This article was first published on January 2023 before the election. The points raised here are as relevant as Nigeria plans for the inauguration of a new government on May 29, 2023.
Time is fast running out on the government of the All Progressives Congress, APC. It has been a mixed bag of sorts, if you ask me, because some supporters would confront you with stories of the ‘performances’ of the present government, in the area of infrastructure, pointing out the rebuilt rail lines across the country, the numerous airports that have been renovated, new factories that have come on line, the war on corruption and the management of scarce resources in the midst of dwindling or stolen revenue.
But some others will quickly remind you of the battered economy, the galloping inflation, the crazy exchange rates, the collapsed factories and businesses, the mind boggling revelations of corruption, unbeaten record of nepotism, poor leadership, the hydra headed insurgency, banditry, violence and general insecurity in the land.
Not to mention the cases of wanton disobedience to lawful orders made by the courts, intolerable cases of abuse of power by those in authority, especially the law enforcement agencies, leading to avoidable loss of lives, oppression of citizens, and breach of their fundamental rights. Some others prefer to sit on the fence, neither denying the story of the ‘performances’ nor adopting the theory of failure.
Whichever side you fall into, the urgent concern is for the government and the political party in power to address and resolve certain fundamental matters before the statutory time allowed by law expires.
The issue of amendment of the Constitution must not be left unresolved as it is too fundamental to be toyed with. So much money, time and human resources have gone into the exercise than for it to become moribund as is usually the case with various government projects.
Commendations go to the National Assembly for the efforts made so far, in getting its members to travel round the States to collate the views of the people as to the type of Constitution that they desire. I followed many of the sessions held in the regions and it is safe to conclude that the legislators have enough materials to do a good job.
The nation needs to know from the National and State Assemblies the exact position of the amendment process. This goes beyond the elections and the transition process. We need information on what has been done so far and what is left to be done. The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives must address the nation specifically on this issue because it deserves all the attention that can be given to it.
Section 9 of the Constitution gives the sole responsibility for amending the Constitution to the National Assembly and this assignment should not be treated with kid gloves or politicized, because our existence as a nation depends on it, our economy depends on it and indeed the continued unity of Nigeria is predicated on the process of constitutional amendment to achieve restructuring and devolution of powers.
The APC was well aware of this national assignment and this was why it made it a cardinal agenda for its government when canvassing for votes in 2015. Thus, quite apart from the resources that have gone into this effort, the issue of political reputation is also very important for the ruling party, if in eight years, it could not deliver on its major promise to the people, what assurance can it then give to Nigerians that another APC government will do better than the present one? We cannot and should not leave the fate of local governments hanging in the air because even after several decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue of autonomy of that sector, the governors have not ceased to treat it as an appendage, liable to be disbanded or sacked, as they deem fit. The rights and benefits of women in the political space should be a matter of great concern to our legislators, in trying to create equal opportunities for them. Will the National Assembly leave the judiciary in the same way it has been before the Coronavirus pandemic, without ensuring that virtual hearing is fully established and institutionalized in all our courts? What better legacy can anyone dream of than to be part of the solution to the challenges hindering effective administration of justice? This affects even investment decisions as many commercial transactions come with disputes that need to be resolved urgently. Will the National Assembly leave the Supreme Court the way it is presently, without addressing the fundamental issues of jurisdiction, reorganization and remuneration of justices of the apex court? I don’t think so.
Next is the power sector. Should anyone have mentioned in 2015 that President Muhammadu Buhari would not be able to confront and eliminate the monsters and principalities of the power sector, we would all have shut him down. The talk of the town then was that we needed a man with military background, and a no-nonsense administrator who would look anyone in the face and damn the consequences. And I am sure this was why the initial appointments into the power ministry reflected the personality of the one trusted to handle it at the time. But we are wiser now, as seven years have gone by without commensurate improvement from the ugly experiences of the past. That we still witness grid collapses as frequent as they have occurred under this regime is enough to conclude that the Buhari government was caged by the principalities and powers behind the electricity crisis in Nigeria. But it is unfortunate, to say the least. What we have presently are photographs of equipment said to have been manufactured by Siemens, purportedly being imported into Nigeria and probably to arrive at a time when the tenure of the administration would have expired so that the blame game can continue with the next administration, if at all the elections would hold. APC loyalists circulate these arranged photographs in order to hoodwink the voters and create false hope in the minds of the people of some miracle waiting to happen in the power sector. The President and his party have enough time to redeem their pledges.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa is a human rights lawyer who is a member of the National Executive Council of the Nigerian Bar Association; chairman of the Justice Sector Reform Programme Commission of the African Bar Association and patron of the Nigerian Bar Association, Okitipupa Branch.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.