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Ose Anenih: How Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari destroyed Nigeria’s democracy, again

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The Undertaker

On Saturday, December 31st 1983, four months after a fractious and bitter presidential election that saw Alhaji Shehu Shagari defeat Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and as Nigeria grudgingly readied herself for the New Year festivities as best as a nation in the throes of a deep economic recession could, the military struck.

The new Head of State, Major General Muhammad Buhari, in his speech justifying the military overthrow of Shagari’s democratically elected government, said:

“…we have dutifully intervened to save this nation from imminent collapse…This generation of Nigerians, and indeed future generations, have no country other than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together.”

Fast-forward 37 years, and with the Ruling Party, the All Progressives Congress, locked in a bitter leadership struggle being played out in the courts, Major General Buhari, now ironically the democratically elected President of Nigeria, is roused from his comatose state of affected insouciance and addresses the nation from the seat of presidential power, once again putting his imprimatur on the undemocratic actions of his peers:

“I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Ag. Chairman for convening this emergency meeting, notwithstanding the very short notice.…it is obvious that the fortunes of the Party are currently in jeopardy, administration of our party is becoming impossible and there is consequently an urgent need for intervention to immediately arrest further drifts and internal wrangling which may lead to total disintegration.”

How Democracy Died

It all started in Edo State, where the incumbent first term Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, fell out with the National Chairman of the APC, the dimunitive Adams Oshiomole, who had helped him become governor. In an unexpected move, the Governor (one assumes) had Oshiomole suspended as a member of the Party from his local ward. Of course, a suspended member of a political party cannot be its national chairman, so a court order was subsequently sought — and obtained — removing Oshiomole as National chairman and installing in his place Victor Giadom, the Deputy National Secretary of the APC.

Oshiomole appealed this judgement, and while the courts considered his appeal, he appointed his men into the National Working Committe of the APC. He also disqualified the Edo State Governor from taking part in the APC’s Primaries (the Governor promptly defected to the Opposition People’s Democratic Party where he won the Primaries). When the Appeal Court finally ruled that Oshiomole’s suspension was valid, and perhaps in his eagerness to advance his agenda, the Acting APC National Chairman Giadom called for an emergency National Executive Meeting (NEC). He gave the President and other NEC members 48 hours notice.

This is what the APC Constitution says:

ARTICLE 25
MEETINGS
B: NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

  1. The National Executive Committee shall meet every quarter and or at any time decided by the National Chairman or at the request made in writing by at least two-third of the members of the National Executive Committee provided that not less than fourteen (14) days notice is given for the meeting to be summoned.
  2. Without prejudice to Article 25(B)(i) of this Constitution the National Working Committee may summon an emergency National Executive Committee meeting at any time, provided that at least seven (7) days notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend.

The devil, like they say, is in the details.

Welcome To A One Party Party

The NEC, at this improperly convened meeting, sacked Giadom as Chairman and dissolved the NWC; ratified the Edo APC Primaries held by Oshiomole’s faction of the Party (which had been officially postponed by Giadom in a letter to Nigeria’s Electoral Commission INEC); and appointed a caretaker committee.

All of these decisions, are of no legal consequence: the APC Acting National Chairman did not give the 7 days notice (or 14 days, if you’re being pedantic) as required by the APC Constitution.

What this means is that ANYTHING produced by the caretaker Committee is null and void. The caretaker committee has already submitted the name of Pastor Ize-Iyamu as the APC’s governorship candidate in the September elections to INEC. A court challenge will quickly reveal that the APC has no candidate in the Edo elections, even if Ize-Iyamu wins. Not only will this affect the Edo State governorship elections, it places the Ondo governorship elections, and indeed ANY ELECTIONS the APC takes part in, in jeopardy.

In effect, the PDP is now the only functional major Party in Nigeria.

Humble Pie

Nigeria is a constitutional democracy. Laws matter; they are neither optional nor suggestions. And the APC is presently in breach of its own Constitution. The only remedy available to the Party is for Giadom and his NWC to reconvene an emergency NEC meeting.

A simple, common sense remedy. However, Buhari, the leader of the APC, will not do this. He justified the 1983 coup, and will justify this as well. At a time when his Party needed clear-headed leadership and a strict adherence to the law, it seems the President was content to flex his muscles and intimidate his timid party members.

Which is a shame. Democracies thrive where voters are given options; and when incumbents know their democratic challengers can replace them if they fail to meet the demands of the people. The PDP and other political parties will use the courts to punish the APC for its continued impunity and disrespect of democratic tenets, and the APC will continue to pay the price for this impunity, just like it was forced to pay in Zamfara, Bayelsa, and Rivers States.

Ultimately, the real losers will be Nigerians, as they watch Democracy’s corpse be slowly carried past by Buhari and his pallbearers.

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Article written by Ose Anenih

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