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Justice Dantijjo, Public Opinion And The Rumble In Supreme Court’s Jungle

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By Festus Adedayo

Is there any connect between law and public opinion or judgments and public opinion? Before Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad’s (rtd) valedictory speech at the Supreme Court last Friday, the connect or disconnect between those two had begun to assume a life of its own. The presidential election judgment delivered by the Supreme Court the day before heightened concerted quests for the nexus or disjuncture between them. In the Dattijo valedictory, it would appear that the Learned Justice had deliberately set out to take the sail off the wind of views which divorced law from judgments and public opinion.

In the valedictory, Dattijo lamented how public perceptions of the judiciary had become “witheringly scornful and monstrously critical”. He was equally worried that “the public space” had been “inundated with the tale that court officials and judges are easily bribed by litigants to obviate delays and or obtain favourable judgments”. Quoting copiously from an earlier valedictory of a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, Dattijo read: “Pleas are expressed everyday by the generality of the public begging the judiciary to be just, to be truthful; and to save the country from collapse. My question is whether the judiciary needs to be begged or cajoled? What is it that qualifies any person to bear that exalted name ‘Honourable Justice’? Is it not for him to administer justice without fear or favour?… Unfortunately, it has been severely vilified, with the Apex Court so denigrated and called by a social commentator as a voter gaggle of useless, purchasable judicial bandits. How did the judiciary get to this level? Why is the whole country on edge for fear of what the public regards as unpredictable judicial pronouncements? There must be a rethink and a hard reset. If the people we have sworn to defend have lost confidence, there is a problem that must be addressed.”

Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Kayode Ariwooola, a few weeks ago, attempted the thrashing of any nexus between judgment and public opinion. While administering oath on 23 newly appointed judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Ariwoola sternly warned judicial officers on the need for impartiality in the dispensation of their duties, stating implicitly that public opinion cannot supersede the constitution in any judgment. In the presidential election appeal at the Supreme Court last week, it was apparent that the court harkened to this warning of MiLord. The court sounded the death-knell of public opinion. Ariwoola didn’t believe that there was connect of any kind between the opinion of the people and redemption of society which law, broken into its brass-tacks, represents.

So, when judges deliver their judgments, do they bother about public opinion? Do public opinions sway them? Should it sway them?

Political science gives a prime place to public opinion due to the massive role it plays in government and politics. It gives major attention to the influence public opinion has on the development of government policy. Some political scientists even regard public opinion as equivalent to the national will. In its raw form, public opinion is primarily a communication from the citizens to their government. This is why, in autocratic regimes, such opinions are only expressed in a clandestine manner, if it is expressed at all, but is majorly suppressed. Jeremy Bentham so venerated public opinion that he called it “the tribunal of public opinion” which he believed could prevent misrule and suggest legislative reforms. Philosophers of the enlightenment period believed so much in the efficacy of public opinion that they demanded public communication of governmental acts.

Since Justice Ariwooola made that distinction, public opinion will seem to have suffered mortal blows in the hands of those who eke out their daily meal through canvassing public opinions. Arise Tv duo, Reuben Abati and Rufai Oseni have literally been at professional loggerheads, sparring in a mini rumble on the place of public opinion society. While Oseni was averse to emergency morticians proclaiming the death of considered views of the people, Abati appears to have lent the rabble a hearse to wheel the mercilessly pummeled public opinion to its graveyard. On Friday, in the duo’s final autopsy session on the cadaver of the opinion of the people, Abati had said: “Public opinion is kilometers and kilometers away from law. Law is not about emotions and sentiments…and we have the authority par Niki Tobi JSC in Atiku Abubakar v Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who said that the only clientele of law is the law and not public opinion. People may express what they like at beer parlours. We saw that yesterday as their Lordships dealt only with the law and qua law… the judges, yes they are not going to follow your opinion, they follow technicality of the law. This matter is now rex judicata, settled in law.” Abati even chose to tread the unenviable gas-lighting path that traducers of public opinion walk severally. This he did by equating public opinion to alcohol-induced views at shebeens. The way he argued it, you would think that public opinion was a demon whose spirit needed to be exorcised.

To drive home the metaphysical powers inherent in opinions of the collective, otherwise called public opinion, popular Yoruba Sakara music exponent, S. Aka, alias Baba Wahidi, narrated an instructive fable in his Itan Agilinti album. He must have sung it in the 1960s. Aka was a traditional songster who dominated the musical stratosphere of the Western region of the 1950s, 60s and even up till the late 1980s. He was an Egba of Abeokuta in Ogun State and bitterly rivaled another notable musician who sang same genre of traditional music, Yusuff Olatunji. Aka’s songs were steeped in the tradition and culture of the people of Yorubaland, with occasional tinges of his ancestral Egba dialect jutting out of his rhythms. Proverbs, incantations, wise-sayings and ways of life of the people were dished out in a medley of praise-singing and excoriation of the evils of society.

In this particular album, Aka told the story of a king who, in appreciation of a favour he did to a renowned medicine man, was given a small talismanic gourd. Whenever he had the gourd as amulet around his waist, so said the medicine man, he would hear clearly the exchanges between animals, including domestic ones in the palace. One day, a sheep strolled into his hearing distance in the palace, ostensibly on a visit to another sheep within. Distinctly, the king heard the visiting sheep tell the one in the palace that in the next seven days, the king’s palace would be totally razed down. On the prompting of this revelation, that night, the king evacuated all his costly belongings from the palace. On the said seventh day, the palace was in total flames as the sheep predicted. When the whole town thronged the palace to commiserate with the king, they asked, pleasantly bewildered, how the palace was bereft of any belongings at the time of the inferno. Did the king have premonition that disaster was afoot?

A few weeks after, the same sheep strolled into the palace and in conversation with his pal, revealed to him that the king’s priceless horse would die in the next seven days. As he did earlier, the king pretended he hadn’t heard this foretelling and the second day, sold the horse. Exactly the seventh day of the foretelling, the horse suddenly died in the hands of its purchaser. A couple of weeks after, the sheep again came into the palace and told his peer that exactly seven days thence, the king himself would die. Exasperated and terribly worried, the king, unable to feign understanding of the two sheep’s conversation, moved closer to them and asked what he could do to avert his impending death. The sheep however told him that, no matter what he did, he would surely die. And on the seventh day, the town erupted in mourning as the king kissed the canvass. The morale of the fable was that, if the king had allowed the previous calamities he averted to befall him, they would have acted as propitiations for his life. The animals told him that in the commiserating words of a multitude of the people lay redemption from colossal tragedies.

Yes, public opinion has mutated from its erstwhile kingly role to the place of scorn it currently occupies. Today, it is a dirty and filthy rag which is often held as the province of charlatans. In ancient times, this was not so. First, what is public opinion? Hans Speier, in his Historial development of public opinion, defined it as “free and public communication from citizens to their government on matters of concern to the nation.” In the words of some scholars, public opinion is a synthesis of the views of all or a certain segment of society. In his 1918 writing, American sociologist, Charles Horton Cooley said that public opinion comes from interaction and not as a broad public agreement, while the political scientist, V. O. Key defined public opinion as “opinions held by private persons which governments find it prudent to heed.” In the same vein, American editorialist, Walter Lippman, in a treatise published in 1922, said that the mystery enjoyed by public opinion was given it by democracies. In decades, public opinion has become a powerful force across human spheres of existence like culture, fashion, literature and the arts.

In his valedictory of Friday, Dattijo made a significant dissection of the public perception of the judiciary and his conclusion was that the public was right about some of its opinions on judicial interventions and judgments. Dattijo stood on the side of public opinion. So why would Abati and Justice Ariwoola pour such scorn on public opinion as if it was a filthy rag?

There have always been struggles between law, morality and public opinion on whether there is a relationship between them. Between law and morality, while both regulate behaviours of human beings, there has not been any consensus on their relationship. While a school of thought believes in their mutual independence, another believes they are interdependent and yet another, they are mutually exclusive. The argument is, how does any law that claims to regulate human behavior not be in harmony with moral norms? The law must be such that safeguards the welfare and good of humanity and this can only happen if the law sits firmly on a strong moral template.

While Justice Ariwoola may be right to some extent in his submission that judgment takes no cognizance of public opinion but the technicalities expressed by the books and the constitution, Abati was not right in his claim that “public opinion is kilometers and kilometers away from law.”

Indeed, in their literature, there is a close affinity between law and public opinion, with public opinion being seen as a major source of law. This is because it is almost an impossibility for the legislature to pass any law, for usage by the government, without basing such on public opinion and the demands of the people. In the same vein, public opinion has been held to be the guardian of rights and freedom and this is so because the rights and freedom enjoyed by the public requires adequate protection and these guardians are opinion moulders. No law can operate without public opinion in a democracy and in fact, as underscore of their Siamese relationship, the legislature has been held to be a very important source of law. This legislature is a body of representatives of the people who are expected to be mirror of their opinions in the parliament. In practice, and according to P S. Mathur, “Law should be not firmly rooted in public opinion but should be a little ahead of it”. He was most probably giving heeds to German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who described public opinion as “containing both truth and falsehood” saying that it was the task of the great man to distinguish between the two.

Dattijo’s valedictory is a restoration of a pride of place to public opinion. First, in the earlier valedictory of Adefope-Okojie he cited, that public opinion scion was Saturday Tribune’s inimitable columnist, Farooq Kperogi. Kperogi’s submission that the Supreme Court had become “a voter gaggle of useless, purchasable judicial bandits” was the public opinion that went viral when the Supreme Court affirmed that former Senate President, Ahmed Lawan had won an election he didn’t participate in. For Justice Adefope-Okojie to cite the opinion of Kperogi is an affirmation of agreement with his submission. For Dattijo to now cull it is an affirmation that that greatly vilified opinion of the public space also retains some weight of pride.

Dattijo had deliberated on further issue of “the unpredictable nature of recent decisions of the courts as well” and that “a number of respected senior members of the bar inter alia, citing the Lawan, the former President of the Senate and the Imo governorship appeals, claim that decisions of even the apex court have become unpredictable. It is difficult to understand how and where, by these decisions, the judicial pendulum swings. It was not so before, they contend”. The Learned Justice even went a step further: “In some quarters, the view is strongly held that filth and intrigues characterize the institution these days! Judges are said to be comfortable in companies they never would have kept in the past. It is being insinuated that some judicial officers even campaign for the politicians. It cannot be more damnifying!”

You will recall that the judicial affirmations of the elections of Lawan and the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, in the court of public opinion, irretrievably dimmed the respect and reverence accorded by Nigerians to the apex court. That public opinion that is said not to matter has since removed the rug of legitimacy from Uzodinma as governor. He is mocked as “Supreme Court governor” and I hear that the widespread discontents against his government arose out of the belief that the governorship must have been arranged. If someone didn’t participate in a senatorial election but the apex court awarded him the election, all in the name of technicality, what kind of opinion should the society have about that person and the institution that awarded him that seat? If another one came fourth in a gubernatorial election but a court, which claims it is insulated from public opinion, ordered that the person should be sworn in as governor, what should public opinion say about such a court?

Then Justice Dattijo raised issues about quadrupling finances of the apex court and asked repeatedly what happened to the billions that accrued to the court. You didn’t need any soothsayer to know that MiLord was lamenting the existence of a mysterious funnel at the Supreme Court that drains the monies into unseen pockets. For the judiciary to even have a modicum of moral right to try any case of fraud or corruption subsequently, it must answer all questions posed by Datijjo on what happened to those billions.

The retired justice’s recourse to the Holy Quran and its precepts about morality and the path to tread speaks volume about the nexus between the voice of opinion of the people and the voice of God. Public opinion stands for justice, just as the Holy writ enjoins the people. Technicalities of law do less of justice. In the words of Dattijo’s quotation from the Quran, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves or your parents or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts) lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your evidence or refuse to give it, verily Allah is ever well a Acqunted with what you do.” Chapter 9 Verse 71, he said, requires that believers, both men and women, do what is just and forbid what is evil.

With the revelations by Justice Datijjo, (rtd) and the hubris of self-righteousness that surround the Nigerian judiciary’s dispensation of justice, it is becoming crystal clear that Nigeria’s Lady Justice is fascinated by the jungle. When law or judgments of the court become impervious to public opinion, they turn into purely mechanistic and absolutely mechanical rituals, lacking human blood flowing in their veins. To divorce public opinion from judgments equals the technicality that is today the provenance of the Nigerian judiciary. That provenance breeds the public perception that the Nigerian judiciary is home of miscarriage of justice.

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Why Governors Should Align With President Tinubu On LG Autonomy

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By Tunde Rahman

Governors have been acting tongue-in-cheek in their reactions to last Thursday’s verdict of the Supreme Court, which stripped them of their suffocating grip over the money meant for local governments in the country. As a collective, the governors unreservedly endorsed the judgement. Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Kwara State Governor, AbdulRazak AbdulRahman, who spoke on behalf of the governors, said the forum welcomed the apex court’s ruling granting financial autonomy to the councils, describing the verdict as a relief from the burden on the governors. Addressing State House Correspondents on the matter after a meeting with President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Friday, Governor AbdulRazak was flanked by the Chairman of All Progressives Congress Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodimma, and Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum, Dr Bala Mohammed, suggesting they were all in agreement with Governor AbdulRasak in his pronouncement.

“Our Attorney-General has applied for the enrolment order, which we will study carefully. But by and large, governors are happy with the devolution of power in respect of local government autonomy. It relieves the burden on governors. Our people really don’t know how much states expend in bailing out local governments, and that’s the issue there,” Governor AbdulRasak said, adding that his government in Kwara State had never tampered with local government funds.

However, it was learnt that the governors were not happy with the decision of the federal government to take them to court and are merely playing to the gallery. For instance, a few days after the NGF Chairman spoke, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, who is of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, described the case as a distraction. He questioned the sustainability of local governments receiving allocations from the federal government. Speaking with members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Ibadan, Oyo State, the governor said: “They said there is a judgment of the Supreme Court on local government autonomy. I think it is just a distraction. We must face the real issue that we have. The issue that we have is that we are not producing enough. We are not productive. Maybe it may be part of the problem, we want to have value for what is being shared but our problem is productivity.”

It may be argued that it is customary in our clime for an opposition governor to toe a different path from that of the President from a different party and this may be correct. However, the opposition of state governors to local council financial autonomy has never been in doubt. It has always been vainly concealed. In a report in The Punch newspaper of January 25, 2023, state houses of assemblies across Nigeria had rejected nine constitutional amendment bills, including the proposed legislation for financial and administrative autonomy for local government councils. The state assemblies were believed to have done so at the promptings of their governors who exert considerable influence over legislative processes at the state level. The rejected bills were part of the bills that the National Assembly transmitted to them for concurrence. The National Assembly had in March 2022, voted on 68 bills aimed at further amending the 1999 Constitution. At the end of the exercise, 44 of the bills were approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and transmitted to the state assemblies for concurrence. A simple majority of votes was required in at least two-thirds of state assemblies (24 out of 36) for the amendments to sail through and the amendments that sail through would then be sent to the President for assent.

The Senate, in a motion by the then Chairman of the Senate ad-hoc committee on Constitution Review, Ovie Omo-Agege, said during plenary that 27 out of the 36 state assemblies had forwarded their resolutions on the constitution amendment bills to the National Assembly. Presenting his committee report, Omo-Agege said 35 bills satisfied constitutional provision, having been approved by not less than 24 state assemblies. Nine bills could not scale through. Prominent among the bills voted against by the state parliaments was the one seeking to grant financial and administrative autonomy to the country’s local governments. Also among the bills that did not sail through are the ones seeking the abrogation of state-local government joint account and establishment of local government as a tier of government, meaning a majority of the state assemblies, and by extension the governors, never wanted local governments to have absolute freedom.

It’s perhaps in realisation of this, and the overarching need for local governments to be financially empowered to cater to the challenges at the grassroots that President Tinubu took upon himself the crusade for financial autonomy for the local governments. He mandated the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, to institute a case against the governors at the Supreme Court. This is with a view to reinforcing democratic principles through full financial powers and effective devolution of power to the councils and ensuring genuine representation at the grassroots through periodic elections.

In the suit, the FG sought the enforcement of full autonomy of local governments in Nigeria and also for an order prohibiting state governors from embarking on unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically-elected local government chairmen, and constituting caretaker committees in their place. It also asked the court to make an order permitting the funds meant for the LGs to be directly channelled to them from the Federation Account in line with the provisions of the constitution as against how the governors take advantage of Section 162 (6) at the detriment of the local governments.

The Supreme Court’s verdict was very emphatic and unequivocal. All the reliefs sought by the FG were granted. The apex court ordered direct payment of council allocations, saying the 774 local councils in the federation should manage their funds without interference or deduction from any quarter. According to the apex court, it is unconstitutional for state governors to retain and utilise LG statutory allocations paid through them. The seven-man panel of the court led by Justice Emmanuel Agim also declared that a state has no power to appoint a caretaker committee, while it is mandatory for a local government council to be democratically governed.
“In this case since paying them through states has not worked, the justice of this case demands that the local government allocations from the Federation Account should henceforth be paid directly to the LG councils,” the apex court ruled. On the dissolution of democratically elected councils and appointments of caretaker committees by governors, Justice Agim held that it is a mandatory duty of the state governments or governors, under Section 7 (1) of the Constitution, to ensure their existence. “A democratically-elected local government is sacrosanct and non-negotiable,” the court added.

This landmark judgment is a critical step forward. It has now become imperative for the governors to file behind President Tinubu in ensuring that local councils become an independent and self-governing tier of government. The governors’ buy-in is important because when the chips are down, the state chief executives will still play an influential role in the election of local government chairmen. The governors must understand that to ensure genuine grassroots development and further strengthen our democracy, the local governments must be empowered financially.
This is part of the democratic re-engineering and restructuring the nation yearns for.

Indeed, not a few Nigerians are looking forward to the restructuring of the country under this president, given his antecedents. Apart from his numerous struggles for the entrenchment of democracy in the land, even as governor (1999-2007), he fought many battles with then President Olusegun Obasanjo on matters bordering on true federalism. Many would recall the issue of creation of 37 additional local governments in Lagos State during which he dragged the Federal Government to Supreme Court when President Obasanjo stopped the federal allocation to the state. In its ruling, the Supreme Court okayed the process leading to the creation of the councils and described the creation of the 37 new councils as legal, but declared them as inchoate because they had not been listed in the constitution as LGAs. Asíwájú Tinubu’s ingenuity came to play with the new councils becoming Local Council Development Areas. Today, these LCDAs have helped to expand the frontiers of development in Lagos.

There is also the matter of ownership of lands and granting of development plans in the states. Asiwaju Tinubu as Lagos governor filed a case at the Supreme Court to determine who had the power to control urban and regional planning in a state. Two of the issues determined were: whether the ownership rights of the federal Government over land in state territories include the power to control and regulate town planning and physical development in relation to such land. And, whether all approvals, permits, and licences granted by the 1st defendant (federal government) or any of its agencies for any construction, building or physical development, or use of land in Lagos without the consent of the plaintiff are not illegal, null, and void. The Supreme Court granted the states power to grant building approvals and other development plans in the states where such federally-acquired lands are domiciled while not denying the federal government the right to also acquire lands in the states.

For President Tinubu, restructuring has indeed begun. The President has been working to reinforce existing laws, promoting their judicial interpretation and, in some cases, outright amendments in a bid to strengthen democracy and engender fiscal federalism. It is a measure of his commitment to restructuring that one of the first bills he signed into law as the country’s President was the Electricity Act 2023, which he signed on June 6, 2023, barely eighth day in office, marking a significant milestone in the sector. The new law focuses on enhancing the regulation and management of the electricity value chain with the active participation of the sub-national governments. This, thus far, has resulted in the process of devolution of regulatory powers to three states – Enugu, Ekiti, and Ondo – to set up their electricity markets.

Importantly, the Nigerian Fiscal Policy and Tax Reform Committee led by Mr. Taiwo Oyedele is still busy working on comprehensive tax reforms, including reforms to the country’s value-added tax (VAT) and other taxes that will restructure the system and further advance fiscal federalism in the end.

Back to the issue of LG autonomy. There is still more work to be done. Like the state governors, the National Assembly must take concrete legislative actions to support the vision. The laws governing local government elections must be reworked to transfer the responsibility of conducting these elections to the Independent National Electoral Commission as opposed to the state independent electoral authorities, which are only independent in name. This legislative initiative is crucial to eliminating the undue influence of state governors over the local government election process and ensuring the integrity of the polls. This change will be a significant move in complementing President Tinubu and Supreme Court’s efforts towards achieving genuine local government autonomy and enhancing democratic governance in Nigeria.

Speaking when he hosted some Yoruba elders on April 16, 2024 at the Presidential Villa, President Tinubu had pointed out that the matter of restructuring would be systematic, saying when the economy is properly on a firm footing, steps would be taken on restructuring so that it will be on a solid footing. “As I said in Akure, our approach to it would be as if a baby is learning how to walk. If the baby is rushed, it will fall,” he had said.

-Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide

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When The Police Is Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place

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By Ahmad Samad

On June 12, Nigeria celebrated the 25th anniversary of her democracy, marking a significant milestone for the world’s most populous black nation. This achievement underscores Nigeria’s consistent commitment to maintaining a democratic system of government over the past two and a half decades.

The robustness of any democracy is reflected in the stability and functionality of its three major branches of government: the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature. In Nigeria, the interplay between these branches of government has not metamorphosised into the expected maturity of a 25-year-old.

Unfortunately, the administration of President Tinubu has faced numerous challenges, highlighting that Nigeria’s democracy still has considerable progress. The ongoing crises in Kano and Rivers states exemplify the difficulties along this path.

Rivers state, in particular, has become a battleground due to the ongoing conflict between Nyesom Wike, the former governor, and Siminalayi Fubara, his handpicked successor. This open war has turned the state into a zone of political turmoil, reflecting the broader struggles within Nigeria’s democratic landscape.

Additionally, the power tussle in Kano, where certain politicians seem intent on exploiting the Emirate case to undermine the judiciary and provoke political crises, exacerbates the situation. The enactment of a new emirate law to dethrone Emir Ado-Bayero and enthrone Emir Sanusi II, along with the numerous court actions that followed, clearly jeopardizes the stability of the nation’s political landscape.

In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Tukur versus the Governor of Gongola state that the federal high court lacked jurisdiction over chieftaincy matters. Given this precedent, concerned Nigerians are questioning how the federal high court in Kano assumed jurisdiction to rule in the current case, raising significant legal and constitutional queries.

Amidst the ongoing turmoil, maintaining law and order must have posed a significant challenge for the police. The Commissioners of Police in Rivers and Kano states find themselves amidst a challenging situation, navigating a landscape fraught with conflicting court rulings and the actions of political supporters and sympathisers of the ruling elites. This situation places them in a precarious position, torn between upholding legal mandates and maintaining public order in a highly charged political environment.

Nigerians frequently criticise the police for perceived ethical lapses and unprofessional conduct in their duties. However, this criticism overlooks the critical lack of essential resources and support systems for effective policing that ensures the safety of lives and property. Despite these challenges, both police commissioners in Kano and Rivers have demonstrated exceptional maturity, maintaining a commendable level of neutrality and professionalism amidst the unrest in both states.

In 2004, I recall the tragic ordeal of the late Raphael Ige, an Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, who became entangled in a fierce political feud that ultimately devastated his career, allegedly leading to his declining health and eventual death. This conflict arose during the intense political battle between Chris Uba, a political godfather, and Chris Ngige, the former governor of Anambra state. The turmoil highlighted the profound challenges faced by law enforcement officials caught in the crossfires of political struggle.

The late AIG Ige obeyed an unlawful “order from above,” allowing himself to be used by political figures in Anambra. According to a report by Vanguard Newspaper, AIG Ige effectively emptied the Zone 9 headquarters of police personnel for the operation to arrest Chris Ngige, a sitting governor.

Former Governor Chris Ngige recounted the chaotic events leading to his arrest. He described how his ADC was pushed out and how he saw Ige and an armed deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in the anteroom. Ige, dressed in civilian clothes, did not offer the customary salute, indicating that something was amiss.

Ige instructed Ngige to stop working, following orders from “high up”. When Ngige questioned the legitimacy of these instructions, Ige insisted he refrain from using the phone, although Ngige managed to take a call from the state director of SSS. Ngige also recounted how he refused to sign the forged resignation letters Ige presented. He stood his ground despite being pressured and threatened, arguing that the letters were not authentic.

I hope that Tunji Disu, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, will remain neutral and professional in performing his duties. Also, the immediate past Commissioner of Police for Kano, Husaini Gumel, recently promoted to AIG, should be applauded for managing the Kano crisis and preventing a total breakdown of law and order in the state.

The newly appointed Commissioner of Police in Kano, Salman Dogo Garba, should also maintain professionalism and neutrality amid the emirate disputes in the ancient city of Kano. Security chiefs in both states should learn from the late AIG Ige’s example, as the judiciary and executive continue to conflict with each other, creating challenging situations for the police force in maintaining peace and order.



Ahmad Samad wrote in from Katsina

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African Growth And Burden Of Identity Crisis

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By Wole Olujobi

The two video clips currently trending online featuring the ruins of the presidential palace of the late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and arms build-up in Burkina Faso (allegedly of Chinese and Russian origins) intrigue me to no end, drawing old memories of misfortunes that Africans had had to endure in the process of searching for political and economic models that best served the development goals of the peoples of Africa.

Unfortunately, decades after military regimes became anachronistic worldwide, some parts of Africa are still plagued with the leaders that are either in full military gear or are in the civilian garbs but with the regimental mentality of combatants that belch orders and speak with their cudgels and horsewhips to exert the force and authority of their offices.

In Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, for instance, the musket is laughing to scorn the tranquil essence of the ballot in the northern horn of West Africa where the military fatigue draped and cultured in monologue is drowning the primacy of popular debates that hallmark representative govenance.

For the hapless people forced to accept the terror of the guns as their fate by their leaders who in an unrepresentative capacity determine their destinies, living in fear of the guns is far better than perish in the cross fires by the opportunist competitors in armed conflict for power to serve their fancies.

It is safe to surmise that African socio-economic malaise has always been woven around the quality of leadership that steers the continent’s ship of state, which has often forced a cynicism that the foundational crisis that has caused dislocations in the primary model of survival in Africa seems to be eternal in nature, and this can be located in the crisis of identity after the infiltration of borrowed cultures into the continent.

Egypt’s modernity and superior science lost the innocence of her pyramid technology identity to the armed foreign invaders led by Octavius Augustus of Rome. The Libyans succumbed to the Yankees’ tricks and rebelled against Moaman Ghaddafi; and from their dainty tables at lunch, Libyans today make do with crumbs as scavengers in a country that once turned a desert to the oasis of development and good living. Other sections of the African societies suffered the same fate.

Earliest African elites and critics called the morals of such despicable culture ‘the economic exploitation and cultural enslavement’ that alienated the locals from the exploration, exploitation and domestication of the factors of production for the benefit of the people.

Yet the misguided educated elites of the time seemed not to know their time. They looked at the time, beguiled the time and couldn’t harness the fortunes of the time, ending up in the despoilation of their aspirations for prosperous future.

Buffeted by the harsh and gripping realities of their times marked by slide in the fortunes of African growth and development occasioned by colonialism and its associated evils, African foremost revisionist authors in literary production had sought to contextualise the growth agenda hiccups of the era, blaming the social ills associated with human factor at the heart of the crisis of identity that had plagued the leadership’s vision to drive quality development missions to save African peoples from the pangs of want.

To these authors, African leaders went through education but education never went through them to discover or rediscover themselves; the ailment that compounded the crisis of identity which continued to stalk all Africa’s growth initiatives over the years.

Ghana’s Ayi Kwei Arma in his book ‘Why Are We So Blest’ discovers a disturbing truth: the African educational process is the mechanism for recruiting the neocolonial elite riding high at the expense of the wretched of the earth.

Also in his another book ‘The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, the same author depicts the post-colonial era in Ghana where corruption is the norm.


Kenya’s Ngugi Wa Thiogo’s ‘Petals of Blood’ deals with social and economic problems in East Africa after independence, particularly the continued exploitation of the peasants and workers by foreign business interests and a greedy indigenous bourgeoisie.

Yambo Ouologuem in his book ‘Bound To Violence’ was more violent in his deconstructionist transcription of the realities in his country Mali in West Africa by contextualising the engrossing and tragic tales spanning the thirteenth to the twentieth century in the dynasty of the Saïfs who reigned there as devious masters with the vivid descriptions of the brutality of local rulers and the slave trade.

Ouologuem’s biting satire also paints a universally relevant portraiture of violence and power in human relationships, the reality that still haunts in today’s totalitarian Colonel Assimi Goita’s Mali.

In his reaction to the complex malaise of the time, another Ghanaian writer, Kobina Sekyi, in his book ‘The Blinkards’ paints a picture of an African boy who was brought up to become an aficionado of European mannerisms, while shunning African culture. Following this path and by his hard work he got a scholarship to London where he studied Law. Whilst there, he realised that London was not all that they say it is. Thus, the verdict is that foreign sensibilities are stark nightmares to the African realities. And in the world driven by quest for survival that promotes general good for the people, idealism is one thing, realism the other.

In the struggle for idealistic living in the competing interests that divide the world, we have seen leaders of countries in their ideal for sovereign magnificence turned their countries into servile states to serve their personal interests and that of their overbearing compradors. The sad reality is that nothing has changed in spite of vivid pretensions.

This we have seen in South Africa where former President Jacob Zuma, a foremost freedom fighter, was jailed over allegation of corruption and obstruction of justice.

Though an apostle of non-violence, freedom fighter President, Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, later turned a dictator. Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and President Idi Amin of Uganda became monsters terrorising their people even as they built astounding fortunes for themselves inland and abroad, so much so that some European countries that were less endowed than these countries now rank the fastest growing countries of the world because their leaders see the destinies of their countries as the collective destinies of their people as against the dictators and corrupt leaders who see their personal destinies as the collective destinies of their people.

For effect, it was estimated that more than three million people were killed; those who survived were left to struggle with homelessness, starvation, and disease when Sese Seko, leveraging the support by the America CIA against Russian influence in Zaire, turned his guns against his own people while mindlessly looting the country dry. Same for several other leaders. Today, Mobutu’s most expensive presidential palace in African history that cost his country fortunes is in ruins and inhabited by rodents and reptiles as revealed in the video.

In the.scrambles for capital and political control, most of other military African freedom fighters have long abandoned military discipline and liberty creed for politics, which, according to Chief Afe Babalola, is the most lucrative business in the continent. And what do they dispense to the people they purport to be their voices in politics if not tokenism?

And so from a humble background of militaty discipline that scorns acquisitive instincts, they become upstarts, abandoning the principles of proletarian pretensions in which they were dubiously cloaked, to build real estates in regional capitals of the world, live in opulence and move around in posh cars while misery is writ large on the faces of the people they purport to fight for and on whose behalf they climb to the positions of authority in government as can be gleaned from Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka’s “A Play of Giants”; the satirical dramatic production that brings together three great dictators of Africa, ruthless in their demonstration of power, boast of their glory and how innocent people lie grovelling at their mercy.

Besides, several other African countries have also lost focus and fortunes over foreign interference in their lives that profited few misguided locals, for instance, Libya; unlike a few other countries, such as Botswana and Rwanda (with 8.2 per cent growth in 2022), that are now building their economies from the alienation of the past to a true capacity founded on patriotism and local needs to build virile nations for their people to make progress.

Conversely in other parts of Africa, contemporary system failures, such as elevation of ethnic nationalism and solidarity over and above merit and standard, including corruption, have all coalesced to mount a road block against development.

In West Africa in particular, the trending regional gun and garrison alliance and solidarity in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic at the risk of economic isolation by the world governed by democratic ethos reminds us of Wole Soyinka’s “A Play of Giants’, which highlights the personal egos of the military rulers, who, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, set for their people the standards they won’t personally embrace, including turning their bayonets on the heads of their people to terrorise them, as citizens become “casualties of freedom”.

In one sorry moment of human tragedy in Africa, Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) moved from the riches of cocoa to the ruins of Cocody, as Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, while seeking self-glorification, ignited a smouldering cauldron that incinerated the once prosperous, beautiful and sprawling Cocody city, which Prof Adebayo Williams in his sizzling essay described as a metaphor for human tsunami.

Today, Africa’s latest axis of evil (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) notoriously famed as the terrorism capital of West Africa allegedly fueled by foreign interest, presents a worrying alliance that threatens to isolate the people of that region of Africa from the economic federalism that drives and shapes the universal welfare agenda of the people of the world.

Their leaders: Colonel Assimi Goïta of Mali, Captain Ibrahim Traore of Burkina Faso and Niger Republic’s General Abdourahamane Tchiani, heavily backed by Russia and China, and evidently African pretenders to the thrones of Otto Von Bismarck and Cyrus the Great, and caricature of Moamar Ghadaffi of Libya, never represent the Africa’s great hopes and aspirations for development.

At best, they represent the grotesque totems of redemption that worship and serve themselves. And this the Burkinabe leader demonstrated recently when he pronounced five more years for himself on the throne before the citizens of Burkina Faso could vote to have a government of their choice, even as poverty ravages the country with the despondent young people braving the ocean in their stowaway bids to escape to Europe.

For Captain Traore of Burkina Faso who is building an unprecedented arms stockpiles as revealed in the trending video, the totalitarianisation of the guns is far better than the democratisation of the ballot! And in him, a Ghadaffi is dead; for while the former Libyan leader had a vision and mission to grow his country according to her needs while sacrificing self-interest, foreign interest drives these new African belligerent states to their isolationist agenda to alienate their people from the world’s universal economic agenda.

Even as the scars of colonialism are still fresh and festering in Africa, for these soldiers of fortunes, self-serving agenda is nobler than universal governance agenda for collective prosperity; all driven by capitulation to foreign interest that holds no promise for their despondent people.

Meanwhile, Niger’s junta has confirmed that rebels damaged an oil pipeline carrying crude oil to neighbouring Benin Republic. The Patriotic Liberation Front, which is fighting for the release of former President Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown in a coup last July, said it was behind the attack. The rebels threatened to continue the attacks on the pipelines run by the Chinese companies until China withdraws support for the junta that sacked the democratically elected government of President Bazoum on July 26, 2023.

And in Mali, Col Goita has jailed 10 opponents of the ruling military junta, including leading opposition politicians, for demanding a return to civilian rule. Those in the junta’s gulag include the heads of parties, groups and former Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Bathily, who signed a March declaration urging the restoration of democracy. They were accused of illegal gatherings and plotting against the “legal authorities.

For the Libyans, they don’t need any historian to remind them about their immediate past and their present sordid condition, particularly the misfortunes that have befallen them after a blissful run under Ghadaffi’s benevolent leadership care in Tripoli.

Though a dictator, Ghadaffi was steadfast in his belief in the Libyan identity, which he deployed to make Libya a great nation in Africa before Libyans were misled into their current misfortune by foreign interest, the effects of which have spilled over to some parts of Africa, including Nigeria, where terrorism arising from the proliferation of lethal weapons from Libya’s conflagration now thrives.

Today, the three burdensome African states that can scarcely survive without their neighbours in the West Africa sub-region are seeking expansion of their terrorist bloc by asking other West African countries to join their misery train oiled by foreign interests that thrive on economic exploitation and political slavery to deepen Africa’s identity crisis that has stunted the continent’s growth over the years.

This is a new twist to the misfortunes of the African people in the context whereby individual interests of the ambitious soldiers are cloned to represent the collective aspirations of the generality of the people, all scented in foreign interest to compound the gripping and nightmarish conditions of the 21 century into which Africans have been sentenced.

All this ill-motivated crisis of identity that alienates state’s operators from the sensibilities that drive their people’s agenda for growth only profits the characters driving the agenda against the good of their people!


The question now arises: how long will Africa continue to wallow in this disillusionment arising from the crisis of identity fueled by foreign interests and corrupt lifestyles that have become the Bible of some African leaders and which have plagued the continent’s growth and development over the years?

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is the leader of the West Africa bloc, must double his efforts to ensure that the sub-region does not slide into dictatorship again. He must not allow West Africa to become foreign arms dumps for ideological war between colonial masters contesting the control of the world.The relics of dictatorial regimes in Africa are so gripping and scary to be embraced, so much so that the sub-region cannot afford to play the game of chance with the destinies of the people desperately in need of salvation that the world’s democratic governance guarantees. African communal ethos nurtured by representative governance must triumph over gun-point foreign imperial capitalist agenda that serves only its promoters.

* Olujobi, a journalist and Commissioner in Ekiti State Local Government Service Commission, writes from Ado-Ekiti

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