Constitutional aphorisms and the Buhari presidency
Constitutional aphorisms and the Buhari presidency
By Eze Onyekpere 
Constitutional aphorisms and the Buhari presidency
Almost every Nigerian now knows the constitutional aphorism that the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government.  The words “security” and “welfare” are not technical and are common words that are easily understood by the man and woman on the street. They are the crucibles and parametres upon which a government’s performance can be evaluated. Closely allied to this aphorism are the second and third ones, all provided in the same Section 14 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. The security and welfare provision is the second. The first is that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the Constitution derives all its powers and authority and the third is that the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.

It is imperative to recall part of the oath of office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The President Muhammadu Buhari, is sworn to discharge his duties “always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. He averred, during inauration, “that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

How then have we fared under the Buhari regime if we use these parametres to evaluate government’s performance? From the much more known security and welfare parametres, are we more secured today than we were before the regime was elected into office? Are we more united today than we were at the start of 2015? Under Buhari, the fault lines of ethnicity and religion have been widened and deepened because of insensitive and divisive policies and governance approach. There should be no dispute that the security situation has degenerated. From the Boko Haram terrorism in the North-East, we now have insurgency and terrorism, officially nicknamed banditry, spread across the entire North-West. We now have the pervasive criminal elements of the Fulani herdsmen in all the forests across the 36 states of the federation kidnapping, murdering, raping, and plundering the whole land. They carry arms and sophisticated weapons without licences, and no one dares query them.

Nigerians of other ethnic nationalities cried and complained, and a presidential spokesman asked Nigerians to either forego their ancestral lands or face death. Massacres in Benue State and other places drew no response from government in support of victims and against the criminals. Rather, the regime took sides with the criminals. It got so bad that former President Olusegun Obasanjo complained of a “Fulanisation” agenda. His complaints were ridiculed and dismissed. The police and other security agencies pretend that no crimes had been committed. For the President and Commander-in-Chief, it is business as usual. Nothing tactical and strategic came from an army general and President as the situation worsened by the day. The criminals got the impression that the authorities had no response to their criminality or may even be happy with their performance. Hardly have there been arrests and prosecution of these criminals who boast about their invincibility and connection to the corridors of power. Evidently, the President’s personal interest had influenced his official conduct and decisions to the detriment of a very large section of Nigerians.

It took over five years of virtually everyone crying and weeping before Buhari agreed to change the fumbling service chiefs.Now that the victims of criminality are organising to resist the marauders who arrogantly believe that the whole of Nigeria is theirs to grab, there is a wide uproar in the land. There have been killings in so many parts of Nigeria in recent weeks and the country could be mistakenly stated to be in a state of war. What has our President done and what has been his response? Total lack of leadership, missing from the line of duty and missing in action, no road map or plan to stop the criminality and reunite Nigerians. There is a huge capacity deficit from the topmost echelons of governance in Nigeria. Alternatively, is the President waiting for a certain number of Nigerians to die before he acts?

A President and leadership that understand that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from who government through the constitution derives all its powers and authority would not hired thugs, urchins and miscreants to attack youths who were protesting during the #EndSARS protests in October 2020. An informed government would not have sought to curtail the fundamental rights of Nigerians to protest at the Lekki toll gate last Saturday, arresting and charging law-abiding citizens to court for no crime known to the law. By this action, Buhari and his men have arrogated sovereignty to themselves against the clear provisions of the constitution. But it should be clear that fundamental rights are not gifts from a dictator and dictatorship can never win against a determined people. Evidently, the tribunals set up in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests were simply to buy time and let the business-as-usual maladministration to continue. Despite the #EndSARS, has policing become more civil and respectful of the rights of citizens? These tribunals are apparently the usual panels meant to sweep issues under the carpet. When recommendations are submitted after more than a year, another committee will be set up to review their report and thereafter a white paper committee will be set up. Nothing will come out of them.

President Buhari recently rebuked his critics, the majority of Nigerians, who bear the brunt of his maladministration. What manner of democrat, instead of correcting his failings, turns around to rebuke Nigerians suffering from untold hardship occasioned by his regime failings? It is evident that the President and his key cabinet members believe it is their turn to occupy the space of leadership in Nigeria- whether they possess the leadership qualities and have any ideas on how to improve the lot of Nigerians or not. The President and his team know that their actions have not been in defence of the constitution. Rather, their action and inaction seek to tear the constitution to pieces.

It is our choice as Nigerians if we want to continue with the inertia or the status quo or if we want to improve our security and welfare by demanding that President Buhari should live up to his oath of office. Let us all come together to ask Buhari to perform his constitutional duties and live up to his oath of office or in the alternative, to throw in the towel so that Nigerians can start the process of unifying the country and improving our security and welfare.

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