By Johnson Eze
Building a cohesive society starts with delivering justice to all and protecting the interest of not just a few, but all in the component units that made up that society. Justice is often referred as the foundations of attuned societies. It is the scaffold on which national balance rests.
Nigeria cannot exit the jungle of marginalisation, if it does not enthrone political justice. It will always take one step forward and five steps backwards.
Any attempt to scheme out the various components units that made up this country in the politics of the national assembly leadership should be interrogated by every Nigerian who truly holds this country dear.
In 2015, a major zone in this country had no representation in the leadership of all the arms of government. This was rationalised at the time with a claim, “the zone did not produce any ranking senator or member of the house of representatives on the platform of the APC”. In 2019, the same game is at play.
Really, it will be dangerous for national cohesion and unity to allow this imbalance continue. The refrain that there is no “ranking APC senator” from any part of the country is disputable.
The rules of “ranking” can be circumvented for the sake of national balance and cohesion which naturally promotes peace the country need for development. It is a widespread belief that achieving political balance and fostering unity is more important than any rule which only favour a few.
We must protect our unity. Repeating a bad precedent and rationalizing it with political niceties will only deepen discriminations and provide ammunition for future generations to trade hate.
Today young people on social media trade hate over what Azikiwe and Awolowo did and did not do in the 1960s and 70s. Both men have been blamed for being the foundation of Nigeria’s political challenges – depending on the divide. Whether that is true or not is the topic of another day
Remarkably, when Hilary Clinton as the American Secretary of state paid official visit to Nigeria in 2009, her emphatic message was that Nigeria needs strong institution and not strong men. According to Clinton, strong institutions will guarantee that laws provide unbiased guide in shaping the developmental agenda of the country to ensure good governance and sustainable development.
Like a sufferer of an ailment refusing to administer medication to get healed, successive Nigerian governments have continued to disregard adherence to certain laws while institutions that are supposed to ensure compliance watch helplessly to the detriment of the entire society. To these serial violators, it does not matter as long as they achieve their selfish ends. But the society cannot continue this way
The distribution of political offices in Nigeria on the basis of states or geopolitical zones to reflect the federal character principle is a handy example.
For some weeks now arguments and lobbying for principal offices in the 9th session of National Assembly have continues to dominate discussions. If the country especially the political class abides with its own laws, it is expected that following the Federal Character principle, that selecting or appointing or electing principal offices in the National Assembly will be very simple and rancour-free.
The “federal character” principle, which has been enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution since 1979, seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country
To strengthen it, a commission known as Federal Character commission was established with the responsibility to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of the proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.
Following this principle therefore, as the president and commander in Chief of the armed forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen Muhammadu Buhari GCFR hails from north west part of the country and the vice president Prof Yemi Osibanjo is of south west origin, the next political office notably the Senate president, House Speaker and their respective deputies are supposed to be allotted to those zones that are yet to get any key political appointment, which are North East, North Central, North central, south East and South-South.
All those from the North west and South west zones going about contesting political offices with other zones that are yet to have political office should refrain from that winner take all attitude or be viewed as violating the principle of equity and fair-play. Like Benjamin Franklin noted in his equity quote “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” “Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.”
Most of the government officials travel out of the country on regular basis and see how good those destination countries are. The big difference rests squarely on fidelity to extant laws of which equity, captured in Nigerian constitution in the form of Federal Character. Respect for Federal character has the potential of building that sense of belonging among the ethno-religious components of the country and promote peace unity.
Let the 9th assembly be allowed to be a shining example by starting on a sound footing built on equity, justice and fair-play for the diverse members. We cannot continue to repeat the same mistake and expect a different result.
Our opinion Leaders particularly political godfathers, who for selfish reasons are introducing “maroon politics” into the system, creating minefields for future ethnic wars and bashing by their actions should understand how bleak the future is without unity.
When we look around, it is obvious that power and influence are transient. No individual no matter how strong can remain in power forever. It is pertinent for Winners today to treat others with fairness so that when the table turns it will be reciprocated and all will be fine.
Righting the wrongs of the past and avoiding the pitfalls of tomorrow begin with doing justice to all and making compromises where necessary.