Thursday, 19 October 2017

Nigeria's Season of Absurdities

Nigeria’s Season of Absurdities

In my opinion, a virus has taken root in Nigeria and its target is the brain of the people, old and young.  The old seem to be battling senility with brain function regressing into default setting of the babe-in arms. The young people, having deliberately eschewed self-education, not bothering to build on even the “low” quality education everyone who criticises Nigerian education system believe they received from the State lack the ability of rational thinking and speak inanities often. Wisdom has gone far away from the land and the few wise men and women remaining (those born circa 1960s to 1970s when in my opinion, most systems in Nigeria had institutional credibility) are left wondering if they are actually sane. The absurdities that continually assail the remnant wise ones make them aliens in a land where rationality is absent. For my readers to be able to understand the conclusion as espoused by me, in I am going to illustrate my piece with three recent events in the polity:

A Nigerian sues the United States Government in Nigeria 

Excerpt from the Daily Trust Newspaper of 17/10/2017

“The United States Embassy in Nigeria and its spokesman, Russell Brooks, have been sued before a Federal High Court in Abuja by a Nigerian, Nze Charles Ugwu, over the position of the US government on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) after the group’s proscription by the federal government. Brooks had said in response to a question by a national daily that, “The United States Government is strongly committed to Nigeria’s unity. However, the Indigenous People of Biafra is not a terrorist organisation under US law.”

What Ugwu wants:

  • That the court should determine if a statement by the spokesman of the US embassy saying IPOB is not a terrorist organisation under US laws does not amount to promoting terrorism in Nigeria.
  • That the court should declare that the US embassy and its spokesman are under absolute obligation to obey Nigerian laws both statutory and judicial so far as they are within the territory of Nigeria irrespective of their personal opinions, perceptions or ideologies.
  • That the court should order the US embassy to withdraw its “endorsement” of IPOB within seven days of delivery of judgment in the case.
  • That the court should order the US embassy to apologise to the Federal Government of Nigeria in ten national dailies upon delivery of judgment.

Ugwu, who hails from Enugu but resides in Kano, said the “violent actions” of IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, “are capable of inciting and provoking genocide against we the Igbos in the Northern part of the country.”

In saner climes, the lawyer who filed the action on behalf of Ugwu to sue the US Government in Nigeria for not proscribing the IPOB ought to have his name struck off the Legal Practitioners’ roll for gross incompetence. His LL.B certificate should be deemed suspect and the University that awarded him the degree ought to have the Law Faculty’s curriculum evaluated for obviously the lawyer did not learn some rudiments of law.

There is a tenet of law which is what determines if a suit has a chance of being heard on its merit- “locus standi”. The term is Latin and it means “having the capacity to sue” -being sufficiently interested enough to justify being a party in a suit. It is a pima facie issue that any lawyer must strongly decide prior to taking a case to court. The reason for this is that the law recognises that there are many busy-bodies, interlopers or meddlesome nuisances who would want to litigate any issue, so the first hurdle is for them to prove that they have a direct interest in the matter which the law must protect. In the lifetime of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, he was confronted by the issue of locus standi many times and in fairness to the legal system at that time, many judges were actually more erudite than now and many times even Gani was adjudged to have had no locus standi. For example in the case of NNPC Vs Chief Gani Fawehinmi reported in 1998, 7 NWLR Part 559 at page 598 Chief had asked the court to compel the NNPC to account publicly for oil sales and revenue during the gulf crisis. The Court held that Chief Gani Fawehinmi did not have locus standi to ask for such a relief, he not being a member of the company or a legal person who had a right to such information.

In modern times in Nigeria, there is absurdity in a lot of suits that are clogging the court system and many of these suits, frankly constitute abuse of the process of the court. This is what Ugwu’s suit is. The claimant is asking that the Nigerian court should force the US Government to practically proscribe the IPOB. A very ludicrous point in all regards. The issue of IPOB is a domestic issue that concerns Nigeria and it rightly belongs to Nigerian government to handle and they have done so. The US is a different nation that has its own laws as well as in response to a question whether IPON was a terrorist organisation in the US, only the US could have answered to the question and the answer was no. How that answer could be taken as support for IPOB by Ugwu is curious indeed. By asking that the US should agree with the Nigerian Government is tantamount to suppressing the sovereignty of the US. Just as the US cannot tell Nigeria not to proscribe IPOB, so also can Nigeria not tell the US to proscribe the IPOB. Any attempt by both countries to force the other is an attempt to interfere in the domestic issues of the respective countries. That Ugwu’s lawyer does not understand the tenets of international law is worrisome. Not even a moment of inglorious fame should have made the suit he filed attractive.

There is also the doctrine of state immunity, the protection which a state is given from being sued in the courts of other states. It is an infringement of a state's sovereignty to bring proceedings against it or its officials in a foreign country. Secondly, an action even if it is justiciable against the US cannot be maintained in the Nigerian courts. The Nigerian would need to take his foolishness to the US and try to sue the US on their own territory.

Another angle is that Ugwu cannot claim to be more interested in the proscription of IPOB than the Nigerian Government who issued the proscription order, thus it is only the Nigerian Government that have the right to even attempt the absurdity of suing the US Government for an order of mandamus compelling the proscription of IPOB by the US and I am sure Malami the Attorney General of the Federation knows better especially as there is a diplomatic route that can be taken by the two Governments on the issue.

I have decided not to go into the lack of merit of the case in any depth because the academic exercise is futile, but what concerns me most is why Nigerians seem to take delight in clowning around nowadays. I feel that we have lost the ability to think. There is a book I read in H.S.C (that is what we called “A” levels in my time) titled “straight and crooked thinking”. It is a book on logic and how to formulate thinking in a logical sequence of “major, minor premises and conclusion”. The book explains the many routes to fallacies in arguments. I have seen that the teachers of English Language have been failing in teaching logic to students such that the reasoning faculty of many are compromised. I put this lawyer among those who have compromised reasoning faculties and I put the Council of Legal Education (Nigerian Law School) on notice that the syllabus for the Law School needs to be improved to include Logic as a compulsory subject that also must be passed before a lawyer is certified fit to be unleashed on the public. It is indeed ironical that there should ever be a lawyer alive that can be illogical. Just plain absurd.

The old man Adebanjo of Afenifere says Yorubas regret voting for Buhari 

The pomposity that is displayed by some of our Yoruba elders is grandiose. It is almost as if they do not live in cosmopolitan Nigeria and they are frozen in time to the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. A few days ago, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (89 years’ old) made a statement circa October 15 as reported by Punch Newspaper, that frankly I consider laughable if not downright absurd. Apologies to the old man whom I mean no disrespect to. He claimed to know the minds of the Yorubas as a whole. He claimed to be speaking for all Yorubas of legal maturity from 18 years old to age of expiration, when he said all of them as a unit regretted voting for PMB in the last election. He would have had a pretentious legitimacy in making the statement if he had personally voted for PMB in that election. But he did not, and the platform of Afenifere on which he bases his right to speak for Yorubas collectively opposed the APC and consequently Buhari in that election. In fact, the Afenifere urged the Yorubas to vote for the opposition and some of their members even took money from the opposition in order to further their frankly speaking obnoxious agenda. The Yorubas voted against the Afenifere’s agenda then and the absurdity now comes in the attempt by those who failed in that exercise to try to claim clandestinely that they were of any use to the APC and PMB agenda as to warrant them a reflection now that leads to regret. It is absurd to claim to regret something you did not support in the first instance. In fact, the Afenifere man should have boldly asserted that they warned the Yorubas but the obdurate people did not listen and perhaps they have now seen their folly. That would have been more honourable than this attempted subterfuge-trying to profit in a matter in which you had no investment.

This point leads me again to the worrisome pattern now in Nigeria of failure of logic. The Yorubas have prided themselves on their power of intellect for so long, but of recent, that premise stands very indefensible on several grounds. There is a season of the absurd when people will not even evaluate the Government of the day critically, attributing praise where praise is deserved and criticising constructively when that became necessary. Where are the Yoruba elites of old? How I miss Chief Gani Fawehinmi who would stand against the grain on principles? I am still desperately seeking the day when the likes of Okonjo-Iweala or Jonathan Goodluck himself would come out and purge their souls to assuage the anger Nigerians have about how they ran the affairs of this nation in the years they held sway. Is there no honesty in them that says “we did not quite do well during our time” or “we realise that we could have done better” or “we are sorry?”

I am Yoruba and proudly so, Elder Adebanjo and I don’t for one minute regret voting for PMB.

Nigerians insist money is stolen in NNPC despite all explanations to the contrary.

The wisdom that must have prevailed on those who leaked the Kachikwu memo is one that is made in hell. Since the leakage, the genie has taken flight and no one has been able to return her back to the Aladdin lamp. Rumour has overtaken the truth and truth is hidden somewhere in its bowels, but how does one extricate the truth- a white strand of spaghetti lodged somewhere in the bowl of cooked red spaghetti bolognaise. How do you take out that while strand?

Nigerians want a scandal so much that even when there is none, the hint of one is enough for them to embrace a full-blown scandal. I am anti-corruption to my very bone and marrow and I have made a pledge with myself that if PMB is found to have personally benefitted from any corrupt proceeds in this administration, I will emigrate to another country because then I will know that Nigeria is doomed. That is how much I believe in the President. Before I am castigated for my stance, please know that everyone has a cult worship tendency. To some it is to their Pastor or Imam and to some it is some musician hero, but to me I hero-worship people of integrity and my greatest hero so far has been my late Father, the Honourable Justice Rasheed Olabamidele Fawehinmi, who oozed integrity in his actions even when he had done something wrong, the integrity of acknowledgement of his failings was always apparent. To me our President can be accused of snail speed decision-making or even a hint of tribalism (which I really do not believe is true) but I find that his non-corrupt character is intact. So, trying desperately to find a missing N26B when nothing is missing is absurd and trying to spin the issue of a power tussle between two into a scandal of gargantuan proportion is puerile.

If there is some weakness in the legal structure of the NNPC that marginalises the Minister either of State or substantive then the NASS is there to correct the anomaly. It is not something that the President can unilaterally order changed without legal backing, so let the arguments be rationale and let them be based on the factual scenario and not some false scenario. The parties involved in the matter, Kachikwu and Baru have both said there was no fraud or money missing and no contracts awarded in the process which was about selection of companies that would qualify for a future contract. The VP has also said he gave Presidential approval to the JVC (NNPC and the Mulitnational Oil companies in partnerships) to borrow. The monies borrowed are for the JVC to be able to source for alternative funds rather than rely on the FGN to meet cash calls- a reform that has largely been praised since it became operational in 2016.

With all these explanations, some Nigerians who are bereft of rational thinking faculties still insist they have uncovered monumental fraud under PMB.

In conclusion, I am of the view that we are truly in the season of the absurd and the absurdities take root with the failure of education in Nigeria. Quite frankly people are not being taught how to think anymore and if we do not immediately start teaching logic in all our secondary schools, as a general topic in our Universities, compulsory subject in the Nigeria Law School etc, we may have a population in the future that will be largely irrational. There is propaganda and there is ignorance and both of them are dangerous, but the latter is more dangerous than the former.