Reservations trailing the decision by the federal government to conduct a national population census immediately after the 2023 general elections are not unexpected.
This is more so given the history of past censuses marred by intense controversy that robbed off negatively on their overall outcome and acceptance. With this contentious background, the minimum expectation was that the authorities should have taken measures to eliminate all stumbling blocks to a credible and generally acceptable national headcount.
But this projection appears not to have been properly factored in when the Director-General (DG) of Nigeria Population Commission, NPC Nasir Isa-Kwarra announced after the National Council of State meeting that the exercise will hold a month after the 2023 general elections. Curiously also, the agency intends to hold a pilot census this June after the primaries by political parties. The NPC boss sought to justify the imminence of the census on the ground that extant population data are obsolete projections and estimations with questionable value for planning purposes. It is an open secret that this country has no reliable census data. It is also not in doubt that previous attempts at a reliable census data were dogged by intense controversy, sometimes leading to the rejection of their outcome.
So the issue is not as much with the justification for a reliable national headcount as with its timing. Why the NPC scheduled its pilot scheme after primaries by political parties and the national census after the general elections remains unclear. Is there anything in the conduct of elections that promises to enhance the success and credibility of a national headcount? There is no evidence of that. Rather, the two engagements share common traits in their capacity to divide the country along the line. They are potentially rancorous and explosive.
Being potentially controversial and explosive engagements, there is the mortal risk of effectively managing eventualities arising from their outcome. Ours is a country where elections are synonymous with violence of unimaginable proportions leading to loss of lives and property. In some previous instances, it took considerable time before the crisis escalated by such elections could normalize.
It remains puzzling how a national census that may divide people along the line will fare immediately after usually disputed and rancorous polls. The probable scenario is one that will re-ignite the misgivings and distrusts usually generated by the outcome of such elections. Their combined outcome will likely produce consequences nobody can predict. In effect, having the two incongruous and controversial national assignments close to each other may ignite crisis of proportions that will make a child’s play of extant insecurity in the country.
Even now, many local government areas across the country are inaccessible on accounts of festering insecurity levied by all manner of non-state actors. There are genuine worries on the prospects of elections holding in those communities and local governments if insecurity remains in its current form. It is for the same reason that many well-meaning Nigerians have expressed doubts as to whether the 2023 polls will even hold.
Even if we manage to gamble the elections as INEC has vowed, it will be counterproductive to treat a national headcount similarly. It will make a mess of the entire exercise if people in crisis-torn areas are neither reached nor counted. The suspension of the continuous voters’ registration exercise by INEC in some local government areas should drive home this point most poignantly.
When you add up the potentially disruptive effects of do-or-die elections to the unceasing insecurity that has reduced the worth of human life in this country, one is not left in doubt that the proposed census is ill-timed and ill-advised. It is loaded with frightening prospects for sliding the country closer to the precipice.
The country is currently assailed by existential challenges from all fronts. It is more divided and fragmented than ever before with rising suspicion and mistrust among the constituents. Such misgivings are bound to exacerbate given the high premium the constituents place on the headcount. Things are not remedied by the fact that both revenue sharing and representation in national and state legislatures are based on population.
The two last censuses in 1991 and 2006 did not mark any departure from previous ones as they were equally embroiled in intense disputations as sections sought to gain advantage over others. But while that of 1991 posted a figure of 88.9 million people its 2006 variant came up with 140 million people.
Even then, the unreliability of these figures was brought to the fore by a former chairman of the NPC, Eze Festus Odimegwu. He had told officials of the INEC who approached his agency to officially release some certified data to them to assist in their planned constituency delimitation exercise that there were no officially certified data for all the localities in the country.
Hear him, “the enumeration centres we have, some of them do not exist in reality, some politicians bought them the way you will want to register voters and some people will buy voters’ cards in order to have advantage”. He said those who bought these enumeration areas, raised the figure from about ‘250 to 500 and if you later count and discover that the population is 10, they will say no, but we gave you 500, you have to raise it to that number that we gave you’.
Odimegwu lost his job for coming clear on the monumental fraud past censuses had been. But the issues raised illustrate how desperate our people can go on such issues and a measure of the level of controversy they engender. We can do with less of that crisis now.
Unless there is an agenda that must be executed before this regime exits office, the census should wait for the next government after it has satisfactorily addressed subsisting security challenges.
By: Emeka Omeihe
Omeihe writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Of ‘Bandito Muchacho’
After the publication of an article: “Professional Banditry” (The Tide: Monday, December 6, 2021) there came a reaction from a reader, probably a high cleric, with some Italian or Spanish connection. His purpose was to remind me to add, for public information, another species of bandits missed out, namely, the “Muchacho” variant. Like a hit squad, this variant of bandits are actually vicious terrorists who use violent means to pursue and advance political interests and ideological mindset. Usually faceless, they operate like mercenaries, hired and sponsored by groups or powerful interest bent on having their way, no matter the havoc caused.
The caller who also sent a text message, said a number of things that one dare not publish, pointing towards the fact that “bandito Muchacho” use “repentant posture” as a means to gain more grounds. It was not a surprise when military source, same day, told Nigerians that repentant groups of insurgents are not sincere about their claims. Whatever “muchacho” means, from the tone of my caller, violence, aggression, the use of force to make demands, etc, are implied in that expression. Neither is one sure about the actual pronunciation: Muchacho or Muchacha!
The history of insurgency movements in Nigeria can be an interesting study. Beginning with the history of British occupation of Nigeria, it was interesting how the Oil Rivers Protectorate which stretched from Lagos to Calabar, expanded to include the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue. Under the Royal Niger Company territories, with administrative headquarters in Asaba and seaport at Akassa, there arose a trade war among European nations resulting in a Raid on Akassa in 1896.
Nobody talked about banditry then, even though activities of European traders, explorers and fortune hunters could be called acts of violence, aggression and force, with local people of various communities being at the receiving ends. Michael Crowder, in his West Africa Under Colonial Rule, told us that the Royal Niger Company, largely interested in trade and no aggressive military policy, resorted to “occasional bombardments of those hostile to its commercial policies”. Those hostile to its commercial policies included local communities which resisted the occupation of their lands by foreigners.
By 1895, trade and commercial interests and policies expanded to include ideological issues. Thus, with Joseph Chamberlain as British Colonial Secretary, the use of force took a hypocritical form. Chamberlain’s view was that “You cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs; you cannot destroy the practices of barbarism, of slavery, of superstition which for centuries have desolated the interior of Africa, without the use of force.” Therefore, the use of forceful aggression as an instrument of colonialism used the claim of “barbarism, slavery, superstition”, etc as excuses to attack and take possession of the interior of Nigeria.
One would ask: who began acts of barbarism and slavery in Africa? Wole Soyinka would remind us that our ancient invaders and enslavers were the Europeans and Arabs. Without going into how history was distorted to present Africa in bad light, it would suffice to say that the anonymous caller who introduced the issue of “Bandito Muchacho”, demanded that current trends of neocolonialism be studied. It cannot be denied that powerful interest groups pursue their goals using economic and political influences, whereby weak and unsuspecting groups remain at the receiving ends.
It is a known fact that between 1899 and 1919, there were organised opposition by various local communities in West Africa, against colonial invaders. It is known also that despite the official abolition of slave trade, the slave culture continued in some communities, necessitating organised efforts to stop the practice in the hinterlands. Thereafter the sight of a few” White men with gun-carrying local militia” in the hinterlands evoked suspicion and some hostility among the local communities. Missionaries did their best to help, but the fear arising from past slave raids caused suspicion and hostility among local people.
A part of what my anonymous caller demanded to be investigated included the possibility of armed and security agencies being in the league of “bandito Muchacho”. Obviously the caller was quite serious and wanted to provide some vital clue for further investigation. It was particularly important that a former Army Chief of Staff General T. Y. Danjum, could say that the armed forces are not neutral in the issue of insecurity in Nigeria. For a Muslim group, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), to indict security chiefs for insecurity in the country could not have been without some reasons or facts.
For armed bandits operating in Zumi Local Government Area of Zamfara State to impose a N10 million fine on Zamfara Communities would imply the presence of a parallel government within the Nigerian states. A BBC Hausa Service report was that there was a reconciliation meeting between the people of the communities and representatives of the bandits where loyalty was pledged to the bandits for peace to reign, on payment of the money. Whether the bandits are Boko Haram or any other group of insurgents, their goal or mission is ideological loyalty rather than money.
Like the Muslim group, the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) in 19 Northern States condemned the recent gruesome murder of innocent travelers by bandits in Sokoto State. Truly, how can people be productive when they are living in fear both in their homes and anywhere they go? According to CAN, security agencies have all it takes to defeat the bandits, but why has such feat not been achieved yet? The concept of Bandito Muchacho comes in where there is a suspicion of complicity between official security agencies and the sponsors of insecurity in a country. Afgharistan was cited as an example, where the military supported insurgents.
A coalition of Northern Ethnic Group Assembly (NEYGA) was quoted as lamenting that “Nigeria has been turned into a killing field by these bandits terrorising the country where innocent civilians looking for their daily bread are forced to live in perpetual fear”. That was in response to the setting ablaze of 23 travellers in Sokoto State. Many concerned Nigerians have asked and wondered why it has become so difficult to deal decisively with the menace of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria, despite the fact that some of the insurgent and their sponsors are known to some state authorities. There are unknown sponsors too. Faceless people!
My anonymous caller, reacting to the article on Professional Banditry, stated specifically that there is more to the “politics of banditry than meets the eye”. He went on to ask why there is some reluctance in “naming and shaming sponsors” whose identities are open secret. Thus he wanted readers to be told that “Bandito Muchacho” is an old hide-and- seek business. Whether a business or not, banditry is a serious menace in Nigeria which must be addressed now.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Ochanya’s Case: Any Hope For Justice?
For anyone that has followed the case of late Ochanya Christiana Ogbanje since 2018, Thursday, April 28, 2022, must have been a sad day for her.
Christiana, a 13-year-old girl was said to have died from complications from years of serial sexual abuse by her aunt’s husband, Andrew Ogbuja, a lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokoloh, and his son, Victor Ogbuja right under the nose of her aunty, Mrs. Ogbuja, who claims not to have known what was going on in her home.
Victor (younger Mr Ogbuja), was said to have started sleeping with Ochanya when she was eight years old. His sister, one day caught him in the act and reported to their father who scolded him and afterwards also started defiling her until she fell ill, was admitted at the Federal Medical Center, Makurdi, but died about two months later, on October, 17, 2018.
Many Nigerians, including many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations were enraged by the despicable act and the painful death of Ochanya’s and they have ceaselessly demanded and pursued justice in the case. Incidentally, the hope of seeing the primary suspect duly punished was dashed by the judgement of Justice Augustine Ityonyiman, of the Benue State High Court in Makurdi, which held that the prosecution failed to prove its four-count charge against Mr Ogbuja and therefore discharged and acquitted him.
According to the judge, the police investigators failed to subject the defendant to medical examination in order to match his specimen with the findings in the medical reports that were presented before the court and the two conflicting autopsy reports from the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi and the Nigerian Police Forensic Laboratory in Lagos, left him in quandary.” I cannot pick and choose which of the autopsy reports to rely on in reaching a just conclusion of this case,” Ityonyiman said.
“While the autopsy report from the Medical Centre in Makurdi said Miss Ogbanje died of “natural cause,” the one from the Police forensic Laboratory said the deceased “suffered diseases that were related to sexual abuse”, he continued.
Incidentally, on the same day, in the city, in another court, the wife of the accused person, Mrs. Felicia Ochiga-Ogbuja, was convicted of negligence over Ochanya. The Federal High court in Markurdi jailed her five months without an option of fine for failing to protect the child from “being raped” by her husband and fugitive son, Victor.
One can understand the pain and disappointment of many Nigerians seeing Mr Ogbuja let off the hook despite all the stories linking him to the crime. But my little knowledge of criminal law states that in criminal proceedings, a person, however clear the evidence seems to be, is innocent until proven guilty. This assertion is supported by Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 135 (2) of the Evidence Act 2011.
The position of the law is that the prosecution in most criminal cases has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. This is the standard of proof in a criminal case. This means that the defendant will not be convicted unless the court is convinced that all the elements of the offence are present and proven. Hassan v. State (2001) 6 NWLR (Pt.709)
The phrase ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is the conventional way of expressing the idea that the court must feel sure of the defendant’s guilt. Any doubt left in the minds of the court will be resolved in the favour of the defendant. Oguntola v. State (2007)
It is an established principle of criminal law that not only does the burden of proving a crime rest squarely on the prosecution, the standard of proof is also that of beyond reasonable doubt. The clear meaning of this is that every ingredient of the offence must be established to that standard of proof so as to leave no reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the accused. Ojo v. F.R.N (2008) 11 NWLR (Pt.1099)
It therefore stands to reason that since the prosecution could not discharge its duty of convincing the court that the defendant committed the crime; since there were contradictory autopsy reports as to the real cause of Ochanya’s death, Justice Ityonyiman could not have erred by discharging and acquitting the accused person as being insinuated by some people. After all, “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffers.”
Fortunately, the Benue State Government has the option of appealing the judgement of the trial court. It is hoped that the government will heed the call of Ochanya’s family and other interested bodies and appeal the acquittal verdict and ensure that a capable prosecution team is put together to obtain justice for the poor girl.
Efforts should also be intensified by the police at apprehending Victor so that he can answer for his alleged crime. It is only when rapists are duly punished that others will be deterred from committing the crime and thereby reduce the high rate of the menace in the country.
The increasing cases of rape in Nigeria is a great concern to many. Scarcely a day passes without an incident of a woman, girl or infant being raped in one part of the country or another. Some of the victims are not only raped but brutalised and killed. Recall the story of how a 22-year-old 100 level Microbiology student of the University of Benin, Uwaila Omozuwa, was raped and murdered in a church in Benin a few years ago.
When the Senate in June 2015, ratified the Sexual Offences Bill (2015) which prescribes life imprisonment for rapists and those who have sexual interaction with children under 11 years, many thought that would assist in reducing rape cases in the country. Incidentally, that is not the case as many women in the country, both young and old, are daily subjected to sexual abuses. Some are reported, while many go unreported.
However, the recent judgement of Justice Abiola Soladoye of the Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court should encourage Ochanya’s family, individuals, human rights organisations, civil society groups and all working relentlessly towards the curtailment of the bestial act, attest that there is still hope for justice irrespective of how long it may take.
The judge sentenced 54-year-old, Michael Oliseh, a pastor, to life imprisonment in addition to his name being entered in the sex offenders Register of the Lagos State Government for raping his friend’s 12-year-old twin daughters in 2017. Reports have it that the victims were defiled by the defendant after their father entrusted them in his care and travelled to the village for burial.
The defendant was charged with two counts bordering on defilement, contrary to Section 137 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2015 and the verdict was reached after the prosecution convincingly proved the charges of defilement against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt, according to the court.
But the responsibility of ridding our society of rape is not that of the CSOs alone. Every other hand must be on the deck. As the former Executive Director of Centre for Women Studies and Intervention, CWSI, Rev Sr Rosemary Ukata, advocated during a sensitisation programme on rape recently, “to win the fight against rape in Nigeria and save our society, law enforcement agents and all those responsible for implementing laws against the menace should rise to their responsibilities. Gender desks at police stations should be made functional just as the issue of drug and other substance abuse are given more bite by the relevant bodies.”
The need for proper parental upbringing, more attention to the boychild and value reorientation of the entire citizenry as ways of dealing with the crime cannot be over emphasised.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Ideological Void In Nigerian Politics
Any worthy endeavour in life is supposed to be under pinned by sound principles and beliefs that drive action. In politics, those beliefs and principles are ideologies. They are the principles which guide the political behaviour aka character of political actors and determine the direction of political activities, ranging from internal party positioning, discipline, campaign, electioneering and ultimately governance.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria did not enjoy the luxury of evolving political parties with ideological grounding. The complete lack of ideology has made Nigeria to flounder sixty years after independence. Some leftist scholars attribute the poor governance culture in the country to fallout of dearth of ideology. The First Republic political parties emerged just to fill the vacuum created by the absence of the colonial master. Neither the National Party for the Nigerians and the Cameroons (NCNC) nor the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) ever considered governance in their principles. The avowed ideology of the NPC was to protect the interest of the monolithic North and the creed they profess. This is explicitly stated as a motto of the party.
During the 30-month fratricidal war, our leaders dallied with the two ideologies that ruled the world but socialism and capitalism did not take root until Nigeria joined the Non-Aligned Movement. There was no autochthonous ideology like the Ujama Philosophy as posited by Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania or Consciencism of the Osagiefo Kwame Nkrumah’s variety in Ghana.
Nyerere’s philosophy found expression in the field of education too. Ujama was an integral part of the socialist project, focused largely on self-reliance, total liberation and empowerment of the person and society, and the active integration of education throughout one’s life and in every aspect of human existence. This paid off.
Nkrumah defined his belief system as “the ideology of a New Africa, independent and absolutely free from imperialism, organised on a continental scale, founded upon the conception of one and united Africa. Consciencism became a foundation of Africa’s revolution and triggered reactions in the diaspora.
Nigeria never had a philosophy. Only the Action Group, AG, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo adopted welfarism as an ideological paradigm and this influenced its political actions especially in the area of education.
Even after the protracted military interregnum, the second Republic that emerged toed the same pattern of ideological hollowness. There was nothing concrete to influence discipline, internal democracy and the dialectics of who gets what. The curious interplay of money, religion and regional politics played a huge role in who controls power and allocates scarce resources.
It can be asserted without equivocation that since 1960, Nigeria has not evolved political parties with clear-cut ideology to drive change and development. This sad reality is what has defined political behaviour and actions.
One area where political actors have demonstrated ideological deficit in politics, is the deployment of money and religion in swaying votes. The rate at which some politicians decamp from one party to another is strange. While the constitution allows freedom of association, Nigerian politicians do not believe in building political structures on the long-term. If their political party fails to win elections, they defect to another which is assumed to be stronger-with mass appeal in the area. They are more guided by their stomach instead of principles. Like interlopers, they jump even though there is no viable option or platform for the articulation of any progressive agenda. In party politics, turnover is very high in Nigeria.
Another visible area that shows ideological deficiency is during electioneering.
The campaign of the 1960’s and those of the 2020’s have not changed much. The familiar campaign promises are hinged on the promises of physical and social infrastructure such as education, health, job creation, agriculture and security among others. No politician has mounted any innovative campaign such as the provision of social security, space policy, technology and biotechnology. By implication, most people canvass for power just for money and allocatable resources. They do not contest any election to transform society.
It is against this background that when they assume power, their administrations are characterised by non-adherence to transparency principles. They play politics with serious developmental issues such as basic education, healthcare, security and the welfare of the electorate. Politics is turned into a zero-sum game where the winners takes all and leaves nothing for the loser.
Understandably, the deployment of the instruments of thuggery creates a climate of fear during campaigns.
Elections are characterised by vote buying, indiscipline, pre-bendalism and violence. These symbolisms transmogrify into lootcracy when they assume power. Money is the real essence of politics in Nigeria. They are champions of ethnic, supremacy and sentiments. They forget too soon that they were elected on the platform of a Party.
Apart from looting, they abandon on-going projects or complete them at over-inflated costs. They deny even political appointees their lawful entitlements and rather use the looted money to bribe anti-graft agencies. They patronise native doctors in the night, neither sleep, dream nor see clearly the direction where their states are headed.
Ultimately, the enterprise of governance is reduced to a joke or at best a pool side party. They give politics a bad name and with their anti-people policies sentence millions to untimely death. They use policies, to strangulate people and dance on the graves of the down trodden hoi polloi.
In Nigeria, the character of politicians is dictated by the ideological hollowness in the system. The purveyors of new-breedism have become dreamers of social utopia. Whether our political parties will initiate and nurture some fringe ideology is yet to be determined. Not today and certainly not tomorrow. It may occur only when there is some requisite political engineer.
By: John Idumange
Idumange is a public intellectual.
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