Thursday, 13 May 2021 11:57

[OPINION] Potpourri Day - Abdu Rafiu

The Governors of the Southern States have at last been rudely woken up from their slumber to recognise that the people put under their charge are facing existential challenges. It is the people they combed the length and breadth of their states with promises to serve and pledges to protect. They took oaths on their honour to secure life and property. Herdsmen menacingly wielding weapons of violence and destruction invaded the forests, roamed through the woods and farmlands. With confident resolve and brazen impunity the marauders sacked farmers and displaced farm hands, with some killed; the women were violated. The mission of the intruders was two-fold: To graze their animals on the farms, eat up the crops; and eventually forcibly take over the ancestral lands from their owners—in the 21st century, in this day and age, the age of negotiation and free market economy. The most disturbing and enraging which attracted the loudest outcry and ceaseless noise-making was that of Dr. Fatai Aborode, a Glasgow trained chemist who returned home, heeding government clarion calls to youths, to take to farming. Herdsmen drove their cows into his farm. The animals destroyed the farm and when he went to complain, he was tied and murdered.

In addition to herdsmen overrunning farmlands, dare-devil gunmen took over in the East, attacking anything that might smack of the symbol of government, especially policemen, burning down police stations. They burnt the country home of the Governor of Imo State, Uzodinma.

The unprecedented assault on ordinary citizens and officialdom jolted the southern governors under the auspices of Southern Governors Forum chaired by Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State to an awakening. They have realised that political correctness has its limit otherwise it becomes Winston Churchillian appeasement in the face of grave danger to Britain. Although Home Secretary Samuel Hoare was the one who pressed for appeasement and had to be forced to resign from the cabinet, Churchill carried the can, and Chamberlain got the credit, after securing agreement that there would be no negotiation with Germany until she withdrew from Poland.

It is good that the 17 governors eventually met in Asaba, Delta State. Predictably, the issue of insecurity sweeping through the land was top of the agenda. Other subjects dovetailed into it as the trigger or the solution. After all said and done one can’t but be struck by their polish in language and civility in tone evinced in their communiqué. This is compatible with their high office. They said that the people of Southern Nigeria stay committed to the unity of Nigeria, but “on the basis of justice, fairness, equity, oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its people with focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.”

The governors went on to ventilate the wide-spread and persistent complaints of their people about lopsidedness in appointments by the Buhari Administration into critical and security positions. In their words: “The meeting recommended that in deference to the sensitiveness of our various people, there is need to review appointments into Federal Government agencies including security agencies to reflect federal character as Nigeria overall population is heterogeneous.”

One sometimes wonders how the Northern Establishment would feel if the shoe were to be on the other foot and the core North is at the receiving end with regards to the appointment into critical offices. On Tuesday, the circle of senior government functionaries attending a crucial meeting on security ought to have been expanded to include the governors who are the chief security officers of their states. Those who attended the National security Council  meeting with the President, Muhammadu Buhari, in the chair were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to the President: General Lucky Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice; Bashir Salihi Magashi, Minister of Defence; Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser; Ibrahim Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Anwal Zubairu, Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice-Marshal Amao, Chief of Air Staff; Usman Alkali Baba, Inspector General of Police: Yusuf Magaji Bichi, Head of DSS and Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Head of NIA.  The Minister of Internal Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola ought to have been there. The meeting decided the new security arrangements in the South East and South geo-political zones and the zones did not appear to have been represented from what was shown on television. That cannot be said to be right, fair and equitable. Little wonder, and rightly so, the governors pressed for what they called greater inclusiveness in existing governance architecture. They said “in view of the widespread agitations among our various people for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the federal government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.”

The governors reiterated the strident calls for restructuring and true federalism with the concomitant emergence of state police. Here is how it is in the communiqué: “The meeting agreed that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure Nigeria federation leading to the evolution of State Police, review of revenue allocation formular in favour of sub-national governments and creation of other institutions with legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.”

In the demand for state police, the governors carry their refinement too far. State police is a different issue entirely, the establishment of which is the most pressing. They ought to have been more forceful on their demand. State police is the answer to the issue of insecurity deliberately made seemingly intractable by President Buhari’s rigidity to clinging to a unitary system while the constitution describes the country as Federal Republic of Nigeria. His obstinacy has exposed Nigerians to serious dangers and his provincialism has led to frightening agitation for separatism. One police command is at variance to the letter and spirit of federalism when the constitution expressly charges the governors with the security of their states. The governors have been too timid to press for what they require to protect their citizens and secure their property. As I did argue two weeks ago, if the security situation in the land had been like this between 1999 and 2003, a defiant Bola Tinubu with Attorney Yemi Osinbajo by his side would have gone to court for a declaratory pronouncement on the matter. At the state level as I said, I could see Ademola Candide Johnson and Conrad Idowu Taylor giving the states the go-ahead to set up their own police, indeed with JIC in his accustomed unsparing severity embarrassing the Federal Attorney General. At the Supreme Court The Federal Government would have Andrew Obaseki, Chukwudifu Oputa and Kayode Eso to contend with Nnameka Agu and Alfred Karibi-Whyte interjecting by asking if the intendment of the letters and spirit of the constitution expect the governors to tackle criminals armed with AK-47 and rockets with their fists. Pronouncements laced with disarming wisdom and erudition! They would have asked the Attorney–General, for the Federal Government and National Assembly, to educate them on what is meant by chief security officer of a state. The Justices would have said the power of the governors to set up their police and arm them is inherent in their responsibilities. You cannot give a person responsibility without authority, without power–in this case power to set up outfits by way of instruments of coercion to drive and enforce the power. Bandits had made attempts on Governor Babagana Zulum and Governor Sam Ortom and no-one has been held for the crimes. Where is Olisa Agbakoba? Where is Femi Falana—members of the public defender corps of old? An Osinbajo would have compiled a list of killings, destructions, abductions and houses burnt throughout the country, with his principal asking: What am I supposed to do? To fold my arms and look on with these unassailable evidence when governors are the ones charged with the security of their states? They are the chief security officers. See the hordes, the millions of IDPs in the land! They did well demanding that open grazing be prohibited including cattle movement to the South by foot. The governors have made a good start, but their job is not finished. They should press harder for the establishment of State Police.

Back to Kwara

Out of courtesy for the Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman Abdulrazaq  I held back my response to the remarks by him which was to be run on Thursday, 07 April 2021. Governor Abdulrazaq was going to be one of the guests at the unveiling of the publication on the first memorable 10 years of The Guardian, the flagship of the Nigerian Press. You do not bring a guest into your house and you begin to punch him in the nose. You must extend all courtesies and love due to a guest who is universally regarded as being under your care for the period the visit lasts.

Since then, I have observed that Christian mission schools in Ilorin now have Muslim girls wearing Hijab in their colleges. The governor has used his power to have his way. It is an abuse of office. Brig.-General David Bamgboye who got government interested in the affairs of the mission schools did say clearly that it was an “intervention” and not a “take-over.” So, the schools were never intended to be publicly owned. Giving the background to the intervention, Bamgboye said on 03 July 1972: “There are 78 post-primary schools in the state. Of these, only three are owned and run directly by the government; the remaining ones are voluntary agency community, and private schools.”

The reasons for the intervention he listed as: The need to have job security for teachers in Voluntary Agency Schools; the need to improve as well as unify service conditions  of teachers in all Voluntary Agency Institutions; the need for uniformly high standards between government and voluntary agency institutions; the need to narrow with the ultimate aim of closing the gap in educational provision amongst the various areas of the state and finally the need to ensure adequate staffing for all schools. Governor Bamgboye made it crystal clear that he was taking over only staff management of grant-aided institutions and not the institutions themselves… and that their rights to nominate members of the Board of governors for the day to day management and welfare of the institutions would remain. He made it abundantly clear that “the proprietary rights of the owners remain…the religious orientation and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed.” 

If the proprietary rights of the schools remain, it should presuppose that their rights to determine the uniforms of their pupils and students are sacrosanct. It is even more so when we read it along the pledge not to tamper with the religious orientation of the schools. 

The Kwara State Government’s response to this column says: “There seems to be a deep lack of understanding of the law and sentiments have set in. Bamgboye’s speech in 1972 is not superior to the law that came into place in 1974. A speech that was neither signed nor gazetted cannot be superior to the law. In any case, the speech was part of documents tendered in court by CAN in a matter in which they asked for their schools back. The question is why will you go to court to ask for your schools back if they had not been taken over?”

My take is that no one is denying the content of General Bamgboye’s speech even if the reproduction of it in print was not signed. The speech was heard by all concerned and I believe Bamgboye, an officer and gentleman, would like to be regarded as an honourable man whose word was his bond. His speech was a solemn promise to the people of Kwara State. There was no way a governor would hold a meeting with missionary proprietors and church leaders whose schools would be affected by the governor’s thinking and there would be no minutes of proceedings, agreements and understanding. Bamgboye’s pronouncement at the time was law. As a military governor, Bamgboye embodied the legislative and executive arms of his government. That agreement and understanding cannot be overturned capriciously. It was the guarantee that made the missions to surrender their properties to be grant-aided. A gentleman’s agreement cannot be overturned by any law. To overlook that and overwhelm the weaker party with power of office is an act of bad faith. It is oppressive, dishonorable and distasteful. Governor AbdulRahman Abdulrazaq should return the schools to their owners. His seeming victory for now is pyrrhic.  It will not stand.

Hadiza Bala Usman

I am sure all the progressives and friends of Dr. Bala Usman will be watching the crisis in which Hadiza Bala Usman is embroiled very keenly. This is against the background of her father’s imperishable contribution to the educational and political evolution of this country. I am talking about Dr. Bala Usman, a man with a banner without stain. Forthright and likeable. I recall his role in the attempt at fashioning out what he called a people’s constitution for our country. He and Dr. Segun Osoba of the University of Ife wrote their own minority draft constitution. Bala Usman was of Ahmadu Bello University. Will Hadiza do the illustrious memory of her father proud, time will tell. The world is waiting for the report of a probe said to have been instituted into her work at the Nigerian Ports Authority. I want to believe that she was conscious of the burden of the family name she is carrying and would do nothing to tarnish it.

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