President Muhammadu Buhari is the custodian of Nigeria’s democracy. He may also be the greatest threat facing that nascent democracy. The pillars of democracy are individual freedoms, rule of law, people’s involvement in the decision making process either directly such as in referendums, or petitions or indirectly through their elected representatives.
Any other form of governing that is not built on these pillars is not democracy. I am afraid that this administration is moving away from these fundamental principles.
Take the case of Nnamdi Kanu. All the principles have been violated. The leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was arrested and charged to court. The court with jurisdiction ruled that he be immediately released. The Department of State Securities (DSS) that arrested him held on to him, thereby violating the principle of the Rule of Law. An appeal court reached the same verdict but nothing came from it. The alleged villain has since declared that he has no confidence in obtaining justice in Nigerian courts. Who can blame him?
The government has since been shopping for a friendly judge and searching for criminal activities to bring against him. In other climes you observe that a crime has been committed, then you conduct an investigation to identify the culprit and arrest him/her and then you charge him/her to court. Under PMB the opposite is done: get a culprit, charge him to court and then conduct any investigation to find what crimes may have been committed.
This is too complicated.
May be a simpler case is that of firing Vice Chancellors. It takes about 40 years to become a president of a university from birth to primary schools, to high schools to undergraduate and graduate schools to post doctorate education and writing and publishing. University president are highly skilled personnel and recruiting one takes a minimum of 18 months search. And when found, they are valued and given tenure which is assurance that they would not be relieved of their duties on flimsy excuses.
The purpose of tenure is to assure that they can speak freely and write freely. Their loyalty is to the institution that hired them and to the pursuit of learning, even heretical learning. I am not aware of any place or time when an entire class of university presidents was retrenched. And just in the same breath another batch were conscripted and put in place. We are not making a car on an assembly line. We should be looking for “fitness for a particular purpose.” That is reason it takes 18 months to find a match. A Mr. Aluko may be good at Otueke but not for Ibadan or Nsukka even though they are all universities in Nigeria.
In the case of VC’s we have also the abuse of laws and contracts. And humane touch. I do not know the details of the contracts of these VC’s but I expect that during their performance evaluations there would be indications that their contracts would not be renewed because of poor performance. But given the surprise they display and the protest from their unions, one gets the impression that this process was not followed. If the sacking was reckless the replacement is even more reckless. It is not sufficient to check the academic degrees of an individual the fitness for a particular purpose must be taken into account.
The case of VC’s too is getting too complicated.
Consider the case of Directors Generals of government corporations. At one fell swoop 25 of them were asked to clear their offices. DG’s case and VC’s case and Nnamdi Kanu’s case all have one thing in common. You get the person/people and then start searching for the crimes they might have committed. We get the information that these senior officers have been relieved of their job and sometime in the future we will hear why.
In the interim, rumors, gossips, speculations, and innuendos will be used to ruin their reputations. These would make it difficult for them to resume their previous jobs or find new ones. Except for those who had been entrenched in their past positions, others would be asked the inevitable question: why did you leave your latest position. They would probably reply that their contracts ended to which the interviewer would add “and it was not renewed?” This rejoinder is a code.
The implications of these PMB moves are grave for the individuals involved and perhaps worse for Nigeria.
1. The potential replacements for the “sacked” officers will realize that their fate is tied to the success of this administration as strong possibilities exist that any incoming administration would follow PMB’s footstep. With this understanding they will do whatever is necessary to keep the administration going for ever. Not just those immediately impacted but those who managed to escape the ax this time. Election rigging cannot be a stretch. One can see why some political leaders do not give up the presidency in many African nations. The consequences are too grave for them and all who served under them. It is possible that GEJ might be regretting getting out without a fight. His people are paying huge prices for having worked for him. They may feel betrayed.
2. People who are truly qualified and secure in their current posts would be less eager to accept offers to come home and serve. Dr. Kenneth Dike was the head of the Institute of African Studies at Harvard, a very prestigious and secure position when he left it to become the president of Anambra State University of Technology (now ESUT + UniZik) under Governor Jim Nwobodo. If this condition existed then he would have chosen to retire from Harvard and stay in Cambridge while Nigeria suffers. There are many Dikes around the world now who cannot be attracted back to PMB’s Nigeria. In which case only those who are desperate would apply.
Brain drain continues.
3. A good servant must be bold to tell the king that the king has no clothes on. But if he thinks that he might pay a huge price for his honesty he might chose to go along to get along. This is the risk PMB is running. Loyalty to him might supersede loyalty to the country. It was rumored that after the 2015 election that some of the GEJ’s ministers including Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala advised GEJ to concede to PMB. Under the present environment PMB may not get such advice and Nigeria would be the worse for it.
4. As for the direct victims of power gone amok, they should chock it up as another experience. Those who are not too traumatized should consider the experience still useful: their motherland called and they answered. That is the highest level of patriotism.
Nigeria must go forward. If there are some who have PMB’s ears they should caution him on absolute powers and its corruptive tendencies; that riding roughshod over the constitution is never a good thing; that temporal powers are just that: temporal. There will be other presidents in the future and that he should try to not set a bad example for there is measure for measure; and that man’s inhumanity to man is a dead end.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts
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