Using Enugu State as a case study, Emmanuel Njoku, x-rays the challenge of 2015
Democracy by definition is all about people. And people and freedom are synonymous the world over. The success of any democratic governance, therefore, is a function of the peoples’ approval. And of course, the endorsement is predicated on the gap between government and the governed.
On the one hand, freedom is the hallmark of democracy. Freedom of expression, association and worship are very popular and common. But the freedom to make input on how one is or should be governed is the most meaningful dividend of democracy. For any leadership to be formidable and transformational enough, it must be participatory.
The leadership and followership must be actively complementary. Opinions and views of the people must be gauged regularly for the system to function effectively and perhaps efficiently. In other words, the people must not only be recognised but must be respected as major stakeholders for the government to pass as responsible and responsive.
Adequate people-oriented sustainable norms and values should be instituted to grant the people a high level of sense of belongingness.
However, lack of transparency, mutual communication and probity lead to failure, but absence of rule of law cause outright collapse of any authority.
Hence in order for rule of law to truly be the catalyst for stability of democratic enterprise, the people for whom the law is made for their governance must not only be in tune with but must be actively involved in formulating such bodies of law. It is only in these that they can truly understand the workings of the governments and their obligations to them. This hypothesis apparently is the major reason why civil rule at any level and situation is far better than any other form of government, particularly military.
How does a follower get involved in the process of lawmaking one may ask? In providing the answer, Nigeria just like other enlightened democracies across the globe recently embarked on the review and amendment of the 1999 Constitution towards achieving a stable polity.
The federal legislators were mobilised to go to their various constituencies to confer with and derive powers from the people on the areas they would wish the alterations to focus on. That was a clear demonstration of democracy in action.
It was roundly applauded. The people saw it as bringing governance to their doorsteps. They did not pretend about their readiness to take due advantage of the opportunities to make their views and opinions count. All over the country, awareness were being created with every mode of sensitisation.
There were consultations of sort in virtually every hamlet, church, mosque and all other social settings. Heightened unprecedented political consciousnesses were witnessed. Even Nigerians in the Diaspora flew home to be part of history. Most lawmakers used the creations of the moment to re-unite with the electorate. It was a great occasion to feel the pulse of the grassroots.
The expectations were that at last, the people of Nigeria can have truly a constitution where the phrase – WE THE PEOPLE – can hold true in its essence. It was an action no one wished to miss. Every constituency looked forward with high hopes to being part of a new beginning. Different platforms and settings were deployed but all pointed to getting the people together in an interactive fashion to critically assess the proposed segments to be changed.
Every constituency was expected to speak with one voice on all the highlighted issues. And to achieve such harmony, there should be a thorough breakdown of the grey areas for a complete comprehension. It turned out to be an interesting teacher-pupil session everywhere. All of a sudden, reports began to emerge in the bad, the good and the ugly manners. The entire mass communication media became awash of fall-outs from the meetings. Different stories were heard but one was of utmost interest.
Those that keenly followed the late General Sani Abacha transition programme of 1998 would recall that it was only Enugu-East Senatorial Zone that made headlines. Jim Nwobodo and Ken Nnamani fiercely locked horn in a manner that every single soul from the zone was highly political. Every readily available arsenal was employed. There is no gainsaying that the heat was felt beyond the boundaries of the area.
Similar scenario repeated itself but in a more dramatic style.
Among different newspaper headlines, precisely Vanguard edition of November 15th 2012 had this caption: POLICE, LG BOSS HALT ENUGU-EAST PUBLIC HEARING ON CONSTITUTION REVIEW.
The story began by saying that “The silent war between Senator Gilbert Nnaji representing Enugu East senatorial district at the National Assembly and Mrs Ifeoma Nwobodo, Chief of Staff to Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, was blown open yesterday when the public hearing on the review of the 1999 constitution organised by the senator was stopped”.
People became confused for a while. Reason was not far-fetched. These two officials have completely different powers and their schedules are not in any way conflicting. And peradventure there was a gap between the senator and governor; Chief of Staff should not be the arrow head. Whereas Nnaji was elected as a senator of the federal republic, Nwobodo was just an appointed aide of the state governor
Then came the question of local government chairman and police involvement in quashing a national function that had all the backings of the law with also a high-ranking senator and two members of the House of Representatives among other public officials in attendance. The traditional rulers, clergy, civil society organisations, women and youths were not left out. What an absurdity!
It was later reported that Mrs. Nwobodo is nursing an ambition to replace Nnaji at the Senate come 2015 with the tacit support of the state governor. In fact it was further revealed that the governor expressly ordered the council chairmen within the zone to use every possible resource to ensure that Nwobodo gets to senatorial ticket as a compensation for carefully covering his tracks.
The recent sack of the Accountant-General, Mrs Eunice Ugwu laid credence to this claim. On the strength of this, therefore, Nwobodo erroneously interpreted the occasion of the town hall meeting to mean purely a political campaign to shore up support for Nnaji’s re-election and did all within her reach, especially by deploying state apparatus at her command to frustrate the event.
A senior police officer, CSP Simon Ihuaenyi, was accused of having provided the police help. To all intents and purposes, she succeeded in robbing the generality of Enugu-East Senatorial Zone the rare opportunity of having their voices heard in this ongoing process of reshaping the country. This is indeed an irreparable loss that even the unborn generations would partake in.
Meanwhile, as the National Assembly votes on the proposed amendments on the 1999 Constitution and in retrospect, I recall how and when Josef Umunnakwe Onoh, youngest son of the late former Governor of old Anambra State, Chief C.C. Onoh, was on Tuesday, September 29, 2009, arraigned before an Enugu Magistrate’s Court on a five-count charge of conspiracy and defamation. I can now vividly view him being brought into the court room on a wheel chair having being dragged from Park Lane Hospital where he had been on admission.
His offence was largely for attempting to criticise Mrs Nwobodo. He was joined in the criminal suit with a correspondent of the Sun Newspaper, Goddy Osuji, whose offence was publishing a story “with intent to injure the reputation of Mrs. Nwobodo, by exposing her to hatred, contempt and ridicule, as well as damage her profession or trade”.
The piece which was published on pages 4 and 24 of the Sun Newspaper of Monday, August 24, 2009, centred on abuse of office in the public service of Enugu State.
According to the prosecution, the allegations were false. The matter was adjourned as the accused pleaded not guilty while his counsel filed for a bail application. It is still not known how the matter eventually ended but neither Goddy Osuji nor Josef Onoh went to jail and Mrs. Nwobodo remains the Chief of Staff till date.
That is just the reason I felt compelled to weigh that episode side-by-side the same report in virtually every medium of how Mrs Nwobodo used a council Chairman, Ekene Okenwa and a police officer, to scuttle a sensitisation town hall meeting organised for the people of Enugu-East senatorial zone on the proposed amendment to the constitution.
Investigation revealed that despite the widely publicised stories, Mrs Nwobodo did not in any way deny culpability much less, instituting legal actions against the media houses.
-Njoku wrote from Enugu State