President Muhammadu Buhari has obviously been ill-advised on the well thought out Southern Governors’ stance against open grazing by the Attorney General whose views were made known only two days ago. Buhari, with all humility, is quite wrong to say the Southern Governors’ stance is an act of questionable legality. If the Federal Government feels strong and sure about its puritanical, but legally flawed stance, I challenge the Federal Government to challenge the Governors’ resolutions by suing all the State Governors of Nigeria, through invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution. The action will fail miserably. I am ready, able and willing to defend such states probono.
I can state categorically that neither the president’s views, nor those of the Attorney General, are anchored on any provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution is the fons et origo, the grundnorm, the Oba, Eze, Oghie and Emir of our laws. Other laws must bow to the supremacy of this National identity card of a country ; for such other laws or FG ‘s resistance are but mere warrant Chiefs, Daudus, Bales, and Ukpi Drummers within the Constitution ‘s sacred domain.
The Governors have been given powers by the same Constitution in sections 5(2) ,11(2), 14(2)(b) ,176(2) and 215(4) of the 1999 Constitution to act as the Chief Security Officers of their various States to provide their citizens with welfare and security, which the Constitution says are the primary purpose of government. The Houses of Assembly of the states have equally been given powers by section 4(7) of the same Constitution to make laws for the peace, order and good government in their states.
In accordance with hallowed principles and practice of federalism and democracy, the Southern Governors do not require any permission from, or approval by, the FG for them to govern their states and protect their citizens, in the same way a boarding house pupil must first seek his Headmaster-s permission to visit his parents outside the school.
Mr. President ‘s statement, churned out, as usual, by his SSA on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, to the effect that that the Governors were politicking with serious security issues and attempting a show of power, is therefore most unfortunate, embarrassing, devisive, ethnocentric, insensate and insensitive to the memory of dead and dying Nigerians. These are thousands of innocent Nigerians savagely and brutally mauled down in cold blood, either in their own homes, farms, or on the streets and alleys, by these rampaging pastoralists.
The President appears undisturbed and unperturbed that Nigerians, especially in the South, have their wives, mothers and daughters violently violated and raped by these marauding AK-47 riffles-wielding expansionists that wear the fake toga of herdsmen. What has the Government done about it? Nothing. It usually customarily wrings its hands in pretended helplessness and washes them off every loss of life like Pontius Pilate in the Bible.
This is so despicable!. It is so abhorrent and shameful! Only yesterday, 124 people were slaughtered in just three states, with 100 of them being children, women and the elderly in Benue State alone. Nigerians have become weary of mourning. The Governors are tired of being Chief mourners, undertakers and elegy poets of their citizens. And Buhari is saying they must shut up and worship on the blood-sucking alter of Nigeria’s so called unity, indivisibility and indissolubility? We are living a lie of a contraption called a country that has since been reduced to a big scam and a one-chance dilapidated vehicle on a drudgery journey to no destination.
I challenge the Federal Government to go to the Supreme Court and challenge the states.By this, I hereby alter my earlier stance that the states should sue the Federal Government. No. It is the complaining and fretting FG that should take that step if uncomfortable with the Southern Governors’s communiqué. The states should go ahead and enforce the anti-grazing laws in their respective domains, using their neighbourhood and vigilante security outfits since (and I can bet on this ), the FG will never lend its centrally-commanded Police Force to aid the states. It is so easy to predict this clueless Government from the negatived.
For emphasis, we are operating a Federal system of government, not a unitary system. The Federal Government cannot therefore dictate to states like a slave owner to his purchased slaves. It is an aberration. Freedom of movement and right of some Nigerians to associate certainly end where other Nigerians’ rights begin. These freedom and right do not permit or licence particular business merchants ( that is what nomadic cow rearers are ) to carry deadly AK-47 rifles and maim and kill other innocent Nigerians in their homes, rape their mothers, wives and daughters in their houses. Such must be evil freedoms and rights.
Nigerians of a particular ethnic group do not have any right to freely graze their cattle on other people’s lands and thereby destroy their farm produce. It is this archaic and odious tribialistic, prebendalistic, sectionalistic and nepotic mindset that has made Buhari bring Nigeria down to her knees and to a despicable state of nadir, where she now wobbles, fumbles and tumbles.
Have you ever heard any Southerner complain about all the currency changers and Bureau de Change ( BDCs ) operators across every nook and cranny of Nigeria, even though everyone knows that over 95 % of the business is controlled by Northerners? No! Do you know why? Because they are not violent. They ply their trade peacefully, even if illegally and illegitimately. By the way, have you ever heard any Government raid or touch any of these special breed of Nigerians? I have personally never heard.
This is because we live in a country that is governed by two different sets of laws- one for the highly revered Northerners; the other for the highly despised Southerners. No Nation grows that way. The last time I checked, the freedom of movement guaranteed for Nigerians is not sacrosanct as it can be derogated from by the clear provisions of section 45, through enactment of a law that is “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order ,public morality or public health” ; or for “the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”. The last time I checked also, section 41 of the same Constitution is meant for full-blooded human beings ; not cows, goats and sheep.
That is why section 41 of the Constitution starts by saying “every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof….”. ‘Citizen’ is defined as “an inhabitant of a particular town or city” ; “a person who is at home in any country” ; “one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman”. Other synonyms of citizen are civilian, national, inhabitant, resident, voter, settler and dweller.
I checked very painstakingly and carefully, using different dictionaries, thesaurus, Black Law’s Dictionary and even Wikipedia, but I couldn’t and didn’t see where cows, goats and sheep were mentioned or regarded as ‘citizens’ of Nigeria or elsewhere. The Constitution that gives the freedom of movement to “every citizen of Nigeria’ also didn’t provide that such a citizen must be accompanied by cows, goats and sheep before he can exercise it.
So, where is the Buhari Government getting its vibes from? I do not know. Or, do you? Fellow Nigerians, the last time I checked also, we have not been told that Buhari has successfully moved the NASS to amend and alter our country’s name, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, to FULANI REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, or NIGERIAN REPUBLIC OF THE FULANIS, or FULANISED REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, or THE REPUBLIC OF FULANIS, or FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF THE NORTH, or NORTHERN REPUBLIC, or FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN NIGERIA, or REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN NIGERIA, or NORTHERN NIGERIAN REPUBLIC, or REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN NIGERIA AND OTHER TERRITORIES, or ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, or FEDERATION OF ISLAM AND OTHERS. So, what is going on here? I can no longer understand. Or can you? Nigeria, we hail thee.
OZEKHOME, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Abuja