FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeThursday, April 17, 2014
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IT IS WONDERFUL TO EXPERIENCE WHAT TRUE DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE

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"There's a word missing in British politics these days and that's honour, and I would define honour as: if you've done something wrong, as a cabinet minister, you resign - and if you don't resign you get sacked." John Mann British MP

ďMen are not moved by things but the views which they take of themĒ. --- Epictetus

he last 18 months has been a test of the resilience of the British system and its ability to regulate and purge itself. The period has witnessed an extensive inquiry into the regulation of the press, prosecutiom of members of parliament involved in corruption by claiming what they should not claim, and journalists involved in phone hacking and government attempt to establish an independent press regulation by law. The press did not like it. Then, one of the reasons why many believe that government regulation of the press by statue when there are existing laws about libels is an attempt by politician to control and muzzle the press occured. Suddenly, a Labour MP John Mann complained about the culture secretary, Mrs Maria Millerís expenses claims which sparked the investigation into Mrs Miller's expenses. Then, the daily telegraph published details of fraudulent claims by the culture secretory, Maria Miller and the matter was referred to the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards. She found the culture secretary guilty and recommended that she refund £45,000.00 to the tax payers.

However, the Commons Standards Committee, which has the final say on whether to accept the commissioner's recommendations decide to review it and said that she should refund £5,000. The people rose up and said no. Within few days there was 100, 000 signatories asking the culture secretary to resign. The prime Minister defended her and wanted her not to resign. But before the end of the week, just before the Prime Ministerís weekly question time in the House of Commons and his meeting with the 1922 Committee, Maria Miller the beleaguered British culture secretary resigned. Few people will shade a tear for her departure. She was the Minister who spear headed the legalisation of gay marriage in Britain, even though it was not in any of the partyís manifestoes. On Tuesday 8 April 2014, in her weekly column in the local newspaper in her constituency, the Basingstoke Gazette, Mrs Miller told voters: "I am devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down and in her letter, of resignation, Mrs Miller said she was "immensely proud" of her work in cabinet, including "putting in place the legislation to enable all couples to have the opportunity to marry regardless of their sexuality".

Once again, Britain has proved that democracy is not perfect, but can work for the people who work at it and understand what the rule of law and due process means and can disagree without shooting, punching, intimidation or assassinations. Of late, the British system has been challenged by various acts of misdemeanour. Just recently, the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy which happened about 25 years ago were given justice because evidence that the police lied, misrepresented facts and altered evidence were uncovered. At the moment the metropolitan police is investigating various allegation of misconduct and corruption involving senior officers. All these goes to show that the system is not perfect, but that good systems, though imperfect; have inbuilt ability to regulate and purge themselves.

Contrast this with Nigeria, where politicians overtly and covertly engage in corruption. Lobbiest find various ways to bribe politicians like disproportionate gifts to their children during birthdays and weeding , building churches etc. and many corrupt politicians not yet brought to justice and allowed to enjoy the proceeds of their crimes.

There is really no comparism between Nigeria and Britain. For all its short comings, Britain puts the welfare and interest of its citizen at the centre of its policies. It has strong institutions which can bring anybody, irrespective of their position or wealth to account, It operates a social welfare programme for the poor, disabled and unemployed, which are not available in Nigeria. For instance, few years ago, the British government introduced university fee and pegged it at £3000.00. They knew that it would be difficult for majority of people to afford it on their salary and they made sure that every student gets student loan to cover the university fees and a means tested living grants. Now the university fee is £9000, a years and the student loan has been increased to £900.00. They give serious consideration to the welfare of their citizen, ensure that those who break their laws pay a price and make attempt to do better whatever they are doing well. At the moment the government has taken early intervention very seriously which will ensure that children begin to get the help they need very early in life. It is indeed a privilege to part of such a society and I would like Nigeria to learn the good from them, especially in the way the government conduct its affairs, their attitude to laws, justice, tolerance of differences, presecution of offenders and respect to all.

Now in Nigeria, The university fee the last time I checked was 250,000 Naira a year and the government expects a man on minimum wage of 18,000 Naira a month to afford it. Do you now see the difference between the west and Nigeria and why ill-thought out and insensitive Nigerian government policies sustain corruption. How does any body expect a police office on 35,000 Naira a month with two children in the university to afford 500,000 naira a year for school fee? Why should an honest government ignore such a fundamental consideration in the oeganisation and running of the country? Is it not self deception for the Nigerian government to think that the country can ever get better without well thought, sensitive and economically sound polices that addresses common sense problems? If it was in Nigeria, members of Mira Millerís party who called for her resignation would be facing explosion from their party for anti-party activities. The Nigeria politicians sees acquiescence with wrong and duplicity as signs of solidarity and loyalty and here lays our problem. Britain is a country, where probity, honour and integrity still mean something but it is not the promised land.

It would seem that in Nigeria, politicians have licence to steal. If not, how come they steal and the government is unable to bring them to justice? Nigerian politicians steal as much as possible and when indicted, hire a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and bribe the judge who will say that a crime is a mistake as in the case of Demiji Bankole, ex-speaker of house of Nigerian Assembly or simply ignore the law and set the criminal free to enjoy his loot. If these fail, the president would simply grant pardon to convicted criminals because they are his friends and or come from the same state or because the politician will cross carpet to his own party. The Nigerian leader will not see the irony of welcoming or attracting corrupt individuals into his party. Politicians shamelessly change political parties to avoid prosecution for their crimes and we keep quiet. Any wonder why the Nigeria system does not work.

When I look at Britain, it is very clear that it would not be what it is today without its vibrant and independent press, which has the freedom to hold anybody to account and its criminal justice system which is no respecter of persons. Yes, there are times when the press has exceeded its boundary, but they have been taken to court and made to pay penalty. When there is miscarriage of justice ammends are made. This is all one can ask for. This is what makes a great nation. The questions are: where is the Nigerian press and why has the government rfused to make the necessary reforms the Nigerian crimninal justice system needs?

My question remains, why is there no Black nation, which is governed well with respect for the rule of law, due process and individual liberty? This week, Rwanda remembered the thousands who lost their lives in the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis by the Hutus, and majority of the distinguished guest were from outside Africa and in many African countries the problems that led to the Ruwandan genocide remain unsolved. In the Nigerian Middle Belt region, Fulani herdsmen with overvalued ideas about their entitlement are carrying out ethnic cleansing to secure grazing grounds for their cattle and the Nigeria government continues to handle the problem with kids glooves. In South Africa, in spite of evidence of corruption by president Zuma, he hangs on to power. In Nigeria despite allegation of missing $20 billion and other improprieties in his government, the president goes about as if nothing has happened and many indicted politicians continue to walk the corridors of power, include those implicated in murder. Why does the wicked flourish in Nigeria and the good die? Maria Miller resignation is evidence of robustness of the British system and there is a lot Nigerians can learn for it. Soon, the Members of the British parliament will no longer have power to review the decisions of the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards. This is how a country gets better, by learning from its experiences about what works and what does not work. The MPs have proved that MPs should not regulate themselves. Sadly in Nigeria, Legislators, governors and president still set their salaeies, allowances, pemsions and security votes. No nation can develop when it does not have effective system to hold those who excercise power on her behalf accountable or have sacred cows who can break the law with impunity. Long live Nigeria and God bless the Queen.

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