By Tommy U. Okochi
THE avalanche of commentaries and opinions on the #EndSARS protests has offered various premises and narratives on the cause/causes and or motive behind the mayhem. The obvious and proximate grievance of the protesters is police brutality by SARS personnel visited on citizens by the outlawed outfit, but the underlying and remote motive is the bad and inhuman governance structure and the oppressive inclination of the political elite who have hijacked the hard-won democracy to live in their comfort zone of arrogant and scandalous opulence while condemning the mass majority to the low estate of poverty, hunger, disease, squalor and despair.
Olatunji Dare captured the terrible existential and sociological condition of the polity as the propelling force behind the spontaneous show of discontent, frustration and anger which characterized the chaos that transpired in many Nigerian cities and towns in those two weeks of mayhem. Dare in his back page column At Home Abroad of The Nation of October 27 interrogated the conduct of the political elite in the inequitable and wicked distribution and management of national resources when he succinctly stated: “The protesters see monumental waste in every corner; they see serious fraud and misconduct go unpunished, if not actually rewarded; they see public officers flaunting their illicit wealth and the totems thereof without fear of the taxman or the magistrate, and without qualms. It is as if they are taunting the public, daring it to do its worst.”
Dare warned thus; “These are some of the festering issues that exploded into anarchic violence… They will be back, bigger, better organized, more resourceful and more resolute, unless the issues of which #EndSARS is but a rubric are addressed forthrightly.”
The Nigerian youth made a clear and unequivocal statement on the sordid state of the nation. A critical, objective and unbiased interrogation, introspection and socio-political analysis of the state of our nation depicts a gloomy and frightful picture of a failing, nay failed state. Look at the optics, matrix, metrics, stats and ethics. They tell and paint a gloomy and frightening story and picture of the state of anomie and dystopia. Massive and systemic corruption has over the decades inflicted crippling poverty on 80 percent of the population with the attendant rise in insecurity and escalation of violent crimes and mass killings. Critical infrastructures have completely broken down and remain primitive; roads are in decrepit condition and there is no electric power to drive the economy. Despite the questionable privatization exercise and the huge resources poured into this critical sector over the years, we are operating a ‘dark’ economy in a global economy driven by hi-tech. The core social services in the education and health sectors are virtually nonexistent. A huge army of out-of-school children and unemployed youths roam about our cities and villages, an ever-ready recruitment resource pool for criminals and insurgents. Health care services are unavailable and unaffordable with ill-equipped facilities and ill-motivated medical staff. On virtually every human development index, we are in the red. If these are not symptomatic of a failed state, what is?
Nigeria’s democracy has been bastardised. The political elite who are appointed or elected to serve the masses have constituted themselves into a ‘deep state’, forming networks and structures of consorts and cronies from sub-national levels to the centre. In the midst of scary insecurity, abject mass poverty and squalor, they corner and appropriate the nation’s resources, living in lustful, scandalous and unconscionable opulence. They are secured by the state’s security agencies, each with a retinue of armed security operatives. They fill their garages with exotic limousines and SUVs and a fleet of backup vehicles all at the taxpayers’ expense. They appoint scores of Special Advisers, Personal Assistants, Liaison Officers and many more, all cronies and political jobbers who earn from public till without any productive output. They recycle and rotate political positions. Former governors retire to the senate with illicit and immoral pensions from their states’ coffers while earning their salaries and allowances in the legislature, a criminal act of avarice.
The National Assembly flouts its independence to fix humongous salaries and allowances to her members which are opaque and not in the public domain. Their finances are not subject to audits. Yet they assert their constitutional powers to oversight the other branches. What hypocrisy! The over-bloated workforce in both the executive and legislative arms gulps over 70 percent of the annual budgets in personnel costs and overhead leaving a paltry 30 percent for critical capital projects that drive development. Politics in Nigeria is toxic and governance criminally devoid of empathy, producing a hegemonic class of feudal overlords who dominate the political space in a ‘do-or-die’ code. APC and PDP are identical twins exhibiting the same traits of corruption, greed and impunity. Members of both parties swap membership like sex-starved maniacs jumping from one prostitute to another.
The one and only solution to this existential state of paralysis is to restructure the federation. Nigeria hungers and thirsts for a truly peoples constitution. We must jettison the present unworkable document contrived and imposed by the military on the nation by martial decree. The American type presidential system is too costly for a miserably poor country such as ours; too sophisticated to be practiced by a predominantly cynical, illiterate and ignorant polity; and is most susceptible to corruption as we have seen here in Nigeria and in the present American Trump era.
Let us have a new constitution with two federating levels – federal and regional. The federal government is so over-laden and overburdened with too many elements of governance that it is hamstrung and cannot even perform optimally on any of the items on the so called exclusive list. It has failed in providing security for lives and property, a fundamental responsibility of any government; cannot maintain 36,000 kilometres of its commandeered roads nationwide; cannot crack the intractable and perennial problem of electric power supply; cannot provide quality and technology-driven education and does not have the capacity to provide affordable and efficient healthcare for the teeming citizens.
A new constitution will unbundle and upload these huge burdens and transfer them to the regions. Security is fundamental and paramount. Let us not deceive ourselves about state police. The states are too cash-strapped and indigent to own, train and equip any efficient police formation when many are struggling to pay salaries and pensions. We are now observing the states gravitating towards regionalism with the southwest states launching the regional security outfit – Amotekun. Other regions – the Northeast, North-central and Southeast are embracing regional association with the formation of Development Commissions. Let the federal roads revert to regional roads for sustainable maintenance.
The National Assembly cannot give us a truly peoples’ constitution as they have lost touch with their constituents. They live in their comfort zones. Since 1999, their attempts have ended in futility with millions of naira going down the drain. Erudite lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN remarked recently; “The news is everywhere and the propaganda has gone haywire that the National Assembly is amending the Constitution, as if what the constitution needs is an amendment rather than a total overhaul starting from the preamble to the definition schedule.” They cannot amend a severely flawed document imposed through treasonable adventures of military dictators.
Let us hearken to the voices of our patriots and elder statesmen who keep hammering on restructuring to embrace true federalism – eminent men such as Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Chief Edwin Clark, Aare Afe Babalola SAN, Chief Segun Osoba, Chief Ayo Opadokun, Late Senator Ayo Fasanmi. Ethnic nationalities namely Afenifere, Ohaneze, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have persistently called for restructuring to entrench true federalism and take governance to the people at the grassroots. They cannot amend a seriously flawed document imposed through treasonable adventures of military dictatorship.
This hard-fought democracy for which many sacrificed their lives and limbs have been broken, rigged and hijacked by those who sat on the fence during the titanic struggle. May the sacrifices of our democracy heroes never be in vain. Iconic patriots who paid the supreme price such as Chief MKO Abiola, his beloved wife Kudirat, Chief Anthony Enahoro and many others, martyred in the cause of democracy should not die in vain.
- Elder Okochi writes from Agbani, Nkanu West LGA, Enugu State.