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Nigeria: Buhari’s undemocratic rule: cui bono?

Buhari SarakiI AM an enthusiast of late Belgian artist, Georges Prosper Remi, better known as Herge, the creator of the famous Adventures of Tintin series. The crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government reminds me of Tintin in The Crab with the Golden Claws. Merchant ship’s Captain, Haddock, was a terrible drunkard, and while on a voyage, he complained bitterly to his First Mate, Allan, that he was being deprived of adequate supply of whisky.

Allan, a brute and secret agent of opium runners, told the tipsy captain: “Of course, of course, you know I would never deprive you of whisky for anything in the world”. As he gleefully walked off to fetch more whisky, he added under his breath: “For then, I’ll be boss of this ship and do just as I like”.

That we are currently in a functional dictatorship under President Buhari is pretty evident. In a dictatorship, only the Executive and, sometimes, the Judiciary, are in existence. With the constitution scrapped, the ruler exercises legislative functions and governs by decrees. Under Buhari, the Executive Branch is not even fully in place; only the Presidency and the Judiciary are active.

The National Assembly was inaugurated on June 9th 2015, but it has not been able to perform any of its functions covering the areas of: representation, legislation, appropriation and oversight. Without the National Assembly sitting and freely carrying out its constitutional duties, we cannot claim to be running a genuine democracy.  The Assembly cannot function because the ruling APC is at war with itself over sharing of offices and positioning for advantage in the unfolding government.

It is not Buhari’s fault, some will say. He made it clear, even before the Assembly was inaugurated, that he would work with anyone who emerged. Right? Not quite. Buhari has become part of the problem by his deliberate flashing of conflicting signals. Why would he, after pledging non-interference, start stiff-arming and refusing to meet with those that emerged as helmsmen in Senate and House of Representatives?

Why is he now telling them they must comply with the wishes of the APC leaders, which are at variance with his own widely publicised non-interference stance? This has helped to stalemate efforts to resolve the conflict. It is responsible for the further postponement of the resumption of the Assembly from July 21st to 28th 2015.

Even at that, there is no guarantee that an attempt by the party leaders to muscle their way through will bring solution. It might merely make matters worse, in which case Buhari will simply sit pretty in Aso Villa and continue to rule Nigeria “just as he likes”. In the shadow of this conflict, a lot of worrisome developments are going on bordering on a reckless throwback to Buhari’s basic state of nature: military-mindedness and approach, which no one is checking. Here is a checklist.

Economic and Financial Crime Commission’s (EFCC’s) Ibrahim Lamorde, a man who blows hot and cold in the fight against corruption, is now in the “high” mode. He was the hammer in Malam Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC under President Obasanjo. When late Yar’ Adua came on, he was made to go soft. Under Jonathan, he was almost forgotten, only to return to hammer under Buhari. The first victims of Lamorde’s sudden resurgence include former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido and his sons who were arraigned for alleged fraud.

In a spooky ruling, a judge remanded them in prison for six weeks without trial or bail! It took the intervention of an Abuja Federal High Court judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, for them to be admitted to bail. Why would Lamido be treated like this while one of his colleagues who lavishly funded Buhari’s presidential campaign and thus nearly bankrupted a  state was put in his delegation to the USA to see President Obama? Is this how the war on corruption will go?

Buhari’s illegal appointment of Amina Zakari as “acting” Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman would have created immediate uproar in the NASS if it were in session. This illegal Buhari puppet will conduct the next elections (she appears already preparing to do so) if the NASS impasse remains unsolved. Certainly, if the NASS was functional, it would have queried Buhari’s refusal to appoint ministers and fully constitute the Executive Branch as the constitution demands.

The lawmakers would have asked him to explain why not a single person from the South East Zone has met Buhari’s queer standard of “merit” in his twenty or so appointments so far, while all the rest five zones have been represented with the North overwhelmingly favoured. They would have enquired into the sudden release of 182 Boko Haram detainees in Maiduguri and the posting of 47 convicted Boko Haram prisoners to a poorly secured Ekwulobia Prison in Anambra State in total disdain of the protests by the citizens throughout the South East.

Definitely, they would have wanted to know the truth behind the raiding of former National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki’s properties, as well as the detention of Gordon Obua, former Chief Security Officer of former President Goodluck Jonathan. By now, Buhari would have had a taste of legislative power, which is actually an extension of the people’s power. They would have had a say in the over 700 billion Naira bailout package and, at least, given it some legitimacy.

The absence of legislative power has given Buhari the space to govern as he best knows how: with impunity. Brash, devil-may-care nepotism (Northern domination) is in full force. Lack of respect for rights and interests of people outside his favoured orbit is in full bloom, and his political enemies are already “smelling the rod” without (and before) trial. His favourite puppy could be the next INEC Chairman. Buhari will unfairly consolidate his personal power base.

In other words, most of the socio-political and economic reforms done since his first dictatorship could be reversed before the National Assembly comes back to life.

See who is benefiting from the NASS crises?

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