A Leader Unifies Not Divides

From an unpublished book I have written since the last half a decade on one of Nigeria’s most influential litigation lawyers Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) I will borrow some citations of what constitute good leadership as espoused by leading thinkers from all around the world.

Herb Rubenstein believes that the creation and fulfillment of worthwhile opportunities by honorable means are the best forms of the characteristics of a good leader.

John c. Maxwell on his own part defined leadership in a more pragmatic perspective as follows;“leadership is influence- nothing more, nothing less”.

The general summary of what most contemporary thinkers say about leadership can be summed up in the following terms: “a good leader is one who has made a lasting impact on people who he is not commanding. Anyone who can influence people who are not under his control or supervision can be called a leader.”

The purpose of digging a bit dipper into contemporary political history for clear guides on what leading thinkers see as good qualities of a good leader is basically to highlight these virtues and to more appropriately recommend to the political leadership hierarchies in contemporary Nigeria the imperative and indeed existential urgency of exhibiting these qualities in the ways and manners they administer or run Nigeria.

The institutionalization of good governance is the antidote to drive Nigeria away safely from the imminent threats of implosion and the deep rooted animosities amongst and between different component parts of the Nation State known as Nigeria.

The Constitution of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) being the Indisputable grund norm has clearly indicated that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice.

But in reality, there are pent up and bottled up angst amongst different ethnic nationalities as a sovereign entity that the Country is not appropriately governed in the best traditions and tenets enshrined in the constitution.

From North and South, there are loud cries of marginalization and systematic scheming out of certain component parts of Nigeria from some important organs of political administration in Nigeria.

In the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, there are considerable volumes of protests of systematic alienation of some ethnic nationalities as against the intendment and intentions of the Constitution which in Section 42 (1) makes it illegal that any group of persons should be schemed out of things by the powers-that-be.

The Nigerian Constitution in Section 42(1) provides thus: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any Law in force in Nigeria or any Executive or Administrative action of the Government, to disabilities or restriction to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject…."

I will adopt two major objections raised by two significant opinion leaders to highlight the existence of some forms of policy of exclusion which is noticeable in the current Government at the center led by Retired Military General, Muhammad Buhari.

First, the Gwari ethnic Nationality are the original dominant indigenous tribe of the Federal Capital Territory known today as Abuja.

The Federal Capital Territory is not strictly speaking a State as we know the other 36 States which individually have Houses of Assembly. But the Federal Capital Territory is to be treated as a State, as stated by the constitution in section 299 of the Nigerian constitution states as follows: "The provisions of this constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the states of the federation…”

Ironically, since Abuja became the Federal Capital Territory for over three decades, the single largest indigenous tribe of this city -Gwaris is yet to produce the minister in-charge of the federal capital just as other ethnic nationalities outside of the North for a long time have yet to occupy this political position but rather the position of minister of FCT has almost become the exclusive preserve of our northern brothers.

The only possible exception was from inception of the new capital city between 1976 to 1979 when MOBOLAJI AJOSE ADEOGUN was the Minister of FCT.

To show how skewed and tilted towards Northern Nigeria appointments into the ministerial position for the Federal Capital Territory has been I will reproduce the entire list.

John Jatau Kadiya 1979 - 1982; Iro Abubakar Dan Musa 1982 -1983; Haliru Dantoro1983- 1984; Mamman Jiya Vatsa 1984 December – 1985; Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdullahi1986 – 1989; General Gado Nasko1989 – 1993; Lieutenant General Jeremiah Timbut Useni1993 – 1998 ; General Mamman Kontagora1998 – 1999; Architect Ibrahim Bunu1999 -2001; Alhaji Mohammed Abba Gana 8 February 2001 - 17 July 2003; Mr Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai 17 July 2003 - 27 July 2007; Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar 27 July 2007 - 29 October 2008; Senator Muhammadu Adamu Aliero17 December 2008 - 8 April 2010 ; Senator Bala Mohammed 8 April 2010 – 29th May 2015; and current Alhaji Mohammed Bello11 November 2015 till date.

The second example of complaints of systemic alienation is that of the Igbo speaking people numbering close to fifty million and reputed for extensively settling in far and near from the South East of Nigeria.

The current president is quoted as saying that in political patronage those who gave him 95 percent votes would corner more juicy portfolios than those who gave him 5 percent. In the March 2015 presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari won with the gap of a little less than three million votes to beat the incumbent president Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who scored over twelve million votes.

By his own admission in a television interview during his maiden State visit to the United States of America after his inauguration, Nigerians mostly from Northern Nigeria and parts of South West which constituted the 95 percent of votes which he got out of his total of less than fifteen million votes would be treated favorably than those Nigerians largely from South East and South/South geopolitical zones that constitute the remaining five percent out of his scored votes.

This means that the other twelve million persons who voted for his rival at that election will be unfairly treated. He nevertheless considered the fact that since Nigeria has a population of nearly 160 million people, it therefore follows that the cumulative percentage of Nigerians that participated in that election were less than 30 percent of our total count. So if the current president goes ahead to favor the 95 percent of those who voted for him, he will not only alienate the other 12 million plus people who voted for his rival but also the multitudes numbering over one hundred million Nigerians may not matter in his calculation. Over one hundred million Nigerians didn't participate in the last General election. Alienating this huge population is not only divisive but a threat to national security .

A leader is elected to unify the people of such a heterogeneous political entity like Nigeria and not introduce and implement policies that divide the people.

Understandably the South East is protesting their exclusion from the constitutional body known as National Defence Council which is the highest decision policy making body in matters of National Security. This is unconstitutional and a direct breach of the federal character principle. How can over fifty million Nigerians be excluded when matters that concerns national security is to be discussed and decided upon? This is the root cause of the social upheavals in parts of the South East whereby most youths who feel excluded in the national scheme of affairs by the Muhammadu Buhari’s government has resorted to agitating peacefully and constructively for self determination since evidence abound to show that the government of the day is treating the South East zone as an inconsequential part of the Sovereign entity of Nigeria. Sadly too, the central government has rather than dialogue decided to use military brute force to clamp down on the peaceful civilian protesters in the South East of Nigeria.

A human rights group has just filed a case in the Federal High Court demanding redress concerning the exclusion of South East from the composition of the National Defence Council but the overwhelming apprehension is that President Buhari may not comply with whatever decision the Court makes.

But the president must be reminded that as a leader, his duty is to unify and not to divide. Let Mr. President provide redress for the complaints of systematic scheming out of the Igbo and aloso pick a Gwari indigene to join the Federal Executive Council to represent the Federal Capital Territory.

In the area of allocations of projects in the 2016 budget, both the National Assembly and the presidency must prevent a situation whereby certain geopolitical entities are treated with the short end of the stick. The South East of Nigeria since the last fifty years after it was devastated and bombarded by the then Federal Forces during the Civil War has continued to remain grossly underdeveloped. A leader who wants to be remembered long after he has gone as a unifying and not a divisive personality must redress the clear imbalance suffered by the presence or lack of it of Federal government’s strategic projects and institutions in the South East.

Why for instance has the South East not being allocated a refinery when in fact many states in the zone are endowed with Crude Oil but Kaduna in North west of Nigeria has no crude oil resources but the Nigerian State built one of the largest refineries there?

Why is the government playing games with the second Niger bridge and in this Year's budget the game plan is manifesting to show that whereas other zones like Sotherton West and North have in the near past got bridges and flyovers built by Federal Government but in the case of the South East where the second Niger bridge is located the road users would be taxed to pay for the construction of the bridge across the River Niger?

A breakdown of the strategic projects included in the soon to be passed 2016 budget showed that again the South East is being treated with the short end of the stick.

The Southwest geo-political zone has got the largest share of N88.7 billion for major projects in the 2016 proposed budget for the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.

The ministry has N433.4 billion total sum for the capital projects of the ministry and some agencies under it. Erstwhile Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola is the minister so he has cornered most of these juicy projects to his geopolitical zone of birth.

The main ministry’s capital budget is N334.3 billion, NREA N15.3 billion, TCN N50 billion and FERMA N25 billion.

Other agencies are Electricity Management Services Limited (EMSL), N19 billion; National Power Training Institute, N1.8 billion and Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Limited, N2 billion.

The North-West has the second largest allocation of N30.1 billion; North-Central, N29 billion; South-South, N22.5 billion; South-East was allocated N2.9 billion; North-East has N9.4 billion. Again the South East is marginalized.

For the South-East, it showed that some important projects are concession of 2nd Niger Bridge in Anambra and Delta States, N17 billion; completion of Enugu - Abakaliki road in Enugu/Ebonyi states N29.3; completion of rural electrification in 6 Abia State communities N425 million; provision of 100KW solar mini-grid electrification of Obinaochia, Umudim, Umunneochi LGA of Abia State N65 million; rehabilitation/completion of rural electrification scheme in 5 communities of Anambra State N322.5 million; rural electrification of 15 communities in Enugu State N364 million and completion of the construction of area zonal office in Enugu State N44.4 million. By this analysis by Daily Trust Newspaper the South East of Nigeria is again about to be shortchanged.

The blame is not for President Buhari alone as there are enough to go round but the political elite of the South East of Nigeria have failed the people.

Why for instance is the South East not strategically developed by the manufacturers and leading traders of South East origin who dominate the manufacturing industry in lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria owned by the Yorubas?

Arewa Consultative Council which is the political pressure group of the North now have their former secretary (Colonel Hamid Ibrahim Ali) as the Comptroller General of Customs who has carefully positioned officers from the North to occupy strategic offices.

This retired military man has introduced a range of policies that are detrimental to the business interest of South East importers who dominate the Lagos based maritime industry.

The South West which actively partnered with Muhammadu Buhari in forming a political alliance (APC) which won the 2015 presidential election narrowly is today manning key cabinet level positions which has now being used to corner major projects to that geopolitical zone.

While we task President Buhari to be a unifying President and be fair to all zones, the political and economic elite of the South East of Nigeria must show good example by relocating their main businesses to the South East. By so doing the agitations for self government as championed by Igbo Youth would reduce significantly.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com, www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org, www.huriwa.com

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Articles by Emmanuel Onwubiko