The Booby Traps Before Buhari – Olisa Agbakoba



The booby traps before Buhari – Olisa Agbakoba.

Ahead of the inauguration of the president-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and human rights activist, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, looks at issues in the polity which, according to him, border on national order,
constitutional reform, devolution of powers, anti-corruption, diversification of the economy, driving new public revenue, maritime, space and aviation. Agbakoba, however, says the litmus test for the president-elect concerns the political will to deal with salaries paid to federal lawmakers as well as the huge budgetary allocation to the Presidential Villa. Excerpts:

ECONOMY- Look at South Africa that is giving us problems today owns MTN. But MTN makes much money in Nigeria than Dangote Group of Companies and all the banks put together. Yet, they have nothing here. How can any serious policy planner allow such a leak, where people are allowed to come into the country, make money and take it away. With this, Nigeria will continue to bleed. So, financial planning requires Gen. Buhari to shed the roots and trees. He has to put Nigeria first. I had expected the Nigerian government to summon the South African ambassador and warn him that their businesses here will suffer if they continue to kill Nigerians in their country. Nigeria is a great country and I had only wished that the incoming President will fulfil his campaign promises.

CONTINUED- CONSTITUTION-One thing we must understand is that Nigeria’s problem is not its economic resources or its finances, but its lack of peace. This lack of peace has a history in the shape of three political constitutions we have operated. The colonial constitution, which was not in the interest of Nigeria; the civil constitution, which lasted between 1960 and 1966 and didn’t serve the interest of Nigerians; and the military constitutions designed to empower the various heads of state but didn’t have the interest of Nigerians at heart. The makers of the constitutions were ruling for the sake of themselves and their constituencies. Therefore, there wasn’t any peace and that was why the pro-democracy movement rose to challenge and confronted them. Then, we had the Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan’s attempts to find peace in Nigeria. The National Conferences we have had were about peace and stability in Nigeria. That is why the biggest power the President enjoys is the power given by Section 5 to order the state of things in Nigeria, for the peace, order and good governance of the country. But, unfortunately, the National Conference process starting from Obasanjo, who had a third term agenda, was not genuine and the Jonathan process, which I was a party to, is incomplete. As I speak, we don’t have political compass for Nigeria. So, we are a mass of people with various cleavages and fault lines – religious, ethnic, linguistic – roaming in the vast territorial space called Nigeria, which Chief Obafemi Awolowo referred to as a geographical expression. We have not condescended Nigeria into a national spirit which we can say for the love of country. Unless, this is tackled, we are heading nowhere yet. This is why I have written the president-elect to be aware of the booby-traps.

CORRUPTION – The second most important issue Buhari must pay attention to is corruption. All governments of Nigeria have paid lip-service to the issue of corruption. Buhari has now presented himself as a person and he has gotten a groundswell of support from Nigerians across the divides to tackle corruption. So, he has to be held to account for all the political promises he made. He should deal with the unconstitutional salaries of the National Assembly members. The Revenue Fiscal Mobilization and Allocation Commission (RFMAC) sets salaries, but the National Assembly refused to follow it. The money Nigerian lawmakers get constitutes about 25 percent of our national budget. Why won’t Nigerians want to go to the National Assembly if, as a member of the House of Representatives, I can get about N600 million, on the average, in a year? The lawmakers in the Senate get as much as N1 billion per annum; that’s why they kill themselves to go there. So, the lawmaker’s interest is not to go and make or pass laws, but because of the money that is there. That is also why they perform below average. I see this development as a corrupt practice and that is another most important thing Buhari must confront. The National Assembly must be brought to book. They must be made to conform with the constitution. It’s a big shame that the lawmakers are the ones that break the constitution and pay themselves the stupendous salaries they take home. I put this as a litmus test to Buhari. If he is able to tackle this issue of bringing the National Assembly within the lawful pay structure of Nigeria, I will clap for him. Then, of course, the profligate lifestyle of the average Nigerian politician has to go. Ten aircraft in the presidential fleet, when we have no national carrier?

Source: Talent Arena Africa