By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
In the words of the learned authors of Collins English Dictionary, a hidden agenda is ‘a situation in which someone secretly tries to achieve a particular thing while they appear to be doing something else’. It is more of an ulterior motive, subtle hypocrisy and blatant deception. Under and by virtue of section 135 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the President is entitled to serve a tenure of four years in office subject to re-election for another term of four years and no more.
It has however become customary in Nigeria for those in positions of authority to seek to extend their tenure by hook or crook, using and deploying all manner of tactics to achieve this undemocratic aim. No one can state clearly the reasons for this but I blame it squarely on non-performance by the leader, thus creating some kind of fear in him to return to his former life as an ordinary citizen. He has not provided infrastructure for his people so he is afraid to go and queue at the airport to board a plane, to wait for public supply of electricity, to send his children to any public school given the rot and neglect that he subjected the institutions to when he was in office, he is afraid to go back home to meet his people that he abandoned for all the years he was in office and he cannot think of sustaining his lavish and luxurious lifestyle that he enjoyed at the expense of the people.
Then the other factor why African leaders love to stay in office till death is the manner in which the people worship their leaders. In these climes, the President is next to God, he wields all powers, of appointments, of revenue, of security and of governance in totality and absolutely. This is partly from our culture, where elders are taken to be the wisest of men and women and the repository of knowledge so that they are seen as people who can do no wrong.
Another factor is colonialism, where the foreign invaders took Africans as some people of inferior intelligence who should best be ruled as slaves. What they could not practice in their own climes they exported to Africa and they held themselves out as tin gods who must be worshipped. The story is told of the perception of the English man in the olden days, whose car must not hit you on the road or else you may be arrested and prosecuted for obstruction and even if such collision results in any fatality, you are expected to be happy that you were lucky to be hit by the car of an English man.
This mentality continued even after independence and our indigenous leaders lapped on to and sustained the culture of heroism which they then transferred to the present crop of leaders. The peak of this leadership madness came with military incursion into politics, with the culture of strict obedience in the chain of command, such that even if the Head of State or the Military Administrator were to err in administration, you are not allowed to question their decision in any way at all.
Now back to the hidden agenda. Let us x-ray the occurrences of recent times in order to situate the topic of discourse. The sole entity entrusted with the transition process by the Constitution is INEC, which has the responsibility to conduct credible elections that will lead to the change of leadership. That organization has been the subject of mindless attacks on its facilities and infrastructure lately. INEC has by itself disenfranchised many Nigerians by failing to issue them with Permanent Voters Cards to the extent that about half the estimated two hundred million population will not be entitled to vote in 2023.
There are over one thousand cases pending in various courts in relation to the primary elections of the political parties and it does not seem that all of them can be effectively determined before the elections proper. Then comes the constant speculations following the use of BVAS and electronic transmission of election results. There are said to be cases pending in some remote courts allegedly designed to remove the INEC Chairman, some other cases are said to have ruled out the use of BVAS, some political parties have kicked against the deployment of technology for the conduct of elections whilst some persons have vowed that there will be no election in the South East region of the country.
You would ask me how the President is connected to all these. First is the unacceptable marginalization of the SouthEast region in the governance structure of Nigeria, especially within the highest organs of government, from the President to the Vice-President, Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Secretary to the Federal Government, the Head of Service of the Federation, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the heads of the armed forces, just name them. This is partly the reason for the agitation in that region which the President has deliberately designed as a means of creating unending tension there. Added to this is the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu after he had defeated the government in court. It is part of the grand agenda of the President to stoke the fire of crisis by failing to release Kanu from custody, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal filed by the federal government. There is no justification for that decision if it was not meant to oil the embers of disorderliness.
The President was almost swearing that insurgency and banditry would end in December 2022, but only last week I watched as the people of Kaduna South buried their dead ones who were slaughtered like animals. And this is continuing unreported in various regions of the country. The unacceptable increase in the spate of kidnappings, killings and general bloodshed in the land cannot give anyone a sense of hope that there is a genuine desire to hand over power in the next one year. This is the reason for the constant and vain repetitions of the presidency that the President will vacate the Villa at the appropriate time since there is serious trust deficiency on the part of the government.
Then you move to the confusion that the Central Bank of Nigeria has thrown our economy into, given the skyrocketing exchange rate, galloping inflation, illegal monetary policies of limiting cash withdrawals without corresponding technological infrastructure to back it up and the thoughtless Naira redesignation. In the build up to the Christmas holidays, the network of most banks collapsed and this ruined the season for so many people who ventured to trust the Godwin Emefiele-led cashless policy. Like a bolt from the blues, the Department of State Security has accused the CBN governor of terrorism. How did that come about, you would ask? Is Emefiele directly engaged in terrorism or is he directly or indirectly sponsoring it? We have not been availed the true picture of this disturbing development which is between Emefiele and the presidency since it is part of the hidden agenda.
We then woke up suddenly to learn of the interrogation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by the DSS, allegedly on account of his utterances in Rivers State. The judiciary and indeed the whole world were suddenly reminded of the Walter Onnoghen saga and the uncertainty of that office, when the Chief of Justice of Nigeria was removed from office through an ex-parte order and his successor was also booted out of office in a palace coup. Once the judiciary becomes vulnerable, then democracy is imperiled.
What this means is that there will be no voice to courageously look the President in the eye and tell him that his tenure has expired, when eventually he unveils the hidden agenda. The agenda then is to make the chances of holding elections in February very slim and dim, to throw the nation into economic crisis by squeezing the purchasing power of the people, impose artificial fuel scarcity on them and throw the Central Bank into confusion. Added to this will be the upsurge in killings, banditry, general violence and mindless criminalities all over the land. With the judiciary under constant threat and close monitoring, then dictatorship will set in and some rented mad crowd will emerge, singing praises of the President to the highest heavens and threatening to kill themselves should the President vacate office in such unstable condition. They will begin to list uncompleted projects that have been deliberately delayed for so many years and urging the people to allow the President finish what he could not achieve in all of the eight years of his sojourn in office.
This is the hidden agenda that is staring us in the face as we move closer and closer to February 2023. Yes, we are all prepared to resist and defeat this hidden agenda, given the sufferings that we have all been subjected to these many years of the Buhari administration but I can tell you that the agenda is real and potent and unless we begin to organize ourselves now, we may be in for some surprises come 2023. But having said that, it should be clear to the planners of such an evil plot that it will not succeed. President Jonathan conducted elections in the heat of the Boko Haram crisis in the North East and he willingly surrendered power to President Buhari in the greater interest of the nation. The mandate of the President under the Constitution is eight years maximum and there can be no excuse under the heavens for the extension of that mandate by one single second. Come what may, power must change hands in May 2023, the elections must be conducted in February 2023 and it must be conducted peacefully and creditably. Whoever is nursing the idea of tenure elongation for President Buhari is his greatest enemy because God will not support it and the people of Nigeria will defeat it handsdown.
Governance is a continuum and if the President thinks he has any good programme for Nigeria which he has not been able to accomplish in eight years, he should double his efforts to campaign for his preferred candidate through whom he would be able to implement such programmes if Nigerians decide to vote for his candidate.
Any other backdoor option is doomed to fail and it will fail woefully. Let all the offices of INEC be razed down, let Nigerians be stopped from withdrawing cash from the banks altogether, let the whole courts be shut down and let all activists be raided and herded into custody, let Boko Haram be launched afresh and all herdsmen and bandits be let loose, but the elections must hold in February 2023, a winner must emerge and the government of Nigeria and of the States must be handed over to the winners. This is not negotiable.
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