Mr. Adegboruwa, SAN.
By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.
On this page last week, I discussed the increased state of insecurity in Nigeria, following the mindless killing of one school pupil and the abduction of 27 others in Kagara, Niger State, on February 17, 2021, incessant killings by bandits and insurgents and general criminal activities all over the land, symptomatic of a failed state. It was like a prophecy foretold because exactly three days after, on February 26, 2021, 317 girls, aged 12-17 years old, were kidnapped by armed bandits who raided the Government Girls Science Secondary School boarding school, at Jangebe, in Zamfara State. The location of the students remains largely unknown, amidst the controversy of their so-called release. It has become more like some kind of fiction, watching armed bandits, clerics and even state government officials hobnobbing together in the wild, openly discussing and negotiating ransom for the release of these innocent children. This of course, has sparked its own controversy, as to whether we should embrace a selective approach in dealing with criminality or adopt a holistic template that will help solve all the issues once and for all. Given the trend presently, it is not difficult to predict that these kidnappings and abductions will continue. First, there is no sincerity on the part of the government, when officials come to the public domain to claim that no ransom has been paid for the release of the students, whereas as has happened in times past, huge sums of money would have exchanged hands. Second, the attitude of government to the issue of crime in one location will certainly constitute a standard for measuring its stand in other locations. Put succinctly, crime should be treated and dealt with for what it is, even though I do agree with the view that diplomacy is needed where human lives are involved.
The first part of this article generated some responses from well-meaning Nigerians and I reproduce herewith, part of those comments, for the benefit of those in authority and indeed all of us.
The Learned SAN, in my view, missed a fundamental philosophical issue. The source of the Constitution he so copiously quoted, the 1999 Constitution, was given to the Nigerian people. It was not a product of the Nigerian people. Many may consider this point moot, but the fact that it was never a product of the people means that those it saddles with offices know that they aren’t in office as a fundamental choice of the people. And because they recognize this, all the roles of their offices (security and welfare) as laid out in the said Constitution are not seen as binding or obligatory. At best, they are recommendations. Therein lies the fault line of our nation.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN:
Chris Adetayo, I beg to disagree with you sir, with all due respect. Once you agree to take the benefit and perquisites of an office, you cannot turn around to reject the burdens that go with it. A leader who accepts salaries and allowances attached to an office, all paid from the same Constitution, cannot turn around to cease from performing the responsibilities of that office sir. Thus, any leader who is unable to perform his constitutional roles should vacate office immediately and not sit and remain in office to collect salaries and enjoy the allure of that office. Thank you sir.
Chris Adetayo, and so? I think the issue with the Constitution is less with the letters than the intent (implementation or adherence). The US Constitution is so permissive and flexible it’s open to manipulation (as we recently saw) but the people are committed to building the greatest economy and democracy in the world.
Emeka Oparah, the spirit of a Constitution is as important, if not more important, than the letter therein. This has been proven over and over again. A Constitution that was written in the dead of night by dark forces and never subjected to the merest scrutiny and which outlawed many fundamental rights and principles will hardly birth a progressive nation. It’s my view, by the way.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN, I’m pretty sure you have argued multiple times in court that one cannot build something on nothing. That, basically, is my point.
Chris Adetayo, that’s a conspiratorial view. With all its imperfections, the 1999 Constitution can take Nigeria to great heights if those guarding the landmarks are dedicated and sincere. We need a new one though, to accommodate all the issues threatening to tear the country apart.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN:
Chris Adetayo, yes sir. In that case, the platform upon which salaries and allowances are built and collected, should also sustain the responsibilities and functions of the office.
Emeka Oparah, that’s my point. We need a meeting one, developed by the people to serve the people. The current one was not designed for the purpose. It was designed to serve a few.
Chris Adetayo, is the issue of making a Constitution work about who gave birth to the Constitution? Even if we have a new Constitution today drafted by the ‘people’, will the Constitution implement itself without the human beings to make the Constitution deliver on objectives? Every nation and Constitution is a work towards perfection. If half of what is contained in our current Constitution in letter and spirit are done, our country will be a bliss. It is not so much about a document but people running it. After all Britain does not have a written Constitution till date.
Temitope Ajayi The spirit behind it is key. Britain has a written Constitution. Don’t believe that elementary Government lesson.
Chris Adetayo, Britain does not have a codified Constitution. They only have laws that have been copied through acts of parliament, judicial pronouncements and conventions. Meanwhile, whatever spirit you referred to or mean, spirit is not reality and spirit remains an abstract idea. What is important is the operator of the Constitution not any letter or spirit.
At the end of the day, association by groups, nationalities or individuals, should be based on voluntary choice, and mutually negotiated agreements. And not on veiled economic parasitism, and brazen institutionalised injustice. Where the latter prevails, there will continue to be heightened tension and lack of progress, which will remain inevitably explosive, until addressed by transparent and competent reform. Or allowed to degenerate to serious conflict, of international dimension.
There is a limit to perennial political manipulation, excessive sectionalism, favoritism and nepotism, and the corruption that lubricates it and motivates it. Nigeria is gradually reaching its own limit. The truth is that the solution does not lie in the present system, not even in another manipulated election in 2023… Only restructuring can save nigeria.. Period.
The sooner we come together to work out an acceptable process towards this, the better for this country.
Phil Smart, it’s a privilege to agree with you totally on this occasion. This restructuring you (we) are talking about.
Emeka Oparah, water no get enemy, thanks for agreeing, our situation is moving gradually from emergency, to catastrophe..
Those that persist in preserving a failed system, by force of arms, should remember the last ENDSARS, where security was rendered ineffective and even placed on the run, by the people ..
If hardly schooled bandits, in the northern forests, are acquiring high caliber machine guns, RPGS, armoured tanks and anti-aircraft missiles, imagine what happens when the sophisticated and globally connected resort to similar trajectory?? As they say.. a word is enough for the wise .. Let me go and find my daily bread .. Bro.”
As a matter of extreme urgency, I do recommend to the President to convene a national security summit, immediately. Thereafter, we should set in motion an independent process of restructuring Nigeria, as a way of rescuing it from failure. We surely cannot continue in this fashion, with the horrendous number of killings, deaths, kidnappings and abductions going on across the land. It is the responsibility of those in authority to safeguard the lives and property of the people, it is indeed the main reason for occupying the seats of power. We cannot therefore say it beyond emphasis that our people have lost faith in the capacity of government at various levels, to discharge this sacred constitutional obligation.
In the case of Niger and Zamfara States, they were most probably looking up to the Federal Government to rescue them from the bandits, and expectedly so, since the resources of the nation are all stacked in the federation account. Also, the entire security network of Nigeria resides with the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, which puts the buck on his table. It is the President that we will continue to hold accountable, in our demand to have this nation restructured, in our quest for peace and security and in our reasonable expectation of the fulfilment of his campaign promises, for a better Nigeria. The President should attend to this call urgently, because time is fast running out.
Mr. Adegboruwa is a senior advocate of Nigeria and a Lagos-based human rights lawyer.