Third-Term Plots and Nigeria's Criminal Ingenuity


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Third-Term Plots And Nigeria's Criminal Ingenuity




Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD

Burtonsville, MD, USA


Thursday, November 17, 2005







Today is my French day, even though I love Nigeria, I nor go lie.


Up until now, there have been three events or issues in Nigeria's political and legal life that have confounded me and given me pause and amused me about our country .   A fourth one was added by a Senate Sub-Committee just yesterday: that made me very angry that I had not thought of it myself.



Event No. 1:  Twelve-two-third is two-thirds of Nineteen


Mathematically, twelve and two-thirds is of course two-thirds of the number nineteen – but you will recall that back in the 1979 Nigerian Presidential Elections that pitted Shagari against Awolowo, Azikiwe and Waziri Ibrahim, shepherded by the outgoing military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo, we were talking of states, not numbers. But the equality of ordinary numbers and states was the confounding argument by NPN Legal Secretary Chief Richard Akinjide that ushered in the President Shagari regime following the argument's successful upholding first by the Election Tribunal and then by a loaded Supreme Court of the nation.   That a Nigerian could argue that a state was divisible – all in an effort to subvert the original intention of winning 13 whole states, without which the presidential decision would be thrown open to the legislature – was quite an ingenious howler.   The political instability that the strange decision engendered however partially led to the military couping of the Shagari regime by Buhari just four years later – leading us to about 15 years of almost continuous military rule afterwards – Buhari, IBB, Sonekan,  Abdusalami -  and then back to Obasanjo.


"Plus ca change, plus la meme chose."    



Event No. 2:  4-1-9 Advanced Fee Fraud Crime


Confidence trickery has been a crime in many countries from time immemorial.  In general, the victim genuinely believes that the fraudster is doing honest business, but later finds out otherwise.  But Nigeria's particular version of it – advanced fee fraud, popularly called 4-1-9 after a Criminal Code Section 419 that outlaws it  – is a particularly ingenious one, in that the fraudster OWNS up upfront that the deal that he or she is asking you to assist him on is MOST PROBABLY not honest.   Nevertheless, you should overlook that simple fact since what you will gain huge financial reward eg 1% of $100 million, from a SIMPLE ASSISTANCE    if only your greed will allow you to agree to be helpful.  Yet, the simple fact is that you are not going to get a PENNY from the millions of dollars promised, rather you will be asked in time to shell out $100  here, $10,000 there to facilitate the promised millions of dollars, until you suddenly realize that you are being conned !  That 4-1-9 was designed at all – and that people still fall for it – is still a marvel to me.


It gives me pause about the lack of intelligence of greedy persons:  "C'est bizarre."



Event No. 3:  Anticipatory Asset Declaration


Now this is an amusing one…


The Code of Conduct Bureau in Nigeria requires all public officers to declare their assets truthfully upon assumption of office, which assets technically should be compared with those declared at the end of each year to see whether such assets could have been legally acquired within the limits of salaries of the officers or not.   Now here is the Nigerian wrinkle:  the public officer in question declares at the beginning of his office   MORE ASSETS than he or she ACTUALLY owns, and then GOES ON TO CORRUPTLY ENRICH HIMSELF in order to obtain those assets later on and match them with the earlier declared one !  If he is not sufficiently "successful" at such an enrichment, he can always claim that he in fact LOST ASSETS while diligently fulfilling national duty.  


Can you beat such ingenuity ?  Wonders will never cease.  "C'est rigolo !"



Event No. 4:  Three Four-Year Terms – The Latest Evil Ingenuity


The rumor has been rife for just about  two years now, that the present Presidential system actors – a.k.a  President Obasanjo himself -  will seek to extend his term (and ostensibly the Governors' too) SOMEHOW beyond 2007, despite the fact that the Constitution allows only a maximum of two four-year terms.   This fear is now gaining an unimaginable momentum, particularly with accusations of  money being used to bribe legislators to smoothen the deal.   Of course, only a constitutional review would cut muster, and I had just been wondering how this administration will try to advance it with all the hurdles that our 1999 Constitution presents for changes. The options were very few:  


(i)                   extend the PRESENT term by two years ARBITRARILY so that the President and state governors – and possibly the legislature – continue till 2009, possibly citing a one-time extenuating circumstance, including state of emergency.


(ii)                 Stipulate a one-term six-year presidency, but allow the present regime to contest under that change.  That would theoretically allow this regime, after 2007, to continue till 2013, if the elections charade of 2003 is repeated in 2007.


Both of the above options violate every instinct in Man, because they mean that the present regime will be taking advantage of a change in constitution that did not exist when they took office and swore an oath.


Now comes this latest  annoying Nigerian wrinkle:  a third option viz


(iii)                stipulate a change of  Constitution to allow a three-term four-year presidential system, ostensibly starting with the present regime which would merely then have completed its two four-year terms in 2007.   This would theoretically allow this regime to go until 2011.


Now, this is of course a distinctive Option (ii) with a slight difference – that it is MORE FAMILIAR and it is a less departure from that Option – and you will soon read people , eg the Organized Private Sector (should that be Private or Sicilian ?), saying that if the national and state assemblies pass it, and the people "vote" for it, that is Nigeria's home-grown democracy – a la Abacha arguments !


As De Gaulle once said in a droll to a flattering lady,  "Madame, les cimetiθres sont pleins d'hommes indispensables." [Translate : "Madame, the graveyards are full of indispensable men." ]



Concluding Remarks


I shake my head at the ingenuity of this last set of "indispensable" Nigerian people who daily scheme to destroy Nigeria under the guise of saving it.


May God save Nigeria from them all.  [Amen.]



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