Hate, Hope and Impediments

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We seem to be living in extremely strange and somewhat interesting times. Last week, two events caught my attention. That of the “Kaduna Declaration” by the Northern Youths, and that of the call by the constituents of Kogi West for the recall of Senator Dino Melaye. But before I go into that, I cannot but make a brief comment about the Buhari Administration in general, having spent the best part of last week, watching many talk shows and interviews on how the Administration has fared so far, in its two years in office.

The Buhari Administration at 2: Statement of Results
Let’s just say that if the Buhari Administration had taken the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Examination, and I was an examiner, the Administration would have to retake the examination in some subjects. Apart from A1 in Tribalism and A2 in Nepotism and Old Boy Network, I would have awarded the Administration credits in Agriculture, the Fight Against Boko Haram, the Fight Against Corruption and Bringing Back some of the Chibok Girls. For the rest of the subjects, I would have given them a bunch of passes and a few F9s.

Certainly, they would have received F9 in Education and Health. President Buhari’s incessant trips and stays abroad on medical vacation, is an attestation to the fact that health care in Nigeria is less than adequate. Knowing the type of person that our President seems to be, if he could get the care he needed here in Nigeria, he would certainly not seek medical attention abroad. This is not to say that one expects that the Buhari Administration could do magic and turn our health care system around in two years, but it should at least be on the right track. Unfortunately, the extremely low budgetary allocations for health and education in 2017, do not reflect that it is indeed, heading in the right direction with regard to these critical sectors. For example, the allocation for health is 4.17% of the 2017 budget, that is, about N304 billion out of a N7.298 trillion total budget, amounting to just over N1,650 per Nigerian for the year. Ludicrous!

‘The Kaduna Declaration’
The Northern Youths’ so-called Kaduna Declaration made on June 5, giving the Igbos till October 1st, 2017, to quit all the Northern parts of Nigeria, must not be allowed to degenerate. The Declaration, in part, was a reaction to the IPOB shut down in the East on May 30.

The Kaduna Declaration is totally unconstitutional. Section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution), guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to move freely throughout Nigeria, while Section 43 gives every Nigerian the right to acquire immovable property anywhere in the country. To the extent that these constitutional provisions have not been repealed, the Kaduna Declaration is null and void ‘ab initio’, and of no effect. It also offends the provision against discrimination in Section 42(2) of the Constitution.

That said, the reason that I have stated that this declaration must not be allowed to degenerate into a crisis, is that the declaration is a call to hate, incitement and possibly violence, as the Northern Youths vowed to do a ‘peaceable mop-up and eviction’ of those who fail to adhere to the quit notice by the deadline. This is a crime. We are all Nigerians and we have equal rights. No one has the right or authority to place such restrictions on anybody. Who would want to leave behind all that they have laboured all their lives to acquire, just like that, because of some ridiculous declaration? I guess the Northern Youths may be too young to be aware of the fact that the Igbos had to more or less do this same thing during the Nigerian Civil War (July, 1967- January, 1970), that is, leave all they had in other parts of Nigeria behind, and return to the East.

The question is, can an illegal eviction of anyone be peaceable? That, in itself, sounds contradictory to me.
For us lawyers, when we serve a quit notice on an occupant who then fails to heed to the notice and vacate the premises on the expiry of the notice, we institute legal proceedings against such an erring occupant, and it is the court that then grants the prayers for the said occupant to vacate the premises, to pay mesne profit etc.

In the case of the Northern Youths, I did not get the impression that they intend to head to court to seek redress, if the Igbos fail to vacate the North by the deadline! To avoid unnecessary violence and bloodshed, Government needs to nip this declaration thing in the bud now. How can Government achieve this goal? By bringing those responsible for those utterances, to book.

What the Northern Youths who have made this declaration have done, is a threat to national security. In fact, the act of the Northern Youths can be considered to be seditious and a felony, falling within the purview of Sections 51(1)(b) and 62 of the Criminal Code Act, punishable with various terms of imprisonment. Their act also falls within the purview of Section 417 of the Penal Code (Northern States) Federal Provisions Act, 1960 (as amended) which is applicable in the Northern States of Nigeria; it states that:

“Whoever, seeks to excite hatred or contempt against any class of persons in such a way as to endanger public peace, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both.”

The Northern Youths seem to have retracted their inflammatory statements, probably not because they are repentant, but possibly because with the mass call for their arrest and prosecution, the thought of going to jail is highly unattractive!
Nigerian Police, you have your work cut out for you. Swing into action.

‘Ajekun Iya Lo Je’
I watched what I can only refer to as a ‘slanging match’ between Senators Melaye and Smart Adeyemi, (not an interview), on television two weekends ago. It was rather unbecoming. A recording of a conversation allegedly between Senator Melaye and a Judge was played on the program. The same recording made the rounds on social media. Even though we have all heard a lot of Senator Melaye’s voice lately, especially with the launch of his hit song ‘Ajekun Iya lo je’, he claims that it was not his voice on the recording, but a voice over. I therefore, agree with Senator Adeyemi, that the authorities must investigate the recording to ascertain its veracity. It is a serious allegation being levelled against Senator Melaye and the Judge.

However, to the people of Kogi West who are calling for Senator Melaye’s recall, the procedure for recalling a member of the Senate or House of Representatives, is not just about carrying placards on television. The procedure is provided for by Section 69 of the Constitution. Section 69(a) provides that more than half of the registered voters in the member’s constituency must sign a petition and present it to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, “alleging their loss of confidence’ in the member. The signatures must then be duly verified by INEC. Section 69(b) further provides that a referendum shall then be conducted by INEC within 90 days of receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the registered voters in the member’s constituency.

Shi ke nan (that is that). It is as simple as that. Section 69 does not say that the registered voters must prove that the member has done anything wrong, either by allegedly bribing a Judge to win the election, or by altering or falsifying INEC results, or by not having an office within the member’s constituency. Loss of confidence by the constituents in the member to represent them in the National Assembly, is sufficient reason for a recall.
However, Kogi West Constituents, Senator Melaye does not strike me as a push over! You will need much more than the very best of luck, to complete what may prove to be an uphill task! I hope that ‘e o ni je ajekun iya’ (I hope that you will not eat more than your fair share of suffering) in your bid to unseat Senator Melaye.

The Way Forward
It is obvious that, it is time for Government to take a very critical look at Nigeria, if it wants the country to remain united. If you want one Nigeria, prove it. As we say in law. “he who alleges, must prove”. There is way too much dissatisfaction and agitation all over, and for germane reasons too. That the areas that are Nigeria’s main source of revenue and wealth, are much less developed than some other parts of Nigeria, is visible to the naked eye. That a particular section of the country has held the Presidential position for up to half of the post-independence years, while others have not had a taste of the Presidency, is a well known fact. That the rate of unemployment and poverty continues to rise, is also a fact. The list of negatives, seems endless. It is time for action, not setting up of fruitless committees that yield no results nor condemnation nor talk.