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Clear, Apparent and Present Danger

August 27, 2008

The shadowy decoys for armed destabilization of our nascent democracy have eventually undergone qualitative transmutation in its latest attempt to provide a possibility to wade through the trenches of a stunning capacity for forbearing manipulations. In its clamoring effect to establish a firm centralizing force competent enough to march commando’s ferocity, the political PDP is again set to subject the political terrain to a perpetual flux and subvert the constitution and due political process.

The shadowy decoys for armed destabilization of our nascent democracy have eventually undergone qualitative transmutation in its latest attempt to provide a possibility to wade through the trenches of a stunning capacity for forbearing manipulations. In its clamoring effect to establish a firm centralizing force competent enough to march commando’s ferocity, the political PDP is again set to subject the political terrain to a perpetual flux and subvert the constitution and due political process. But the odious venom oozing out of Wadata Plaza to a keen observer of events in the normal discontented salariate can quickly conclude that tenure elongation with turbulence and tempest will return in due course, leaving an intact nomenclature that no proper nationalization can take place without instituting an instrument of manipulation of the political process with commanding heights.

The perversities are sorting out themselves through these actions to stir up petty animosities and rancor amongst its inwardly crying political masses. Whoever doubts this subversive initiative for dictatorial innovation is unconsciously succumbing to great shallowness and arrant superficiality. The time will come when bloated enduring images will play itself out distinctly and transparently. Unpopular growling and howling like the recent PDP declaration on the seven year single term is normally accompanied by rowdy protests of tirelessly aligning coalition saddened with cloak and dagger offensive conduct. This paradoxical rise of official fantasies in determining how long should Yar’adua reign would likely offer a cult of heroic political suicide in an attempt to discover the road to self validation. It is only those who forget how, why, when and where the whole Yar’adua project all started that will quiver at this dramatic descend to infamous political tragedy that awaits the nation.

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One of the basic conditions for democratic rule anywhere in the world is the acceptance of constitutionally imposed limits to the holding of public office. As many political philosophers have argued over the ages. Such limitations are necessary in order to safeguard the sovereignty of the people by constantly reminding those who offer themselves for public service that they are servants of the people, not bosses. This is why many political observers are astonished by the sinister move to transform the Nigerian presidency into an arena for kow tow. They are all the more flabbergasted that our president who proclaims servant leadership with a high respect for rule of law and respect for democracy is seemingly mute on this tragic development. Any attempt to understand what has become of Yar’adua’s important decision as a president, that is, the singular act of confessing on presiding over a stolen mandate and his will to amend the electoral process, which earned him considerable respect in Nigeria and the world at large and which nearly cleanse him, has to take into consideration the circumstances of his emergence as the president, the mission of the PDP which he is part, and the major actors in that scheme. The clamor for the seven year single term by the sycophants around the president and the president’s acquiescence cannot be understood without taking into consideration the above factors. It is clear then that from the actions of the president and the pronouncements of his acolytes, the foisting of authoritarianism on the country will be a reality sooner than later, unless Nigerians mobilized to resist. There is nothing wrong in constitutional amendments per se. Indeed, since 1816 Thomas Jefferson, one of the foremost American political thinkers and statesman, argued that, ‘Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truth disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also and keep pace with the times’. Jefferson was however, quick to block the PDP that he was; ‘certainly not an advocate of frequent untried changes in laws and constitutions’ For the reason that;’ moderate imperfections had better be borne with, because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them and find practical means of correcting their ill effects’. The framers of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did also envisaged that one day there might be the need to amend the constitution, hence they inserted section 9 dealing with the mode of altering the provisions of the constitution’s ‘moderate imperfections’, they made its amendment laborious. Nowhere was it implied in the constitution that it could be amended to satisfy the lust for power or the whims and caprices of an individual apparently drunk with messianic illusions of himself. The issue of whether an incumbent could benefit from the amendment of the constitution of a country’s government of which he or she leads was settled long ago. As Thomas Pain argued in the 1770s, constitutions create governments and give them their powers. They also regulate and restrain the powers so given. Therefore, as he argued;’ it is not for the benefit of those who exercise the powers of government that constitutions, and the governments issuing them, are established. In all those matters the right of judging and acting are in those who pay, and not those who receive. A constitution is the property of a nation, and not of those who exercise the government…. A constitution is a thing antecedent to the government and always distinct therefrom’. Hermann Cohen, a former United States Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, echoed this position when he correctly argued that; ‘It’s very undemocratic to change the constitution to benefit the person in power. If people want to get rid of the two term limit, they should do it for the next president. The same goes for the president’s salaries. Not long ago our president’s salary was increased by the congress but the law went into effect for the next man in office’. One of the justifications often put forward for this attempt to keep Yar’adua in power beyond the constitutionally stipulated limit is the nonsensical argument that Nigeria would experience stability, simply because there would be continuity of leadership at the top. This argument is not only nonsensical but dangerous because as we have seen in Africa, wherever it had been advanced the result had been repression, bloodshed and stagnation. This is because desperate leaders who are bent on cutting corners to stay foot can do desperate things. To say that only president Yar’adua has the discipline, experience and foresight to give quality leadership to Nigerians is as preposterous as it is irresponsible. Indeed, it is an admission of failure. One of the major aspects of good governance is the elimination of undue reliance on the political will and the personality of a leader. Good governance is achieved by improving the quality of government organization and service delivery, the respect for the rule of law and accountability. Unfortunately, since President Yar’adua came to power, the country has witnessed the deepening of kow tow around him and the presidency, with the attendant consequence of weakening the administration’s integrity manifested in allowing gnats like Saminu Turaki, Ojo Maduake and Aleru still calling the shots. Like Abacha, Yar’adua is also mute about this tragic situation. To argue, as these wangled charlatans do, that it is only President Yar’adua who is the sole repository of wisdom capable of taking Nigeria out of its doldrums or its dire straits, is an admission of failure that for the almost nine years that the PDP has been at the helm of affairs in this country, the business has been more than just usual. At the party level, it is also an admission that the party has failed woefully to perform one of the major functions of political parties, namely that of political recruitment of future leaders, training and equipping them with skills, knowledge and experience. The dangerous precedence set by African leaders from the sixties is modifying their constitutions to keep themselves in power to eternity. The process itself was marked by repression and in some cases violence. Those who oppose the amendments were termed traitors and arrested on trumped up charges of treason. They are either put behind bars for as long as the despots wished, or given some kangaroo trial, hanged or executed. In some cases opposition leaders or their supporters were simply eliminated. Sit tight African leaders also create extreme personality cult such as is beginning to rare its ugly head in Nigeria today. In many African countries, political, economic and ethnic tensions which despotic misrule had generated did not spare the security agencies, even though they were the last to be affected by the inevitable decay or the disintegration of the state. The constant use of the personnel of the armed forces and other security agencies in illegal and quite often terrible operations of detention without trial, torture and physical elimination of opponents, transformed them into private instrument of coercion of the despots. The choice postings given to some of these security personnel as rewards for their actions, the disparity these postings and special treatments created in living conditions within the security agencies and the corruption of the privileged few finally eroded the professionalism of those security agencies. As corruption became pervasive, the states sank deeper into despotism. The shrinking economy and the greed of the power elite made it impossible for them to maintain the networks of patronage common with despotic rules. The consequence of these was the inability of the same power elite to finance the security agencies. It was just a matter of time for alternative centers of power to emerge and boldly stake their claim to power. As the balance of power changed so also state monopoly of violence was challenged. The attempt by the PDP to thwart the constitution and stall the polls in 2011 to keep Yar’adua in power is pregnant with similar consequences for Nigeria. For one, if it succeeds, it will truncate the country’s transition to rational political process and entrench civilian dictatorship. For another, if care is not taken, the very process itself, whether successful or not, could lead to the same end. So far the President is mute as usual and his henchmen have advanced no convincing arguments to justify their inordinate desire to cling to power beyond time. Their actions however are strong pointers to the dangers ahead. The dangerous signals are beaming for even the blind to see. God save Nigeria!



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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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