Democracy Day: Implication Of The Increasing Democratic Instability And Disregard For The Rule Of Law
As Democracy Day Celebrations rolls by, the Nigerian people are wondering when the promises of democracy would become real in their lives. They are also disturbed by the utter disregard for the rule of law, executive recklessness and the sequence of sad events in the body politic which are threatening the nation’s democratic stability.
Aside this and the general insecurity and terror acts in the nation, the abysmal standard of living of the Nigerian people is equally troubling. Information from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals that the Nigerian economy as at end of first quarter of 2013, grew by 6.56 percent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but this so-called growth is not reflected in the lives of Nigerians, which only reinforces the fact that though the economy might be growing, it is not actually developing.
Similarly, we are worried about the tottering state of the nation and the increasing push towards democratic instability by the federal government. The deliberate attempt by the executive at the centre to stifle the voices of dissent, muzzle the press and by extension the freedom of expression is dangerous and calamitous. It has become a pastime for Aso Rock to arrest journalists at will and ground down political opponents as seen from the frequent arrests of journalists.
By the same token, the incessant persecution of the Rivers State Governor and other political opponents for freely expressing their constitutional preferences and ambition, and for refusing to be cowed is alarming. More horrifying are the contentions from the election of a Chairman for the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF). The NGF is a body for Nigerian Governors made up of the thirty-six State Governors of the federation. In the election conducted last week, only one Governor was absent; thirty-five participated in the election and the vote count was apparently supervised by the Delta State Governor as revealed by the secret video recording of the election (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4I2ggNkfQ8&feature=player_embedded courtesy of Premium Times and others), which has since gone viral on the Internet. Unless there are those willing as usual to stand truth on its head and say, that the video was doctored, it is evident from details of the video, that the Rivers State Governor actually won the election. Yet, the losers, led by the Plateau State and Akwa Ibom State Governors, unwilling to accept the outcome of the elections accused the incumbent Chairman and Rivers State Governor of not resigning before the conduct of the elections. But the question is: did any of those Governors, most of whom are serving their second term in office ever resigned before running for a second term? In short, no elected office holder in this country from the local level to the federal level had ever resigned before running for a second term in office. What is even more appalling is the deceit and dance of shame perpetrated by the likes of the Delta State Governor who presided over the vote count that returned the incumbent as the NGF Chairman, and then switched in a few hours time. And why would the Plateau State Governor, a man almost seventy years of age allow himself to be used this way, so much so that he even went to the Church last Sunday to celebrate a victory that was never his? How could an election involving just thirty-five persons whom are the Chief Executives of their various States degenerate to this level? Of course, the Presidency had already distanced itself from the fiasco but Nigerians are no fools.
But beyond all the melodrama of the NGF election is what it portends for Nigeria and the general elections in 2015. We are not so much concerned about the NGF as we are about its activities because these governors are the leaders of their parties at the State level, and they greatly influence the outcome of the party flag bearer. If they cannot accept the outcome of a free, fair and credible process in which they were the participants, what would they not do in the general elections? No wonder, they circumvent the will of the people and foist on them misfits and degenerates! This whole issue is about the Nigerian people; it is all about who gets what, where, when and how. It is a struggle for the life-force of our democracy and a battle for the soul of the nation; that is why we are so concerned.
Furthermore, the security issues and the heightening threats to the nation’s stability is a clear and present danger. Recently, a Niger Delta Militant and some of our Southern Brothers, threatened that Nigeria would cease to exist if the incumbent President and their Kinsman is not re-elected in 2015. Those are very heavy statements indeed, and must be seriously frowned upon. Naturally, well-meaning Nigerians and even the ill-willed called for their arrests and trials, and they were right; but they obviously forgot that those brothers were not the first to make such statements. Some of our Northern brothers in high level places equally made such statements before and after the 2011 general elections, and nothing happened. When some citizens become so free to the extent that they are allowed to make and possibly carry out grievous threats, what you get is lawlessness, and that is where we are today.
However, there is a way out for the nation and the solution lies in the overhaul of the nation’s constitution to address the structural imbalance. We are not going to talk about a Sovereign National Conference because research indicates that is abhorrent to many, especially the power structure of the nation, but we can at least talk and look at how to revisit the nation’s constitution. The constitution as it is at present is a good document, but it is not good enough. There are many areas that do not reflect true federalism but we want to focus on the one serious issue that we believe is responsible for the way the nation is today, and that is the Revenue Allocation Formula.
The Revenue Allocation Formula is so jointed and tilted towards the Centre, that it breeds frustration and anger. Sections 80 through 89; 120 through 129; and 162 through 168; and the Third Schedule of the Constitution talks extensively about Public Revenue and the Revenue Sharing in general. It also talks about the duties and powers of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), yet the subsisting Sharing Formula which came into force on May 29, 1999 has been altered at least twice without recourse to the National Assembly. This singular issue is what splits Nigerians along ethnic and divisive lines. And it is what is responsible for the agitation of the various geopolitical zones and ethnic nationalities to produce the President, because historically, the Revenue Allocation Formula is subject to the whims and caprices of Presidential Fiats and all sorts of political rigmarole. As at today, the Centre controls a whopping 52.68 percent of the total revenue accruing to the federation. The thirty-six States share a paltry 26.72 percent and the 774 Local Government Areas share a miserable 20.60 percent. There is of course a 13 percent derivation to Oil Producing States, just as the Nigerian Customs Service receives 4 percent of the monies it collects as cost of collection, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) receives 7 percent of the monies it collects as cost of collection, and 4 percent of the monies from Value Added Tax (VAT) collection. This distorted Revenue Sharing Formula is the sole issue dividing the nation and pitting one region against the other. There is absolutely no justification for the extant Revenue Allocation Formula and no equity in this lopsidedness at all. This craze for the Centre, and these unceasing cries of “It is our turn” and “My brother must be there at all cost” would only come to an end when the Constitution is overhauled and the existing Revenue Allocation Formula is reverted to what it was at the nation’s Independence, which is: 50 percent to the Region of Production, 30 percent to the Common Pool of Regions, and 20 percent to the Centre. This was the Revenue Allocation Formula at Independence before subsequent Military Juntas brought it to where it is now. There is no reason why we can’t revert, except we want disaster which is already in the offing.
The Nigerian people are tired and desperately want a new deal. And if nothing is done quickly about these issues, there is no telling what would happen in 2015 because the real threats to our collectivity is not even in the terrorists, extremists or militants but it is bottled up in the seemingly harmless and ordinary citizens on the streets of this nation.
Editor in Chief & Chief Executive
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