ARE THE NIGERIAN GOVERNORS' FORUM AND NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL UNDEMOCRATIC FACES OF THE MUTATING NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY?
he government of Nigeria continues to behave in ways that lead credence to the assertion of some critics that it excels in the perverse. The latest is the activities of the governors' forum which continues to show that they have an agenda that is different from what the majority of Nigerians would vote for if given a chance. In developed counties, organisations like the Nigeria governors forum are for exchange of ideas about good governance and effective people oriented policies. They are in the fore front for the fight for equality, fairness, social justice, development and the values that are important to the common man. Unfortunately, the Nigerian governors' forum seems to be an organisation set up to pursue the self-defined objectives of the individual governors which are aimed to perpetuate their hold on power and avoid accountability.
Nigerian governors have constituted themselves into the unofficial fourth tier of Nigerian government and are abusing executive powers and interfering with the legislature and judiciary in ways that are inimical to Nigerian democracy. From its pro corruption stance by opposing the prosecution of corrupt governors, its demand for state police, emasculation of local government authority, reckless spending of state funds, institutionalisation of corruption and constant threatening and bullying of the presidency in issues of release of state allocations; the governors forum has become one of the most anti-democratic a forces in Nigeria. The abuse of power by governors is now legendary and the corrupt practices of many of them, and their visionless leadership are dragging Nigeria to ruin.
When a man whose house is on fire is busy chasing rats, it is evidence that all is not well with him. As the country tries to combat Islamic terrorism, kidnappings and resurgent armed robbery and kidnapping, Nigerian governors are obsessed with the politics of electing the leader of their forum. I cannot find any reason why the election of the leader of the governors' forum, an independent association of corrupt politicians whose main aim is to frustrate due process and ensure their immunity from prosecution for crimes they committed against the nation and people should be of national interest; and the concern of ordinary Nigeria. Why should the victims of crime shade tears when robbers fight over how to share their loot or who would be their leader?
The current obsession with constitutional amendment instead of political reforms by Nigerian politicians is another clear signs that that the current Nigeria leadership is not fit for purpose. No nation leaves it future in the hands of the type of people currently running affairs in Nigeria. The idea of state police is one more Trojan horse in the attempt by governors in Nigeria to put their selfish short term interests over and above the needs of the people and people and make accountability more difficult. Nigeria does not need state police. What Nigeria needs is an independent regional police force that is accountable to the people and able to enforce the law without fear or favour. Nigeria needs a police force that would respect the law and do not detain people for more that the law allows and return money posted for bail at the end of the case.
What the governors, blinded by their myopic self-interest want is a police force they would control the way they currently control local government. Nigerian governors have made themselves into an exclusive group whose primary interest is to protect its members. They are a group which has never contributed any single idea on how to end corruption in Nigeria, but constantly jostling to influence the presidency to protect their abuse of power which they engage in in their different states. Many of them have criminal charges hanging over their head; they are obsessed with ensuring that whoever becomes president of Nigeria will not hold them accountable for their crimes. It is a racket a kind of political mafia and it is a dangerous association. They have grown in power and are now acting as a separate national interest group in the way and manner those who wrote the Nigerian constitution never envisaged. It is because of their power, that federal government have been unable to prosecute a good number of them for corruption. The governors' forum gives succour to corrupt governors and pressure government to turn a blind eye to their crimes and excesses. They oppose any constitutional amendment that would make them accountable and this is very bad for the future of Nigerian democracy. Their activity has been the central factor why the government of Nigeria has been too pusillanimous to fight corruption or engage it without sanctimonious hypocrisy.
Many state governors have become examples of the worst face of corruption. From Ibori, Sylvia to Aleiyemiesagha, Orjis etc. They represent some of the worst criminals in Nigeria. While in power many of them have done nothing but devise many ingenuous ways of stealing state fund. Within four year Sylvia stole 6.46 billion and acquired 48 houses. In Abia state, the corruption of the present and last governor has ensured that no real development has taken place in the state in the last 13 years. They have become millionaires and their families live like royals while the state have moved from bad to worst and they still have the audacity to parade themselves as leaders. The result is the epidemic of kidnapping, armed robbery and many other degrading crimes like human trafficking in the state and adjoining regions. Human lives mean so little that women farm babies for sale. No one should look for hell; if Nigeria is hell as many people claim, then Abia state must be the hottest part. All because of what they governors have done or failed to do.
It is impossible to imagine that there has not been a single protest by any political party or none governmental organisation in Nigeria against the Nigerian governors' forum. The solution to the current menace which corrupt governors have become to Nigerian democracy is simple. Nigeria should abolish the state structure and be divided into three or six regions in this way no single governor would have total control of the police force. The idea by Southern Nigeria governor that they need to control the police force to ensure security is false. The governors only have to be responsible for security and have a police force that can deliver the program. They should also be able to make police chief appointment through competitive interviews and not by rank and seniority. Second, the president should investigate the source of funding of the governors' forum to determine if the governors have used state fund to run it. If they have they should be indicted because the governors have no right to divert state resources to run their private association. Jonathan can still cut them to size if he has clean hands.
These are the few changes that can be made safety at this time. A whole sale change to the Nigerian police force at this time may threaten Nigeria unity but government should commit itself to modernisation of the Nigerian police through training and structural changes. Nigeria has one of the most corrupt and undisciplined police force and a sudden change that destabilises most of them will only enable them to work with criminal elements to make the country ungovernable to prove that the change is wrong. However, a sustained incremental change that implements changes that make the police more accountable and transparent will expose corrupt policemen and give them no place to hide. State police will live the Nigeria police very fragmented, more corrupt and at the whim and caprices of corrupt governors who would use them to pursue their political objectives and settle personal scores. It would make Nigeria less democratic and state government less accountable. It would be the wrong thing to do.
Moreover, if what governors have done to local government authority is anything to go by, state police will increase the tyranny of governors and turn Nigerian state governors into little Mugabes. What we have in Nigeria is a fire brigade approach to policing and security which will only lead to worsening of insecurity and poverty and corruption. Instead of concentrating on solving the many problems facing Nigeria, the governors are busy lobbying the national assembly to make various constitutional amendments which would make their prosecution impossible which will enable them to obtain permanent injunction from prosecution for their crimes. How can Nigerians allow criminals to use the law to protect themselves from being held accountable for his crimes? It is abuses like the above, which our politicians are committing that disqualifies them from the offices they hold.
In 2015, Nigerians will go to polls to elect a new government. Already the jostling and permutation for power has already started with some of the opposition parties merging to improve their fortune. It is expected that some other political parties would come together and in the process, they will metamorphose into ideological political parties with coherent manifesto that would give Nigerians a choice.
Another feature of Nigerian democracy which is evolving into a monster is the role of ex- politicians. Year after year, people who have held political office at one point or another continue to exert influence in Nigeria politics through contraptions like the national executive council and I suppose it is time to focus the search light on their role especially in view of their role in frustrating the fight against corruption.
In other democracies, when leaders leave office after their term, they play no active role in the democratic dispensation except if they are specifically asked by the government to play a role. They have no part in the executive arm of the government. They are available to be contacted for advice or used as special envoys but never allowed to attend executive meetings just because they have been president in the past. They have no further role in the day to running of the government. The reverse is the case in Nigeria where leaders who have mismanaged the country in the pasted and involved in monumental corruption and crimes against humanity are allowed to continue to play a part through organisations like the national executive council NEC where they continue to prevent the change that would take the country towards the direction they failed to lead her.
The impression the people have from election is that they are electing a new government with new ideas, and ways of doing things. Instead the old corrupt leaders find their ways back to the government and take part in pardoning of criminals and deciding the direction of the country. This is wrong and undemocratic. Nigeria needs people who are prepared to take the country on a different direction and a clear break must be made with the failed past to make this possible and one of the ways is excluding ex-presidents and heads of state in the national executive council.