• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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The missing links in Buhari’s manifesto (1)

The missing links in Buhari’s manifesto (1)

Agitations for change almost always only end up producing new masters. This was the gut impression I got after reviewing the manifesto and vision of General Muhammadu Buhari for Nigeria. The officer and gentleman has rightly observed that for over fifty years of independence and despite Nigeria’s vast wealth both in abundance of natural and human resources, the nation continues to struggle with the most basic needs and, in his words, now paralyzed by widespread poverty, endemic institutionalized corruption, high levels of unemployment, a near total collapse of our educational system and facilities, collapse and decaying health and ineffective social services systems, among others, resulting, also according to him, to breakdown of law and order, institutionalized insecurity to lives and property, and weak, fragile and unstable economy.

It was Karl Marx who said that philosophers have interpreted the world but the real challenge remains changing it! In the same vein, Buhari has diagnosed the nation’s problems, correctly or incorrectly, but the real challenge is lucidly explaining the causes of the perceived decay and then showing practically how to bring about any meaningful change.

Three events since his declaration and selection as APC’s candidate have raised more doubts over his competence and preparedness to lead Nigeria as civilian president at this material time. Few weeks ago, on a national television, when asked what he would do about the economy if elected president, Buhari said he would first stabilize the crude oil price. It is hard to place how this thinking helps since no single president or country can determine global oil prices. Even OPEC’s power to stabilize the crude oil price is very, very minimal.

Again, while launching his presidential campaign in Port Harcourt, Buhari told his audience that he would send all the corrupt politicians to Kirikiri Maximum Prison and expose former heads of state. This summary approach to fighting corruption can only be possible in a military regime where the three arms of government are nearly fused in a military head of state. Sending corrupt officials to prison is the duty of the courts, not that of the president or the executive arm. The power of the executive in a democratic dispensation stops at investigations and APC and its candidate need to recognize this lawful fact.

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More worrisome is the thrust of his manifesto. As usual, it promises to build bridges even where there are no rivers. Though this may be said to be reminiscent of a typical politician, for Buhari much more is expected. Three or four issues stand out in the promises of Buhari and they are: to fight corruption; to fight insurgency; to legalize state and even LG police; and to devolve power to states to ensure true federalism.

To gain insight into these key issues one by one, hear Buhari: “I will initiate action to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit.” While this is a welcome departure from the centrist, unitary thinking of all the military governments in Nigeria that destroyed Nigeria’s federalism, Buhari’s inclusive, what General Buhari failed to appreciate is that in nearly all the areas listed, the 1999 Constitution will have to be amended and amending just about all the cases have actually been attempted in the previous amendments since 1999 and failed. What is even more instructive is that the opposition to these crucial amendments is coming mainly from opposition lawmakers most of who are from the legacy parties that formed the APC. The point being made here is that the entrenched interests, which ensured that these amendments have not

succeeded in the ongoing amendments in the National Assembly, must first be addressed and Buhari did not acknowledge that as a prerequisite to the changes he wishes to bring about as president.

A look at each of them is also necessary. First, fight against corruption. The fight against corruption has been facing a systemic problem. Unknown to many Nigerians, there is no way any president will succeed in the fight against corruption in Nigeria without a proper legal framework being in place. Apart from the fact that most of the laws against corrupt practices in Nigeria are obsolete, especially the provisions found in the Penal Code (North) and Criminal Code (South), the Procedural Act allows pre-trial matters (and these include all manner of injunctions) to travel to and fro Supreme Court through the Court of Appeal, from the courts of first instance.

Since there is no timeframe within which these pre-trial matters must be disposed or consolidated along with the trial matters, such objections can take upward of 10 years to dispose of, after which the case may even be declared status barred. This is what has incapacitated the EFCC and ICPC and accounts for why many of the former governors who are standing trial are sitting pretty tight in the Nigerian Senate undisturbed.