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Leadership Should Lead


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Eze Onyekpere

Every country in the world needs peace, good relationship and unanimity of purpose at the highest levels of its leadership before the forces of development can be unleashed. It also needs peace in its society, between different groups of citizens, whether the divide is on ethnic, religious or other basis. The biblical aphorism that a house divided against itself cannot stand has held true for centuries and it stands as part of the common sense of humanity.

Peace in terms of individuals and groups of individuals, communities not being under the threat of the loss of their fundamental right to life which is the fulcrum upon which other rights revolve. They are also not to be under the threat of loss of livelihoods and other existential rights as a result of the conduct or omission of government agents and non state actors within the same society. They need peace to settle down and move away from thinking about basic needs to the picture of a society that lives in harmony with nature and harnesses its resources for the public good. In the event this peace is broken, the duty of the state to protect rights is invoked and every functional state ought to display the ability to police its territory and not let certain parts be described as ungoverned parts.

In terms of good relationship at the highest level of governance, there is the expectation, despite the constitutional tension inbuilt in the relationship of the three arms of government, for the arms to have a picture of the great vision of a society where life is lived in larger freedom, generating wealth and sharing the fruits of progress evenly among the citizens. This great vision in Nigeria can be found in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).  Thus, while the tension goes on, the legislature and the executive will be on the same page as to the destination they are headed, although they may be on different roads and using different vehicles. Also, the judiciary interprets laws in such a way that leads to the same destination even though it may have to strike down executive and legislative actions from time to time.  Despite the tensions, any dispassionate observer will to a large extent,find consonance in the actions and omission of the three arms.

The legislature and executive at the federal level are engaged in a war of attrition since the commencement of this dispensation.The executive has not been able to identify very important and urgent bills that the legislature should work on to move forward the governmental agenda. Legislative resolutions are treated with contempt and all manners of justifications recited to justify the executive contempt. Yes, they may not be legally binding but the way and manner they are treated sets the tone for the relationship between the two arms of government. Just imagine the way the executive treated the grass cutting recommendations against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation and its current position; you will understand that it is simply an ego war between the two arms.  The legislature foot-drags on passing the budget and refuses to screen some executive appointees all based on the condescending manner the executive had treated its earlier screening activities. The executive literally abuses the power of prosecution and files charges it cannot sustain and later withdraws them against principal officers of the legislature and expects peace to reign.And this is being done against a legislature that can impeach the principal officers of the executive! Yes, the legislature can fight frontally against the leadership of the executive but no such powers are available to the executive except behind the scene manouvres or when offences have been committed by the leadership or membership of the legislature.

For some young men and women who have no sense of history, never lived through the periods of Nigerian dictatorship and refused to read or learn from the period, the executive is always right and there is no sense of balance to aid the resolution of the executive legislative face off. Because of their limited lived experiences, the rule of law and separation of powers should be subjected to a lower routine norm which is just the prosecution of offenders. Norms are sequenced and there is a Kelsenite hierarchy of norms starting from the grundnorm in national jurisprudence to jus cogens which are peremptory norms of customary international law accepted by all civilized nations. So, the social media creates an opportunity for ignorant and negative self-expression and fake news. After abusing others and exchanging unprintable words, what next for these young men and women?

Anyone who just descended from another planet will think we are in a state of “war” or that the elections have not been concluded.  I put war in quotations because of the great divides, schisms and fissures prevalent in the Nigerian society of today. These divides and fissures have always, in a subdued manner been part of the Nigerian society. But since 2015, the fissures have turned to craters and widened up to the point that if care is not taken, we are heading to a point of no return. Yes, this may sound alarmist but we must not always think that God in His infinite mercy will always bring us back from the brink. It is either we reverse these craters through closure or we anticipate the natural consequences of our actions and omissions.

Government is expected to lead and the personality of the leader either in the executive, legislature or judiciary should not be divisive. A leader leads, unites, fires up reasonable and women to positive action, reduces tensions while empowering the majority of the people, heals, comforts and consoles. In the leader, the people have great faith and his presence is reassuring and he is someone you can cry to and on his shoulders and expect the balm of consolation. But what do we have today? We are in the fireworks of a divided society where the expressions of leaders are divisive; equality before the law and equal protection of the law, despite the constitutional and jurisprudential protection  have become a historical measure; the rule of law is taken to the cleaners and court decisions are selectively obeyed by the executive. From the President, down to many governors, we do not any consolation of where to run to in this great tribulation.

We need the leadership to actually begin to lead; see themselves as having a mandate across the length and breadth of Nigeria; not sectional leaders arising for what has been described as a pan Nigerian or pan state mandates. The leaders need to tone down the rhetoric; they need to be more understanding and reach out to all segments of Nigerians. We cannot continue using the pre 2015 election benchmarks as the organizing force of our society. Yes, the Jonathan administration let Nigerians down and the administration was voted out. Trying to respond to the maladministration of today by asking about what the Jonathan government did is a poor understanding of the dynamics and raison d’etre of democracy. Let us begin anew and change the old ways.


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