WHY BAKASSI PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE MOVED FROM BAKASSI PENINSULAR

WHY BAKASSI PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE MOVED FROM BAKASSI PENINSULAR. SEO OGBONMWAN. steveogbonmwan@aol.com
The truth and enormity of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision was brought home to all Nigerians by the recent Greentree Accord to reinforce and implement the ICJ verdict.
We have seen scholarly legal arguments for and against the ownership of Bakassi Peninsular without taking the reality of the situation into consideration which is that the
Bakassi people are indigenous to the peninsular before the coming of the Germans, the British or the French; before any treaty was considered, written or signed and before the ICJ ruling.
These people have a strong cultural, historical and ancestral tie to their land and therefore should be given an opportunity to make an informed judgement of what they should do; to either leave Bakassi or stay put in Bakassi as the case may be. So far the Nigerian or Cross Rivers State government in conjunction with or without the UN have yet to do that. This argument is premised on UN declaration of Indigenous Rights in the Articles of the United Nation.
More importantly the Greentree agreement carefully stipulated the following which I would like to refer people like Senator Ita Giwa, Mr Erin Chairman of the Bakassi local government council and their colleagues who are arguing for relocation to read the Greentree agreement again before misadvising their people into relocating. I have wondered why they are in support of this relocation and could find no reason other than personal desire to keep their positions in government. to the detriment of future happiness and satisfaction of their people.
Article 3 of the Accord states that Cameroon shall not
a, force Nigerian nationals living in Bakassi Peninsular to leave the Zone or to change their nationalityb, respect their culture, language and beliefs
c, respect their rights to continue agricultural and fishing activities
d, protect their property and their customary rights
e, not levy in any discriminatory manner any taxes and other dues on Nigerian nationals
living in the zone
f, take every necessary measure to protect Nigerian nationals living in the zone from any
harassment or harm.
Nigerian Bakassi citizens by remaining in the Bakassi Peninsular are therefore not breaking
any law that is why we are concerned that their leaders are pleading with the President
that they be relocated. How can any government in Nigeria relocate about 4 million
human beings in less than sixty days? It is not humanly possible if they intend to do a
good job of it. Even in a year there will still be problems. They are just not facing the
reality of the situation. Are we just going to move them into tents in virgin land like
refugees when they have a choice to remain in their decent homes in Bakassi
peninsular?
One wonders why Senator Ita Giwa should be leading her people astray as she is doing in
pleading for re-location within Cross Rivers’ State. Their continued stay in the area
administered by the Cameroonian government will not change the status of 99% of
the people apart from the Senators and members of House of Representative and the
local government chairman who will loose their posts as their local governments
cease to exist. This personal interest may account for their choice of moving the
Bakassi indigenes to a virgin land. This decision which is bothering on self interest
rather then the interest of the larger Bakassi community is totally wrong.
The most appropriate thing to do is not to destabilize these people by moving them to any a
virgin land; but for the Federal Government to maintain a consular office in Bakassi
Peninsular in co-operation with the Cameroonians, the United Nation and other
interested parties. Or better still to argue for a permanent Mixed Commission as
agreed in Article 6 of the Greentree agreement. After all Nigerians are in Togo,
Ghana, the USA and many other countries for that matter. One therefore wonder why
this senator is pushing her people to relocate to within the geographical position
called Nigeria.
Technically speaking, the land neither belongs to Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon but to
Southern Cameroon People’s Organization who are presently clamouring for their
statehood. Ceding the land to Cameroon would be a mistake and clamouring for themovement of the Bakassi people to a virgin land will be a heinous crime against
humanity.
Although I am not arguing for disregarding the decision of the ICJ there are many nations
including Israel, South Africa, China etc that have at some point in the life of ICJ
disregarded its decisions. Nigeria government is just running even when we are not
being pursued and the Senate spokesman seems not to be in tune with the problem at
hand at all.
Considering the utterances of the Senate Spoke person that the hands of the Assembly men
are tied; is another good reason for looking critically at the Nation’s constitution. I
supported the constitutional review but as result of short sightedness and party politics
and the link of the constitutional review to Obasanjo’s third term, the attempt was
killed. It is better not to have a constitution at all than to have one with so many flaws.
Do you ever consider or imagine what will happen to Nigeria if we have a President
with minimal brain damage who signs ungodly treaties on our behalf? That Nigerian
Constitution needs tidying up seriously.
Senator Ndoma-Egba at his recent briefing said that under the constitution the senate has
been left with little or noting to do in determining the content of any treaty between Nigeria
and a foreign country and he did not proffer any solution to the serious problem or how best
to remedy the unacceptable situation.
Our biggest problem is that our leaders allow their personal interest to over-ride national
interest. Sani Abacha went to the ICJ because he wanted international recognition when
Nigeria was a pariah nation without listening to his Attorney General. The speed with which
OBJ signed the Greentree accord may be as a result of a rebound of the failure of his third
term bid in trying very hard to maintain the status quo of a Statesman.
What we do not understand as Nigerians in international politics is that there are no
permanent friends but permanent interest. To subjugate national interest to personal interest is
a hollow judgement but critically speaking OBJ alone should not take all the blames as he has
a retinue of advisers of all sorts and yet so many blunders are being made.
Nations have gone to war for national interest like the UK in the Falklands, Spain in Basque
Region and many countries are occupying disputed land from Israel on Palestinian land, to
through UK in Gibraltar in Spain to the USA in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and there are many
more examples, the only difference from the Nigerian case is that they were sensible enough
not to go to the ICJ. Respecting a constituted authority like the ICJ as we are doing is good
but to now move our people from their ancestral land will be adding salt to injury.Can I use this medium to advice our President, Obasanjo, Donald Duke (Governor of Cross Rivers State) and all members of the movement implementation committee that they should leave the Bakassi people in their ancestral land and support their ultimate self determination in due course democratically. Letting them be in Bakassi peninsular does not break any international law whereas moving them from their ancestral land breaks many natural laws.

SEO OGBONMWAN ©

THE ROLE OF OLD BOYS ASSOCIATIONS IN NATION BUILDING WITH EMPHASIS ON EDO STATE

The National President of ECOBA, Principal Edo College, Benin City, Chairman ECOBA of the Americas Chairman & Members of the Executive of the UK Chapter. Distinguished Ecobites and their Spouses,
It is a pleasure to be amongst friends and alumni of our alma mater Edo College Benin City. (ECBC). ECBCCCCCCCCC. The occasion of this annual dinner is timely, as it gives us the opportunity to reflect on ourselves, our progress, and the progress of our alma mater, our city, our state, our nation and our individual relationship with these institutions. I would therefore like to thank those who are physically oiling the wheel of the UK chapter of Edo College Old Boys Association (ECOBA) without which we would not be here today and for asking me to be the guest speaker of this august occasion of our 2006 annual dinner party.In 2004 in Detroit, Michigan I was present at the first ever Diaspora inaugural
meeting of Edo College Old Boys Association. We had consulted behind the
scene to make that meeting happen. I am sure some of you must have read the
minutes by the General Secretary, Mr Obasuyi on our ECOBA web site. During
that meeting, Obasuyi and Felix Omorodion contributed immensely as the
defacto Secretary and Chairman respectively. Their positions were normalised
and I recall moving that motion. When it was finally agreed that what we were
inaugurating was the North America Chapter, I knew we had to go back to the
drawing board.
Did we have to?
No. Thanks to our brothers on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Barrister Aihie
was the first to inform me that our brothers in the UK had put something
together he called the UK chapter. Today we are celebrating the second annual
dinner party. I was unable to attend the first annual dinner as Chief Launcher
because I had to give the toast at a childhood friend’s birthday celebrations.
Can we say a big thank you for the efforts of the organisers? The dichotomy
between the UK Chapter and the North America Chapter should be healthy. But
it is a call for a challenge; I mean a healthy challenge, as it will boost our
Nigerian National chapter considerably. The ultimate beneficiary will be our
alma mater and the national ECOBA.
Our alma mater contributed immensely to our development physically,
educationally, and morally. Our attitude to work and our general attitude to life,
which has contributed in no small measure to our success in life, derive
immensely from our passing through ECBC. Look around you in this hall and
you only see happy and satisfied faces; you will not be here in the first place if
you have not excelled in your area of endeavour in life. All these successes is
due to our grilling in our alma mater and our ability to absorb and effect
changes that made us better human being as we were being put through that
crucible in the preparation for life in the future. Gladly that future of our days at
ECBC is now with us. Do we look back with pain or satisfaction or do we
sometimes go into reverie and wish we were again back at school. On many
occasions, I have felt like going back to ECBC when there was no worry in the
world except completing assignments.ECBC was a town within Benin City with her system of laws and order, which
had to be obeyed. We were brought up to be respectful, to obey constituted
authority, to regard our fellow human beings as equal hence we frowned as such
terms as seniors or juniors amongst our ranks which were largely used in the
other schools. The care we received was not only academic but idyllic, physical
and sometimes spiritual. Our warm-men like elder brothers; gave academic
guidance; mine was the late Bishop Gordon Osagiede. May his soul rest in the
bosom of the Lord. Amen. The Head of Akenzua then Engineer Paul Idemudia,
later Azike and much later Dr Aimighemen. We looked up to some of the HSC
students Barrister Agho, Pa Igbinedioon from Eweka, Paddy Iyamu from Speer
House, Dr Edomwonyi also from Speer and Engineer Nosa Eguavoen from
Ozolua, Engineer Ogbeifun transferred to Nana House when the New house was
built.
I recall when Dr Henry Asemota (Akenzua House) made aggregate six, all in
my year changed gear in our swotting outfit and started work in earnest that all
in Five Science one (5S1) had a distinction at the WASC examinations the
following year. The question then was not if we would pass WASC
examinations but at what aggregate level?
What did we learn as Old Boys of Edo College?
Our grilling was to produce citizens of character and integrity committed to
social justice and service to humanity.
We were prepared not only to withstand the rigors of tertiary education but to
excel in our chosen career with the sky as the limit.
We were prepared to excel in academic activities and curricular studies to
enable us to become men of competence, compassion, conscience, and
consideration who will assume leadership roles in transforming the societies we
lived.
Have we been able to do that?
Have we not all checked out like Andrew when the kitchen became warm and
nowhere near being hot to greener pastures in Europe and America?
The combination of our checking out and the attitude of incompetent and
corrupt leaders have pulled back the march of civilization in our part of theworld for hundreds of years. Those who dared not look at our faces during
school days now bestride the narrow world of our state like a Colossus and we
like ‘mean men’ have to hide, finding ourselves in dishonourable places to
disguise our whereabouts whenever we go home to the land of our birth. Should
that be the case?
How do we reverse this trend? I mean how do we stem the decay?
When a civilization declines, it goes into reverse with all the wealth, power and
wisdom realised by its rise being discarded. The quality of goods and services
falls as the cost increases and this corruption extends into every aspect of
existence. Incompetence and injustice will reign as delusion triumphs and the
community dissolves into impotence.
Such a society is no longer engaged in creating a human heaven on earth, but is
earnestly constructing the very opposite where the worst people are rewarded
while the best are penalized, education system spread delusion and bureaucracy
becomes a liability rather than an asset and the courts promote injustice because
the richest buy justice.
However this trend will always be denied because truth will be vanquished by
lies as poorly paid reporters publish articles in favour of the highest bidder.
Even in this desert of decay, there are oasis of descent gentlemen like Edo
College Old Boys who will show respect to elders and senior citizens on the
highway or the office, they make it a ladies first in disposition before
gentlemen, they will correct children by smacking sensibly and with
explanation, abhor corruption and sharp practices and will answer to their
family name. At school I was called Ogbonmwan S like you were called
Idemudia, Osagie, Ero, Aihie, Ikifa, Ojebuoboh, Habibu, Akpata, Ayuba etc.
Given names or pseudo names were unheard off. As we answered to your
family names, we never, ever did anything that brought disgrace to our family
names. We were taught to believe that marriage is permanent unless one partner
dies or betrays the other sufficiently for divorce. In my time we did not really
have a sister school until Idia college was established in 1971. We competed
healthily with ICC boys for Maria Gorretti girls and with Eghosa Boys for
AGGS girls. We heard then from the grapevine that these girls actually
preferred ECBC because we were described as being disciplined, being
gentlemen, having clout and having a lot of respect for these future mothers.
On our way from the Ogbe Stadium now Samuel Ogbemudia stadium one day,
we stopped to visit Ikponmwonba’s mother. I greeted her in English and sheanswered ‘ ẹrhe ovhiẹ ẹdo ukhin?’ I now genuflexed and said ‘la tọsẹ’ without
thinking. She jumped from her seat and embraced me like any mother would,
shouting ‘this is my son Oh!’ At the end, she gave her son Ikponmwonba five
shillings and gave me two shillings. She told us we were relatives and that we
should not ever quarrel. That incident has been indelibly etched in my memory
especially when Ikponmwnba started teasing me with la tọsẹ; that was home
and Edo College molding. Why should we throw our culture away without
effectively replacing it? Whatever good we have we should hold. Our culture is
our life, we should not discard it.
To stem the societal decay, we have to go back to our roots of honouring
academic and notable achievements, community service, sporting excellence,
exemplary and other service achievements rather than wealth obtained by fraud
and corrupt practices. We have to show transparency in our dealings and show
team spirit at work as well as play. We have to move our society from where it
is to where it has never been. That is from a familiar present to an unknown
future is a challenge that political leaders cannot meet alone. We have to lead
from the front.
We as old boys of the premier school in Edo State have to be in
the forefront of removing this decay in our system and act as
beckon for other old boys/students association in our state and
country of birth. We should therefore not sit on the fence; we
should engage in active participation in the political life of our
people. If something is good we should applaud it, if it is bad
we should criticise it. But we should do so constructively. To be
indifferent is no longer an option. We have to come out and
take our place in society building or we chance becoming a lost
generation forever with the link handed to us by our ancestors
broken forever.
To re-orientate our people, we have to start from school age i.e. catch them
young. ECOBA should be in the forefront of supporting high flyers to reach
their ultimate in life by supporting Best Students Scholarship award, support
sporting activities and team work by supporting the provision of materials for
team sports like football, volleyball, cricket etc. Competition improves
competitive spirit. Joy when you win and being cheerful when you loose. This
attitude will manifest in later life as a magnanimous winner at elections and a
cheerful loser as well. We should also support school clubs, the Red Cross, the
Boys Scout, the Man ‘o War Bay, Debating, Quiz and Science Clubs. Engaging
students in school activities removes their mind from nocturnal cult activities,
which has spread from tertiary institutions down to secondary schools level. If
possible we should go beyond ECBC and assist youth clubs, leadership andcitizens training, youth sports and all other youth viable activities and thereby
reduce the number of young men who end up as ‘bush inspectors’ youth gangs,
local thugs that act as clogs in the wheel of development in Edo State especially
in the area of procurements of land and erection of buildings in Benin City and
its environ.
ECOBA cannot achieve all the above alone hence ECOBA must
reach out to other old boys, old girls and old students
association at home and in Diaspora to have a meaningful base
to launch this drive for change in our society. If we do not
provide the answers to our problems, who will? My suggestion
is not new and every new theory encounters opposition and
rejection at first. The adherents of the old, accepted doctrine
object to the new theory, refuse its recognition, and declare it
to be mistaken. Years, even decades, must pass before it
succeeds in supplanting the old one. A new generation must
grow up before its victory is decisive. To understand this, one
must remember that most men are accessible to new ideas
only in their youth hence all our efforts must be directed to
students at their most receptive age.
Another evil that has grown massively in our society recently in addition to
corruption is tribalism and ethnicity. At Edo College we were completely
detribalised. Your age, size, tribe were grossly irrelevant. As we used to say
‘immaterial’. What were relevant were your academic prowess, extracurricular
activities and sporting excellence. Today some miscreants in our society have
brought tribe and ethnicity to the fore in every level of human endeavour to
further their parochial political desire; officials now ask where are you from?
My usual answer is that I am a Nigerian of Edo State origin. What relevance
does it make if I am from the south or north senatorial districts as all Edo people
are from the same quiver? As I have said elsewhere, quota system, zoning,
rotational positions such as being paraded in our state breed mediocrity. The
best suited and most qualified for a post should have that post no matter where
he or she is from. He should also see himself as representing all and sundry and
should be fair, firm and friendly. ECOBA should now go forward to translate
this detribalised attitude inherited at ECBC to our people starting from the
school age.I will abridge this speech so as not to spoil your dinner, as the dinner is getting cold. I hereby challenge all of us present to live by our house motto, Aim at the Highest (Akenzua House), The Best or Nothing (Speer House); Forward Ever, Backward Never (Eweka House), Forge ahead (Esigie House), etc
Having checked out like the proverbial Andrew, let us now like the salmon have a strong bond with our birthplace. Now that we have grown big and strong in the wilderness of the Atlantic Ocean like the salmon, let us return to our birthplace periodically like the salmon does to its original waterways several times in its life cycle and contribute our quota to the system that gave us life. Let us remember always that it is only in participating that we can effect desirable changes.
Once again thank you for the opportunity for this address.
© SEO OGBONMWAN. June 2006

TALKING WITHOUT WORDS

The e-mails sent by the members of the Edo Community (EC) have shown originality, were stimulating, serious and sometimes quite amusing. The endeavour so far shows the commitment of all to a better Edo Land but discourse at the level of this forum cannot and will not change things on the ground. Changing things for the better for our people on the ground is obviously the primary objective of all members of this forum. It is for this reason it is important to talk without words and take the next step for the good of our people.
Edo Community on the web. These are young and middle aged men and women of Edo state origin, drawn randomly amongst the Edo’s in Diaspora principally resident in Europe and America with a common objective. They are all intellectuals in their various callings keen to make Edo state a better place. The group is very rich in human resources and have the capacity to effect a change in Edo Land if their activities are properly harnessed and directed. The medium for expression is the internet.
How Effective Is The Group. The effectiveness of the group can be gauged presently by the capacity of the audience. The population of Edo state is a few million and less than 1% have access to telephones in their homes. Of these small percentage, less than 10% have access to the internet. NITEL has about 400,000 lines for 120 million Nigerians. It is therefore clear that the discourse on the web is for the consumption of a select few, the middle working class using the British definition of social classification; as they only have access to the internet and therefore the strong activity of the EC on the forum. To prove my point, I requested a random sampling of 50 undergraduates from each university, Uniben and Edo State University, drawn across all the faculties and departments. The results was 7(14%) from Uniben and 4(8%) of the students knew of the existence of the Edo community forum on the Web. Non of these people who answered yes to the questions regularly read the postings therein nor do they have regular access to the internet. They are the leaders of tomorrow and the audience we need to target.
The Next Step. To become effective on the ground, we need to take the next step which is to get the information to the grassroots. We can support PC and internet access in the two University UnionBuildings so that postings on the web can be read, downloaded and
distributed.
For the teaming population without access to PC and internet outlet, we
could organise seminars, social and cultural events, and lectures on
topical issues to educate the people, after all knowledge is power.
An EC column in the local newspaper can print selected postings from the
community members, ensuring our contributions to debates on topical
issues in Edo State and affecting decisions and outcomes in the legislative
assembly and the functioning of the executive cabinet of the state.
Using the forum, attention can be drawn to the poor economic state of
Edo land, and the dismal state of our health and educational institutions.
It is known our hospitals are death traps with the highest maternal
mortality in the world. By speaking without words we can change the high
mortality rate by providing monitoring equipments for women in labour,
seminars for the medical staff, endoscopic equipment for diagnostic use.
In other areas which are lacking we can provide portable dialysis
machines for the renal units, echocardiography machines for the
cardiology units and provision of various scanning machines for the
radiology units.
Other examples include providing copies of the United Nation videos on
the atrocities and effect of trafficking in women , videos on sexually
transmissible diseases and HIV to all secondary schools in the state.
The seminars can also draw attention to the poor state of the educational
institutions in Edo land, for example, laboratories without reagents and
classrooms without desks and chairs.
In the developed world, non governmental and charitable organisations
complement the efforts of the government. Even in the UK charitable
organisations fund research and treatment programmes, provide food for
the hungry and homes for the homeless. The resources of any government
is not infinite.
E-mail postings from our rooms in our cosy homes in Europe and America,
are the first step although they cannot change things on the ground.
Our actions must be constructive, informing, educating and not seeking to
discredit or to be divisive.
Mr Aire Iyare has shown how to be a constructive critic, by providing
evidence for all his arguments. On such a path we should tread, and tread
boldly.
Members of the forum must bear in mind that the people of Edo state
cannot demand, for what to them, does not exist. How can a patientknow his treatment is suboptimal if he lacks knowledge to know what to expect, or the students know his or her education is inadequate if he or she is not aware of the set standard? The forum should in addition to reminding and informing ourselves, educate the people of Edo state on what they lack in all spheres of life so that they can in turn demand for it. Without educating the people, the activity of the EC on the web could amount to making ‘noise in the forest’ where no one hears it. I therefore believe we should make our presence felt first by educating the masses. We can achieve this if we put our heads together to decide on the best option to take or the best direction to head for. Thank you.
Information
Since the release of the above article cellular/mobile phone technology have been introduced into Benin City with over 1,000,000 lines. In addition there are now numerous internet cafes dotted around the city. The original problem of internet access no longer exists, for those who can afford it.
Mr Stephen Ogbonmwan MBBS, FMCOG(Nig.) M.Med. Sci (Assisted Conception) Nottingham. MFFP, MRCOG.UK.

THE THIRD TERM

The statement silence is golden may not always be correct, and those who shout the loudest may not always be right. On many occasions, they lead the people astray. Others say talk less and by so doing say more, a saying that may not be relevant in our situation as Nigerians. Speaking your ‘truth’, even though it may carry disagreement or may make you look polarised; but there is inner peace in so doing as it concretises your being in harmony with your personal values and ensuring that your choices are what you believe to be true and correct and not what others’ think or believe.
I was moved to comment on the issue of the third term when I read in one of the Nigerian newspaper that the chief executive/governor of Zamfara State is prepared to die for the third term issues. It showed how naïve and ignorant some of our leaders really are. There are comments that should not come from the chief security officer of a state. The above comments are one of such. It is inflammatory and tends towards felony and agitation for insurrection. In another place and may be another time in Nigeria, his state assembly will move swiftly against him if the federal government is reluctant to do so for over-riding public interest and may be for the sake of peace. Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom of incitement.
What Constitute a Constitution?
The 1990s have seen a resurgence of constitutionalism in sub-Saharan Africa with military rule and the one party state being largely replaced by a long list of multi-party states each of which has sought to produce an autochthonous constitution.
The constitution of any country is a special type of laws or rules that tells how its government is supposed to work. It also tells how the country’s leaders are to bechosen and how long they get to stay in office; how new laws are made and old laws
are to be changed or removed, what kind of people are eligible to vote and to be
voted for, and what other rights they are guaranteed, and how the constitution can
be changed.
A constitution is a way of Federation.
The questions we should be asking ourselves are as follows. Has the Senate
committee to review the Nigerian constitution been properly and legally set up
according to the Nigerian Laws? Is the composition of that committee legal? Has the
Nigerian foremost legislative body set up the committee? If the answers to all the
above are in the affirmative, then If anyone is unhappy or aggrieved with the
composition or frame of reference or the modality of its set up, they should seek
legal redress. Press conferences that hit up the polity do anyone no good.
Democracy is based on majority; it does not imply all Nigerians have to be satisfied
before the enactment of any law. In the British Parliament, laws have been made by
only a few majorities of the Parliamentarians and that Institution gave birth to the
Magna Carta that is the oldest reference point. In spite of the fact that there is no
written constitution as such, laws are being made during the various terms of
parliaments and old laws are being modified regularly to keep abreast with the
changing needs of the electorate. Even in the United States of America, the first
constitutions of the confederation of states were replaced because they were judged
to be weak and inadequate. Nigeria should not be an exemption in constitutional
review.
What is the Third term?
A critical look at the summaries and writings on the issue sees a deviation from what the third
term issue really is. The issues of the third term have become personified in one man; theperson of the President. A lot of our people see it as the perpetuation of the present regime in
government. Others claim the president is seeking life Presidency hence the plan for
constitutional review .Is that really the case? Others have likened the need to change the
constitution of Nigeria to the annulment of the June 12 elections while others have likened it
to Abacha’s attempt to convert from a military president to a civilian president. These are
statements and utterances not very well thought out before taking the podium during press
conferences.
On the other hand the press who should be the watchdog of the nation have become so
polarised and politicised that one takes what they write with a pinch of salt. The few that are
objective in their reporting meet with premature deaths. I weep for my country. When will
the Blackman learn to follow the path of honour and do things to serve the greatest majority?
None of the above reasons given to resist the third term are tenable nor are they
similar by any degree. As a democratic nation, a senate committee was legally set
up in line with the constitutional requirement in a democratic society to look at the
1999 constitutions that was thrust on the people by a military regime. If we recall the
constituent assembly recommendations was set-aside in the writing of that
constitution. If we recall a lot of Nigerian scholars have written against the Nigerian
1999 constitution in the past and stressed its inadequacies. PRONACO has been
campaigning against that 1999 constitution since the marriage between PDP and
PRM fell apart during the first term of the present administration. Many Nigerians
believe that the 1999 constitution is not the people’s constitution. If so many
Nigerians feel so aggrieved about the constitution, why, one wonders the clamour
against constitutional review now?
The senate committee was set up to look at the issue of the third term amongst many others,
like the voting rights of Nigerians in Diaspora, electronic voting, the issue of individual
candidacy at elections.
The question is why has the third term issue over-shadowed all other issues? An innocuous
attempt by the government of the day to review the Nigerian constitution have become so
politicised that a governor of a state is prepared to die for it.There is no doubt that the extension of the present regime is in direct confrontation with the
wishes of the people because the organ of government has not carefully dissected and
disseminated the issues surrounding the third term agenda to the electorate.
Some Nigerian believes that the President will simply continue to govern and similarly the
various governors will continue in their ineptness as governors as many of them have
performed under par. In many states of the federation, people are praying to see the back of
their governors as they have denied the people the dividends that should have accrued to
them as a result of our nascent democracy.
The third term of four years each is the extension of the current two terms for the post of the
president and the state governors. It does not relate to only the tenure of the present
government. It is supposed to be a change of the Nigerian constitution for posterity. If we
prevent it from happening today because some us hate/dislike/detest the present incumbent,
what will happen when another Nigerian from another geopolitical region of the nation has
performed so well as president that people wish his tenure to be elongated?
In the United Kingdom for example, the British Prime minister is currently enjoying his third
term victory in office. If President Bill Clinton had contested a third election, he would have
won because people loved him. In his situation, his country’s constitution has prevented the
best person to continue his service to his nation and humanity. The converse is also true that
in a true democracy when the electorate become dissatisfied with their rulers, they are at
liberty to punish them at the polls. The addition of a third term to our present two terms does
not imply the incumbent will ‘just’ continue to rule. The incumbent president or governor
will have to win his/her political party nomination, thereafter he will have to campaign and
win the election before he can rule. Our people should note that. The sensationalism of the
third term issue has polarized the nation especially as some of the leaders could no longer
contain their greed so have made diabolical statements inimical to a united nation. Even the
vice president that has sworn to uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
has recently started back stabbing his boss at every chance. Isn’t total allegiance to the
presidency by the VP part of the Nigerian constitution? In another country if an incumbent
feels so aggrieved about any situation and would not like to be a party to it, dignity and
honour dictates that such individual should resign. That is very unlikely in Nigeria as
everyone is positioning himself/herself to grab a slice of the national cake. On the other hand
the VP or any other Nigerian is totally free to aspire to any position in the Nigerian body
politics without fear or favour as it is his inalienable right.We have allowed tribe, greed and religion to cloud our sense of judgement. Our leaders have thrown caution to the wind hence you hear utterances like the one from the Zamfara State governor that he will die for the third term.
The Niger-Delta.
The one serious issue facing the country is not the third term. It is the issue of the Niger Delta. Mobile phone and Internet has made the dissemination of information like sharing a piece of cake. If NTA refuses to carry a news item, CNN will air it; If CNN refuses to report a news item, the BBC will report it. So there is little or no cover up anymore. The news item may be delayed but it will eventually surface. It is for these reasons that our leaders should conduct themselves in private and in public in a most respectable and transparent manner befitting of a leader of the most populous black nation on mother earth. What our leaders should be concerned about presently is not the third term but how to solve the problem of the Niger Delta. Recently the present government announced the spending of several billions of naira in the Niger Delta including the establishment of a Federal University; it did not make the front pages of Nigerian newspapers. For those ‘clamouring for death because of the third term issue’ may have their positions in government overtaken by events in the Niger-Delta. For those who believe in the Nigerian nation and its survival like myself who went to school with many Nigerians from different ethnic groups and took part in the National service when the national service was really a unifying and an integrating force among Nigerian graduates. Nigerians should always find a reason to restrain. To the government, I would say the purpose of the review of the Nigerian Constitution is right but the implementation and interpretation of the exercise is wrong. The government should now go all out to explain what the exercise is all about to the electorate. To all Nigerians I would say our country would outlive the present leadership if we allow those in position to carry out their duties for the interest of all. I would add that Nigerians should magnify the good in fellow Nigerians, magnify the good in our leaders, and magnify the good in our country, our neighbours and ourselves as well so as to allow peaceful resolutions of issues bothering on national interest. Finally, I will request the Zamfara State governor not to die for the sake of the third term because he is worth more to the Nigerian nation in life than in death.
© SEO OGBONMWAN APRIL 2006