THE ABERRANCE OF INTERIM GOVERNMENT By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
Last year, some leaders of thought advocated for military rule in Nigeria, apparently due to a sense of frustration with the seeming collapse of civilian authority. Nigerians flatly rejected that call without apology. We have gone too far in the journey of democracy to even think of any other option. Any form of military governance in Nigeria is gone and gone for good. And this is why commendation must go to our gallant officers in the military and all our security personnel who are daily sacrificing their lives to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria in the lawful discharge of their constitutional roles. It would seem that those who mooted the suggestion of military takeover saw ahead of the 2023 general elections, notwithstanding the fact that their poisoned option would have led us to greater doom.
From the reports of election observers, over 100 persons died in connection with the 2023 elections, some others were brutalized, intimidated, harassed and browbeaten into hiding and denied their right of choice. The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) witnessed an uncommon upsurge in litigation arising from election disputes such that it has now budgeted about N3B as legal fees for this purpose.
This probably must have led to the emergence of the new apostles of dictatorship who are now canvassing for an interim government. These advocates are campaigning for fascism in simple terms. Their reason may be due to the deep-seated frustrations occasioned by the seeming cluelessness of civilian leadership since 1999, when we returned to democratic rule. Some of the people rooting for interim government are well advanced, knowledgeable and indeed well-grounded in democratic ethos that it challenges one’s sense of rationality to determine how they got to this point. When the practitioners of law and advocates of due process, sit down to preach anarchy and disorder, when those who have profited from the rule of law and democracy disown the very process that made them, when those who have suffered the brunt of dictatorship most now transform themselves into its mouthpiece, then we should get scared as a nation, knowing that something serious is evidently and ominously amiss. I had prayed that a time like this would never come to pass in Nigeria, but here we are, faced with the campaigners of interim government, who do so with all sense of conviction, desecrating the hallowed altar of the rule of law and constitutional democracy.
As stated earlier, this call may have been birthed by some of the ugly events that characterized the 2023 elections. Should this be a reason to canvas anarchy and dictatorship? I think not. Those calling for an interim government want all lawfully-elected representatives of the people to abdicate power in order to allow unelected people take over the reins of government. I then began to ask some questions. Are the interim government advocates not aware of section 1 (2) of the Constitution that says thus: “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” So, where did they get this idea of Nigeria under unelected leaders? What do we do with the Constitution? Suspend it and destroy the entity called Nigeria? What will be the foundation for the legitimacy of the selective contraption that they want to impose upon us? Are they not aware that section 3 (1) of the same Constitution states that “there shall be thirty-six States in Nigeria”? How did we get here really? Have the proponents of interim government not read section 2 (2) of the Constitution that: “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory”? For this idea to have sprang up at all, then surely our civilian leaders must have messed up the political atmosphere so badly that they don’t deserve to be trusted with power again.
We must blame the politicians, as they have had close to three decades to put their houses in order since the military was chased out of power in 1999. Things have gotten worse since then, as we are more divided now than we ever were, we are more concerned about our ethnic loyalties than ever before and we have more religious tendencies than it used to be. We can’t even talk about how corruption has eaten so deep into our national life, such that nowadays, snakes do swallow cash and septic tanks have become storage places for dollars. The rate of youth unemployment is higher than before, inflation is climbing at an alarming rate and basic infrastructure practically does not exist, in confirmation of any form of leadership. Our collective experiences with the various military regimes of the past have been very bitter, comprising inconsistent policies, wanton illegality, monumental corruption, arbitrary legislations, unbridled nepotism and sectional allegiances. They should serve as warnings to us on the futility of any undemocratic arrangement. Perhaps the most dangerous feature of interim government is the imposition of a unitary government, which in itself will halt the progress of Nigeria beyond comprehension. We will also most likely contend with the abrogation of the rights of citizens, arbitrary arrests and detentions, mysterious assassinations here and there and uncertainty in governance. We surely cannot return to that inglorious era, as we all firmly believe now that the worst civilian rule is better off than the best interim contraption. The call for interim government has however led us to think very deeply, as to the collective value of civilian government to the people of Nigeria since 1999. We have only raised petty bourgeoises, jet owners, electoral bandits and political godfathers who have all found retirement in politics and are very unwilling to let go. They live a lifestyle that they can only sustain with public funds. This is the present tragedy of our nation; namely that we love democracy and its system of governance but we have not gained much from it, because our leaders have bluntly refused to play the game according to the rules.
It is unfortunate that we will keep lamenting in this manner and sooner than later, another election cycle will come and go and we will still be singing the old songs in Babylon. But we must keep enduring it, until it gets better to give us the dividends that we truly deserve. As for interim government in Nigeria, let us perish the thought! That era has ended for good. NO LEGAL OPINION OF PETER OBI AS LABOUR PARTY CANDIDATE In July 2022, I wrote three different opinions on the candidates of the Labour Party, All Progressive Congress and the Peoples’ Democratic Party. This was long before the 2023 general elections. After the election however, I have not discussed the fate or chances of any particular politician. This is due partly to the fact that a process was instituted, concluded and there are different cases in the various Election Petition Tribunals challenging the process. I have however been inundated with a scripted WhatsApp post, wherein it was alleged that I stated that His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi does not qualify to claim membership of the Labour Party. That is not my opinion and I am not the author of that post. It is what we all call it: FAKE NEWS. I humbly urge you all to please disregard it. I am not a member of any political party, I am not involved in the prosecution or defence of any election petition and I have no interest in partisan politics, at least for now. Thus, it is not in my place to determine or pronounce on who can be or cannot be a member of any political party. Like other Nigerians, I am bound by and will accept the outcome of any and all lawful engagements by all concerned for the ventilation of grievances. I cannot fathom what those who circulated this false narrative seek to profit from it but it is ungodly to sit down and concoct a legal opinion and then ascribe it to someone else. I am a lover of peace and I believe in due process of law. To the extent that elections have been conducted and results declared from which winners have emerged, the next process for all who are aggrieved is to follow the procedure stipulated by law for challenging the process. I join other well-meaning Nigerians to appeal for peace, I encourage those who are in court to challenge the results of elections to be steadfast and committed to the process already activated and I urge the judiciary to dispense justice without ill-will or affection to all those who seek electoral justice. It is to our credit as a nation that we have had an unbroken process of leadership change since 1999 and that process cannot be discarded at this stage of our national development. Having said that, it must be emphasized that those who are entrusted with the responsibility of midwifing the transition process must do so in strict compliance with the enabling laws and also provide equal opportunities for all persons who are engaged in the transition process. We must continue to operate and correct the system until we attain perfection. Interim government? Perish thought!
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