A presentation made to the members of the Justice Development and Peace Commission [JDPC] of Catholic Church at Ibadan on Thursday, October 22, 2009
S. A. Asemota Esq, S.A.N.
Permit me to pose the question: Does one compromise one’s Christian faith when one works for the conversion of Nigeria to a Sultanate? Sultanate is defined as – the rank or position of a sultan, an area of land that is ruled over by a sultan. Events however seem to suggest that Nigeria is on the march to becoming a Sultanate, ruled by a sultan.
In this presentation I intend to show that from my understanding of events in Nigeria, it would appear that the country is being steered towards becoming a Sultanate.
Status of Nigeria
There is no dispute that Nigeria is a Muslim country. Nigeria on its own volition after it was considered sufficiently Islamic by those steering her towards becoming a sultanate applied for membership of the OIC and was accepted. This OIC had only one resolution at the time “to preserve Islamic Spirit, ethical, social and economic values, which will remain one of the important factors of achieving progress for mankind”. (Charter of OIC). It was established in Jeddah in 1972 and it has the conference of kings and heads of state and governments as the supreme authority of the organization.
Nigeria has responsible individuals but does not seem to have what Obama regard as “responsible institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance -- on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting and automating services -- strengthening hotlines, protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability.” Nigeria needs new responsible individuals to set up responsible institutions.
The Politics of Religion in Nigeria
In Nigeria there are two views to the subject,
(a) Nigerians who hold the view that religion and politics are essentially different and there should be no relationship between them. This group sees religion as part of its ethic and private life. Based on this view religion is about man’s relationship with God, while politics is about man’s life in general; and
(b) The second group believes in the homogeneity of religion and politics. They say that there is no difference between the two, and argues for the unity of the two, and believes that political affairs should be administered by men of religion or politics.
This unfortunately has resulted in the two systems as propounded by the two groups manifesting itself in the governance of Nigeria, and the conflict thereby has reduced Nigeria to a failing state.
Nigeria had four constitutions. In 1960/63 at independence Federal constitution and four regional constitutions, North, East and West and in 1964 a Mid-West constitution was added. These constitutions were consolidated into one constitution in 1979 and thereafter Abubakar’s 1999 Constitution.
Let us examine some fundamental differences between the federal Constitutions of 1963, 1979 and 1999.
Human Right Provision: chapter III of the 1963 constitution became chapter IV in the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions. It is note worthy that Nigeria is the first country in the world to include human rights in its Constitution based on the report of the Willink’s Commission of 1958, notwithstanding the fact that Nigeria had about the same number of Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers.
Right to Freedom of Thoughts, Conscience and Religion: section 24 of 1963, section 35 of 1979 and section 38 of 1999 Constitutions. A new subsection 4 was added on Secret Societies which was and still is prohibited. This section in my view is undemocratic and is now being used to disqualify political opponents, as belonging to Secret Societies whether they are members or not, if they constitute a threat to the dominant party.
Freedom of Expression
This is contained in Section 25 of 1963, section 36 of 1979 and section 39 of 1999 Constitutions. Section 36 restricted ownership of radio and television etc except with the Presidents’ Permission. A local chief can obtain radio and T.V licenses but the Catholic Church cannot, and a Muslim can have his university named “Crescent” but the Baptist cannot have a Baptist university.
Peaceful Assembly and Association
This is contained in Section 26 of 1963, section 37 of 1979 and section 40 of 1999 Constitutions. Section 37 of 1979 Constitution on the registration of political parties and the Federal Electoral Commission and carpet crossing prohibited while section 40 of the 1999 Constitution provided a proviso which seem to elevate the power if INEC above the constitution on registration of political parties. Ojukwu and Wole Soyinka could not register their parties yet INEC cannot be challenged.
Freedom from discrimination
Section 28 of 1963 and 39 of 1979 and section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
This now includes a new section which states that “No citizen of Nigeria shall be subject to any disability or deprivation merely by reason or circumstance of his birth”. Thus removing such stigmas as osu or bastards.
Chapter II Fundamental Objectives and Direct Principle of State Policy
A new Chapter in the 1979 Constitution was inserted. The same provision was repeated in chapter II of the 1999 Constitution. These objectives are contained in Sections 13 – 22 contains – (13) Fundamental obligations of the Government. (14) The Government and the people (15) Political objectives. (16) Economic objectives. (17) Social objectives. (18) Educational objectives. (19) Foreign policy objectives. (20) Directive on Nigeria cultures (21) Obligation of the mass media (22) National ethic. They constitute the “manifesto” for Nigeria.
This chapter has a contradiction in that while section 13 provides that it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government and of all authority and persons etc “to conform, to observe and apply” section 6(6)(c), the same constitution prohibits extending judicial powers to this chapter. In other words one cannot initiate action.
Since 1979 however chapter II has been manipulated to favour one sub section (3), which deals with Federal Character for which a Federal Character Commission has since been created in the 1999 Constitution i.e. 10 years after the 1979 Constitution. This also, is in favour of one Religion and one section of the country.
In the 1999 Constitution under section 153(1)(d) a Federal Character Commission was created to give effect to the provisions of section 14(3) and (4) – “work out equitable formula for the distribution of all cadre of posts in the public service of the federation and of the state, the armed forces, the police and other government security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the state.” When this is viewed against the background of the fact that the Federal Government has over 70 percent of the workforce in government, parastatals, with the added power under section 8(1)(b) of Schedule C, to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principle of potential sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government, take legal measure including prosecution, then it becomes clear that Federal Character is an instrument to promote an ideology different from that envisaged in chapter II. This becomes more pronounced when no provision whatsoever is made under the same constitution to promote or enforce principles of democracy and social justice.
Section 14(1) provides that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria while section 14(c)(a) ensures that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and the participation by the people in their governance.” Section 14(2)(b) and (c) of the 1999 Constitution made it impossible for a Nigerian to vote and be voted for; made it difficult for a Nigerian who does not want to associate with others in a political party, to retain the right to be left alone and yet be eligible for election through the constitutional provision for Independent Candidacy. This is in addition to the fact that the political parties and state governments truncated chapter II, the country’s “manifesto”, with their lethargy. It has become very clear that it is the lack of social justice that is responsible for the activities of militants in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram of the North.
Our bishops lamented that nationhood has eluded us, and this is so because the two broad divides in Nigeria, are not looking in the same direction and although chapter II provided the direction that Nigeria must go, unfortunately Christians and |Muslims are pulling in different directions.
The 1963 Constitution under section 140 provided for 50% of the proceeds from royalties and rents, with a distributable pool to be distributed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly. The 1979 Constitution on the other hand went on to list the number of states (19) and Local Government in the country under the Fourth Schedule. For the first time, Local Government became a National issue, rather than state. This also attracted revenue direct from the Federal Government. This no doubt is to ensure that the Federal Government has some control over Local Governments throughout the country.
Warped Revenue Allocation
It would appear that the military was not satisfied with the gains of the North in the 1979 Constitution, and had to overthrow the Shagari democratically elected government in 1983, and later gave us the 1999 Constitution by which time more states and local government had been created and a new section 162(2) provided, with the creation of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission which says.
“The President, upon the receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly proposals for revenue allocation from the Federation Account, and in determining the formula, the National Assembly shall take into account, the allocation principles especially those of population, equality of States, internal revenue generation, land mass, terrain as well as population density: Provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than thirteen per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources”.
Assets, namely Population, Land, Land Mass, Terrain etc, which the North has in abundance, were made the bases for the allocation of revenue derived from the Niger Delta.
Land Use Act
The Land Use Act appropriated all land belonging to the Ethnic Nationalities. The preamble to the Act provides:
“Act to vest all land comprised in the territory of each State (except land vested in the Federal Government or its agencies) solely in the Governor of the State, who would hold such land in trust for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals resident in the State and to organizations for residential, agricultural, commercial and other purpose while similar powers with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on Local Government”.
The 1999 Constitution weighed heavily in favour of the North and as long as the disunity of the East and West are guaranteed, and they alternate in the mainstream of politics in Nigeria, the Niger Delta where oil and gas are produced would continue to remain poor, backward and neglected. Any agreement that weighs too much in favour of one party is unlikely to succeed. Local government most countries of the world is a State Affair, and in Nigeria it is also tied to Revenue Allocation, which was responsible in my view for the Federal Government reaction to the additional local government created by Lagos state government. If states become independent financially, they must have reasoned, the grip on that state will be loosened and democracy strengthened.
Dominant Ruling Party
One wonders whether our political party system has anything to do with the China system whereby one political party of the Communist Party of China (CCP) holds effective power at national level with 8 minor parties participating under the leadership of the dominant ruling party. One wonders, because the attempt is being made to make the PDP the dominant ruling party with 53 minor parties participating under leadership of the PDP. Why is it that the chairman of INEC who supervised the most corrupt election in Nigeria’s history is still in office pontificating on good and evil in the electoral process? Has Sudan anything to do with our Chinese connection? Sudan is a country where there are over 10 million Nigerians and with whom there has been strong ties forged by our colonial masters, where Muslims dominate Christians and where light skin Arabs lord it over black skin Arabs in Darfur? In any case we have become unusually friendly with the Chinese; we have given them openings in our rail, oil and gas sectors. Is it because the Chinese are not interested in human rights? Or is it because we are told that Muslims do not believe in human rights? In Islam all rights belong to God and humans have duties. Has Nigeria attempted to reconcile this conflict or is it better to pretend that it is not relevant. How do we reconcile freedom of religion with apostasy which is an offence that carries the death penalty in Islam?
Nigeria’s Human Right
“According to the U.S. Department of State Nigeria's human rights record remains poor and government officials at all levels continue to commit serious abuses. The most significant human rights problems are: extrajudicial killings and use of excessive force by security forces; impunity for abuses by security forces; arbitrary arrests; prolonged pretrial detention; judicial corruption and executive influence on the judiciary; rape, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees and suspects; harsh and life threatening prison and detention centre conditions; human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution and forced labor; societal violence and vigilante killings; child labor, child abuse and child sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation (FGM); domestic violence; discrimination based on sex, ethnicity, region and religion; restrictions on freedom of assembly, movement, press, speech and religion; infringement of privacy rights; and the abridgement of the right of citizens to change the government.”
The reason for this in my view is the conflicting ideologies, one written and the other though not written consumes the country’s resources to the detriment of infrastructural and human development.
Lugard introduced Indirect Rule in 1914 and expanded same to areas that had no traditional institutions. “The system of Native administration in the separate Government of Northern Nigeria had been based on recognition of the authority of the native Chiefs. The policy of the Government was that these Chiefs should govern their people, not as independent but as dependent Rulers. --- This system is clearly only adapted in its fullest application to communities under the centralized rule of a paramount Chief, with some administrative machinery at his disposal, and finds its best exposition in the Moslem com¬munities of the North. Nevertheless, its underlying principles are applied, to the varying extent to which it is possible in each case to apply them, even to the most primitive communities in the North. The first step is to endeavour to find a man of influence as chief, and to group under him as many villages or districts as possible, to teach him to delegate powers, and to take an interest in his ‘Native Treasury’, to support his authority, and to inculcate a sense of responsibility.” [Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria, pages 70-71]. There were provisions for traditional institutions in the 1960 Constitution, section 42(2)(a) and (b) – House of chiefs in the Region. After military incursion into politics, the 1979 constitution abolished two tier representations in this State Houses of Assemblies and made the Senate elective. Yet traditional institutions became very wide spread, and huge sums of money is spent on stipends and governors most of whom are “selected” grant recognition to monarchs and even the courts now sometimes ask suspects to produce traditional rulers as surety and men of influence are being made traditional rulers in 2009.
Recently the profile of the Sultan of Sokoto has come to loom very large and very strong. As Sarikin Muslimi (King) of all Muslims, his authority extends to all Muslims in Nigeria. As a Nigeria in a Muslim country there is an attempt in my view to turn Nigeria to a Sultanate surreptitiously. As a Benin I have respect for my Oba – the Oba of Benin. He preserves and protects the culture of the Benin people and in some cases the culture of Edo people as a whole. Any attempt to impose the Oba of Benin on other Nigerians will be considered wrong. The same I believe applies to other Ethnic Nationalities. However, the Emirs of the North have dual responsibilities as religious and political leaders – the homogeneity of religion and politics. Traditional institutions that accept this homogeneity are now growing in leaps and bounds throughout the country, more so in the South-East and South-South. This fact is being exhibited everyday by the amount the Niger Delta Governors spend on Traditional Rulers outside the Region, some say to protect their political offices because votes do not count. Traditional Rulers of the Region now want to be treated as Emirs and therefore are not in sympathy with democracy. Some Christian leaders now accept the theory that political affairs can be administered by men of religion and are co-opted into the ruling elite club. Nigeria is regarded as the most religious country in the world because in my view, Nigeria spends more money on religion than any other country in the world. At the same time it has also become more corrupt because corruption is an instrument of government and also more violent because violence is also being used as an instrument of the day to day administration.
This explains in some ways why there are so many recruits in religion, the armed forces, police and other similar agencies to inhibit democracy. This truism is reflected in the statement of Rtd. Gen. Enang Essien who served in the Army for 33 years in an interview with The Nation newspaper in an article titled Emirs more powerful than Southern Kings
“In Nigeria, they say politics is the game of numbers, and if you look at it the North is the most cohesive unit. One factor they have is the religion, besides the feudal system. The Sultan was my course mate in the NDA. When he was a defence attaché in Pakistan, just before he came to become the Sultan, I was also there doing what you call National Defence Corps. Today, as a Sultan, he cannot be opposed. Even Presidents must consult with him when taking major decisions. So, if you are talking about promotion, even in the army, tell me, if there is a promotion board and the Emir of Kano or Shehu of Borno shows interest, who is that person that won’t listen to them? Compare that to the Obi of Onitsha or Obong of Calabar showing interests. These things were there and are still there. That is the truth.” [The Nation newspaper, Sunday, October 11, 2009]
Nigerians must be told explicitly about the march to Sultanate given the circumstance under which Nigeria became a member of the OIC. Why should an ethnic group have a traditional ruler outside its territory? Why should there be a Sarikin [King] Hausawa in Lagos, who explained his position thus:
“My position as the Sarikin Hausawa of Lagos State and also the Chairman of Arewa Council of Chiefs in the state, by implication, means that all northerners, technically, are under the control of the Arewa chiefs, of which I am the chairman. And so, the responsibility is first and foremost to be able to coordinate our people economically, socially and politically within the context of Lagos State as a whole; then you must move from there to the point that Lagos State is not just any place. It is a metropolitan city-state where almost all ethnic groups in Nigeria interface and even with other nationals. In this regard, it is our duty to ensure that all northerners live in harmony with the other ethnic groups that are in the state, --- “representing the people at the level of the government of the state, in other words, if there is anything to be done or if there is a thing that concerns the Hausawa, we are there to represent the interests of the Hausawa In Lagos. We also settle disputes and conflicts between them”. [The Nation, Saturday, October 10, 2009]
One must therefore commend the South-East Traditional Ruler who recently banned Ezes, [Igbo Kings] outside Igbo land.
How to stay in Power
How was it possible for our unelected leaders to hold on to power for so long in a country like Nigeria with very intelligent citizens and best educated in the whole of sub Saharan Africa? Nigerian that helped to liberate South Africa, Angola and who has been peacekeeper since independence in 1960, and today Nigeria is classified a failed state. The answer is simple. The methods employed to institutionalize an inept and corrupt leadership involve a combination of coercion, intimidation and co-option.
Coercion and Intimidation
To begin with the Armed Forces, the Police, State Security Service, Road Safety Corp, Civil defence Corp, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, militias etc have been used at one time or the other as instruments of coercion and intimidation. The sacking of Odi Zaki Biam and recently Gbaramatu were all undertaken in my view to intimidate the people of the areas – Middle Belt and Niger Delta.
Detention without trial, unsolved murder cases, assassinations and kidnappings are intended in some ways to create fear in the minds of the people. Hostile and corrupt Police at road blocks when Nigeria is not in a state of war is intimidation of a kind. The state security service that collaborates with the army and have various underground torture chambers as attested to by those who have been detained, Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana etc and the extra judicial and judicial execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane, Bola Ige etc are intended to put fear in the minds of the people. Social violence and vigilante killings, discrimination based on sex, ethnicity, region and religion, and recently intimidation of some Nigerians living abroad, El Rufia and Nuhu Ribadu is meant to put fear on those who criticize the government and take flight.
With respect to co-option there are two types. Voluntary co-operation include those who join because there is a lot to gain if they are co-opted into the ruling elite; through association open or secret. They join and they are rewarded. The other is the involuntary co-option. Those who are critical of government are invited on the pretext that they are needed and are co-opted so as to “come and chop” Corruption, money laundering and other vices are instruments in the hands of the government to induce people to come and join the club of rulers. This is how traditional and religious leaders are trapped. Sometimes it is the award of national honours that is used as inducement. There is no clearer evidence of this than the Minister of State of the Federal Capital Territory who was reported to have said he would convert to Islam if the incentive is right. Part of the statement reads:
“MINISTER of State of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Chief Chuka Odom, a devout Christian, shocked many on-lookers in Abuja on Friday when he declared that he would consider converting to Islam if the incentives are attractive. ----Chief Odom, who recently confessed that he jettisoned the celibacy of the Catholic faith by running away from the seminary against the wishes of his father, however, did not elaborate on the type of incentives that would make him abandon his Christian faith to become a Muslim.”
[Bankole Makinde, Abuja - 20.09.2009]
In addition to coercion, intimidation and co-option, corruption is also an instrument used to co-opt and to silence critics and oppositions.
What does security mean in Nigeria? The President always talks about security yet Nigeria is about one of the most insecure countries in the world. Security votes we are told are not audited. In addition to budget for the security agencies, state governments are obliged to make provisions for funds, vehicle etc for the police etc. However, the truth is that we have two competing ideologies, one written – democracy. The other is the unwritten ideology that requires the excessive use of force and surveillance.
“Egypt’s ruling party (no, he corrects himself, “the party of the ruler”) has no popular support and “the so-called legitimate opposition parties are essentially dead corpse… most Arab regimes maintain their power in remarkably similar ways. At the apex of the system sits either a single authoritarian ruler, be he a monarch or a president, or an ever-ruling party or royal family. The ruler is shored up by an extensive mukhabarat (intelligence service) employing a vast network of informers…One retired Egyptian diplomat - put the size of his own country’s internal security apparatus at about 2m people. Bloated civil services, say Brookings’s Mr. Pollack, provide the regimes with a way to dispense patronage and pretend-jobs to mop up new graduates…one of the regimes’ most effective instruments of control is the elaborate system of democracy – sham democracy, that is – they have devised in order to channel and contain political dissent.” [The Economist, July 25 2009]
The PDP is very much the party of the ruler while the quest for Sultanate seemed to have hindered Nationhood for Nigeria because the Arabs,
“for a start, failed to make their people free: six Arab countries have an outright ban on political parties and the rest restrict them slyly. They have failed to make their people rich: despite their oil, the UN reports that about two out of five people in the Arab world live on $2 or less a day. They have failed to keep their people safe: the report argues that over-powerful internal security forces often turn the Arab state into a menace to its own people. And they are about to fail their young people. The UNPP reckons the Arab world must create 50m new jobs by 2020 to accommodate a growing, youthful workforce – virtually impossible on present trends…” [The Economist, July 25 2009]
It would appear that we seem to copy the Arabs for obvious reasons – some Nigerians are of the Arab stock. Our government has also failed to make us free. It has made us poor in spite of our oil and gas wealth. The Nigerian Government like the Arabs has failed our youth and this is summarized by Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, as follows:
“In my view, the Nigerian state must create jobs in the public sector as well as allowing the private sector to do same. Any deluded ideological fixation with a private sector-led jobs creation mantra will only lead the country to perdition. The youth is restless because the jobs are not there and with the way things are going we will harvest an explosion of crisis into the future. Our ruling class can continue their looting binge while deluding themselves that their so-called private sector will create jobs. But police statistics also talk about gangs being led by highly educated young men who are unemployed; what is the age bracket of those who kidnap as business? Those who stand by road sides hawking sex? Who are the Yahoo boys? What is the average age of those desperately trying to run out of Nigeria? It is the youth; they have lost hope about this country and are expressing their frustration in various types of crimes. Believe me, we are sitting on a very active volcano of youth despair, and when it erupts, the lava can consume the Nigerian state!”
Mukhabarat in Nigeria
A sizeable number of Nigerians since 1975 have been employed as security operatives and intelligence officers to aid the military regimes. From time to time, they were released into the civil service, parastatals, external services in the professions, trade and industry, even churches and today it will not be out of place to put their figure as twice the size of Egypt’s equivalent security operatives. Some were recalled to form political parties, stand for elections etc, still very much under the control of those promoting the anti-democratic agenda. This explains in my view why efforts are being made to sweep the crimes committed by some Governors especially those of the Niger Delta who provided funds for the promotion and entrenchment of a Sultanate Nigeria under the carpet. They are regarded to be “on his majesty’s service”. This also explains the lamentation of Mrs Farida Waziri as reported in Vanguard of Friday, October 16, 2009 on page 6, part of which reads:
“ABUJA—THE Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, yesterday cried out over what she alleged as deliberate obstacles set against the commission in its prosecution of former governors and other political office holders.”
Those “in his majesty’s service” must not be heard to say that crime pays in Nigerian. “His majesty” must give way for democracy.
The judiciary unfortunately sometime works against Democracy and the reason for this is that it is dominated by Muslims and it will not be out of place to suggest that the judiciary is also working for the entrenchment of a Sultanate for Nigeria. What are the facts?
The 1963 Constitution made provisions for the Supreme Court, the High Court and Court of the Federal territory and under section 119 provided for appeal to Supreme Court from Sharia Court of Appeal and Court of Resolution. What is pertinent here is the fact that the constitution of Northern Nigeria 1963 had under section 54, Appointment of judges of Sharia Court of Appeal and section 55 on tenure of office of such judges. The constitution of Eastern Nigeria 1963 has no such provision while there was provision under section 52 for the establishment of Court of Appeal in Western Region and tenure of judges of that court. A Court of Appeal was later established in Western Nigeria. The 1999 Constitution made provisions for a Federal Court of Appeal, Federal High Courts, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Court of Appeal both at state level. What is interesting here is that Muslims can be appointed into all these courts while Christians cannot be appointed into Sharia Courts.
One would have thought that for National unity Sharia and Customary Courts would have been at the lowest level of Magistrate Courts and Customary Courts, thereafter the state High Court would certify and accept that Sharia and Customary Laws that have met the test of “natural justice, equity and good conscience” for the state while the Court of Appeal will do the same with respect of a group of states, until it gets to the Supreme Court when it will be accepted as Nigeria’s customary law and custom that should apply to Nigeria as a whole. Two parallel laws and courts with two hierarchies and ideologies makes the attainment of nationhood impossible.
The courts have consistently held that election cases are different, thus giving the impression that justice in election cases is different from others. In Abubakar vs. NEC  14NWLR, pt841, pg.536, V. A. O. Omage JCA said:
“It is often repeated that election petition and rules applicable to it and its procedure are unique. It is the reason why election petitions are described as Sui generic, they are different from other proceedings, …. They stand on their own, bound by its own rules… Defects or irregularities which in other proceedings are not sufficient to affect the validity of the claim are not so in an election petition.”
It is unfortunate that it is the Supreme Court that has laid down this precedent starting from Chief Obafemi Awolowo vs. Alhaji Shehu Shagari & Ors whose judgment was delivered on Wednesday, 26th September, 1979. In the judgment of the Supreme Court, the court interpreted 12⅔ of 19 states to mean something different from mathematical correctness, with a rider that this interpretation should not be used as a precedent. The recent case of Buhari vs. Yar’Adua which gave judgment in favour of Yar’Adua is another anti-democratic judgment. Before then the Supreme Court had given judgment in Obi case resulting from gubernatorial election in Anambra and the Amechi’s case of River State. One thing is very clear form these cases, that our apex courts – the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal as the case may be, ignore section 14(1) that requires that the courts must apply principles of democracy and Social Justice and section 14(2) that provides for the participation of the people in their government that should ensure fairness through free, fair and transparent elections. In all these cases the justice in them should have been to return to the electorates, to conduct afresh pools so that “practice will make perfect.” Rather, the courts seem to want to be the organ that chooses the “elected” representatives of the people as the colonialists and the military had done in the past.
Complaint by Mike Ahamba SAN
In Buhari’s case, his counsel accused members of the panels two of whom are in the Supreme Court and three in the Court of Appeal of breach of judicial oath and petitioned the National Judicial Council that these Judges should be removed. [Vanguard, October 9, 2009] while one of the Judges has also petitioned the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association that Buhari’s lawyer Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN be disbarred for professional misconduct. I have had the privilege of reading both the judgment and the complaint against these five Justices and without preempting the outcome of this struggle, one can attribute the main reason for this conflict to the fact that our courts in election cases deliberately ignore section 14 of the Constitution on principles of Democracy and people participation. This is particularly painful when the same Constitution gives the courts under section 6(6)(a) a “blank cheque” as it were to do justice. It provides under (6)(6) that the judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of section “(a) shall extend notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law”. One wonders whether the courts conduct has anything to do with Sultanate status for Nigeria.
Onus of Proof in Election Cases
It is strange that a candidate should be required to prove facts that are within the knowledge of INEC. Would it not be appropriate for the development and strengthening of democracy – If INEC is made to establish that it conducted free, fair and credible elections? This means that the Evidence Act should be amended even before 2010 Anambra Election. To place the proof of election cases on the petitioner who is handicapped in several ways is to ignore that section of the constitution that the Nigerian State is based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
Open Secret Ballot
The 1983 Presidential Election in my view was the most successful election ever conducted in Nigeria. I was a presiding officer at the Regional Election of 1954 then a form I student and had to travel with my ballot box and other electoral materials to one of the outlying areas of Benin City called Iyeke – Ovia and spent the night. Next morning, I conducted the election and returned back to Benin City for counting etc. In 1952, elections were not violent and in 1993, the presidential election witnesses no recorded violence. The option A4 was so good in that accreditation and voting took place simultaneously throughout the country, vote counted and announcement of result made on the spot. There was no room for security operatives, INEC staff and party agents to intimidate, harass and steal ballot boxes. It was a really free and fair election which was cancelled by the military president who no doubt is opposed to Democracy.
Faulty Electoral Act
It is interesting to note and concur with the statement of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore that:
“A system that keeps a person not elected to remain in office for more than six months after the election, is legally absurd, democratically immoral and not conducive to the rule of law and peace in the polity” [Punch newspaper, Friday, October 16, 2009, page 64]
This is evidence an anti democratic law. However, I see this as a case of being wiser after the event. I do hope that his brothers in the Supreme Court Bench are listening.
Reasons for commitment to Democracy
I need to explain my commitment to the struggle for Democracy and opposition to the plan to make Nigeria a Sultanate. It is apt to recall the often quoted statement by Wiston Churchill in the House of Commons on November 11, 1947 to the effect that:
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or otherwise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, one time US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser in March, 1994 said:
“Russia can be an empire or a democracy, but it cannot be both”.
It is my belief that Nigeria can be a Sultanate or a democracy but it cannot be both. It is the attempt in my view to be both a democracy and a Sultanate since independence that has reduced Nigeria to a failed state.
Christian Social Movement of Nigeria [CSMN]
One had hoped that the Christian Social Movement of Nigeria [CSMN] with the motto “Thy kingdom come” will epitomize the promotion of Christian values and the protection of Democracy based on the catholic social thoughts. This Christian NGO was unfortunately weakened by Christian leaders out of misunderstanding, mis-information and mis-representation by security operatives who are programmed to remove the blocks of democracy and replace same with a nebulous institution – Sultanate in the 21st century. Democracy developed from Christianity and the American Constitution which we now operate is also of Christian concept “In forming a new nation and developing its Constitution the following century, the delegates at the 1787 Convention did not intend to put into practice new untried ideas. The framers of the American Constitution based their political concept on the tried and tested ideas of the past. These men were intelligent, well-educated and widely read. They combined the best ideas they read about to establish a government for the United States”. [Christianity and the Constitution, the Faith of Our Founding Fathers by John Eidsmoe. Page 17] Democracy is gradually replacing communism especially in popular elections in Russia and China and even in the Arab world yet in Nigeria billions of scare resources is being wasted to prevent free and fair elections and the dichotomy of North and South.
Dichotomy of North and South
A.M.H. Kirk-Green wrote in the forward of the book Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria on page 33 thus:
“By this stroke of the pen, General Gowon not only established twelve states instead of four in Nigeria; he has also brought to an end a way of administrative, political and fiscal life that had endured since 1900, had received confirmation in 1941, and had, despite the political tremors of the 1950s caused by hopes of fission and refusion, remained apparently sacrosanct in the vocabulary of both colonial and independent Nigerian administrative thought.”
M. H. Kukah in his book Religion Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria, Page 42 wrote:
“Thus, by this time Gowon was overthrown in 1975 and Gomwalk was executed in 1976, despite many set backs, Benue-Plateau state had become a symbol of the aspirations of the non-Muslim peoples of the Middle Belt, and at the same time, a threat to the northern ruling class. S. K. Panter Brick & P. E. Dawson came to the conclusion that “the idea of one North is dead. Its ghost lingers on, but it is no longer practical politics.”
Yet today, over 40 years after the creation of states some Nigerians are still promoting the dichotomy of North and South rather than a Nigerian Nation, which has led to the neglect of the Niger Delta that resulted in the arms struggle. Unfortunately there are still private arms in private hands in Nigeria and it is estimated that it is surpassed only by America in the world. We must ensure that these arms are not used, and I therefore invite you all to join in what my friend Wole Soyinka calls intellectual militarism. If any person or group have anything better than democracy, they should make it public and subject it to public discuss. The weapon Nigeria needs today is intellect not fire arms to be used against innocent Nigerians.
Why Justice Development Peace Commission [JDPC]
(i) I want to subject my theory to the test of Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike through the JDPC. (ii) As one is getting old, and as some say “approaching the departure lounge” there is the need to pass on information to younger generation. This is in keeping with African culture and tradition. (iii) As the JDPC is the arm of the Church for resolution of conflicts, there is need to have in their possession another view point to assist the commission in its conflict resolution work. (iv) To enable the JDPC to be in a position to influence government to negotiate because Nigerian governments are too eager for violence when there are other ways that disagreement or conflict can be resolved such as Truth, Reconciliation and Forgiveness. (v) The most important, however is to strengthen the institution of Democracy. President Obama said in Ghana “in the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success -- strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges-- ; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people's everyday lives”. It is my view that the Christian NGO, CSMN should be strengthen in order to strengthen our Democratic institutions.
Arab System experiment has failed Nigeria
I have tried in this presentation to make a case for Democracy and separation of religion from politics. This is in addition to section 10 of the 1999 Constitution which provides as follows “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.” I have tried to show above that this provision notwithstanding, Nigeria is being systematically turned into a Sultanate no doubt because having been able to establish 12 sharia states in the country, and because those pursuing the Sultanate agenda are in control of the 3 arms of government - the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, they have imposed Islamic religion on the rest of Nigerians. It should be very clear to everybody that replicating Arab system in Nigeria has failed Nigeria.
Where are the Elders?
Prof. Pat Utomi in The Guardian newspaper of Wednesday, October 14, 2009, captioned Where are Nigeria’s elders wrote:
“'I must say strongly as a very senior Nigerian that there was a greatly missed opportunity in that our Head of State was not advised properly to come to this assembly'. I hereby call, nay I beg our elders in Nigeria to speak up! There is no use pretending that all is well. All is not well! Nigeria is drifting! We are losing our place in Africa and if we do not halt this drift we will be a big 'agbaya' or a "big-for-nothing" in the international community and the vultures will begin to encircle us. I call on the elders of Nigeria to please come to her aid and add their voice to that of Professor Gambari. We have lost the great Gani Fawehinmi and we need another national conscience to help us get some perspective especially in these days when we are not faced with tyranny as such, but with weakness at the centre. We should remember that if evil triumphs because good men do nothing, then mediocrity will also triumph if elders do nothing. The empire is drifting and the emperor is naked. We should not see it as the lot of a child to point this out when there are elders in the land. Where are Nigeria's elders? Once again, God bless Nigeria.”
This presentation is my humble contribution as an elder.
The Pope on Materialism
Our Holy Father the Pope in the opening of the African Synod of Bishops in the Vatican on Sunday, October 4, 2009 said,
“May this great event strengthen the Church in Africa in her witness to the Gospel and in her efforts to promote reconciliation, justice and peace.” ---Africa has a great treasure for the world, that is, its great sense of God that he has seen directly in his meetings with bishops and during his apostolic visit to Cameroon and Angola… From this point of view Africa is like a great spiritual lung for humanity elsewhere, that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope. But this lung can weaken and at the moment at least two diseases are attacking it. One is materialism and the other is “toxic spiritual refuse” spreading from the so called “first” world to populations on other continents. Although colonialism is over in the political sense, it has never completely ended. Related to this is a second virus which is religious fundamentalism mixed with political and economic interests. Groups of different religious followings are spreading in Africa in the name of God but following a logic which is not divine and which are not practicing love and respect for freedom but intolerance and violence. With its work of evangelization and human promotion, the Church in Africa can give a great contribution to societies that suffer from poverty, injustice, violence and war. The vocation of the Church, a community of persons who are reconciled with God and among each other, is to foster reconciliation among ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. Reconciliation, a gift from God that people must ask for and welcome, is a stable foundation on which to build peace, which is indispensable for the true progress of mankind second to the project of justice wanted by God. [Vatican Radio] [Emphasis supplied]
I wish to conclude by saying that the death of my colleague Chief Gani Fawehinmi, S.A.N. has created a vacuum in the country which has to be filled by all Nigerians this time in the “court of public opinion” to engineer social change in which security operatives, spies undercover agents etc would participate, as we cannot have a Sultanate in competition with democracy, which brings me to the question I earlier asked. “Does one compromise one’s Christian faith when one works for the conversion of Nigeria to a Sultanate? In other words is it a sin? I have no direct answer not being a priest, but I would like to know as my conscience tells me that it is wrong as a Christian to work directly or indirectly for Nigeria to become a Sultanate.
Thank you and God bless Nigeria.