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Presidency's dry jokes on unity, ethics

By News Express on 17/10/2018

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A typical day in the Abuja seat of political power is usually packed with events and social convivialism, with outputs that obviously don't impact positively on the social well-being and welfare of the greatest percentage of Nigerians, because most items of discussions are issues that hover between the mundane and theatrical.

Against the foregoing backdrop, last Thursday - October 11, 2018 - was by every account, a typical politically-charged day for the two topmost temporary occupants of Aso Rock presidential palace, with each of the duo making speeches that betray the actual realities as they are, when compared to their public conducts as political leaders. Basically, the kernels of their messages are otherwise altruistic if they, indeed, represent their worldviews. But since their actions are by far diametrically opposed to the Thursday sermons by President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, they are, therefore, like teachers who expect their students to do as they say but not as they do. But the most efficient and effective tutors are those whose teachings are the fundamental ideology of their modus operandi and modus Vivendi. Put differently, good teachers are those whose teaching replicates their belief system and practices. 

Let's look at the major itinerary of the President on that Thursday, which is the thematic area of our analysis today. 

To begin with, let’s remind ourselves that President Buhari who is a retired Army Infantry General, rode on the back of the political promise to restore national security and quash the rebellion of the Boko Haram terrorists, to win the 2015 poll. His key promise was anchored on defence. National security is achieved in an atmosphere of unity and peaceful co-existence. 

But three clear years down the line, the issues of national security is still a major challenge just as the threats to national security and the unity of the nation have escalated given the activities of divergent armed bandits, especially the armed Fulani herdsmen. The policy of incumbent President Buhari's administration in concentrating all strategic national security institutions to be headed exclusively by persons of Hausa/Fulani extraction, who are mostly Moslems - in a nation that is multi-ethnic and secular society with divergent religious groups of persons - is a clear danger to national unity. 

Amid these critical threats and the use of violence by such non-state actors, such as the armed Fulani herdsmen, the federal administration that promised to prioritise national security has simply looked the other way as the kinsmen of President continues their murderous rampaging through farmlands of indigenous Christian communities in the North-central states and Southern Kaduna.

Whereas the Federal Government in Abuja has willfully refused to act decisively to crush the armed Fulani insurgency, this same government used the sledge-hammer to unleash venomous attacks and violence using the armed security forces to target the unarmed civilian members of a self-determination group known as Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) with large concentration in the South-east. This represents the most dangerous scenario of discriminatory application of policy by a government that is obligated by law not to discriminate against any group. However, it is an irony for the same President who whimsically breaches clear provisions of the Constitution to be cited shortly as clinging on to a phantom appreciation of national unity.  How can you call yourself a unifier when the most strategic national security jobs are outsourced to your kinsmen, while other professionals from over 300 ethnicities are alienated and excluded? 

As far as the Katsina State-born President is concerned, the unarmed agitators who adopt peaceful protests to demand greater autonomy for their regions - in line with international laws - are deemed much more dangerous than the armed Fulani bandits who are credited with over a thousand violent attacks on communities that have resulted in over 6,000 casualties.

Buhari has, again, regaled his audience with his worldview on what is considered a greater danger to national security - when he told some persons who came visiting from the South East of Nigeria for the purpose of holding prayer sessions for his second term ambition - that anyone who threatens national unity will be dealt with.

Regrettably, as he spoke, the exact physical whereabouts of Prince Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the unarmed but now proscribed IPOB and that of his parents are unknown.  Their forced disappearances occurred over a year ago, when soldiers forcefully attacked his family home in Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia, Abia State during the “Operation Python Dance II.”

Video evidence that trended from this military attack showed that dozens of completely unarmed agitators for self-determination under the platform of IPOB were gruesomely murdered in Aba, Isiala Ngwa North, Umuahia, and several other parts of the South-east of Nigeria.

But these unusual visitors from the East to the Aso Rock presidential villa did not talk about the killings and proliferation of security checkpoints in the South-east of Nigeria, but were after their pockets. The President, nevertheless, was happy with these clowns who visited him so much so that he repeated his warped understanding of what constitutes threats to national unity. 

As gathered from the media President Buhari, on that Thursday in Abuja, declared that the Federal Government is ready to contend with “anyone” who is against the peace and unity of Nigeria.  

 “Anybody that tries to joke with the unity of this country has a problem, as long as we are alive,” Buhari said while receiving Eze Abdulfatah Emetumah III, the Offor of Umuofor kingdom in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State.

 The President told members of the delegation led by the monarch, who is also the Chief Imam of Oguta that his main objective of serving as an elected public office holder is to make the country better.  

“Our single objective is how to make Nigeria better, and we will never get tired,” Buhari said, as he thanked the delegation for identifying with the “progress made so far by this administration in moving the nation forward.” He assured them that their recommendations on engendering unity in the country would be considered.

It is important to provide clear evidence to support the belief in most informed circles that, indeed, it is Buhari’s parochial attitude to security and one-sided policy of building major infrastructures only in Katsina State that actually pose a grave threat to national unity.

By the way, it is hypocritical to talk about national unity under an atmosphere of deliberate exclusion of most ethno-religious nationalities from the governing institutions of government.

In the following sections of the Constitution - which have been breached with reckless abandon by the President - the provisions are obligations to all persons and authorities to adhere to the precepts so as to engender national unity. 

Section 1 (1) (II): “This constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”

Sections 13: “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of this constitution.” 

It provides in section 14 (1) that: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state, based on the principles of democracy and social justice; (2) “It is hereby, accordingly, declared that  sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government, through this constitution, derives all its powers and authority; the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”

Section 14 (3) obliges government as follows: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.

(4) “The composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognize, in the conduct of the affairs of the government or council, the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the federation.”

Then section 15 (5) which outlaws nepotism and several other corrupt practices already noticed in the current administration states:  “The state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power."

The grund-norm obliges government not to practice discrimination in section 42 (1): “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person(s) be subjected - either expressly or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria, or any executive or administrative action of the government - to disabilities or restrictions to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject; or be accorded either expressly by - or in the practical application of - any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to Nigerian citizens of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions.”

The foregoing constitutional provisions are safeguards mainstreamed in our laws for the administration to comply with so as to promote national unity. But the President, who  breaches the Constitution with reckless abandon,still mouths the concept of national unity. 

If truth be told, the greatest threats and traitors to national unity are the official misconducts of President Buhari’s All Progressives Congress Administration (APC) administration.

Still on that same “busy Thursday”, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo jetted off to Asaba - to honour an invitation extended to the Presidency by the leadership of the Nigeria Guild of Editors - for the All Nigeria Editors Conference (ANEC) at the Delta State capital.  He, similarly, delivered his political sermon. But, this time around, he accused journalists of killing their field due to a large dose of “unethical” and conducts that belittle the profession.

This same administration that arrested a journalist from Bayelsa State and detained him under inhumane conditions - at the Department of State Services (DSS) dungeon in Abuja for two years - is here talking about a threat to the media profession. Sadly, key figures in this administration have demonstrated overwhelming disrespect for such pro-media laws as the Freedom of Information Act, to an extent that it is the height of hypocrisy for the vice-president to blame journalists for seeking to totally kill their industry.

However, Osinbajo urged Nigerian media practitioners to remain focused on fair and objective reporting for “credibility and as unbiased umpires”, especially as the 2019 general elections inch closer. He stated this during the ANEC in Asaba.

His words: “The journalism profession has always been at a greater risk than other professions, and freedom of expression has always given people the right to information.

But there were some actions by some regulatory parliaments that created obstacles for all new-comers, except for renowned professionals, and this created some restrictions.”

The vice-president said time was when someone would say, “I read it in the Daily Times because whatever was written then was absolutely meant to be the truth. But today, skeptics will ask: who sponsored the story?  Most of the investigative reports are broadcast by the social media, such as blogs, television channels and many others.”

“The Guild is a society of gate-keepers to who belong the responsibility of defining the efforts, norms and ethics of this profession. It also has the burden of setting the acceptable rules, conventions and practices of the profession.

“This gathering is, therefore, made greater in a society where corruption is the order of the day, and where there is constant fight; the burden of The Guild is to ensure that rules and regulations are enforced and kept, as it is a self-regulatory profession,” he said.

 Let no sane person take these words of the vice-president as a true reflection of the belief system and policy practice of the Presidency. First, the publicly-owned Nigerian Television Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Voice of Nigeria and News Agency of Nigeria are some of the most inefficiently administered and governed institutions that have now been hijacked by politicians of the All Progressives Congress. Therefore, the substantial percentage of the programmes and news contents are dirty propaganda for the incumbent administration. These publicly sponsored media houses are barred from airing independent-minded news stories, even as the National Broadcasting Commission is similarly hijacked by an All Progressives Congress politician who even unsuccessfully contested to become APC governorship standard-bearer in Kwara State. The Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr Osita Okechukwu, unsuccessfully ran for a senatorial ticket in Enugu under the APC. These politicians holding sensitive media appointments paid by the taxpayers are not professionally administering those institutions. Why is the vice-president not concerned about this deterioration of professional ethics among the hierarchies of publicly-funded media houses? He is pointing a finger at other journalists, but his four fingers are pointing right back at him and his principal. 

The vice-president must be aware that there is a group known as the Buhari Media Organisation, which acts like a politically-tainted watchdog degenerates to an extent that paid agents of this amorphous political group of fanatics often attack independent opinions published in the mainstream and social media. The duty assigned to these agents working for the Media Office affiliated to the President, is to pollute the media atmosphere with political propaganda and half-baked reports to advance the media profile of President Buhari.

The home truth is that the vice-president and his principal are some of the worst threats to the media industry.

To conclude, I challenge President Buhari with the stark realities that his government has done more to imperil and endanger national unity than all of the past administrations put together.  His contempt for section 14 (3) of the Constitution on federal character principle on appointments into key offices is the number one grave threat to national unity. 

Those who peacefully demand for greater autonomy for their marginalised regions should not be treated as enemies of unity. Such agitators are showing us ways and means and the need for restructuring the polity, to give greater autonomy to different federating units.  They are democrats who must be commended because what they are offering us is, perhaps, the panacea to the heightened clamours for self-determination. 

Buhari and Osinbajo must be told to stop their theatrical jokes on unity and ethics.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 17/10/2018 10:44:03 AM

 

 

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