By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
The expression of leadership in the current dispensation, from local government levels up to the federal government level, simply say one thing –that the bandwagon effect of the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 was a disservice to Nigeria.
With that effect, Nigerians fell for the lure of the centre. That lure gifted us with the system of leadership where governors do not see themselves as answerable to the people, but to Buhari. It was such that even Buhari’s body language became an understandable summon to belong with the centre, and the APC, for developmental benefits.
For this reason, even persons who were ideologically at odds with Buhari and the APC suddenly started pontificating of the need to belong to the centre so as to derive the benefits of leadership. The arguments presented a situation where Nigerians were abused, mentally, to believe that development is synonymous with being in bed with the government at the centre. Federalism therefore meant nothing. Functionality of the states became dependent on what the government at the centre wanted. But in reality, and as has been the practice, every state derives its powers from the constitution, not from the President or the party at the centre.
Our leadership expressing, as bland as it is, also became a huge statement on our leadership recruitment process. The recruitment process says something like ‘to develop you must be in bed with the government at the centre’. This system pays no heed to accountability in so far as the leader at the centre is seen to be in support, right or wrong, of any action taken in his name even when he is not aware. This system also allows the state lords to drop the name of the central figure in Abuja for help to push any decision he is unable to rationally convince the people for. Many agree that this is basic reason for the leadership failure Nigeria is currently chastised with. This has been the strongest reason the call for restructuring has been hottest between 2015 and 2018.
Going forward, many believe that Nigeria cannot afford a continuous dance on the street of doom. Those who argue within this bracket believe that the basic reason our country achieved the crop of leaders it now has is simply the bandwagon effect of the 2015 general election which started with the presidential election. Therefore, to cure this malaise, a re-ordering of the general elections becomes mandatory.
In achieving this, the National Assembly has exercised its constitutional function by initiating an amendment of the Electoral Act. The refusal of President Buhari to assent to the amendment, rooted on his argument, among others, that doing so would infringe on the constitutional powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to schedule elections. The president had reasoned that “the amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the principal act, may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third schedule to the Constitution”.
What the President failed to appreciate here is that even INEC is an act of parliament and could not have existed if the national parliament did not create its establishment law. Within the context therefore, it is unthinkable that an act of parliament becomes unbendable by the same parliament. The law that established INEC has no ouster clause that makes it impossible for the national parliament to amend the Electoral Act, even the schedule of elections.
Therefore, the argument on whether NASS has powers to re-order the schedule of elections is, as far as the powers of NASS are involved, inconsistent with reality. However, what should morally bind the Nigerian to the electoral process, including the order of elections, should be the need to eliminate bandwagon effect in the leadership recruitment process. This is what makes the amendment by NASS sensible.
Nigeria’s political evolution ought to have come to a point where those seeking elective offices are elected on their personal merit, values and worth. Nigerians ought to begin to appreciate individual capacities, educational and managerial, in recruiting their leaders. It is now proven that being at par with the centre don’t confer any developmental advantage to any state. Being the president’s man does not make any state fare better on the human development index. It also does not make any state rate better on the infrastructure development ladder. No state has achieved educational prowess because it is aligned to the ruling party at the centre.
The southwest states of Nigeria fared better as opposition states between 1999 and 2015. Jettisoning that for a dance at the centre has played a deceptive game on the states. Many people today applaud developments in Bayelsa, Abia, Enugu, Anambra et al. These are states managed by opposition parties. Not same applause is expressed for state aligned to the centre like Lagos, Osun, Kaduna, Kogi, Yobe, Borno, Nasarawa et al. Existential realities indicate that states do not actually fare well because their leadership is aligned to the centre. No state, in a federation, enjoys any special privileges or preferential funding, because it is aligned to the party at the centre. This is a myth that has been sustained overtime, which the change of guards in 2015 however, demystified.
What makes the difference in all this is electing (recruiting) men and women of worth who have shown capacity, mental and physical, for understanding the intricate demands of leadership in the management of human and capital resources, to lead the states. At the centre, the ability to manage the complex national diversity of the country will translate into capacity to pulling Nigeria through. To this extent, re-ordering the schedule of election to eliminate the bandwagon mindset becomes imperative towards placing Nigeria on a pedestal for reasonable growth. Failure to do this will mean appending our signatures to a leadership recruitment process that derives its being from the centre whereby any creature, irrespective of capabilities, could become governor and manager of resources of a people simply because his party won the presidential election.
That should be a story Nigerians must no longer tell post 2019.
Mr Uchegbu is Lagos-based journalist