By Martins Oloja
Let me quickly apologize for my difficulty in continuing this week with our discussion points on the implications of funding better universities instead of more. The debate, just like the federal government’s tenure policy in the public, sector is not abolished; it is only suspended. But while one is not sure that the suspension of the tenure policy for the permanent secretaries and directors will be lifted before 2019, I am sure I will return to our symposium on better universities. I will be an ethical promise keeper until something good happens to the university system in Nigeria, our Nigeria. I had to suspend the timeless issue because a lot of hot and perishable stories are just breaking forth so fast. And we can’t ignore them as newsmen, lest we should be the last.
Before our very eyes, democracy is being redefined by the new ruling party in Nigeria. What is more, the presidency has been so vigilant even about what is not happening at the legislative arm in Abuja that the Attorney General of the Federation has had to assist them in a significant way: The AGF, acting on behalf of the federation, has reportedly taken a police report on allegation of forgery of the Senate Rule before the election of their leadership last year and charged the President of the Senate and Deputy President of the Senate with forgery. We used to know that, that action – investigation and sanction should have been the primary responsibility of the legislative arm. Now we have been told that when it comes to vigilance or due diligence about impurities in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly in Nigeria, the Attorney-General cannot fold his arms and allow a tainted Rule Book to be used anymore. It is understood that the allegedly impure Senate Rule they used in clearing the ministers including the AGF himself and the 2016 budget has been fingered as part of the reasons the ministers and the 2016 budget have not been doing well. So, the leadership of the Senate that allowed such an impurity while anti corruption war is raging should face the music.
There is yet another story we cannot ignore: Some never-do-well workers in our very active rumour mills located in all the states of the federation have been spreading unfounded and hazardous town talks about our wobbly democracy. The careless rumour mongers are said to have gone beyond some tolerable limit as they talked about rumours of coups against our 17-year old democracy. That is too serious to be ignored at such a time like this. Who can ignore this kind of executive gossip at a time some disgruntled ‘deep throats’ in some parts of the country have been compiling some list of appointments approved so far by the president since he was sworn in barely a year ago. The compilers who appear too young to know about the fine points of presidential system of government in a convoluted federation like ours have been complaining mostly in the social media and some sections of the mainstream media that the president of Nigeria has been acting as if he were elected to take care of the core North alone. As I was writing this, an elder who is as old as Elder Areoye Oyebola, sent an e-note to me complaining that, “Ah, my brother, the president has done it again despite all the protests about northernization of all political appointments so far…He has appointed Malam Boss Mustapha as managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) despite the protest about the new IG. Boss hails from Adamawa…Na wah o, Martins”. This harmless complaint came a day after one of the knowledgeable elders of the land and former editor of Daily Times, Mr Areoye Oyebola was quoted in this newspaper as predicting that “Nigeria’s breakup is imminent”. These are not low hanging fruits to be ignored at a time that calls for restructuring of the federation have become daily front pagers. But then there are some of us who care less about who is where: We just want our leader to hire good people that can assist him to run the country well, though not many people share this sentiment anymore. One elder in one of our meetings this week said, “when an appointment is announced these days, people ask questions if such appointees are from their areas”.
But then, these are weightier matters that can affect the structure of the federation in which there are now strident calls for devolution or dissolution. No newsman would like to ignore these sensitive matters that even our leaders at all levels should not ignore too.
But the most fascinating thing to me this week is the development in the United Kingdom that has been named Brexit. That is the short form of Britain’s exit from the European Union votes. As I followed the developing story up to the early hours of Friday when the brilliant British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, I began to develop a fresh pathological hatred for the presidential system of government that allows elected leaders to serve a tenured regime, no matter what. I listened very attentively despite the sleepless night when a few hours after the result was clear, Cameron had declared that Britain needed a new leader. His words:
“Good morning everyone, the country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our history.
“Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have all had their say. We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people for these big decisions. We not only have a parliamentary democracy, but on questions about the arrangements for how we’ve governed there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves and that is what we have done. The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected. We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union…
“But above all this will require strong, determined and committed leadership. I’m very proud and very honored to have been Prime Minister of this country for six years. I believe we’ve made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people’s life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality, but above all restoring Britain’s economic strength. And I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped to make that happen…
“I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel—head, heart and soul. I held nothing back. I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone – not the future of any single politician including myself.
“But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction. I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination…This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly but I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required…
When I witnessed the power of parliamentary system of democracy this weekend, I began to develop deep hatred for our variant- the very expensive, oppressive, less accountable presidential system of government where even anyone elected remains for the next four years even if he does nothing.
When I attempted to develop a thesis about the expediency of returning to this remarkable parliamentary system that enables you to be elected first as a parliamentarian before you can become a prime minister and minister, another elder and retired senior public officer I mentioned this to laughed heartily and said to me. “Martins, the trouble is not the presidential system that we adopted from the United States. Not is our salvation in adopting a parliamentary system. We have a presidential system that should have been practised in a federation of 36 states as federating units as in the U.S. that has a system, culture and character”.
The consequence of the treatise I had is that we don’t have a system of government that people can trust and still do not have a political culture that can nurture any democratic system. And worst still, we haven’t got a political class that has the characters such as Cameron.
That is why we urgently need a restructuring of the federation. Why can’t we have a referendum on this federation or on the 2014 National Conference Report now in the archives? More important is value reorientation of all of us because there is a crisis of character in all of us at the moment. But then I am in love with this parliamentary system because it allows you to take responsibility for your actions immediately, no matter how good you think you are!
Inside Stuff Grammar School:
A shambles Vs Shamble
It has been discovered too that some writers and speakers do not know that “a shambles” is fixed and can’t be tampered with when you mean to use the word as ‘a place of great disorder’. That is part of the peculiarities of the English language. It is, therefore, wrong to write or say: The room was “a shamble” after the party. The “s” in “shambles” is very important even when it functions as singular or plural. The correct sentence is: The room was “a shambles” after the party. It is strange but that is the correct position according to the native speakers.