Nigeria at 57: The Challenge of National Untruth and Injustice

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President Muhammadu Buhari

The environmental conditioning of political governance in Nigeria is, at best, very inclement. The inclemency is traceable to both domestic and international factors. But one common factor in both cases is self-serving policy, double standards lifestyle and insincerity of purpose as foundation of governance. At the international level, for instance, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is preaching the gospel of human rights and the need for democratisation worldwide, but has not itself shown any preparedness for the same democratisation within the framework of the UNSC. The Five Permanent Members of the UNSC (US, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia), often referred to as the P-5, hide under Article 109 of the UN Charter to hold the entire members of the organisation into ransom.

For example, as provided for in paragraph 1 of Article 109, ‘a General Conference of the Members of the United Nations for the purpose of reviewing the present Charter may be held at a date and place to be fixed by a two-thirds vote of members of the General Assembly and by a vote of any seven members of the Security Council. Each Member of the United Nations shall have one vote in the conference.’ Explained differently, the UN Charter can always be reviewed but subject to the convening of a conference, the date and venue of which has to be fixed by two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The two-thirds membership of the UNGA must include, at least, any seven members of the UNSC.

While this paragraph appears to allow the initiative to come from the non-P-5 members, paragraph 2 of the same Article 109 leaves the finality of whatever vote to be decided by any member to the P-5. As contained in the paragraph, ‘any alteration of the present Charter recommended by a two-thirds vote of the conference shall take effect when ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two-thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the Permanent Members of the Security Council.’ Thus, making the inclusion of all the P-5 a part-condition for the validity of the ratification is an inherent impediment to any possible alteration which can take the form of an amendment, review, modification, etc. Thus, anything to be done to the UN Charter must be done with the consent of the P-5.

In this regard, paragraph 3 says ‘if such a conference has not been held before the tenth annual session of the General Assembly following the coming into force of the present Charter, the proposal to call such conference shall be placed on the agenda of that session of the General Assembly, and the conference shall be held if so decided by a majority vote of the members of the General Assembly and by a vote of any seven members of the Security Council.’

This means that a review or alteration conference can still be held without the consent of any member of the P-5 for as long as there is the yes vote of seven members of the Security Council. However, this provision does not necessarily override the right of use of veto or the principle of unanimity for which Articles 23-26 and 108-110 have also clearly provided. Explicated differently, Article 27 allows a permanent member to prevent the adoption of any substantive Council decision. This provision has been largely responsible for the delay in the full democratisation, and particularly the review, of veto power as provided for in the UN Charter. According to Article 27, ‘decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members, including the concurring votes of the permanent members provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.’

This provision necessarily raises the question of big power politics, which appears to be aiding and abetting disintegration in Nigeria. That Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, accused France and Britain a fortnight ago of aiding and abetting the IPOB, is an illustration of the place of big power politics. Big power politics is a very critical issue. In fact, one of Nigeria’s fine diplomatists, Ambassador L.O. Oladejo Oyelakin, gave an idea of how the world would look like in the twenty-first century, considering what the United States and Western Europe do. As he put it, ‘if the United States attempts to supervise the world as a global man, a hitherto unknown entity with lethal weapons might precipitate military action which could embarrass the United States.’
Additionally, he observed that ‘a powerful country in Eastern Europe may call off the American bluff and team up with Germany to form, for example, the Russian-German axis. Such alliance may constitute another power and thus bring about a Cold War. China, too, may gain ascendancy and become an equal rival of the United States. The twenty-first century might then witness rapid build-up of armaments which the United States or any other country might not be able to contain.’ Consequently, Ambassador Oyelakin further contended, ‘what will happen in the twenty-first century is hard to predict but it would largely depend on the United States and her foreign policy, which, itself, may be dictated by the discovery of another source of energy’ (vide L.O. Oladejo Oyelakin, The Nigerian Diplomatic Practice (Lagos: NIIA, 2014, p. 624).

We cannot agree more with Ambassador Oyelakin. The current foreign policy of the United States under President Donald Trump encapsulates all the predictions of Ambassador Oyelakin. The ascendancy of China in global politics is already a truism. Emergence of North Korea as a nuclear weapon state, regardless of whatever international opposition and sanctions, is another reality. What is particularly noteworthy about the case of North Korea is that, against the wishes of international law and the foreign policy interests of the big powers, North Korea has defied the global community in an attempt to further its own national interests.

The insincerity of purpose and politics of double standards that should be underscored here is that the existing nuclear powers do not want any new nuclear power to emerge, but are regularly enriching their own nuclear arsenals. They aid and abet some countries in their orbit of influence to acquire nuclear capacity and capability, while preventing others from acquiring it. This is one illustration of double standards in international relations that threatens global peace and security. This is the international environment of political governance in Nigeria.
The essence of the foregoing is to show that, on the one hand, the international community is constantly giving the impression that it is seriously and honestly seeking international peace and security, while, in deeds, it is not for various reasons. Manufacturers of conventional weapons cannot but be thrown out of business if there is to be peace and security everywhere. There will also not be any room and opportunity for interference and intervention, as well as show of military force in the domestic affairs of other countries as prohibited in Article 2, paragraph 7 of the UN Charter. In fact, there will also not be any good basis for foreign aid or assistance were the world to be completely free from global political chicanery. It is, indeed, the factor of disorderliness in developing countries that the big powers have been capitalising on to survive and sustain their self-acclaimed leadership of the world.

Most unfortunately too, the foundations of political governance, and particularly good governance, in Nigeria are not, stricto sensu, patterned after those of global governance, as greater emphasis is placed on individual interest and not on national interests in Nigeria. The big powers largely and frequently defend their national interests in Nigeria. However, in Nigeria, it is more of individual, selfish interests that are promoted, cherished, compensated and honoured. Any individual seriously and honestly seeking to defend national unity, growth and development, is often sanctioned and persecuted immediately on the altar of anti-Nigeria sermons.

But true enough, who is to be blamed for lack of good governance in Nigeria? The basic elements of good governance, as we are told by the ‘Unique and Predominant Thought,’ are: transparency in political and economic governance, accountability in financial management and allocation of common patrimony, individual and collective freedom of expression, and freedom of justice. These elements have not been allowed to grow and develop to the level of culture, because, Nigeria, as a concept, or nation, or people or otherwise cannot be said to exist on the minds of most Nigerians. Many people purport to be patriotic, but, if really they are, their acts of patriotism cannot be enduring or enough. They only want Nigeria as it is for selfish reasons.

The truth, if it be told, is that it is not possible for any salary earner in Nigeria to be a millionaire not to mention being billionaires unless they are business people. There are many public and civil servants that are trillionaires and not simply billionaires. Where do they get the money from as salary earners? Who really are the people involved? Is it not precisely the very people charged with the responsibility of keeping the public funds? People now steal with reckless abandon simply because there is no Nigerianess on their minds. And most unfortunately too, the more you succeed in stealing, the more and higher the chieftaincy titles given by community leaders. Award of National honour is now more of politics than of merit.

Perhaps most disturbingly, as a result of the policies of state creation introduced by General Yakubu Gowon following the end of the 1967-1970 civil war, and which put an end to regionalism, the opportunity to grow and develop Nigeria as a nation on the minds of the people of Nigeria created an unintended new challenge, which is the quest for self-identity, through requests for more ethnic-driven states.

It should be noted that creation of states with the ultimate objective of bringing political governance to the door steps of the people is not the problem per se but the mania of the governance. It is the mania that has been the major impediment to nation-building, and especially, a united and strong Nigeria. Let us give some random examples. First, how do we explain the failure of the Lagos Metroline (LML)? The sum of N75 million was paid for feasibility study for the LML project in 1984. N698.50k million was to be the total cost of the project. Work actually started by Messrs Interinfra, a consortium of 19 French companies. The Shehu Shagari-led Federal Government guaranteed the project. Messrs Interinfra was to provide 85% of the foreign cost as Buyer Credit at 7.75% fixed interest rate for the whole period of the loan. The repayment of the loan was to start four years after coming into force of the contract and was to be made in 20 half-yearly instalments from that time. Even though the project was to be self-sustaining after the first four years of operation, it is on record that the Federal Government did not fund the project. Why?

A new military administration – that of Group Captain Gbolahan Mudasiru succeeded Alhaji Lateef Jakande who started the project, as governor of Lagos. The project was cancelled under the pretext that the project cost was prohibitive, even though the amount that was said to be prohibitive was jointly negotiated and agreed to ab initio. In a nutshell, Interinfra referred the breach of contract to a court of arbitration and Nigeria was not only found guilty but was also penalised: Nigeria was required to pay more than twice the initial required project cost as damages. With serious pleas, Nigeria had to pay, at least, one billion naira which is more than the initial total cost of the project, and without actualisation of the LML project.

Lateef Jakande described the situation as more than a tragedy: It was a ‘double tragedy. The metroline was cancelled on the ground that N698.50k million was too much to pay. Now we have to pay a fine of 100 million dollars or N1 billion to the French Consortium for breach of contract, without getting the metroline.’ This is an expression of economic myopia and bad political and economic governance in Nigeria.

A second example is again Lateef Jakande-related. Alhaji Jakande as Minister of Works and Housing collected deposits from interested members of the public in April 1994 for houses that were meant to be built and allocated by end of December 1994.

First, Lateef Jakande did not have the time or opportunity to implement his housing agenda as he was removed from the office. His successor, another soldier, increased the required deposits for the various models of houses to be built. Since April 1994 to date, otherwise for more than 23 years, the government is yet to build houses, not to say allocating any house, and not to also mention refunding the deposits. Yet, the Head of the Civil Service could still have the effrontery of telling the public that houses are being built for public officials when those duly paid for by retired public officials are still kept under the drawer with impunity. This is an expression of serious misconduct on the part of government. It is again an expression of bad governance.
Without doubt, governance is continuous, but because every government that comes to power cares less for the agenda of the previous government, the Nigerian people do not have any choice than to accept governmental mistreatment and injustice. Unfairness, injustice at the level of the ordinary, honest Nigerians is a major factor in the agitations for restructuring and secession. The agitations are threatening national security because they are hardly factored into consideration in political governance.

Another good illustration is the case of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) to which I have frequently drawn public attention and to which the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have shown a ‘don’t care attitude.’ I say a ‘don’t care attitude’ because if there are allegations against a chief executive, and to which the chief executive provided his own explanations, the principles of fairness and justice require an investigation and a report clearly establishing the facts of the matter on both sides, even it there will not be punitive measures. It is most unfair and discouraging to disregard patriotism and take decisions on spurious allegations against me without investigation.

I particularly alleged in my hand over note and final report to government on November 30, 2015 how the Major-General Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council completely bastardised and destroyed the NIIA on a permanent basis. The Buhari administration has kept quiet over the matter. Government appears to have much delight in the malicious and damaging report of the Council, which was said not only to destroy my future because I insisted on defending the discipline and academic tradition of the NIIA by simply doing what was correct and sustaining the truth, but also to ensure the non-renewal of my appointment.

For instance, the Ike Nwachukwu-led Council intervened in an unprecedented manner in professorial assessment processes by linking up directly with assessors and insisting on where to send papers to. The Council prevented the sending of papers by professorial candidates abroad for assessment contrary to tradition. It also not only created an illegal basis for the appointment of political professors, but also covered up possibly for reasons of ethnic motivations the Director of Administration and Finance, Ms. Agatha Elochi Ude, who changed the results of promotion examinations for some staff. I reported this case of serious misconduct to the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council but the Council consciously, not to say criminally, set the report aside. Many atrocities, yet the Supervisory Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and apparently with the complicity of Ambassador Bulus Lolo, then Permanent Secretary and acting Minister, as well as the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, all kept quiet about it.

Perhaps more interesting is the issue of the new international conference centre I built at the NIIA. This was what the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Council was only showing manifest interest in. All manner of accusations were levied against me just to find fault, but all were explicitly to no avail. I requested for official and independent investigation just to clear my name, rather than nursing unnecessary animosity vis-a-vis my person. The Council refused to do so before its dissolution. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as supervisory authority, also adopted the silence of the burial ground on the matter. In fact, the best the Council could do was to write a secret report with the sole intention of damaging and defaming my person, and also in an attempt to ensure that my tenure was not considered for renewal.

There is absolutely no problem with any recommendation of a report based on objectivity and truth. But there is when it is not based on it, and especially when it is done by people who are entrusted with the responsibility of promoting discipline, truth, patriotism, fairness and justice in the society. In celebrating Nigeria at 57, all good Nigerians should support the truth and honesty of purpose, fight corruption tooth and nail in whatever form it takes, remain loyal to the principles of good governance, as well as defend patriotism. I. as one Nigerian, will never accept any appointment in which I will be disloyal, unpatriotic and will not defend the truth and discipline, or accept to taint my integrity. As I told government in my hand over note, if ten honest Nigerians were to be counted, I am one of them regardless of whatever the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing might have written.

Imagine again, the Accountant General of the Federation approved a second furniture allowance for me at the beginning of my fifth year as Director General. More than twelve months after, the same Office of the Accountant General was indirectly accusing me of fraudulently collecting the allowance. Why should the Government or the EFCC keep quiet over the matter if there is a case of fraud? If there was an error, why is it not pointed out and addressed? Instead of investigating the matter, my severance package has not been paid since 2015. The role of the Office of the Accountant General has to be investigated and not simply swept under the carpet.

Put differently, public accountability is never allowed to reign in Nigeria. Transparency is thrown into the garbage of history. When it was clear that Ms Agatha Ude was failing seriously in her capacity as Director of Administration and Finance, I requested for the deployment of a competent and chartered accountant from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. It was approved and Mr. Bush was deployed to the NIIA. What is the story as at today? Nigerians may ask the Office of the Accountant General, but it is surely political chicanery and double standard which needs investigation.

And true enough again, the IGI insurance paid my entitlements to the NIIA but again, the same Director of Administration and Finance, Ms Agatha Ude, paid the money to the Treasury Single Account. Since 2015, I have not been paid any of my entitlements. Why?
From the foregoing, if the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council would opt to close its eyes to allegations of an officer destroying official documents, of removing queries in her files and destroying accounting documents, as levied against Ms Agatha Ude, what type of national unity are we talking about? What type of celebration and Nigeria at 57 are we talking about? I ask these questions because the Buharian administration also kept quiet on the report of an independent panel I set up to look at cases of indiscipline at the NIIA when it was clear that the Foreign Ministry was consciously aiding and abetting indiscipline in the NIIA. The panel comprised representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of Head of Service, Public Service Commission, Department of State Services, etc. The report was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all the participating agencies of Government, but the report was never allowed to be acted upon by the then Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Bulus Lolo.

Thus, the environmental conditionings of Nigeria at 57 are unnecessarily inclement because of selfishness, dishonesty of purpose at the governmental level, acquiescence and promotion of untruth by the very people charged with the responsibility of fighting it, and most disturbingly, because of the use of esprit de corps or taking manu militari measures to cover up societal ills and indiscipline. Without doubt, PMB may mean well, but meaning well becomes questionable in the face of partisan silence over officially reported cases of unfairness and injustice. Let us set aside economic and political indices in evaluating Nigeria at 57 and focus greater attention, first, on attitudinal dispositions of Government and people. It will not only be more helpful to containing the quests for restructuring and agitations for separation, but also help in the making of a new and more vibrant and united Nigeria. How to go about this remains the fundamental challenge.