Wednesday, August 08, 2018 07.08PM / OpEd FA
“This is most disheartening. We don’t get any joy in saying: We said so. We don’t. However, some of you may recall that about two years ago, I stated that there was a government within this government, to a purpose that was not in the interest of what the people voted for. I said it then, and now, almost on a daily basis, we are seeing the manifestations of that government within a government. It beats one’s imagination how the head of a security agency could have authorized the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday. Only recently we saw in Benue how 8 members of the 30 members of State House of Assembly with the collaboration of security forces, DSS and police tried to impeach the Governor.”
- 4th para in Text of Press Statement by Senate President and Speaker, House of Reps on the unlawful blockade of the National Assembly By DSS and others unknown.
Some will read the above excerpt and gloss over it as empty political rhetoric, some will assume political motivations and choose sides; yet a small but growing number will read this and be encouraged to interrogate further.
It is to this latter category of Nigerians (which happens to be in the minority) that this missive is directed. This is an attempt to encourage these group of Nigerians to look beyond the lenses of partisan politics and realize the benefit of this disclosure in lifting the veil of governance in Nigeria and help us move away from a zero sum game where no wins but one where Nigeria can rediscover her reason for being.
I see this singular statement as a blessing as it opens up the door for a reply that could help rid us of a disease that has plagued governments for decades, and may continue to do so in 2019 and beyond if we are not conscious of the underbelly; something I have come to see all too well from the economic benefit viewpoint(s).
The biggest political players are not necessarily those you see in the fields, they are in our professions, religious circles, judiciary, security, industry and media; and they conduct their affairs through our financial system/professionals. This is, has been, and may continue to hold true as political historians will attest to. Yet, knowing how the system works can help this generation overcome the naiveté that attends discourse and engagement; but more importantly, it will provide a searchlight for navigation through the tunnel of governance and re-confirm motives, approach and action points for re-engaging. Ultimately, thi will enable us collectively answer the age-old question – in whose interest do you serve?
“A Government within a Government” – Adapted View:
It is becoming increasingly apparent to Nigerians committed to a democratic system of governance that government is no longer being exclusively conducted in accordance with the Nigerian constitution; and this is not just with regards to the separation of powers; but the role of institutions.
The elites have long recognized this aberration and have built a system since independence to recognize the reality. While the rich and powerful often corrupt individual officials, or exert undue influence to get legislation passed that favours their interests; most Nigerians slavishly cling to the naive belief that such corruption is exceptional (hence the drama around what is a national DNA), and that most of the institutions of society, the courts, the press, and law enforcement agencies, still largely comply with the constitution and the law in important matters. They expect that these corrupting forces are disunited and in competition with one another, so that they tend to balance one another. This is a myth.
Mounting evidence makes it clear that the situation is far worse than most people think, and that during the last several decades, especially of our democratic journey, the Nigerian constitution has been effectively shown ineffectual to delivering on the sovereign of our dreams and that it is now observed only as a façade to deceive and placate the masses.
What has replaced it is what is called the “government within a government” or in the more media-defined popular parlance the Kitchen Cabinet, the Cabal or Shadow Government. Whichever term you use, and for whatever convenience, it still is, for the most part, operated in secret and sustained by a system of patronage that allows all levers of governance to function outside the “system” because it knows its control is not secure.
The exposure of this system of government and its operations must now become a primary duty of citizens who still believe in the ‘rule of law’ and in the freedoms our constitution is supposed to represent; and for which makes elections to matter and carry consequences. This cannot therefore be limited to a discussion about the current administration; it is about governance in Nigeria as this administration simply fell back on the tried and tested system that allows the kitchen cabinet, cabal and shadow government thrive.
Truth is, it remains difficult to pin-point or identify a single date or event that marks these system/people out, but for the sake of expanding the thought process; we can identify some critical signposts.
The first was The Nigerian Land Use Act 1978 – a principal legislation that regulates contemporary land tenure in Nigeria. ... an Act to vest all land compromised 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 organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes while similar powers will with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on Local Governments (27th March 1978).
This law, for all intents and purposes, nationalized land when it placed it in the hands of the government as a custodian, to hold in trust and administer for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians. The economic development and prosperity of states and indeed the federation is held back by this singular act which still connotes, for emphasis, language written in the military-era lingo including refrences to military administrators and orders.
As research have shown, the goals set out has been hampered by self-inflicted obstacles - the inherent contradictions and defects in the law, the institutional weakness and the lack of political will to implement the Act fairly and equitably to focus on economic development and easy access to land by both government and the citizens; and its use as collateral for financial transactions (contradictions et al).
The second was the Federal Constitution of 1999 promulgated on 29 May 1999, which was to all extent a renovation and dust-off of the 1979 Constitution (similar to how we took the British Companies Act of 1948 and created the first Companies Act of 1968 by simply changing city, currency and desriptions), which established the basis of governance of the federation. Historians have recorded it that “elected officials and Nigerians did not see this document until after the elections (during the hand-over process); thus forever subjecting it to a crisis of ownership because, when it was created, there was not even a pretence of general public participation.”
Thus, Nigeria operates on paper a three-tier federal structure consisted of the federal, state, and local governments. Each level of government has constitutionally guaranteed autonomy in the area in which it operates. Local government is a guaranteed third-tier of government, even though the 1999 Constitution, Section 7(1) provides that state governments shall “ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.” That remains a part of our union we are still trying to perfect, one that affects the developmental goals at the grassroots.
The main problem however resides with the three items that severely compromise the legislative union – the exclusive list, the concurrent list and the residual list.
The legislative lists in the Constitution provide for the distribution of powers: the exclusive legislative list is assigned to the federal government; the concurrent legislative list is assigned to both federal and state governments and defines areas in which both can legislate; and the residual legislative list is assigned to the states. The exclusive legislative list has sixty-eight items, while the concurrent legislative list has twelve. Somewhere along the way, we forgot about the NATURAL INTENT, despite the limitations mentioned above. Yet, beyond losing CONTEXT, we sadly lost the ability to drive an institutional value chain and social anchor!
Whilst citizens have rights as stipulated in the Constitution under chapter II of the CFRN 1999 in sections 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of the State Policy of the economic, social and cultural rights, otherwise referred to as Policy Directives Rights; it is however non-justiciable by virtue of section 6 (6) (c) of the same constitution ….. which states that the government (c) Shall not, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act or omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in chapter II of this Constitution.
The CONTEXT was lost and thus progress by design became a lottery, making sure that Nigeria may only progress by coincidence! Citizens unfortunately therefore cannot obtain redress from the courts if denied the socio-economic, developmental and other rights provided for in Chapter II of the same constitution. So what is the purpose of the social contract if it is unenforceable?
Current thinking and advancement gleaned from other societies to address their developmental challenge(s) consider this unsustainable with the desire to develop a productive society; as opined by the former Chief Judge of India (Blagnati 1988) at an all-judges colloquium held in Bangalore “…human rights depend fundamentally on right to life and personal liberty which is a core human right. The right to life is not confined merely to physical existence but it includes also the right to live with basic human dignity, with the basic necessities of life such as food, health, education, shelter etc…”
The Nigerian Constitution (as is) remains a formidable impediment to economic development and prosperity at a scale that matches the needs of the Nigerian society and as a critical tool for socio-economic development...someone forgot the CONTEXT and it soon became a political game!
Given the nature of our federal constitution which stipulates power sharing arrangements among the three (3) tiers of government, matters with bother on development; i.e. Education which happens to be on the concurrent list with both the federal and state governments sharing responsibility for regulation:- policy formulation and implementation; tends to make innovation a matter of consensus rather than initiative!
Further, and still using the example of education; arising from the s18 provisions in the constitution; the state government is enjoined to provide free education at all levels with a caveat to wit: “Government shall as and when practicable provide free, compulsory and universal primary education; free secondary education; free university education; and free adult literacy programme”.
Further erosion of entrepreneurial ability of citizens can be found in the laws of the country which was shaped by an ideology yet to be defined and placed within a body of consistent principles upon which we can make informed assessments. In some respects we appear to be believe in an imperial notion of big governments while at other times, we appear driven by liberalized ideals or capitalist urges; only to end up where we are today - simply running a convoluted system of government that is ideal for a government within a government to thrive. Our politics is yet to rise up to the much needed level of structurally defining the type of country we want to be and how we want to create wealth as a nation.
Take for example the energy dispensed, at a tangent for distraction value, over the National Youth Service Corps 1973 Act (created by the Gen. Yakubu Gowon regime and enacted to promote national unity by deploying young graduates of higher educational institutions – local and foreign - to states other than their own for one year of national service) which was entrenched in the Constitution, in “the national interest,” as perceived by the military regime them and sustained till date. The economic, productivity and social integration relevance and value has never been properly interrogated by the executive and legislature since then to ensure the youth of the country are benchmarking themselves against global best standards of excellence and not stuck in the vision of power usurpers who designed same for their own political road map. How does the NYSC impact the competitiveness of Nigeria today ought to be the question a serious political class should be answering.
We are here today because we fail(ed) to do the heavy lifting required of purpose-led nations – both at the leadership and followership levels; hyper-extending our notion of the doctrine of necessity to a statecraft. Indeed, some would argue that we lost one of such opportunities in 2015, even as I expect political historians to look back at this period as one that unleashed in the people a new consciousness of what some will relate with as ’incremental learning in governance’.
This current episode and its handling (unlike others before it) signposted a departure from norm, and that is significant whichever way one is looking at it. The crisis occasioned by the misadventure of the Departments of State Security (DSS); an otherwise professional service designed to gather intelligence within the country and for the protection of senior government officials, particularly the President and state governors; remains however a symptom of an institutional malaise in governance and not the main problem.
The statement from the presidency and action taken yesterday offered a signaling effect, though not far-reaching enough to establish a deterrent. More instructive also was the statement referenced above from the national assembly which for all intent and purposes offers a reconciliatory yet defiant tone; as was the spin/pitch on the morning national television which seemed to suggest a possibility that the DSS was used for political purposes by external persons outside the usual reporting lines. This narrative is ill-thought out and raises a whole series of concerns about the integrity and trsut in the operational practices and culture of the institution.
The task before us now is to find ways of moving beyond the unending drama, media hysteria, conspiracy theories and plain truancy, as daunting as it may seem, and refocus ourselves to the issues affecting the lives of citizens and our overall economic well-being.
There is the view out there that any possibility that #Elections2019 will offer a pathway out now appears illusory. The principal actors have not given any reason to conclude otherwise yet we must hold out a slim hope that ‘reason and calm heads’ will prevail to reverse the adverse reaction of markets, investors and businesses to the escalating political risks ramped up.
The country deserves better governance than this collective soap opera. If we have to challenge status quo – then let it be on legislation that protects us from a government within a government which benefits only a few at the expense of the majority who are hurting and generally negatively contributing to sovereign productivity.
1. Impact of the Nigerian Land Use Act on Economic Development in the Country ... Matthew Enya Nwocha (2016)
2. Ogun Standard Education: A Way Forward – Olufemi AWOYEMI May 23, 2017