Two major issues attracted the attention of many Nigerians last week. One was the presidential election petition judgement by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The other was the poor state of many roads in Edo state. Comparing these two issues appears incongruent. But on a closer look, you will discover that one word joins them together. That word is ‘horrible’.
Or, how else does one describe the injustice the Supreme Court dispensed on the presidential election petition appeal it adjudicated on last Thursday, October 26, 2023? Despite glaring evidence, the justices of the apex court dismissed the petitions of the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, and upheld the ‘victory’ of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Bola Tinubu. It was disastrous, to say the least.
That same Thursday was also a disaster for travellers and motorists plying the Benin bypass and some other Edo roads. It was such that while the justices of the apex court were dishing out their injustice that day, protesters barricaded a section of the Benin-Agbor-Asaba Road the same day to protest the horrible state of that road. There have been similar protests elsewhere on the current state of some roads in Edo State.
I had noticed the poor state of some of these roads last September when I travelled to the East from Lagos. The worst is the Benin bypass. I remember I saw some billboards informing the public to bear with the Edo state government; that the bad roads are federal roads. We spent hours on the bypass due to the serious traffic the bad portions of the road had caused. Many vehicles broke down. Many drivers lamented their losses. Though I got to my destination late, I thanked God that, at least, I arrived safely without falling into the hands of criminals and evil people.
Last Wednesday, I passed through that same road again. My experience this time was not palatable. Not only has the state of the road worsened, there was no attempt to apply some palliative measures. The croaky sound of some vehicles indicated how terrible the situation has become. Drivers were sullen. When my driver asked a particular driver coming from the opposite direction the situation in the direction we were heading, the man quipped, “That place they sell bread is blocked. Nowhere is good. Every Benin road is bad.”
My driver then took a detour and entered Ehor Road. He first drove into a filling station to fill his tank in preparation for what he called a long journey. At some point, the road after Ehor became very lonely. No vehicle was following us; none was coming from the opposite direction. The only thing we saw was forests on both sides of the narrow road. We also saw cow dung on the road indicating the presence of Fulani herdsmen in the area. I prayed silently against kidnappers and vehicle breakdown on the road.
As if the driver understood my mood, he raced like never before. Then suddenly, we saw a roadblock but we didn’t see the people who blocked the road. At this point, we moved with caution, wondering who blocked the road. It was when we got closer that some security operatives emerged from the bush and hollered, “Stop there!” They too moved cautiously, took a critical look at us and then asked for their usual ‘kola’. The driver gave them something and we moved on. After over two hours, we rejoined the Benin-Agbor-Asaba Road through a community with a compound name that I can’t remember now. All I know is that the last name is Isi. In Igbo, ‘isi’ means blindness, a perfect metaphor for the state of affairs in Edo, nay Nigeria.
I wondered what it would take the outgoing Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, to do some palliative work on some of these roads. Granted, the Benin bypass is a federal road. But it is in Edo State. A caring and responsive governor will not wait for the Federal Government to ameliorate the suffering of his people. Is it not this Federal Government that recently appointed a fresh graduate, Imam Kashim Ibrahim Imam, as Chairman of the Board of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA)? The young man’s father, Kashim Ibrahim Imam, is said to be an associate of the President. Tinubu had to withdraw the appointment because of criticisms. You begin to wonder if the President was even aware of some of these appointments before they were made public.
Obaseki should pity his people and save travellers by paying some attention to Edo roads. He can then put up a billboard that will announce, “Please bear with us. This is a federal road that is being rehabilitated by the Edo State Government.” Thereafter, he can apply for a refund from the Federal Government. Even if he fails to get a refund, he would have satisfied his conscience that he has helped to solve the problem of his people.
In any case, a country that practises true federalism will not experience this type of problem. We have an overbearing Federal Government which has control over 68 items on the exclusive legislative list. The states and local governments which are closer to the people have less. That is why there is a fierce battle to snatch power and run with it at the centre. Whoever controls the central government controls almost everything. Nigeria’s President is about the most powerful in the world. He has overwhelming influence on the legislature and the judiciary.
The hands of most Nigerian judges are tied. Their ability to give a fair judgement, especially where an incumbent President is involved, amounts to a camel passing through the eye of a needle. I warned in my earlier intervention on this page that we should not expect any justice from the Supreme Court because the present Nigerian judiciary is the lost hope of the common man. Most times, judges employ legal technicalities to achieve their aim. I had noted that Atiku and Obi were wasting their time; though it was good they pursued their case to a logical conclusion. So, I was not surprised when the verdict upholding Tinubu’s so-called victory came.
I do not want to go into the nitty-gritty of the case. That will be medicine after death. My concern now is the future of Nigeria. Tinubu may have become President. But we now have a President presiding over a country that has become more fragmented. He has also lost the moral right to punish or sack any corrupt government official. It is a pity that the Supreme Court justices did not reckon with the alleged certificate and other forgeries against Tinubu. They did not also consider the non-transmission of presidential election results to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) portal as weighty enough.
Elder statesman and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola, saw this coming. Last year, he canvassed for an interim government that would stay for six months and address some pertinent issues affecting Nigeria. According to him, moneybags now control the levers of powers. “If we allow the present constitution beyond 2023,” he warned, “what we will be getting is recycling leadership who will continue the old ways.” Just as Babalola predicted, the same faulty leadership and system have emerged again because we used the current constitution to conduct the 2023 elections. A lot of people had misunderstood him, saying his call for an interim government was anathema. They failed to see the wisdom in his call for a new constitution.
Last week, a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, repeated the call for a new constitution for Nigeria. This, he said, was to arrest the ongoing deterioration of the situation in the country. According to Chief Anyaoku, the essence of the new constitution is to engender devolution of powers from the central government to fewer and more viable federating units with strong provisions for inclusive governance at the centre and in the regions.
The truth is that Nigeria as presently constituted will never move forward until we totally overhaul our political and electoral systems. Former Rivers State Governor and now the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, boasted recently that Tinubu would win in 2027. Yes, that is possible with rigging. But reform the system and see Tinubu fail woefully. I will be surprised if the President initiates any serious reforms or restructuring that may affect his fortunes.
The onus is on Nigerians to rise up and take back their country. It will not be easy, but it is doable. If Chileans could do it in 2020 when their year-long protests against injustices and inequalities led to a popular referendum to abolish their military-era constitution, then we too can do it. The state of the nation is heart-breaking. But we cannot run away from war because of killings. I am still optimistic that the redemption of this country is at hand. Don’t ask me how, because I do not know. May God help Nigeria!
Re: Lawmakers’ SUVs and Tinubu’s hotel bill
Casmir, extravagance is the second nature of an average Nigerian leader! Nigerians are getting poorer by the day. Yet, Tinubu continues to ask for more sacrifice from impoverished Nigerians, made worse via his ill-thought policies. Tinubu and the National Assembly members are wickedly ‘sacri-enjoying’ at the expense of a docile followership! Buhari is gone; more ‘wahala’ has come! Tinubu’s five months plus government seems age long; five years to be precise. The poor masses are wailing, wondering what has hit them! Short circuited, they now hold the short end of the stick. Tinubu is a caricature of what he claimed to be and made them believe. The worst part is that they have now been inadvertently glued in destiny for 8 years by the Supreme Court of APC, sorry Nigeria. Without God’s intervention, Nigeria is doomed; failure is imminent with this unscrupulous sort of people in power! The foundation of this government is faulty; it lacks the God of grace. A bloated cabinet coupled with huge debt to service when revenue is dwindling is the greatest height of irresponsibility! Wasters of taxpayers’ money should replace their heart of stone with flesh. Righteousness exalts a nation, but ‘the sin of taking the masses for granted’ is a reproach.
-Mike, Mushin, 0816 111 4572
•Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 30, 2023