The purpose of government is to improve the wellbeing of the people, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi
In the 2018 global rankings of “Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index” of the OXFAM and Development Finance International (DFI), Nigeria was ranked 157 out of 157 countries. In the same 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest number of under-five deaths. In the same year Nigeria was ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth to and the 4th country with the worst maternal mortality rate in the world. And many other negative firsts.
With the foregoing in perspective, the next four years appear bleak. To begin with, Nigeria would likely continue to occupy the lowest rung on the human development ladder in the next four years. The standard of living of the average Nigerian would continue to deteriorate. The people I pity most are the Nigerians in the streets. Whereas the Nigerian elite and members of their families can always travel abroad to find succour, most ordinary Nigerians are trapped in the different poverty holes. They have no gainful employment. They can barely eat three times a day. They cannot pay school fees for their children. Unfortunately the same suffering Nigerians are used by greedy politicians to rig elections and to commit all sorts of electoral malpractices. Take the Lagos political scenario as an example. In Lagos, Jagaban has recruited many area fathers, mothers and boys and girls for the purpose of the 2019 election.
The pertinent questions are: do these people know that they were merely being exploited? Another example: President Buhari hails from Katsina State. But Katsina State is the poverty capital of Nigeria. As at May 17, 2018 Katsina State was rated as having 74.5 per cent poverty rate. Point is the struggle against poverty is crucial to the future and the survival of Nigeria. Unfortunately the Buhari government has not initiated concrete welfare projects aimed at improving the wellbeing of Nigerians. For the first time in many years many Nigerians are not only uncertain about their own future or their children’s; they are deeply worried about the negative impact of the ravaging poverty in their lives.
The most tragic is the emasculation of the judiciary, a veritable third arm of government, under the Buhari government. President Buhari has demonstrated that he does not understand how the judiciary works. He erroneously believes that in our constitutional democracy the judicial powers and executive powers are lumped up together to be exercised by him. He does not understand that by virtue of the cardinal principle of separation of powers the judiciary is completely an independent arm of government that checks and balances executive powers. Buhari does not understand the elementary difference between a criminal suspect and a criminal convict. As far as he is concerned any criminal suspect in the EFCC net is already a condemned criminal. And any lawyer jostling to defend such a suspect is sabotaging his so-called anti-corruption war. The most painful aspect is that President Buhari has elevated the rule of force, in contrast to the rule of law, to the level of statecraft. The closest example is his forceful removal of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. Initially President Buhari feigned ignorance of the whole plot. But after it dawned on Buhari that Onnoghen lawyers were having the upper hand at the CCT he applied the deus ex machina: he got a pliable Danladi Umar to suo motu concoct an ex-parte order on which he (Buhari) relied in forcefully sacking Chief Justice Onnoghen whom he dreaded as a stumbling block to his second term ambition. We are waiting for either the National Judicial Council (NJC) or the superior court to discipline Umar for forging an ex-parte order and Justice Tanko Mohammed for surrendering his body to be sworn in as the so-called Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria
All said, unless the Buhari government reinvents itself as a government that has been elected to implement the broader democratic objectives, it will continue to flounder in the next four years. When we say that democracy liberates, we mean that democracy brings into being a new order that creates opportunities for citizens to eke out a living. Democracy gives equal rights to all men and women, and in so doing breaks all barriers to economic prosperity. Democracy both in origin and in action is a system of government devised to break the primal source of tyranny, leaving the citizens with the freedom to use their God-given talents to create wealth for themselves.
Fighting corruption is just a means (not an end in itself) to achieving the broader, nobler and more-inclusive democratic objectives. The Buhari government should have a proper perception of itself. It shouldn’t perceive itself merely as a government that has come to power to catch perceived thieves or fight corruption. It should perceive itself as a government that has come to power to improve the wellbeing of the ordinary Nigerian. The important questions the government should always be asking itself are: Are the people well nourished? Are they able to read and write, and communicate and develop their minds? Can they escape avoidable diseases? Are their human rights guaranteed? Does the society respect the inherent dignity and worth of each person? Can the people eke out a simple living for themselves?
To those contemplating fleeing Nigeria because Buhari is continuing in power, I say, be calm. All will be well. If we have survived the last four years of Buhari, why can’t we survive his next four years? Besides, tempus breve est (time is short). Before we say Jack the next four years would be over. As Prof PLO Lumumba has rightly advised, we must not grow weary in the struggle to rid Africa of election riggers and arrogant despots. Prof Lumumba believes that although our generation may not reap the benefit of our struggle our children’s generation will indeed reap the benefits. He recalls that although Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated his ideas have not been killed. If fact his ideas have germinated, grown and yielded bountiful fruits today. So, my friend, weep no more. Be hopeful.