Between Uwais and Nnamani
Nothing is more symptomatic of the confusion in Aso Rock than the inauguration last week of a committee to review the country’s electoral law. I cannot readily establish the basis for a fresh effort after what retired Chief Justice of the federation, Justice Mohammed Uwais did on the same subject matter.
The background to the inauguration of the Justice Uwais electoral reform committee in 2007 is all well known. For Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the 2007 presidential poll was almost like an anti-climax. Instead of loud victory songs, President Yar’Adua, a politician of some honour, became worried after winning the election. The compromises were glaring and aware that no democracy would survive for too long outside a credible electoral system, he instituted the committee headed by Justice Uwais to review especially the 2007 general elections and come with a template to make future elections better.
I can’t remember where or when the job of that body was comprehensively reviewed and adopted for the purpose of strengthening the electoral system. Those seeming good efforts by former President Goodluck Jonathan, evident mainly in the appointment of Prof. Atahiru Jega as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and minimal interference thereof in the activities of the commission were largely ad-hoc and not a conscious movement in the direction suggested by Justice Uwais.
The Uwais Committee among others recommended the creation of special organs to deal with issues such as electoral malpractices and delineation of constituencies to ensure equitable representation at all levels of political participation. The Electoral Offences Commission (EOC), Constituency Delineation Commission (CDC) and the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission (PPRPRC) were to be floated as direct fall-outs from the committee’s report. This was primarily to unbundle INEC and refocus it strictly on conducting general elections while the new bodies would be saddled with pre and post elections matters. Independent candidature was also recommended to reduce the tyranny of political parties in the electoral system.
On the whole, the recommendations, which also included putting the INEC and the 36 SIECs on first-line charge and enlarging the appointment of the commission’s chairman beyond the whims of the Presidency were geared at creating more independence for the country’s electoral bodies at both the national and state levels. For instance, the committee noted that the 36 SIECS as structured with state governors having exclusive power of composition could not ensure uniform-playing turf at that level of the democratic contest. And this has persistently reflected in the manner the ruling parties in the states have won all council elections since the start of this democracy.
The new 24-member committee on electoral reforms was inaugurated last week. Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said the committee had been advised to do a comprehensive literature review, which should include the recommendations of the Justice Uwais committee and produce an electoral thesis that would be unassailable for all time. The committee is headed by former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani.
Malami has not said enough. He needs to explain further how Nnamani who studied Business Administration, worked as a marketer and whose closest contact with the intricacies of law and jurisprudence was his four-year (between 2003 and 2007) stay in the Nigerian Senate would improve on a legal job finished by Justice Mohammed Uwais, who had plied law all his life and retired as Chief Justice of the Federation in 2006.
Until April 5, 2005, Nnamani, representing Enugu East, was just like any other Senator in the Second Senate. He was not even ranked being his first time in the upper chamber. The highest he got was the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. But when Adolphus Wabara resigned as Senate President following allegation of financial misappropriation against him, Nnamani hit gold. He survived subsequent executive-instigated intrigues in the legislature to end the 2003 – 2007 dispensation as President of the Senate.
In fact, he had finished very strong after presiding over the scuttling of Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda in the Senate. In retaliation, Obasanjo who mid-wifed the 2007 transition ensured that Nnamani never returned to the Senate. But Nnamani had earned a robust profile. He became a moral compass in the Southeast where almost every political leader is seen as a dealer. He was sought after to deliver papers on leadership, democracy and associated topics.
And when it became fashionable to curse and reject the PDP in the face of new power dynamics, Nnamani, who cut his political teeth using the PDP platform, did so and with a dose of theatrics too. Instead of just walking away quietly, he called a press conference to announce he was taking a ‘political sabbatical’ to engage in other areas of nation building. True to his promise, there is now the Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development. Before his latest job as the man to correct Justice Uwais, he had embarked on some high profile shuttles to APC strongholds, including Aso Rock to hold court with the President.
Perhaps, it is this new leadership toga since parting ways with the PDP that highly recommended Nnamani for the assignment. Nigerians are waiting to see the difference that will be made. For now, what is clear to everybody is the complete lack of purpose in Aso Rock. The same Buhari who would not touch the 2014 confab report because the alleged N9 billion spent to stage the conference to discuss Nigeria’s way forward was misplaced at a time university teachers were on strike on account of government’s poor funding of tertiary education, has found compelling reasons to contract 24 people to discuss what has been duly settled and at a time about 30 out of the 36 states cannot pay salaries of workers.
In fact, instead of Abubakar Malami, the Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal should be doing the explanation. He, it was who described the 2014 Confab jointly headed by retired Justice Legbo Kutigi and former external affairs minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi as “job for the boys (of Jonathan)” I do not know what he intends to call this one, but however he puts it, his description will help many Nigerians who are still confused to make some sense out of the Nnamani committee.
Since Buhari has become the only cat in a colony of rats, one big rat should pick the courage to bell him. He and the APC camp should be told that nation building is not the same thing as event planning. What the President is doing with his new electoral reform committee is staging an event to create effects. There is an administrative mindset that nothing good can come of any national effort without carrying the Buhari stamp.
This is dangerous for development. It is the reason even a winning formula such as the agric policy of the last administration has not been properly followed through to maximize the benefits. And in engaging the Niger Delta militants, the purpose is never to improve on the Amnesty Programme of Late President Yara’Adua, but to create new rules of engagement, which have unfortunately led to even bigger crisis.
Maybe I should stress that all things do not have to change for the simple reason that we are in a change regime. Supermen (and I believe Buhari is one) do not dissipate energy on things that do not require supernatural intervention. Even the Lord, Jesus Christ operated by the same rule. He did not order the heavy stones off the tomb to raise Lazarus from the dead. Some able-bodied young men did that and Jesus was only required to expend the anointing on what ordinary men could not do.
Buhari should learn from Jesus. We all know he is the only incorruptible man in Nigeria. We also know he is Mr. Touch and Cure. And we sincerely appreciate his burning desire to touch and cure Nigeria. But he should stop touching areas that do not need cure. There is so much to do with time, talent and treasure in the months ahead and I suggest he stops wasting his anointing on the unnecessary. Besides, there is recession when conservation should remain the key word.