By Chief Bode George
I have been out of the Nigerian orbit for about three months now and I have watched from afar with disbelief, with despair and with dismay the gradual hurling of our country to the brink by disparate forces.
The widening spread of banditry, the reckless shedding of innocent blood, the bitter murderous clashes between farmers and herdsmen, the loose brigandry – have all made virtually all corners of our society insecure, vulnerable to the rule of the cudgel and machete.
Governance everywhere are fast losing their grip on the First Principles of protecting lives and properties. From
Sokoto to Lagos, from Ebonyi to Borno , from Katsina to Ogun and from the desert to the sea- lives are daily cut down without the culprits being brought to pay for their crimes. Road users are kidnapped, brutalized, exposed to all un-imaginable kinds of cruelty and then forced to pay ransom.
Even the homesteads are no longer safe as all kinds of criminals descend upon the rich and poor, breaking into private hearths, breaching our collective security, inflicting the most sadistic venom on their victims as they are brutalized and their properties stripped bare.
And even in the streets, various warlords declare their own turf wars, wielding cudgels, guns and all kinds of available missiles in pitch battles.
Everywhere, lives are no longer treasured. Nothing is sacred. There are no Holy of Holies anymore. Everything is a free game. Gradually , we are slipping into the rule of the mob; the Hobbesian state of Nature where the rule of the strong and the cudgel prevails.
If lives are not treasured and are not safe, if the ordinary citizens cannot carry out their legitimate businesses without being hindered and halted , without being maimed and murdered by despicable characters, what then is the purpose of government ? What then is the responsibility of power ?
The First Principles of power are to protect , serve and to defend the citizens from all ills.
Governments are elected to guarantee the pursuit of happiness, to ensure the protection of personal liberties, to create an atmosphere where all citizens can carry out their economic livelihoods without being subjected to deprivations, without being savaged by the lawlessness of incendiary actors and without being trampled upon by the very exploitative actions of government itself.
Alas, we are living in an increasingly dysfunctional society. The structures of power are un-representative, skewed in unitary bias, devoid of democratic balance , lacking in pivotal equity and fairness.
I believe strongly that before our country can heal the present wounds and rectify the observable aberrations, we must overhaul the apparently untidy festering imbalances.
We must restructure the Nigerian entity to ensure its survival . There are so many aberrations thwarting equitable governance in our country. The center is too encumbered with too many responsibilities. It is too overburdened, stressed with unnecessary functions that ought to be devolved to the states.
Our federation is only a federation in name. It is more of a unitary system, barking out Command and Control like a military hierarchy .
This is not how Democracies operate. This is not how a true Federating units function.
We must loosen the overarching power at the center and return more responsibilities to the states. State policing, Local government policing, community policing, local government administration, control of states natural wealth, management of local resources – should all logically be devolved to the specific organs of the states.
This is the normative pattern all over the world. And why should our own be different ? We must re-evaluate and remodel our structures of governance to be more representative of the will of the people.
Another contributory malady in the composition of governance is the inordinate greed and the unconscionable conducts of those who are elected to represent and protect the interests of the people. They often act like overlords, distant and indifferent to the will of the people.
In this instance I want to use my state as an example of the most culpable organ of power, spurred by the narrow protection of the economic interests of state actors, callous and indifferent to the economic well being of her people.
The Panel set up by Lagos state government to look into the Endsars tragedy has demonstrated an unconscionable totality in the inexplicable, hurried, greedy, selfish, inhumane, outrageous and immoral decision to re-open the Lekki Toll Gates even while the bodies of the martyrs are still fresh in unknown graves crying out for justice.
Even while the panel has not established the role of the Lekki Concession Company in the tragic event of October 20,2020 when precious lives were shattered and destroyed by a fusillade of bullets.
It is this unconscionable decision that forced the angry resignation of Ms Rinu Oduala from the panel. The young woman claimed: “I cannot be part of a cover up. “
Ebun Adeghoruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who is also a member of the Panel, has also signaled his withdrawal from the judicial enquiry. This is quite vitiating to the state government and the panel itself.
And the treatment of peaceful protesters who were humiliated, bundled into the hot oven of the Blackmaria amid the searing heat last Saturday at Lekki Toll gate does not enhance the critical ingredients of democracy wherein citizens are guaranteed the right to protest peacefully against the obvious wrongs of power. This strong arm tactic does not make us look good in the eyes of the enlightened world.
By all standards , this is rather disturbing. The Panel set up by Lagos state to bring justice to the victims has not even thrashed out the very underpinning of its assignment but yet overturns logic on its head, peremptorily declared that the Toll gates should be re-opened, believing that the economic interests of a very few are more important than the precious lives brutally cut down during the Endsars protests on October 20, 2020.
What a shame !!!!
This is not just. This is not right. This is not fair . This is sad .
We are demanding that the Lagos state government through the Freedom of Information Act to publicly publish the names of those who are managing the Toll Gates. We do remember however that there was a buy-back several years ago returning the control and ownership of the Admiralty Toll gate to Lagos state. The Lekki-Ikoyi Toll gate was built from scratch with tax payers money .
Why then the apparently inexplicable claim that the Lekki Concession Company wants to take possession of their property ? Which property ?
There is a muddle somewhere. Who owns Lekki Concession Company ? Is it a Lagos state owned franchise ? If this is true , why does the Lagos state believe that a narrow economic interest of an unknown few is more important than the lives of innocent youths cut down in the prime of their lives ?
Concession Company finally admitted yesterday that Lagos state owns the Lekki Toll gate. This much all enlightened Lagosians already know. And with this revelation there should be no ambiguity. Unfortunately, the admissions of Lagos state ownership still raises some other queries .
For one, what is the relationship between Seyi Tinubu and Lekki Concession Company ?
Equally, what is the relationship between Sunday Dare and the Lekki Concession Company ? We all know that Sunday Dare was until he became Minister last year was Bola Tinubu’s Man Friday. There are too many untidy, dirty, stinking intimations here. That’s why we demand that the details of the Toll gate ownership and the roles of Seyi Tinubu , Sunday Dare , Loatsad Promomedia and others unknown should be presented to the public immediately.
A more enlightened government should dismantle the two parallel intra state Toll gates and erect a permanent monument to honor the slain, the martyred.
Infact how much is Lagos state earning from these two Toll gates per day, per month , and annually ? It is alleged that an estimated 400 million naira is collected on both Toll gates everyday . If we are wrong, let them bring out their books and tell us how this humongous money is being spent. This of course is not reflected in the general decay in Lagos infrastructure.
And more importantly, there is no place in the world where two parallel Toll gates are erected on intra state roads. The toll gates are the direct source of the permanent chaotic gridlock on the Lekki axis, wasting man- hours and invariably encumbering the health of Lagosians daily halted in the endless traffic entrapment. This is hardly the essence of selfless service expected of a redeeming leadership.
I have gone to this length to illustrate what could go wrong when there is a brazen interloper and a destructive tin-pot despot who has handcuffed the government of the state.
This over bloated character i s obsessed with the interests of the privileged few to the detriment of the majority of our citizens.
Lagos is indicative of the quality of leadership presently steering the rudder of some of our states. When the leadership is uncaring, when the leadership is restricted to personal gains, when the leadership lacks embracing accommodating largeness, there will always be the inevitable descent to ethnic and sectarian jingoism. There will always be the withdrawal to the rule of profiteers and mercantilist characters whose fixity is to benefit from destruction and ruin.
The national leadership is advised to tackle the tendencies towards nepotistic sway and biased , prejudicial preferences that are basically injurious to national unity.
The seemingly intractable clashes between herdsmen and farmers across the nation which are now more pronounced in the South West can only be stopped with the outright banning of open grazing. The free ranging of cows in our forests, in the farms and even in the cities is wrong, archaic, deleterious to the economy itself. The corralling and the ranching of cows are the model in Argentina, Brazil and all other beef producing nations of the world.
This is the time that President Muhammodu Buhari should demonstrate a rallying unifying leadership to bring all our people together. Surely , this is not the time for ethnic or sectarian jingoism. This is the time for healing. This is the time to mend the broken places and rectify the pervasive wrongs.
Our people have been living together in peace and harmony for more than one hundred years even before the colonialists imposed the rule of the gunpowder.
We must return to the path of peace. We must return to the path of fairness. We must return to the path of goodwill.
Finally, I speak to you today on this Ash Wednesday which is a holy time of fasting and atonement in Christendom just like the Ramadan is acknowledged by the faithful of the Islamic faith, I want to leave you with the words of the Psalmist:
“ Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong. “
And Prophet Ezekiel told us during this same Lent period:
“ Go through the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” Ezekiel 9: 4.
The words of Prophet Ezekiel are still relevant today. God invites us to express our sadness and then pray for our community our country and our world.
Thomas Payne, the British -American Author was right when he published Common Sense on January 10, 1776 when blood was shed at the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
And I quote :
“These are the times that try men’s souls: the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country…”
But we dare not shrink. We dare not waver from the just cause. Let us endure . Let all men and women of goodwill come together to salvage and redeem our nation. There is no other way. We must withdraw from the Brink. I thank you all for listening. May God save our nation . And may the good Lord be with you all.
… Chief George is Atona Odua of Yorubaland