The recent developments in the Nigeria polity makes one wonder if we are progressing or retrogressing and if we are living under a military regime or in a democratic dispensation. Military regimes are known for their obnoxious decrees & immovable decisions, irrespective of the feelings of the citizens and how it affects them. Rather than dialog with citizens over policies and decisions, military regimes are a “NO GOING BACK” government that would rather deal ruthlessly with any person or persons who try to stand against their policies.
On the other hand, a democratic government is one that is expected to consult with the electorate on policies that affect them. It is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people, as opposed to a military regime.
However, going by certain policies and pronouncements that have emanated from certain selected or elected individuals in our current democratic dispensation, one needs to check again to confirm whether we are under a democratic government or a military regime.
Two particular policy makers and drivers come to mind at such a time and a review of some of their actions and policies indicate that our democratic experiment is far from near perfect.
Consider the “NO GOING BACK” posture in recent times of the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
GOVERNOR BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA (SAN) OF LAGOS STATE
The expansion of the Lekki-Epe expressway and construction of three toll plazas along the axis through a Private Partnership initiative of the Lagos State government was one that generated a lot of controversy and one that has left a sour taste in the mouth of the people. Without taking the citizens and electorates into consideration, the government embarked on this lofty dream only for citizens to discover that they have to pay for it after all. When the residents of the community decided to stage a peaceful protest against the collection of tolls on the axis, thugs and mobile policemen were sent to beat them up, threatening them never to return or face very terrible consequences. As far as the governor was concerned, it was a “NO GOING BACK” policy that has come to stay. You either accept it or relocate from the axis.
After fire gutted the Tejuosho market in Yaba about four years ago, the government of Lagos state stepped in with a promise to rebuild the market but little did the owners of stalls and sellers in the market know that by this action, the government had stylishly taken over the market and that they will be asked to pay millions of naira before they can gain access to the market again. Today, the market is yet to be completed & the sellers are squatters all around Yaba. If the people had been consulted, they would have opted for a simple affordable modern market but again, it is a “NO GOING BACK” policy of the governor.
In 2012, 788 striking Medical doctors on the payroll of the Lagos State government had their appointments terminated for what the government referred to as “misconduct and insurbodination”. While the face off continued, innocent citizens of the state who voted the governor into office suffered untold medical challenges while some died in the process. Rather than make efforts to resolve the grievances, the governor took a “NO GOING BACK” posture. It had to take the intervention of good spirited Nigerians, including the National Assembly and senior citizens of the state before the governor shame-facedly rescinded the decision & recalled the sacked doctors.
Recently, the governor, through his commissioner of Transport & Commissioner of justice, passed the Lagos Traffic Law, a law which stipulates various fines for as little as ‘snacking’ while driving, irrespective of how long you have been in traffic in a city like Lagos. One wonders how such a law could have been passed without any public awareness campaign, stake holders involvement, proper training of law enforcers, proper logistics etc. In the midst of public outcry against the implementation of the law with its resultant consequences on first time offenders, the governor has said there is “NO GOING BACK” on this policy.
Time and space will not allow us mention the excesses of KAI officials who chase hawkers all over the metropolis, seizing their wares & arresting the hawkers but we have never witnessed any public destruction of the seized wares, most of which are consumables. The only explanation could be that the items are destroyed in the mouth and stomach of the officials themselves. What about the policy on land use, multiple taxation, the new law on beautification that carries a fine of Two Hundred & fifty Thousand Naira for defaulters and the proposed law on the teaching of Chinese language in Lagos’ schools?
In all of this, the stance of the governor is “NO GOING BACK”.
MALLAM SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI, GOVERNOR,CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA
Flip the coin and let’s consider the “NO GOING BACK” policies of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. When he came into office in 2009 and embarked on his sweeping reforms in the banking industry, sacking bank chiefs and their top management staff, a lot of the shareholders of some of the banks cried out to high heavens over the “illegal” take over of the banks but there was “NO GOING BACK”. Even with obvious inconsistencies in the policy, the CBN Governor still went ahead with its implementation, calling the bluff of his constituency. Today, the labor market is awash with former bankers more than from any other sector, most of whom were not paid their severance pay despite working for as much as fifteen years.
His “NO GOING BACK” stance on the introduction of Non Profit Banking policy is still causing ripples in the polity.
After the peaceful protests that greeted the increase in the pump price of petrol by the Federal Government on January 1st, 2012, the Central Bank Governor was one of those who spoke in favor of the new policy but admitted that he can’t remember the last time he paid for fuel from his personal funds. Even when it became obvious that Nigerians have been short changed by an oil cabal, his “NO GOING BACK” stance didn’t change.
His recent “NO GOING BACK” policy on the printing of N5,000 notes and conversion of the smaller denomination of our currency to coins is the height of insensitivity and reels of a military regime. Despite the odds against the policy and fears expressed by citizens, the CBN is still going ahead (or has already gone ahead) with the printing of the N5000 note as if this is the most important business of the day. How will coin dispensing ATM machines help the situation? Will the N5000 note create more jobs? Will it stimulate the economy? Will it put food on the table of common Nigerians? Will it reduce the cost of living?
In a form that reminds one of military dictators, the Central Bank Governor went ahead to call a senior citizen and former president of Nigeria “a bad economist”, simply because he didn’t support his new policy. One can only imagine what the fate of the former president and those “bad economist” that have criticized this policy would have been if this was a full military regime.
If democracy is a government of the people, then the people should be at the forefront of government policies. The citizens should have a say in the drafting of policies that affect them, rather than policies imposed on them. One will not be quick to forget the pronouncement of the President on the 29th of May 2012 when Unilag was renamed Maulag. That issue is still in the law courts and shows that citizens shouldn’t be taken for granted. There must be room for wide consultations no matter how sincere or good an intending policy may be.
Citizens should be treated with respect, our voices heard and our rights upheld. We should not be treated as mere voting accessories on Election Day.
It is hoped that the governor of Lagos State as well as his counterpart, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as other co-governors will begin to realize that power belongs to the people, not those who rule them. This is not a military regime but a democratic government, and in a democratic government, the voice of the people is Power.
Paul Utho is a public affairs analyst and is the President of Future Hope Nigeria. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org