2023, Religion and Voters’ Right to Choose
‘O Fogun Sènu Ni?’
Just like I watched the interview of Garba Shehu recently in disbelief – where he said Nigeria is now a safer place to live, I watched the interview of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State on Channels TV’s Politics Today last Wednesday, in even more shock and dismay. As I listened to him, I wondered whether we are living in the same country. What is this new narrative that APC politicians are trying to spin? Or do they think that Nigerians are so foolish, unaware, gullible, maybe even bewitched, that they can just come out into the open and say anything, and the people will accept their false statements hook, line and sinker? I use the word ‘bewitched’ (casting a spell on someone) because in Yoruba, we have a proverbial question we sometimes ask, when someone says something unbelievable which the listener is expected to believe; or maybe tells you to do something that no normal person would do, like put your hand in fire or jump off Mount Kilimanjaro: ‘o fogun sènu ni?’ (did you put magic/juju in your mouth?). The Speaker wants you to believe the unbelievable/do the undoable, using the strength of the juju that he/she has put in his/her mouth while talking, which is supposed to be some sort of spiritual authority that has bewitched/enchanted the listener. This is how I felt, when I listened to Governor Sule, who said and I quote: “…..The problems we are having in Nigeria today, are not as a result of religion. The problems of insecurity today, are not as a result of religion…..”. Really? He expects right-thinking Nigerians to believe that? ‘O fogun sènu ni?’.
Pray tell, Governor Sule; what is the origin of Boko Haram then, even if their beliefs are twisted, warped and unIslamic? Is it not religion cum purported bitterness with corrupt governance? That Western education is forbidden, and only Islamic education is allowed? Were they not trying to establish an Islamic State in the North East, raising their flag in several local governments and collecting tax from the people? Various videos Nigerians saw showing the Chibok girls in captivity, were they not forced to wear hijabs and accept Islam (contrary to the Shahada, the First Pillar of Islam, in which acceptance of the Faith should be voluntary, that is, there is no compulsion in religion)? Does Leah Sharibu not remain in the clutches of Boko Haram after several years, because she refused to accept Islam? Is the goal of Boko Haram/ISWAP not to forcibly create an Islamic State ruled by Sharia Law? What about the mob killings in the North, even though misguided; isn’t it in the name of religion/purported blasphemy? The murders of Deborah Samuel Yakubu, Deaconess Eunice Olawale and Bridget Agbahime, all come to mind. Why were pregnant Harira Jibril and her four daughters brutally murdered in cold blood in Anambra State? Were they not targeted possibly because of their Northern origin and Islamic faith, evidenced by the fact that they adorned the hijab?
While undoubtedly there are many criminals still perpetrating crimes for financial gain and other old traditional reasons, no one can honestly say that the insecurity Nigeria is experiencing today is disconnected from religion and ethnicity – that would be a big, fat lie – religion plays an extremely significant role.
In trying to justify the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket, was Governor Sule knowingly or unknowingly telling Nigerian Christians, that the vote of the Northern Muslims are the most important, maybe even more important than theirs, without which the 2023 election cannot be won; while the election can be won without their Christian votes? Obviously, he has forgotten about the 2011 Presidential election in which President Buhari who has a cult-like following with the Northern Muslims, lost the battle to President Jonathan, a Southern Christian. In elections, no voter can be discountenanced. The more, the merrier! See Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution) on inclusion and national integration.
To be clear, I cannot say I have anything against Senator Kashim Shettima; in fact, I remember attending the 2017 Murtala Muhammad Foundation Annual Memorial Lecture, where he gave the Keynote Address. I thought he spoke well, and he caught my attention when he stated that he was unashamedly a “Committed Feminist”. I found it refreshing that a Governor from the far North would make such a public confession, in this male-dominated society of ours.
That said, I don’t think we should over-flog the issue of a Muslim/Muslim ticket, or any other ticket. The Presidential candidates have made their choices of their running mates. People are free to vote for their preferred ticket. We shall see the outcome of all the debates and theories, when the Presidential election results are announced in February 2023. Instead of wasting our time on endless debates on the falsifying of the causes of insecurity in Nigeria to make a ticket more acceptable/the components of Presidential tickets/whether it is fair for PDP to field a Northern Presidential candidate immediately after an APC two term Northern Presidency, I think we should concentrate our energies on more pressing issues, like how to get our country which is on a steady and rapid decline, back on track.
From NNPC to NNPCL: Any Benefit for Nigerians?
Pray tell, what is the essence of NNPC becoming a limited liability company? I hope it will be more than a simple change in nomenclature from NNPC to NNPCL! Unfortunately, l doubt that there will be any impactful improvement, if it is still the same old people at the helm of affairs, with the same old policies.
In a country like Japan, the Minister of State of Petroleum (who runs the Ministry on a day-to-day basis), MD of NNPC and PPMC – all those who are in charge of putting fuel on the road for Nigerians, would have bowed down to Nigerians tearfully, in shame, with sincere apologies for their misconduct and failure to fulfil their responsibilities to the people, before resigning their appointments, after supplying bad fuel which destroyed the car engines of many Nigerians who were unfortunate enough to purchase same, and caused a nationwide prolonged fuel shortage (which is still lingering). But, as is typical in Nigeria, a catastrophe occurs, people shout, a Committee is set up to unravel the cause of the catastrophe, nothing comes out of the Committee, and not only is no one held accountable for the failure, the culprits may even be rewarded. It is forgotten. The #EndSARS Panels, easily comes to mind.
Yes, Section 6(6)(c) of the Constitution ousts the jurisdiction of the courts vis-à-vis the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution which includes the Economic Objectives of State Policy, that is, Section 16; but that doesn’t mean the said provisions are not binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria – they are (see Section 1(1) of the Constitution). The fact that a court cannot hear matters pertaining to Government’s non-fulfilment of its constitutional obligations to Nigerians in this regard (non-justiciability), does not mean that it isn’t bound to fulfil same, nor that Government and its officials cannot be held accountable for their acts and omissions.
It is obvious that Government is not harnessing the resources of Nigeria for the maximum welfare, benefit and happiness of the people, as provided by Section 16 of the Constitution; however, these provisions are actually general in nature, and there are other ways to hold Government and it’s officials accountable for their specific failures. Interestingly, in Olafisoye v FRN (2004) LPELR-2553 (SC) per Niki Tobi JSC, the Apex Court rejected the notion of the non-justiciability of Chapter II of the Constitution, citing Professor Obilade’s article “The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences and the Right to Privacy”, where he stated thus: “It is clear therefore, that although Section 15(5) of the Constitution is, in general, not justiciable, as soon as the National Assembly exercises it’s power under Section 4 of the Constitution with Item 60(a) of the Exclusive Legislative List, the provisions of Section 15(5) of the Constitution becomes justiciable”. The Supreme Court instead, accepted the argument that Chapter II could be justiciable.
In this fuel issue, maybe if there is a community reading of Section 4 of the Constitution (with NASS exercising it’s powers thereunder) & Items 60(a) & 62(a) & (d) of the Exclusive Legislative List, the provisions of Sections 15(5) & 16(1)(a) & (b) of the same grundnorm could be justiciable; and additionally, not only can erring Government officials (in the fuel/petroleum sector) be summoned by NASS by virtue of Section 88(1)(a), (b) & (2)(b) of the Constitution, be punished using the ICPC & EFCC Acts for instance, but damages can also be recovered from them and their institutions for the vehicles that were spoilt by the bad fuel. Last Thursday, I travelled to Abuja, and returning to Lagos on Friday was a horrible experience. Aside from the endlessly long petrol queues in Abuja which have persisted for many weeks, I was stranded at the airport for six hours, due to lack of aviation fuel. Nigerians deserve better than this.
Someone, people, institutions, should be held accountable for the gross failures in the fuel/petroleum regime.
How long can Nigeria continue like this? I keep harping on the point that presently, we have a mixed religious ticket, and look at the condition we are in. It has made little or no difference to the religious crisis that the country is currently facing, or added no value in the betterment or development of the country. The Christian Association of Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, Bishop Kukah and NIREC have actually done more to promote peace and religious tolerance in Nigeria, than any Government officials. For those who are unhappy with any of the Presidential tickets, they have the opportunity to make their choices at the 2023 polls. People must understand that, in a democratic setting, one of the only ways to see the changes they desire become a reality, or have their voices heard, is not to complain and shout to no avail, but to exercise their civic right by voting.
One thing I am certain about is that, Nigeria urgently needs serious fixing; we do not need leaders who not only tell barefaced lies, are deceitful (constantly spinning new narratives to suit their own purposes), delusional, and are either totally oblivious to the hardship Nigerians are experiencing or are happy to turn a blind eye to the suffering. For them, it’s all about politics – doing or saying anything to get a second or tenth term, and stay in power forever. Trivialising, rationalising and redefining ugly incidents like the kind of mass murder of innocent Parishioners that took place at the Catholic Church in Owo recently, is offensive. In fact, without much investigation, the first suspect Government pointed its accusing fingers at as the perpetrators of this horrible crime, was ISWAP. Is that not religious violence? How then can Governor Sule in all good conscience, come on international television to say Nigeria’s insecurity is detached from religion? It most certainly is not.