Development process. It requires patience, steadfastness, integrity and indeed unrelenting resolve to get things done.
Upon independence in 1960, the founding fathers of the nation grappled with the currents of divides that highlighted our diversity. It was indeed a competition of sorts among the three regions: the Northern, Western and Eastern regions which also typified the three largest ethnic groups of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.
Each of these regions pursued development programmes, economic integration endeavours and indeed political cohesion. Those were years, when, the regions were viable and indeed wielded stronger influence more than the centre, as would a confederation.
In 1963, Nigeria became a Republic and later adopted Presidential democracy, in place of the parliamentary system that was. During these years, Nigeria was self-sufficient in food production as each region developed its resource base and enjoyed bountiful derivation from its hardwork.
More than any thing else, the founding fathers laid the necessary foundation for infrastructural development, economic growth, political cohesion and indeed inter-ethnic and religious harmony. However, the military incursions of 1966, leading to a Civil War in 1967 and protracted military rule till 1979, in many ways, hampered the sustenance of development efforts and the required actualisation of other set goals.
The infrastructural development programme was abandoned. Agriculture too took a back seat in preference for easy petro-dollars that the nation earned from crude oil sourced predominantly from the Niger Delta.
By the emergence of the Second Republic in 1979, Nigeria’s consumption pattern had changed drastically with the ruling class importing even tooth-pick from other nations. Those years of oil boom also encouraged so much corruption among the ruling class with little or no attention given to basic infrastructure development, investments in education and health, electricity power generation and distribution and indeed human capacity building, resulting in a brain drain.
Little wonder, the military struck barely four years later in December, 1983 and ruled Nigeria for another 16 years. With the three arms of government rolled into one and constitutional powers thereof, exercised by a military council, Nigerians suffered the ripple effects of absolute power, which many know, corrupts absolutely.
Within those years, very little or no meaningful investments were made in the power sector, very little on improving the nation’s education and health profile among many other emergencies, while military officers amassed so much wealth that naturally fashioned the lifestyle of great number of those who made the political ruling class. Therefore, when democracy was reinstated in 1999, most politicians had imbibed so much flamboyant military culture laced with impunity so much that they got farther and farther away, from the electorate, they were supposed to serve.
In the 16 years that followed, successive governments spent N2.740 trillion on electricity, yet power supply remains a problem. There was very little or no consideration for aggressive investment in petroleum by-products development, manufacturing for local consumption and the necessity to open up the country through road infrastructure. Federal roads became death traps, States were created out of exigency and political gratification without commiserate economic independence prior to those 16 years, had become not only a burden to themselves but also to the nation.
Today, many States can hardly pay workers’ salaries, because, unlike the original regions, they lack the necessary economic foundation to be called federating units. Because they lack the foresight to create the necessary investment climate to attract, manufacturing, agricultural and tourism related concerns among several others, their internally generated revenue is almost zero.
It is for that reason that they monthly rush to the centre for hand-outs sourced mainly from oil export, which proceeds have dwindled beyond imaginable ends, thus, raising the urgent need for Nigeria to look elsewhere. This is where we are as a nation. One that cannot harness its enormous resources for the growth and survival of its peoples and instead imports virtually everything the people need.
At 55, a nation-state ought think like a retiring public servant and plans well for family and children. We must together build upon the enviable political legacy bequeathed by the last administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, if we are to deepen democracy.
In years before the last elections, there were predictions by agencies of developed nations that Nigeria would disintegrate by the year 2015. And judging from the nature of intolerance, hatred, desperation, violent vituperations and arms accumulation, that attended the electioneering campaigns, everything pointed to the actualisation of that prediction.
That is why President Jonathan’s rare statesmanly response to the electoral outcome even as an incumbent on the African Continent should not only be hailed but be built-upon by beneficiaries of his political maturity and help deepen democratic culture in the land. All public officers must respect the dictates of separation of powers as a necessary tool to ensure checks and balances.
Surely, the days are gone when the executive arm determined the type of leadership it needs for both the judiciary and the legislature. Happily, the leadership of the two-chambers of the 8th National Assembly have assured that nothing short of separation of powers and necessary oversight of executive activities will be carried out.
In this regard therefore, we expect the Gen Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to hasten the formation of a federal cabinet to address the many national concerns begging for attention. Nigerians expect an economic team that would help avert an impending economic recession as warned by the Central Bank of Nigeria, recover stolen funds, revamp the petroleum sector, make our refineries work and establish new ones and above all create jobs for the teeming productive youth of the country.
Even so, government must not relent in encouraging the military to bring to a positive end, the protracted insurgency and terrorist activities in the North Eastern part of the country. It should also increase the momentum of the war against oil theft even as government invests in other substitutes to oil, especially agriculture and tourism.
All these would not succeed unless the peoples of the Niger Delta, direct victims of years of oil prospection and production, with their attendant environment problems and despoliation of lauds, swamps and rivers are economically integrated. With the amnesty programme terminating soon, and rebuilding of the Niger Delta yet to gather full steam, now is the time to pursue an oil-bearing areas’ re-integration project to avert another round of violent agitations by the youth.
The insurgency in the North has taken so much toll, Nigeria cannot afford waging two wars, one in the North and another in the South, at the same time. The fatality rate will be huge and loss of capital most devastating.
While The Tide wishes all Nigerians happy independence, we do condole with Muslim families who lost loved ones to the Haji stampede in Sandi Arabia, in which 64 Nigerians have been confirmed killed, 71 wounded and 144 still missing. Happy Independence.
De-Registration Of Political Parties
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ruffled not just a few feathers when it announced on Thursday, February 6, the delisting of 74 political parties from the register of political parties in the country, saving only 18.
While making the announcement at a press conference in Abuja, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission acted in conformity with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which under the Fourth Alteration vests in INEC the power to register and regulate the activities of political parties on the following grounds: “Breach of any of the requirements for registration as a political party; Failure to win at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election; or 25 per cent of votes cast in one local government area of a state in a governorship election; Failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election; Failure to win one seat in the national or state assembly election or one seat in a councillorship election”.
Prof. Yakubu stressed that the electoral umpire relied on the 2018 Fourth Alteration to the Constitution (Section 225A) which empowers the commission to deregister political parties on the aforementioned grounds.
Furthermore, the chief electoral officer of the country explained that “following the conclusion of the 2019 general election, including the court-ordered rerun elections arising from litigations, the commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections. In addition, they were also assessed on their performance in the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which coincided with the 2019 general election”.
Based on these assessments, he said, the commission found only 18 political parties which fulfilled the requirements for existence as far as Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is concerned.
However, reacting to the development, a number of political parties affected by the action, including the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), the umbrella body of all registered political parties in the country have raised their voices, crying blue murder.
Tope Fasua, National Treasurer of IPAC, speaking on behalf of the body accused INEC of impunity and bias, insisting that the action of the electoral body was unacceptable and hinted that his organisation will move against it.
“We are coming out with a position on the platform of IPAC; it’s totally unacceptable. They collected our money; we ran for election once and they deregistered us. There are parties that won election in 2015, 2007, 2003, that didn’t win election in 2019 and you de-registered them. It is totally unacceptable”, Fasua who is also the National Chairman of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), one of the deregistered parties, fumed.
As IPAC and many of the affected political parties kick and threaten litigation against the Independent National Electoral Commission, the two dominant political parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), and a good number of Nigerians have not only hailed the action of INEC but have called for further pruning of the ranks of the political parties.
The general feeling among Nigerians is that most of the political parties have since constituted themselves into liabilities rather than assets to the electoral process. Where they are expected to provide credible opposition and alternative voices that put the government in power in check, they have rather been found to be merchants who trade their support and platforms for selfish gains.
The unseriousness of most of the 91 political parties that floated more than 23,000 candidates in the 2019 general election was underscored by the fact that they neither staged campaign rallies nor engaged in any activity that gave them visibility except the free publicity given by the media and civil societies, especially during the organised political debates and voter education programmes.
What was also done in the public glare was that, even though a total of 73 candidates got registered on the presidential ballot, most of them and their parties, got busy forming themselves into coalitions and groups that engaged in endorsing and campaigning for candidates of the dominant parties. And even when the law does not permit that, Nigerians watched in dismay as presidential candidates announced their withdrawal from the race in support of candidates of other parties only 48 hours to polling day.
The Tide believes that no well meaning individual or group will support or encourage the monumental abuse inherent in our electoral process and expect our democracy to survive. We therefore lend our voice to those of our compatriots in not only hailing INEC for the courageous action but to urge the electoral body to explore constitutional means of further reducing the number.
We are not unaware that INEC’s move to delist 39 political parties between 2011 and 2013 did not come to fruition as the parties scuttled the action through the judiciary. We hope this time around INEC’s action will not suffer the same fate as we are strongly persuaded that the efficiency and effectiveness of our election management body can only be guaranteed with a manageable number of political parties.
Against FUNAM’s Provocative Utterances
In a manner that depicts a descent into barbarism, a relatively known Fulani group that calls itself the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) recently stoked the ember of ethnic nationalism with its claims of Fulani ownership of Nigeria.
Apparently contemptuous of other ethnic groups that make up the country, the group claimed that Plateau-Benue and the rest of Nigeria is an indigenous territory of the Fulani people and gave a notice of a planned conquest of the entire country from Sokoto down to the Atlantic Ocean.
While FUNAM’s statement could be taken to be an empty boast by a faceless ethnic group routing for relevance, its claim of the existence of a Fulani Strike Force that coordinated what it called a retaliatory attack against Birom people in Barkin Ladi in Plateau State, in which 15 persons were killed by armed Fulani herdsmen, is provocative and senseless.
More nauseating is the fact that the president of the infamous group, Badu Salisu Ahmadu, was unapologetic about the killings. He said that the killings were justifiable as the Fulani had been attacked before the counter attack.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our heritage is that any attack on a single Fulani is an attack on all. Any of such attacks must be countered with triple measure”, Ahmadu said.
We consider this statement as highly provocative and reckless, and capable of igniting an arms race by Nigeria’s various ethnic groups.
The group, in its violent, crude and barbaric merchandise, went further to lay a warped operating philosophy of its dominance on other ethnic nationalities in the country.
It boasted, “We are the first to settle in Plateau-Benue axis thousands of years ago. We shall take and possess every inch of this land; a conscious attempt to rewrite history and distort, manipulate or destroy our past will be resisted with all the might at our disposal.
“We have said it over and over that Nigeria is the only inheritance we have in Africa and anywhere in the world. This land belongs to us, from Sokoto to the banks of the Atlantic Ocean. This was the destiny bestowed on Uthman Dan Fodio which would have been fulfilled since 1816 if not for the obstruction of this great assignment by the British.
“It is no longer time to play the ostrich (sic). Our men are waiting. We are eager to fight. We are boiling with the zeal to actualise our dream; enough of double dealing and ambivalence by Fulani political leaders who unfortunately think the Fulani can only take back what belongs to us through appeasement and elections destined to reflect cultural values antithetical to the preaching of Uthman Dan Fodio”.
Claiming that there is an agenda to divide Nigeria and exterminate its people, FUNAM again threatened: “We are aware of this plot. We call on Fulani all over Africa to prepare for the inevitable war and set our people on an offensive path rather than being weaklings that choose a defensive strategy in warfare”.
We recall that the irritant Fulani group made similar provocative statements in 2018, while defending the Benue massacre by Fulani herdsmen. Now, it has returned to its infamous familiar territory with a statement that further exposes it as a bunch of ethnic bigots who have lost touch with the present reality in the country.
Ordinarily, The Tide would not have dignified the irascible group and its incongruous conquest theories with a response, given its historical knack for seeking relevance, but the undignified silence of the Federal Government in the height of these provocative statements by FUNAM is discomforting, hence, the inevitability of our views.
We consider FUNAM’s statements as not only insensitive but also highly provocative, and we expect the Federal Government to take proactive measures against the group.
Besides the fallacy and pure distortion of facts and history which its claims of Fulani ownership of Nigeria tend to represent, FUNAM’s deliberate attempt to stoke the ember of ethnic nationalism and set various ethnic groups in the country on a war path is treacherous and treasonable.
It is sad that in a nation of diverse ethnic nationalities as Nigeria, an ethnic group would be so bold and daring as to make reckless statements that threaten the unity of the country without the government batting an eyelid. This smacks of double standard by the government that was roused and irked by similar provocative statements from the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which it proscribed.
We believe that this over indulgence of Northern ethnic groups by the Federal Government led by a Northerner and whose security apparatchiks are also dominated by Northerners fuel ethnic cleavages and high insecurity in the country.
We, therefore, call on the security agencies in the country to, without further delay, fish out the leaders and sponsors of FUNAM and any other groups with similar sinister motives for immediate interrogation and possible prosecution.
We warn that no section of the country has the monopoly of violence. Therefore, any attempt by any section of the country to lord it over other ethnic nationalities or try to annex their lands would be counter-productive.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to rein in on all ethnic bigots under the aegis of ethnic nationality to stop making further provocative statements capable of igniting war and disunity in the country. And the earlier this is done, the better.
Nigeria And US Visa Ban
The United States President, Donald Trump, on January 31, 2020, signed a Proclamation titled, “Improving Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” which places certain restrictions, limitations and exceptions on citizens of countries of identified concern whose immigrant entry would be detrimental to the interests of the USA.
Section 1, ‘Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Identified Concern’, in Proclamation 9645 as modified by Proclamation 9723 lists Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Tanzania, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan as nations with dangerous traits, and the proclamation takes effect at 12:01am Eastern Standard Time on February 21, 2020.
The US Government gave reasons for inclusion of the country in the list, saying, “Nigeria does not comply with the established identity-management and information-sharing criteria assessed by the performance metrics. Nigeria does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, which is necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States. Nigeria also presents a high risk, relative to other countries in the world, of terrorist travel to the United States. Nigeria is an important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism, and the United States continues to engage with Nigeria on these and other issues.
“The Department of State has provided significant assistance to Nigeria as it modernises its border management capabilities, and the Government of Nigeria recognises the importance of improving its information sharing with the United States. Nevertheless, these investments have not yet resulted in sufficient improvements in Nigeria’s information sharing with the United States for border and immigration screening and vetting”.
The proclamation suspended the acceptance of Nigerians as immigrants, except as Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the United States Government. It further clarified that the suspensions of and limitations on entry shall apply to Nigerians who are outside the United States; do not have a valid visa on the applicable effective date; and do not qualify for a visa or other valid travel documents under Section 6(d) of Proclamation 9645.
The US Government also noted that “The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall on October 1, 2020, and annually thereafter, submit to the President the results of an evaluation as to whether to continue, terminate, modify, or supplement any suspensions of, or limitations on, the entry on certain classes of nationals of countries identified”.
It is, indeed, embarrassing that Nigeria has degenerated to this low ebb in its security management capability. Little wonder that the 2019 Global Terrorism Index ranked the country third only after Afghanistan and Iraq, and just below Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, India and Yemen. This is unfortunate and unacceptable.
The Tide joins millions to express serious concerns over the fate of Nigerians who may wish to travel to the US as immigrants while this ban remains in force, and urges the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to put in place citizenship integrity management mechanism to address deficiencies in the national identity database, and save Nigerians from the stigma of being seen as anonymous citizens.
It is regrettable that Nigeria doesn’t have readily accessible records of its citizens, and anybody can, therefore, claim to be a Nigerian. It is shameful that in West Africa, Nigeria has the worst identity management data system, and has no standard records to be sure that anybody carrying a Nigerian passport is actually a Nigerian.
It is shocking that the Buhari-led government was officially notified of the US Government’s position since March 11, 2019, and it did not deem it important to remedy the deficiencies before the hammer fell. We, therefore, see the US action as a wake-up call on the Federal Government to take proactive steps, and make functional and verifiable records of birth and death registration and identification of Nigerians, while placing priority attention on the national identity (card) management project, which has hardly captured up to 20 per cent of eligible Nigerians on the NIMC database.
With the crucial fight against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, among others facing serious challenge, we think that it is in our national interest to implement specific reforms that validate information about Nigerians and facilitate information sharing, identify lost and stolen passports, and make tracking of individuals’ activities easier in line with global best practices.
We call on the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola-led presidential committee on the US travel restriction to immediately ensure the streamlining of citizens’ personal data managed by different organisations such as National Identity Management Commission, Nigeria Immigration Service, financial, educational and health institutions to make coherent information retrieval possible. We charge the team to ensure stricter border control mechanism to check the influx of illegal aliens from neighbouring countries to avoid infiltration of Nigeria by terrorists and criminal elements.
While we are relieved by the fact that the suspension does not apply to other US visas such as those for official, business, tourism and student travels, we insist that the restriction of the issuance of ‘immigrant visa’ to Nigerian passport holders amounts to a vote of no confidence in the Nigerian Government and institutions.
This is why we task the Aregbesola team to transparently work with US authorities, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure the review of updated US requirements and proper implementation of right reforms necessary to trigger the lifting of the suspension of and limitations on Nigerians intending to travel to the US as immigrants by October 1, 2020, when the next evaluation is expected to be submitted to the US President. This is a task that must be done!
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