Ominous Clouds


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Ominous Clouds

The Sun Publishing  Editorial


culled from THE SUN, October 16, 2006


The turn of events in the polity in recent weeks appear too grave to be ignored. For a country that is working towards passing the first real test that a democratic transition imposes, the cataclysm that has suddenly arrested the polity gives cause for concern.

The stage for this unpalatable state of affairs was set by the embarrassing feud between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar. They have, through their open hostility, diminished their statures and also debased the offices they occupy. Given the danger which their altercations pose to the enthronement of a healthy and an enduring democratic culture, well meaning Nigerians have denounced their gambits while hoping that they would return to the path of sanity and honourable conducts that their offices demand.

But while Nigerians are weathering the storm, more faggots appear to have been introduced into the blazing fire. The Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC) inflicted a more devastating shock on the polity when it told Nigerians that virtually all the Governors of the 36 States of the Federation are corrupt. While many of them are being investigated for alleged acts of corruption and corrupt practices by the EFCC, the commission claimed that some of them have already been indicted, going by its investigations.

For country that is fighting relentlessly to stem the growing tide of corruption in the land, the job of an anti-corruption agency such as the EFCC would normally excite the people. Unfortunately, the commission has not confined itself to the limitations imposed on it by its enabling statute. From being an investigating agency which should forward its findings and conclusions to an appropriate court or similar agencies with powers to prosecute, the EFCC appears to be turning itself into a court of law. It now passes judgment and even condemns before a judicial trial.

Apparently owing to its impatience with the rule of law, the commission would no longer allow its verdict of guilt on the governors to pass through the mills or proper channels of adjudication. Rather, the legislatures of the affected states are being blackmailed and even coerced into impeaching their governors. At present, this ugly scenario is playing out in Ekiti and Plateau States with severely unsavoury reverberations across the polity.

The absurdity that has, so far, attended the impeachment exercise in Plateau State is a sad pointer to the abuse of due process. With 16 out of the 24 legislators of the state House of Assembly being held by the EFCC for alleged corruption, which presumably was also committed by every member of the Plateau State House of Assembly, eight of the legislators curiously met and commenced “impeachment” proceedings against the governor.

This is a rude slap on constitutionality and the rule of law and in total defiance of the relevant constitutional provisions. Sadly, they are carrying out this illegality under the cover and protection of agents of the Federal Government. Significantly, the people of the state have rejected this sleight of hand. The riots which broke out in the state last Friday epitomise their disgust with the present state of affairs in their state.

The situation in Ekiti State is even more farcical. Here, the state legislature has assumed the roles that do not belong to it. Its appointment of an acting Chief Judge to try the governor is a nullity as it has no constitutional powers to do so. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alpha Belgore, has said this much. Yet, the illegal panel constituted by the state legislature still purports to be sitting. This is anarchy writ large.

Nigerians cannot pretend to be unaware of the dangers inherent in this arm-twisting tactics being employed by the Presidency to get at its enemies, real or imagined. In its frenzied and ostensible bid to fight corruption, the president and his cohorts are inflicting more corruption on the system.

They have violated the democratic norms that we are used to and are replacing them with acts that smack of crass opportunism and personal vendetta against perceived enemies. This untoward perception, regrettably, has done so much to derogate from the importance of the war on corruption, forcing many to become sceptical of the motive for the anti-graft crusade. In other words, is it about love for Nigeria, or settling of political scores? If so, at what price to the development of our young democracy and national stability? We must reject this debasement of our democratic values by a miniscule clique of buccaneers and power seekers.

It is also sad to note that while all this is going on, governance has come to a halt. Social infrastructure has collapsed. Most of our roads have become impassable. In fact, there is so much despondency in the land. In some parts of the country, like the Niger Delta region, for instance, the frustrations find expression in the violence and bloodletting that have become a daily fare in the area. Insecurity of lives and property is on the rise while many public institutions are in total decay.
Scenarios such as this stifle growth and development as no investor would find comfort in a hostile environment such as ours. In fact, with the instruments of coercion and suppression at its disposal, the Presidency is foisting a siege mentality on the polity. It has thrown decency and decorum overboard and has, instead, elevated the command mentality to the level of an art. The overall objective appears to be geared towards removing as many governors as the Presidency wishes, using the impeachment weapon as a bait.

We are worried by this wrong application of the impeachment process. The scenario approximates to vendetta and bad blood. We repudiate this dangerous path because it is capable of rebounding detrimentally on the polity. The gale of impeachments is a recipe for anarchy and instability. It could plunge the country into untold crisis whose repercursions may be too grave to contain.

We are even more perplexed that this brazenness is being perpetrated at a time the country is preparing for crucial elections. With just about six months to the general elections that would usher in a new crop of leaders, what Nigerians need now is stability, not distraction. To arrest the slide, the presidency and overzealous agents of government need to tread cautiously. They should eschew vendetta and witch-hunting and allow the law to take its course. The EFCC, for instance, should limit itself to the role assigned to it by the relevant statute. This is how best it can shun the temptations of arbitrariness and high-handedness.

The success of the on-going transition programme and the survival of this democracy are twin indices that would be used to judge the current democratic dispensation. If they fail, this government would also have failed. The common denominator in all this is that our democracy must survive. We do not want any form of military intervention or disruption.

We can avoid this monumental setback by toeing the path of reason and engaging in civilised conducts. The present state of siege is an ill wind whose devastating consequences we can ill afford.


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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.