Saturday THE ALTERNATIVE STORY
With Reno Omokri
Recently, there was a picture of blind Lady Justice in front of a Nigerian court. The statue of this Lady Justice was tilting faster than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and was almost falling down but for the fact that it was supported by a stick. But for the stick, it would have fallen.
The picture of this statue found its way to the Internet where it immediately went viral for the simple reason that it reflected the sad state of not just justice in Nigeria, but the Nigerian federation as a whole.
The Nigerian federation is being held up by the stick of free oil rent money from the Niger Delta, which no less a personality than Waziri Atiku Abubakar has warned is coming to the end of its shelf life.
If we need any further reminder of just how fragile this stick is we only have to consider the plight of the people of Venezuela. Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves of 300 billion barrels in the sands of the Orinoco Basin, the people are hungry and with a devalued currency they cannot import basic medicines. The national oil company, PDVSA is the stick holding up the remnants of the failing economy and is about to snap as it is having to borrow money to fund its dwindling operations at an eye-watering 48%. It is in a downward spiral caused by the false utopia of black gold.
Of course, Atiku Abubakar’s warnings were almost prophetic because 8 days after he gave his warning, the U.K. joined France, Norway and a host of other nations to announce that petrol and diesel engine cars will be illegal in their domains between 2025-2040, a fact that ThisDay captured quite aptly in their front page headline of July 27, 2017 which read, ‘Doom for Nigeria, Britain Moves to Ban Petrol, Diesel Cars by 2040’. I trust the Senate realise that the earlier date of 2025 is only 8 years from now.
But going back to the tilting statue of Lady Justice and what that portends for Nigeria nothing typified the sorry state of our judiciary (and by extension our nation) than two recent cases involving the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in similar court proceedings.
Murtala Nyako, an All Progressives Congress party member belonging to President Muhammadu Buhari’s 97% voting bloc was accused of stealing N29 billion. He applied to travel abroad for medical treatment while his case is being tried in court. Justice Abang and the EFCC DID NOT oppose his application and it was granted. Olisa Metuh, a Peoples Democratic Party member belonging to President Muhammadu Buhari’s 5% voting bloc is accused of having received NSA funds of N400 million and using it for campaigning for the PDP (and not for personal enrichment). He applied to travel abroad for a spinal injury to the same Justice Abang but in this instance, the EFCC opposed his application and it was denied, despite tendering reports from multiple neurosurgeons. Think about that before you come here to tell me that this current EFCC is not an arm of the APC or that Nigeria’s judiciary is not in need of restructuring!
This is what we have been reduced to in Nigeria. Forced to believe that someone like Olisa Metuh, who performed a job and was paid for it, is guilty, but Mr. Babachir Lawal, who enriched himself through a company connected with him and who hid the connection through a labyrinthine maze at the Corporate Affairs Commission, is innocent.
We are expected to believe that the Supreme Court Justice visiting Rotimi Amaechi, who publicly admitted to spending $500,000 of public funds (yes, you read that right – half a million dollars and he ADMITTED IT) to host Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, to a one-day dinner is free from corruption, but Olisa Metuh, who received funds to do the work that he was LEGALLY appointed to do, was arrested and thrown in a cell to be photographed unshaven like a common criminal.
And this is another reason why we need restructuring. I mean not only is it patently dishonest for the All Progressives Congress to deny that it campaigned on a promise of restructuring, it is also downright suicidal not to restructure because Nigeria has only two options – either there is a new Nigeria through restructuring or there will be no Nigeria in the future as we will surely be torn apart.
Groups like Boko Haram, the Indigenous People of Biafra, the herdsmen menace and Niger Delta militancy are only symptoms of the fact that Nigeria needs to restructure to stave off an impending implosion.
Almost from nowhere, The World Economic Forum ranked Nigeria the fifth most dangerous nation in the world on July 6, 2017. Before then the US Congress had cited Nigeria as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world. Not to restructure would be tantamount to playing the ostrich!
And it is not only our judiciary that needs restructuring. The whole polity desperately requires it.
On Sunday July 30, 2017, the Guardian had the following headlines, ‘Two million containers stranded in Lagos ports’.
The story is that ‘No fewer than two million containers laden with various cargoes worth over N5 trillion are currently stranded at the Lagos port complex, due to the inability of importers to evacuate them.’
Yet we have ports in Warri and Sapele, and Koko that are going to waste for lack of use. Is this not proof that our current unitary system which passes off itself as a federal system is not working and that we need restructuring?
Ever since the July 1966 counter coup, Nigeria has been implementing the quota system whereby educationally advantaged states in the South are cheated out of spaces in the public education system in favour of educationally disadvantaged states mostly in the North, in the mistaken belief that it will help even up the educational imbalance between Northern and Southern Nigeria, but has it worked?
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, after over 50 years of the policy, Imo State has the highest literacy level in Nigeria with 96.43% followed by Lagos (96.30 %), Ekiti (95.79 %), Rivers (95.76 %), Abia (94.24 %), Anambra (92.11 %), Osun (90.57%), Edo (90.53 %), Enugu (89.46 %, and Cross River (89 %).
On the other hand, Yobe has the lowest literacy rate in Nigeria with 7.23%, followed by Zamfara (9.16 %), Katsina (10.36%), Sokoto (15.01%), Bauchi (19.26%), Kebbi (20.51%), and Niger (22.88%).
And that is not all. According to data from the NBS, Imo state, which has the highest literacy rate in Nigeria of 96% has a population of 3.9 million people (according to the 2006 census) yet receives significantly less from the federation account than Yobe State which has the lowest literacy rate in Nigeria and a population of 2.7 million people (2011 estimates by the state government) which is lower than Imo’s population. What the data proves is that educational progress has only been made by those states that have been cheated by the quota system policy while in those states which are favoured by the policy, the literacy rate has remained virtually unchanged since the quota system was introduced.
This is despite the fact that they receive more money than their counterparts in the South despite the fact that Southern states generate by far more money for the federation than their counterparts in the North.
Facts DO NOT LIE. They ARE NOT bigoted and they DO NOT recognise region or religion.
So when are we going to stop ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room and call a spade a spade?
And the sad thing is that when someone as eminent as former vice President, Waziri Atiku Abubakar is bold enough to take the bull by the horns and say it as it is, pseudo intellectuals, who know the truth but owe allegiance to their bellies rather than their conscience, are procured by pint-sized enemies of restructuring to pooh pooh his ideas.
One of such instances was the piece, ‘The Confusion Called Restructuring’ by Tobi Soniyi, published in ThisDay of July 31, 2017.
In that piece, the armchair critic said, “Someone has to tell the former vice president that it (restructuring) isn’t going to be simple as he thinks.” Right there is the problem of these types of procured voices. They assume and forget that ‘assumption is the mother of all failures’.
The piece by Mr. Soniyi fell flat on its face for the simple reason that Waziri Atiku Abubakar has never said that restructuring will be simple or easy. What he and other patriots like him have said is that it is POSSIBLE!
That it is not simple does not mean that it cannot be done. As George Bernard Shaw said, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
Waziri Atiku Abubakar is the one person that has the moral authority to say restructuring is possible because he has engineered it before. He is not saying I can do it, he is saying I have done it.
Many Nigerians may have forgotten that there was once a dilemma in Nigeria called the onshore/offshore dichotomy.
In 1984, Major General Mohammed Buhari (rtd) reduced the amount of derivation funds paid to oil producing states to a paltry 1.5 % by military fiat and left the offshore oil revenues to the federal government.
It was not until the 1994-95 Constitutional Conference that patriots led by Shehu Musa Yar’adua and Atiku Abubakar mobilised other members of the conference to come up with a unique solution to the onshore/offshore dichotomy.
Their solution ‘provided a formula for the administration of the derivation principle and contained three very significant embodiments. The first is that allocation to derivation shall stand at a minimum of 13 per cent. The second is that the dichotomy between onshore and offshore exploration shall not be taken into account for the purpose of revenue allocation. The third is that the boundaries of littoral states were clearly defined as extending to Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone which at the time stood at two hundred nautical miles.’
When the 1999 Constitution refused to take this unique solution into consideration (being that it was forced on the nation by the military) the onshore/offshore dichotomy raised its ugly head and threatened to tank the then nascent Obasanjo administration and the nation with it.
It was precisely Atiku Abubakar who used the network he built at the 1994-95 conference to persuade both President Obasanjo and Niger Delta Governors like Obong Victor Attah and Dr. Peter Odili, (who were his colleagues at the 1994-95 constitutional conference) to reach a political solution and just like that, and by an Executive Order, President Olusegun Obasanjo, with the intervention of Atiku Abubakar, used a political solution to solve a problem caused by the constitution.
Another criticism raised at Atiku is that he is an opportunist and a new recruit to the cause of Restructuring for his own political expediency. This is another lie. But don’t take my word for it. Google “Atiku Abubakar Resolution Onshore/offshore dichotomy”, you will find for yourself articles from various Nigerian papers dating back to July 13, 2001, in which Atiku Abubakar has been championing restructuring.
In fact, I recommend the article, ‘Nigeria: 6-1 Onshore-Offshore Jurisdiction Verdict’ written by Jide Ajani, then the Political Editor of Vanguard Newspapers and published on that very day.
So restructuring is not just a catchy slogan to secure votes for Atiku Abubakar, like it was for the All Progressives Congress. He has been consistent with it. So let people like Tobi Soniyi, who think it cannot be done, take a class in contemporary Nigerian political history and when they are done, they can send a thank you note to Waziri Atiku Abubakar.
And unlike the APC who talk about change, Atiku is someone who has an unquestionable track record of delivering it.
Women, not every man that is nice to you is flirting or toasting you. Some mothers actually raised their sons to be gentlemen. Also women, never feel jealous of other women who marry before you even if you are older. Australia is 14 hours ahead of USA, yet America is richer, proving those who start before you aren’t necessarily ahead of you #RenosNuggets.