By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
On May 29, 2023, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu mounted the saddle as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, subject of course to the overriding decision of the Supreme Court on the various cases pending against his election as such. The major decision taken since his assumption of office is that of the removal of fuel subsidy, which in turn has affected and is still affecting the majority of the people across the land. What I see all over the land is suffering, weeping and gnashing of teeth by the masses. The emphasis is on the masses, those who have no other means of survival except to eke out a living, through petty trading, the helpless widows, those in the lower rung of the formal and informal sectors and indeed the commoners. All that we wake up to hear nowadays are myriads of appointments upon appointments, more to compensate supporters and financiers. And these appointments are generally lopsided and concentrated mostly in a particular region of the nation, namely the South-West, contrary to the clear provisions of section 14 (3) of the Constitution on the need to reflect federal character. This was consummated last week with the appointment of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. But the issue is beyond mere appointments. The nation is drifting.
Nigeria became a State formally in 1960, with sovereign powers transferred from the British colonialists to the representatives of the people. By law however, section 2 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and by section 2 (2) thereof, “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. So, in the real sense of the word, Nigeria is created as a sovereign state consisting of federating units. Fair enough, the same Constitution that created the Nigerian Federation also specified the kind of powers that it should exercise and the functions it should perform, for its citizens. In this regard, Chapter 2 of the self-same Constitution, comes to bear. I will limit myself for this discourse however, to section 14 of the Constitution.
Under and by virtue of section 14 (2) (a), “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom the government, through this Constitution, derives ALL its powers and authority” (emphasis supplied). In very simple terms therefore, the sovereignty attached to the entity known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, resides in the people of Nigeria. In essence, all our leaders hold power in trust for the people of Nigeria and they cannot go on acting as if it is the other way round. To break it down more, there is no President who should claim to be in power, there is no Governor who should assert any authority and there should be no legislative house or even a court of law that should rule over and above the people and to impose policies and decisions on them. Power belongs to the people, pure and simple. The fact that the people of Africa and especially Nigeria, have been living in the opposite of civility and modernisation, whereby those elected into office by the people turn around to arrogate power to themselves, cannot be an excuse to obfuscate this simple truth.
Now to section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, wherein it is stated expressly and without equivocation that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” A community interpretation of section 14 (2) (a) and (b) respectively will show clearly that the Nigerian State was created for the people of Nigeria, that the focus of the entity called Nigeria is the people and that the target of power and existence of that Federation, is the people. It is good therefore, to sound it loud and clear, that the very existence of government, the totality of the exercise of power, by all and sundry, is for the security and welfare of the people and anything outside this, anything done that cannot achieve this, means a failure of governance. Pure and simple. What we have presently in Nigeria is far from this expectation, if not indeed the opposite.
According to the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, SECURITY means: “(a) freedom from danger (safety); (b) freedom from fear or anxiety; … something that secures, protection or measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape.” The priority of security in governance is better illustrated by section 4 of the Police Act, wherein it is stated that the police shall be “… employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.” What stands out in this section is the phrase “protection of lives and property”. The reality however is that Nigeria is not safe. The warnings issued by foreign nations to their citizens against traveling to certain States in Nigeria is an indication of the dangerous state of insecurity prevailing in the land. To undertake major journeys, many people arrange and pay for armed escorts and preferably in armoured cars. In the real sense of the word, traveling should be a kind of hobby. It may well be that the government is taking all necessary steps to contain the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, but this remains to be seen by all and sundry, in terms of security and safety, in the real sense of the word. The summary now would seem to be that the government has not been able to rise up to the challenges posed by insecurity.
Now to welfare, since the two main points of governance are security and welfare. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines WELFARE as “the state of doing well, especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity.” Are we doing well as a people, presently? Are we enjoying some form of good fortune economically? Is the well-being of the people of this nation improving in any form at all? Are we happy with the state of things in Nigeria? Is there prosperity in the land? Without any doubt whatsoever, suicide cases have increased, the economic power of the people has dwindled considerably and virtually everyone now depends on handouts from the government, as private businesses are all struggling to survive, in the absence of basic infrastructure, especially power supply. Energy costs have worked to cripple small businesses and rendered many jobless. I have no doubt in my mind that the true testimony across the land is that the majority of the people are suffering indeed. I see it in the text messages that I receive every now and then, for financial assistance, I read it in the news daily, of how many states in the Federation are owing their workers salaries, for several months and how the ordinary people are just living from hand to mouth, barely eking out a living, just surviving and tagging along.
The present circumstance of Nigeria is that many people have become beggars of some sort. Even as businessmen and women, professionals and even as manufacturers, the bulk of the little profit margin is spent on infrastructure, whereby you are forced to generate your own electricity, provide your own water, build your own road, employ your own security, train your children in private schools or send them abroad, if they must excel, provide yourself health care if you must live, and may be buy your own car, if you must move around. It is so bad that the government seems to have shifted all its responsibilities to the citizens. And how exactly is anyone expected to survive in such hostile environment, where you spend most of your valuable time in traffic, you get home to sleep in intense heat and darkness and then you eventually manage to make it to the office the following day, only to be confronted with power outage, all day long, draining all human capacity, productivity and usefulness. Can we then say that we have a nation or that any form of governance is in place?
From all the above frightening scenarios, how do you then describe the entity created as Nigeria, if it is agreed that the two critical responsibilities of the government are the security and welfare of the people? This piece became necessary as it would seem that those in authority do not well appreciate the enormity of the situation that we presently face in Nigeria or that state propaganda has so prospered and become the art of governance, that some of them are totally ensconced from the reality of present day Nigeria. Whereas I know that some well-meaning persons exist in authority presently, I verily believe that the time has now come, for some frank introspection that will translate into some genuine appreciation, of the debilitating welfare and security conditions of our people, if we are to say that there is governance at all. We have listened to so many speeches and statements from the government, the President himself even said that nobody should pity him because he came well prepared. This has not translated into any tangible action for the benefit of the people. We are approaching December already and from the look of things, we are most probably going to grapple with more difficult times ahead.
The solution is to fix the refineries so as to reduce dependence on importation of petroleum products, control inflation and the exchange rate in such a way as to allow a greater number of the people to become actively engaged. The leaders must show a good example of making sacrifices by cutting the luxuries associated with their exalted offices. The situation of the economy requires very drastic measures in order to alleviate the pains and pangs of our people.
Dear readers, we really need your support to keep on serving you with authoritative, truthful, and juicy stories everyday. For your support, please reach out to the editor @firstname.lastname@example.org