How Nigeria Can Heal
It seems that some of the progressive provisions of the less than adequate 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2018)(the Constitution) are seriously being put to the test after the 2023 general elections, particularly the Preamble which states inter alia thus: “TO LIVE in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God……”, and Section 42 thereof which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnic origin and religion, amongst other things. The atmosphere has become so toxic, that one can barely find any fresh air to breathe. Nigeria has regressed at least 56 years in terms of unity and cohesion, to the extent that a hot topic of conversation today is those who were killed in the 1966 military coup and who killed them (I was a one year old baby at the time – how many of us partook in this coup? Do they speak for us? No!), and this unnecessary type of conversation is not only dangerous, but a cause for disaffection, disunity and disharmony. We should stop it, if we want our country to heal. And, I lay the blame for this rancour squarely at the feet of the politicians, who have for their own selfish reasons and purposes, used the Machiavellian approach to cause division amongst the people. It has become so bad that when people make fair comments based on the realities of our society, they are accused of being tribalistic or biased. I, Abimbola Onikepo Braithwaite, for one, shall however, not be discouraged or repressed by anyone, from giving objective analyses and legal opinions, because some people do not wish to face the truth.
And a truth is that, one of the reasons why the PDP was able to maintain its lead over and above any of the other political parties for so long (apart from spicing things up with electoral malpractices/rigging to stay in power), is the fact that it was really the only party with a national spread for so many years. No matter how popular candidates were, they were unable to move beyond their comfort zones until they spread out.
When the President-Elect was elected Governor of Lagos State in 1999, his Party, AD (Alliance for Democracy), was a sectional, Yoruba Party that only won elections in the South West. AD subsequently extended to the Mid-West, following an alliance with the Justice Party and others to form the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole emerging as the Governor of Edo State on the ACN platform. Ditto for President Buhari. His CPC was a Northern Party that won elections only in the Northern regions. With all the fabulous number of votes he got in the North, President Buhari was unable to win three national Presidential elections. Hence, what has become a new national joke, that President Buhari “lu lè lè mèta” (hit or beat the ground three times) until he, the President-Elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and other Politicians from different parts of the country got together to form a Party that reached across the Northern and South West regions, the South South and gradually crept into the South East. The same goes for APGA, which is a South East Party. It is instructive to note that without enjoying a comfortable national spread across the whole of Nigeria, no Political Party has been able to win the general elections in this Fourth Republic.
The first moral of the story therefore, is that any Party that is interested in winning the Presidential election in Nigeria, must play national inclusive politics, and not sectional/ethnic, religious, divisive or discriminatory politics. Every Nigerian matters, no matter their ethnicity, religion, sex, ability or disability. We all need each other, and tribal, religious etc acrimony is simply fruitless and antithetical to being elected to the office of President of our country. Unfortunately, contrary to the Preamble of the Constitution, presently, Nigeria seems to be in a state of ethnic disharmony. The 2023 Presidential election revealed how tribalistic we Nigerians still are, or at least it revved up tribal sentiments in many, just like Donald Trump’s time as President of the United States of America revealed how racism is still very rife over there.
Hopefully the incoming administration will do the needful and form an all-inclusive government of the brightest and the best, with the requisite geographical spread, women, youths and those with physical challenges. Sections 1(2) & 14 (3) of the Constitution prohibit the governance of Nigeria from being concentrated in a group of persons except in accordance with the Constitution, and mandates Federal character in the composition of Government, in order to promote national unity. If this is reflected in the formation of the new government, it will be a step in the right direction, and in the process of healing amongst the Nigerian people.
SGF’s Alleged Discrimination Against Women
When I saw a message allegedly tweeted by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha (SGF), I was shocked. I’m hoping that it’s a fake tweeter account operated by a mischief maker. The tweet read: “I’m not against Binani becoming Governor, but it would be a shame to all the people calling themselves ’men’ in Adamawa to let a woman lead them”. How disgusting! Why would it be a shame for a woman to be a Governor? Yet another parallel to be drawn between USA and Nigeria, when before the 2008 American Presidential election in which Barrack Obama and Hilary Clinton were both trying to secure the ticket of the Democratic Party, the white supremacists, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) actually said that they would ”rather vote for a Nigger than a Bitch” (I do apologise for the terrible, derogatory words – KKK’s words, not mine). For these ignorant racists and male chauvinists, it didn’t really matter how qualified Senator Hilary Clinton was for the job; for them, being female excluded her from occupying such an exalted position, so much so that even though she is of the same race as them, they preferred to choose a man, irrespective of their hatred for his mixed race, because they hate the thought of a female President even more.
However, in the case of the SGF, I found the statement attributed to him as somewhat bizarre and unbelievable, because unlike the ignoramus KKK, as a senior Lawyer and Cabinet Member, not only should he be well aware that women form a large chunk of the electorate, he must be familiar with Section 42(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees the right of every citizen to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnic group, religion and so on. See Lafia Local Government v Government of Nasarawa State (2012) LPELR-20602(SC) per Olabode Rhodes-Vivour JSC; Anekwe & Anor v Nweke (2014) LPELR-22697(SC) per Olukayode Ariwoola JSC (now CJN); Ukeje & Anor v Ukeje (2014) LPELR-22724 (SC). In a traditional and conservative country like Pakistan, late Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to head a Muslim majority nation and was elected as Prime Minister twice, in 1988 and 1993, while in a closed and also somewhat conservative country, China, Soong Ching-Ling was Acting President 1968-1972, serving with Dong Biwu. So, why can’t Aisha Binani be a Governor or President?
Luckily, I see no reason why the President-Elect who was a pioneer in appointing women as Deputy Governors, will not appoint women to even more important positions in his cabinet. This is his opportunity to build upon what Kwara and Ekiti State have begun, even putting legislation in place to secure the position of women in governance.
I believe that if we set our minds to it, there is a road to recovery. If Rwanda could do it, so can Nigeria. For those who feel offended that they have been asked to ventilate their electoral grievances in court, by virtue of Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution this is the only lawful way to seek redress in Nigeria – through the courts. People had started to make snide remarks that the outcome of the Adeleke v Oyetola case would depend on the Party that won the Presidential election. So far, they have been proved wrong, and the will of the people of Osun State backed by the law, was upheld by the Court of Appeal, giving Senator Adeleke of the PDP his well deserved victory, even though the incoming administration is APC and Governor Oyetola is a relative of the President-Elect. Governor Ademola Adeleke certainly showcased his popularity by securing the victory of the PDP in Osun State, in both the February 25 and March 18 elections. Doing substantive justice to the pending election petitions, will in no small measure contribute to Nigeria’s healing process. More serious public education on the benefits of integration of the people will also be invaluable in the healing process, starting from the grassroots level right up to those of us that are educated. We all need it. I have been taken aback by the considerable amount of illogicality, ethnic bias and bitterness, baseless presumptions, assumptions, claims and assertions, which I have read on various fora populated by educated people!