have vowed to present their candidates for the election to the positions of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday 9th June, 2015. From all indications, none of the contenders is willing to step down for the other. Perhaps it is only Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila that is reported to have extended hands of fellowship to Hon. Yakubu Dogora and his group. Both Saraki and Dogara have dared the APC leadership and vowed to slug it out on the floor of the National Assembly.

These Questions are begging for answers: Will these legislators indeed pursue the people’s agenda when they eventually get elected to the positions of the President of Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives? Why are they so desperate? Have they soon forgotten the suffering masses that waited long hours patiently in long queues to cast their votes,  in the sun, in the rain, without food, provided generating sets in the absence of power to aid the counting of votes that translated to victories that brought the legislators to the National Assembly? Is this the CHANGE the APC promised? Are they aware that Nigerians are no longer interested in a rancorous National Assembly that is self serving and not pursing the people’s business?  Are they also aware of the numerous socio-economic and political challenges confronting Nigeria? Are the APC legislators aware that their colleagues in the PDP are enjoying the unfolding drama? It is crystal clear from the foregoing, that if the APC fails to manage the contending self interest of its legislators the Party may soon split.  That would be an unfortunate betrayal of the trust reposed in the Party by Nigerians.

The 8th National Assembly can ill afford to start on this negative note in view of the numerous complaints of low performance raised against the outgoing 7th Assembly. Analysts have scored that Assembly very low. On the last day of its sitting the Senate hurriedly passed forty-six bills while the House of Representatives passed fifteen.  Many people have been calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold Assent of the rushed bills. The 8th Assembly is expected to change the negative perception of the outgoing 7th Assembly, partner with the Executive in tackling the numerous challenges confronting Nigeria. In this regard, the legislators  are advised to set aside selfish interests in order to focus on enacting  laws for peace, order and good government as provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).

Nigerian Legislatures and Good Governance

Section 4(2) and (7) has empowered the National Assembly and State House of Assembly of Nigeria to make laws for peace, order and good governance.  The Legislatures therefore have a pivotal role to play in ensuring good governance in the country. However, since the return to democratic rule in 1999,  the Legislatures both at the national and state levels have encountered numerous problems that stalled the realisation of its mandate as prescribed in the Constitution. It is no longer news that the executive branch at the national and state levels have continued to interfere in the workings of the Legislature. For example, the choice of the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives or of a State House of Assembly is one area where the executive branch has continued to interfere in the affairs of the Nigerian Legislatures. The situation is worst at the state level where most of the State Houses of Assembly have been turned into departments of the executive branch.  The governors ensure that only legislators that they control and direct are elected as Presiding Officers.

It is on record that most of the State Houses of Assembly took off in 1999 without adequate offices, facilities and a well trained workforce. The General Sani Abacha Administration did not disband the staff of National and State Houses ofAssembly as has been the practice with previous military regimes. This singular act of that regime laid a solid   foundation for successful take off of legislative houses at the end of General Abdulsalami transition to civil rule in 1999.  Regrettably, most of the Clerks (Chief Administrative/Accounting Officers} of the State Houses of Assembly who were trained in legislative practice, procedure and parliamentary administration were redeployed to the executive branch.  In their places, those who lacked capacity and knowledge of the workings of the Legislature were deployed by State Governors to head the legislative bureaucracy as Clerks. The action opened the floodgate to the crises that befell the Nigerian legislatures. Thus, many Nigerians perceived the Legislatures as self serving and mere appendages of the executive. Any Presiding Officer that sought to assert the independence of the legislature was removed from office with the active connivance of the governor of that state.  The governor needed only to bribe the legislators to spur them into action.

The Constitution has empowered the National and State Houses of Assembly to regulate their procedure in Sections 60 and 101.  The procedure for the conduct of legislative business is captured in the Standing Orders which are adopted at the beginning of a new assembly. The Standing Orders are not sacrosanct. They are mere “servants” of the Legislature and are amended the moment it is observed that they impede procedure.  However, once adopted legislators are bound by its provisions.

Our legislative experience has unfortunately revealed that provisions of the Standing Orders are more often than not observed in breach especially as it relates to the removal from office of a governor, a deputy governor or a presiding officer.

Recent impeachment notices served on governors of Ekiti, Ebonyi and Kebbi State as well as the removal from office of Speakers of some Houses of Assembly clearly show that our legislators have not learnt anything since the return to democratic rule sixteen years after. This is worrisome because the Nigerian Legislatures have a central role to play in the realisation of the CHANGE brought about through the Peoples votes in the 2015 general elections.

WE HAVE THE FLOOR

The title of this write up is inspired by the book entitled – The People Have the Floor – a History of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) by Yefime Zarjevski. The Inter-Parliamentary Union is “the international organisation of Parliaments that promote world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples for the firm establishment of representative democracy.”  The National Assembly of Nigeria is an active   member of the IPU.

Now that the elections have been won and lost; we the People of Nigeria Have the Floor to set an Agenda for the incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari. The Agenda is loaded because we the People have been in the cold for so long, insecurity, hunger, poverty, unemployment, epileptic power supply, poor infrastructure have been our lot. Our children sit under trees and on the floors during lessons, student hostels and facilities are in a state of disrepair,the entire educational system needs overhaul, we live in slumps, there is no provision for social housing, health facilities have collapsed, the roads are death traps, so much injustice has been melted to us as a result we have lost a sense of direction.

We hustle to survive and in the process vent our frustrations, anger and hopelessness on ourselves. We fight, steal, kill, rape, kidnap, drive against the traffic, tear down barricades on our dual carriage ways, vandalise oil pipelines, electrical installations, litter the environment, dump refuse in drainages, canals, defecate and urinate anywhere. Yes, we have lost our sense of self esteem. What transpires at our airports both local and international reflect the disorder that has become our way of life. We need Value Orientation to purge ourselves of these ills in order to embrace the wind of CHANGE that is blowing across our great country Nigeria.

Nigeria has become a dumping ground for all sorts of goods. We are disturbed of the health and environmental implications of some of the goods being dumped on us. The capacity to effectively dispose for example, electronic waste that is embedded in imported fairly used items such as computers, refrigerators, etc. is a source of concern.

We are in a hurry to catch up with the rest of the world. We have lost great opportunities to turn our country into paradise on earth so that nationals of other countries can also queue at our foreign missions to obtain entry visas to visit our beautiful country.

We know our expectation is high and resources scare but Nigerians have good spirit, are reasonable and understanding. Dialogue with us, canvass support at home and in the Diaspora. Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora are performing excellently well developing host countries. They are invaluable assets to our  great country.Together, and with Almighty God on our side we are determined to move Nigeria to enviable heights.

Thumbs Up for President Goodluck Jonathan

 

Newspaper reports indicate that the President has rejected the amendments made to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly; demanding credible evidence that the requirement prescribed in Section 9(3) of the Constitution was met. That is, approved by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all the members of each House, and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States. Also, reports have it that the President raised other issues that bordered on the principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government namely; the legislature, executive and the judiciary. There are a number of provisions in the Act that altogether constitute flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and an unjustified whittling down of the executive powers of the federation vested in the President by virtue of Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution.”

By withholding assent to the Constitution (Fourth) Alteration Bill 2014, the President has demonstrated incredible knowledge of issues of good governance. Indeed, this action has exposed the legislators as not conversant with the provisions of our constitution that guides and directs governance in Nigeria. The politicians were advised severally during public hearings on the proposed alteration to consider the in the interest of the people above all considerations.  Regrettably, group interest seems to be the overriding consideration in some of the proposed alterations hence   the President has withheld assent.

Section 68(1)(e) of the 1999 constitution states that a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if-…he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this constitution or by any other law. The implication of the above constitutional provision is that a member of the National Assembly cannot be a member of any executive body unless he or she resigns his or her seat in the Senate or House of Representatives. A new provision was sought to prevent a member of the National Assembly from vacating his or her seat if he or she becomes a member of a parliamentary body or any similar body by virtue of his or her position. This provision is a smoke screen and continuation of illegality and impunity as exhibited in the last 16 years by the political class. It is an attempt to cover up the illegality that is being perpetuated by members of Council of the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS). In line with Section 68(1)(e) members of the Council ought to have vacated their seats in the National Assembly having breached the above constitutional provision.  A Constituent of the President of the Senate David Mark had taken him to court on the matter, urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare his seat in the Senate vacant by virtue of occupying the position of Chairman of the Council. In reaction to the court case Senator Mark averred that the Constituent was seeking to get to the Senate through the back door. The case was never heard of thereafter. Indeed, members of the Council ought to have vacated their seats in parliament and refunded all salaries and allowances paid to them from the date they became members of the Council. It is even more surprising that the Bill establishing the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) received presidential assent when certain provisions were clearly in breach of the 1999 Constitution.  It is an attempt to evade justice that Section 68 is being altered to cover up the illegality. The Council is not a parliamentary body as the lawmakers would want Nigerians to believe. It is not on the same footing with parliamentary bodies such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) or the African Parliamentary Union (APU).

The oversight of the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste… is now hampered because members of the National Assembly are also members of the Council of the Institute. Where therefore is the doctrine of separation of powers between the three arms of government as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution? Where also is accountability and transparency in the conduct of public affairs?

The President’s refusal to assent to the Constitution (Fourth) Alteration Bill is in the best interest of the country. The executive is indeed teaching the lawmakers the art of lawmaking.  The National Assembly is advised to take a critical look at the cogent observations made by President Jonathan and not to override the President’s veto .  After all, the  mandate  of the National Assembly  is  …to make laws for peace, order and good government…and not to create disorder. However, should they go ahead to override the President’s veto, in order to justify the huge amount of money spent on the exercise, then the incoming government is advised to revisit the matter.

 

Nigerians Take a Stand Now

The political campaigns in Nigeria have brought to the limelight serious challenges facing our country. It is unbelievable that the political campaigns are loaded with hate messages aimed at causing disaffection among Nigerians. Religion, ethnicity, cultural differences have been exploited to the most ridiculous level that one wonders whether the damage being done to our nation will ever be reversed after the elections have come and gone. It is painful to know that politicians have taken Nigerians for granted over the years. They have exploited, divided and ruled us for their selfish interests. They have no interest in ensuring good governance and development of Nigeria. Indeed, they lack the capacity to conduct issue-based campaigns; hence the resort to religion and ethnicity as a platform for securing cheap support. This has been the trend since the return to democratic rule in 1999.

The Cabal that is fighting for the soul of Nigeria has no integrity, morality and credibility. Campaigns using derogatory and despicable language, which is strange to all known Nigerian cultural values have taken the center stage. Which Nigerian cultural norm promotes death wish for a political opponent or derision over the deaths of family members.

The PDP campaign groups are so desperate to have its candidate returned to Aso Villa and are ready to do anything. just anything in the name of supporting the incumbent President. They have for example; widely circulated a medical report on the health status of General Muhammadu Buhari purported to have been obtained from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria. The hospital has since disassociated itself from the report and further stated that the so-called doctors who appended their signatures to the report are not on their payroll.

Recently, African Independent Television (AIT) and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) transmitted a documentary full of inaccuracies with the sole aim of destroying the APC Presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari. Even though the National Broadcasting Code for elections provides to the contrary:

4.2.2 Broadcaster shall:

(a) Not broadcast a programme which violates social value, shows disrespect for law and order departs from an honourable life-style;

(g) avoid the use of foul and blasphemous language;

5.1.6 Archival or library materials where used to illustrate a current event, shall be used with discretion and clearly identified to avoid confusion or causing emotional pain, offence, embarrassment or defamation.

5.2.5 Political broadcast shall be in decent language.

5.2.7 A broadcaster shall, in using a political material for news, avoid taking inflammatory and divisive matter in its provocative form;

5.3.6 A live broadcast shall take cognisance of the cultural and religious sensibilities of all Nigerians and avoid offensive inputs.

The question that begs for an answer is whether the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (APN) have lived up to expectation by sanctioning stations that have been violating  the broadcasting code with impunity. As rightly observed by the Veteran broadcaster Dr. Tom Adaba that” We cannot seat back, arms folded, looking the other way and pretending all is well. Let the truth be told, we have simply behaved as if there is no tomorrow for Nigeria. The campaigns or advertisement of mudslinging and derision, which we have allowed to appear on the screens, have not been helpful to the course of this nation. It has indeed helped to divide us as a people. If we preach hate we shall reap hate and destruction, if we preach love and peace well shall reap same” (Sunday Trust 21nd February, 2015 P.36)

During the Presidential media chart held at the State House in Abuja on Wednesday 11th February 2015 President Jonathan referred “… to the attempt to pelt the Presidential convoy by young, ignorant people, as treasonable offence….” Although  the action is condemnable, it was most revealing  when asked as to whether he was not worried by the threat of war by his kinsmen if he is not re-elected. President Jonathan simply responded that his government will make sure that things are done “in such a way that nobody goes to war. We will not encourage anybody to destroy this country. We must protect this country and those who support us must not destroy this country.”   The threat of war by his kinsmen to destroy Nigeria is indeed a treasonable offence, even though President Jonathan refused to condemn Asari Dokubo and co-travellers as he did in the case of the “young, ignorant people” in Katsina State. (Daily Trust 12th February, 2015 P.5).

Dame Patience Jonathan in a recent outburst  in Calabar during a political campaign told Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters “Anybody That Tells You Change, Stone That Person!”

Nigerians Take a Stand Now to Save Our Country from Destruction.

Nigerians Vote Wisely

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attahiru Jega has since the postponement of the February 2015 general elections in Nigeria come under series of unwarranted attacks from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its faceless supporters. It is unfortunate that the very Government that appointed Professor Attahiru Jega is leading the campaign of calumny against him.

The GOODLUCK Lagos group and the Director General of PDP Presidential campaign organisation, Senator Ahmadu Ali have questioned the readiness of INEC to conduct free and fair elections; while the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) led by Chief Edwin Clark has called for the resignation of the Chairman and arrest on the grounds that he intends to rig elections in favour of the North. Indeed, men and women of integrity may in future reject national assignments, so as not to be rubbished by self-serving groups.

Nigerians have opined that the postponement of the general elections is just the tip of the iceberg of subterranean maneuvers aimed at rubbishing the image and integrity of Professor Jega so as to have reasons to execute the second phase of the agenda which include among others; removal of the INEC boss, bribing the National Assembly members to extend the tenure of the present elected officials to six months in the first instance and subsequently for a period of two years due to insecurity.

The PDP government has failed to realise that Nigerians are fed up with the rot and the decay that has continued to pledge this country. Unfortunately, those in the corridors of power who are benefiting from the system have held President Goodluck Jonathan hostage. The President is therefore, out of touch with the pains, frustrations and failed aspirations of Nigerians especially the youths. Instead, the PDP government has instituted mediocrity, impunity, greed, nepotism, primitive stealing of public funds, religious bigotry, indecorous behaviour, use of abusive language and elimination of political opponents. Nigerians have helplessly watched the locusts destroy our beloved country.

The 2015 elections therefore, is not about President Goodluck Jonathan or General Muhammadu Buhari. It is about the future and survival of Nigeria.

Nigerians use your Vote wisely.

The Death Trap Called Rice Distribution

Nigeria is beautiful country blessed with abundant human and natural resources. At Independence, the country was known for its agricultural products such as cocoa, palm kernels, rubber, groundnuts etc. However, with the discovery of oil, agriculture became relegated to the background in preference to the black gold. Successive governments initiated programmes such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, with a view to increasing food production to feed its fast growing population. The various River Basin Development Authority established for the purpose of enhancing food production have not perform as envisaged.

Regrettably, most Nigerian farmers are still using Stone Age agricultural implements in the 21st Century. Government rhetoric on diversification of the Nigerian economy through mechanisation of the agricultural sector has not led to increased food production. Neither has government at all levels been able to create jobs for the large number of unemployed youths through agriculture.

As a result, Nigerians have become beggars looking for what to feed on. With the general elections just around the corner the “chubby cheeks” politicians have capitalised on the high level of poverty and hunger to distribute rice to Nigerians. This has often resulted to stampede and loss of lives. Indeed, Nigeria has witnessed the ugly trend severally. For example, during the 50th Independence anniversary celebration, the First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan on 30th September 2010, at Abuja International Conference Centre distributed rice to the Nigerian poor. In the course of the exercise, there was a stampede leading to loss of lives. The police threw tear gas on the surging crowd to no avail until the gates to the Centre were locked. A similar incident took place at Samson Siasia Stadium on 14th November 2014. The rice distributed by the First Lady was said to have even expired. In another incident, eleven people reportedly lost their lives in a scramble for free rice in Ilorin, Kwara State during Eid el- Kabir celebration. Also, Unemployed youths of the University of Uyo, Uyo City Polytechnic and Akwa Ibom State College of Education lost their lives while struggling for a share of N15 million promised by the State Governor Godswill Akpabio. It is most unfortunate that desperate political “Do Gooders” who have mismanaged public funds resort to these false acts of charity without regard to the safety of lives.

With the 2015 elections around the corner, politicians have tried to outwit one another in the so-called acts of charity as witnessed recently during the 2014 Christmas festivities. Politicians have deliberately through their inaction improvised the people so as to exert control over them. The high level of poverty and hopelessness makes it easy for politicians to manipulate and control the people for selfish reasons. This state of affairs is a threat to national security, free and fair elections. The question is for how long will the poor continue to lose their lives in attempt to receive handouts from politicians. The solution lies in good governance. It is only through good governance that critical issues of extreme poverty, hunger, corruption, unemployment, and insecurity among others; would be tackled.

dame-jonathans-visit-kid-feared-dead-another-injured-stampede

http://elendureports.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1361&Itemid=51

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http://allafrica.com/stories/201011180265.html

http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/146753-several-die-stampede-kwara-pdp-members-scramble-sarakis-sallah-gifts.html

http://nigerianstalk.org/2011/03/16/rice-epidemic/

http://www.punchng.com/metro-plus/thousands-scramble-for-tinubus-xmas-gifts/