Nigeria: The Travails of an Animal Kingdom- Prof Itse sagay
Erudite law teacher, Professor Itse Sagay
London, Feb. 1, 2018 (AltAfrika)-The title of this lecture was deliberately chosen to express and articulate my impression of Nigeria and the anguish and frustrations I am personally experiencing about the behavior, conduct and orientation of the Nigerian Elite.
Why Animal Kingdom? In the first place man is biologically an animal. Indeed, all human beings are animals. But we are supposed to have developed and evolved into superior, thinking, intelligent, refined human beings, controlling all the lower species of animals. Indeed, as the Good Lord stated in Genesis Chapter 1, Verses 26 – 28, after creating man in his own image.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
I am not unconscious of the apparent contradiction between evolutionary theory and the Bible. But I feel that God could have created man over centuries because a thousand years for man is but a night for God.
Now, the lower animals have some very primitive and negative instincts which in man would be described as barbarous.
2. Animal Culture
(i) Animals live to eat. In other words, their primary devotion and objective in life is to eat, sleep and eat. They are permanently in search of food whether as predators (looking for the flesh of other animals) or as plant and grass eaters. Human beings are supposed to have evolved beyond that. We should eat in order to live and not live in order to eat like lower animals. But what do we do in this Country? Once given a position of trust and responsibility, our elite go into a feeding frenzy; Loot billions, acquire 50 houses, have mansions in the U.K., U.S.A., Spain, the Caribbeans, etc. All they do after that is to eat and eat without stopping. A Federal Minister once accused another politician,who was later also appointed Minister, for not being grateful for being invited to “come and eat”. It did not occur to him that he was called to serve, not to “eat”.
Another characteristic of the lower animals is that they are fully engaged in the practice of “dog eat dog and the survival of the fittest” To give an example of this behavior, not only will the carnivorous mammals (lions, tigers, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards) etc. kill and eat herbivores (that is antelopes, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, etc)
some members of the same species kill each other and in some cases eat each other. When some members of the political, public service or business elite loot our collective assets, the immediate consequence is massive unemployment, unequipped clinics and hospitals, wretched schools, colleges and universities without facilities, bad roads, lack of electric power and so on. Deaths on the roads, deaths at hospitals, deaths at maternity facilities, follow, and militants, kidnappers, armed robbers, murderers, suicides are also a direct product, of this Nigerian Culture. In a paper published in 2013, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Executive Secretary of PACAC and incoming Chairman of the ICPC demonstrated the devastating national consequence of this predatory culture.
Regarding looting attributed to Ex-Governors, Ex-Ministers, Ex-Legislators, Public Servants, Bankers and Business men between 2007 and 2013, which came to 1.35 trillion naira, roughly 7.05 billion dollars, of Owasanoye brought home to Nigerians the opportunity cost of this banditry as follows.
“One-third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometes of roads, 36 ultra-modern hospitals per state, 183 schools, educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24million per child and built, 20,062 units of 2-bedroom houses”.
This clearly epitomizes a dog eat dog characteristic. There is devastation in all spheres of human activity and the future of the youths is certainly eaten.
Another characteristic of animals, particularly male lions, is that when they want to join an existing pride of lions, they will kill the baby lions fathered by the previous male in the pride, before going on to father their own children. To the male lions, only their gene should survive. How different from that is the deliberate actions of the elite to subject Nigeria to a scotched earth polity, making life in Nigeria uninhabitable for youths, who then prefer to go and die in the Sahara and Libya, whilst the children of the culprits are in the best schools in the world like Eaton, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, living a dream life. They love their offspring to a fault, but could not give a damn about the survival of the children of ordinary Nigerians.
What of the popular saying, “monkey dey work, baboon dey shop”. In the animal kingdom, if a cheetah or leopard makes a kill, before it can settle down to feed, lions or hyenas will chase it away or kill it if it is stubborn and refuses to escape. They will then devour the kill to the pain and frustration of the poor, weaker animal. In this Country, the hard working people do back breaking work to create our wealth. A few members of the greedy elite consume that wealth. By ILO standards, no earner of remuneration from the public service is supposed earn more than 100 times the income of the lowest paid worker. In this Country whilst the minimum basic wage is N18,000 a month there are fellow public servants who award themselves about 30 million a month. That is, more than 1,600,000 times the minimum wage.
Those who work in luxurious air-conditioned Chambers collect, wardrobe allowance, utility allowance, furniture allowance, Newspaper allowance, housing allowance, entertainment allowance, domestic allowance, recess allowance, hardship allowance and the list goes on.
The ordinary worker is lucky to have his basic salary. If this is not monkey dey work and baboon dey chop, I don’t know what it can be.
I can go on and on with illustrations of the theme of this paper, but I think what I have said so far is enough.
3. The Judiciary is more Equal
On 23rd June 2017, the Court of Appeal gave a Judgment in the case of Justice Ngajiwa v. F.R.N. The Appellant was a former Judge in the High Court of Kano State, who was charged by the EFCC for Corruption. He filed a preliminary objection to the charge on the ground that since discipline of Judges under the National Judicial Council had been provided for in Section 153 (1) and the 3rd Schedule (Part 1), of the Constitution, no Judicial Officer could be arrested and tried for any criminal offence until he has first been put through the disciplinary process of the NJC, found guilty and dismissed or retired compulsorily.
This argument was rejected at the High Court level, but shockingly upheld by the Court of Appeal. The practical effect of this is that judicial offers have by this legislative Ruling been conferred with immunity from criminal prosecution for their crimes, particularly for corruption. As I speak, many judges currently under trial for corruption have applied for their cases to be struck out on the basis of this Ruling.
The gravity of this Ruling on the fight against corruption cannot be overstated. Without the willingness and commitment of the Judiciary to the anti-corruption struggle, it will fail ab initio, i.e., from the very beginning. It will not take off at all.
Now, if the Judges are claiming immunity from prosecution for corruption, grievous bodily harm and even murder, how can they morally sit in judgment over other sectors of the population who are not claiming such immunity. Should suspected criminals try others for crimes?
The logic of this Ruling and its wider implication is that anyone who belongs to a professional group that has a disciplinary body, could justifiably claim immunity from prosecution unless, he first undergoes the disciplinary process of his association and is found guilty and punished.
So the Law enforcement, Security and Anti-Corruption Agencies by this logic should not arrest and prosecute the following sample of professionals until they are first tried and punished by their professional associations,
(i) Thus a Doctor cannot be arrested for malpractice, causing grievous bodily harm or even death of a patient.
(ii) This will also apply to Lawyers who must first be tried and punished by the NBA before they can be arrested and charged for any criminal offence against their clients, like embezzlement of client’s funds, illegal sale of clients’ assets, money laundering for clients, etc.
(iii) So too are the Engineers, the Accountants, the Architects, the Quantity Surveyors, the Land Surveyors, Estate Agents, provided they have associations which have disciplinary panels.
(iv). If we must go constitutional, the police have a commission for their promotion, discipline and so on (see Section 153 and Schedule 3 M of the 1999 Constitution). If we are to adopt the Court of Appeal’s argument about implied immunity, all policemen should also be immune from arrest and trial until after discipline by the Police Service Commission. This equally applies to the Federal Civil Service Commission.
There will be absolute chaos in the country if this attitude prevails. This clearly takes us to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where all animals were equal but a particular species of animal was more equal than the others.
Let me make it quite clear. There is no provision of any law or the Constitution that provides immunity for Judges against criminal and civil actions. Only the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors are so protected in Section 208 of the Constitution. This judicial pronouncement of immunity for Judges is clearly Judge made Law and Judges are not empowered to make law. That is the responsibility of the Legislature.
I have repeated it often times, the greatest protection and amour of a Judge, is high moral authority. Prior to the 1999 Constitution and before Nigeria reached its nadir of public morality, no Judge was ever arrested or tried for crimes. They did not need legal immunity from arrest and trial, because they had high moral authority. Would a Mohammed Bello, Chukwunweike Idigbe, Andrews Otutu Obaseki, Kayode Eso, Anthony Aniagolu, Augustine Nnamani, Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, Chukwudifu Oputa, Louis Mbanefo, Adetunji Adefarasin, J.I.C. Taylor, Udo Udoma, to name a few, have had the need for constitutional, Legislative, or Judge made immunity? No. They had high moral authority. There is no protection greater than that.
This Judgment is therefore a self-preservation measure meant to protect Judges from past, present and future prosecution for acts of corruption and other types of criminality.
4. The Nigerian Elite and Total Lack of Values.
When I see the manner the tiny Nigerian Elite of less than 1% of our population is treating the already down trodden masses of our Country in order to enjoy an opulent criminal life style, I am forced to conclude that they are engaged in an unsustainable assault on our senses and collective patrimony.
We have to ask ourselves what the problem really is. We are definitely overwhelmed by an epidemic of Kleptomania. But do we also have a collective psychiatric problem? Why would a person loot what he cannot spend in 10 life-times, whilst exposing the rest of the population to misery, hunger, poverty, wretchedness and even death?
As I am never tired of pointing out, the end of the 1st Republic was followed by a rapid decline in the moral tone of public life and loss of such values as honesty, integrity, honour and the service ethic. Since then, with each succeeding Republic, the quality of the political elite has declined sharply. Nigeria has been plunged deeper and deeper into a socio-political wilderness, or worse still, a jungle, overwhelmed by indiscipline, greed, insensitivity, corruption and mindless violence. Thus a country naturally endowed by God with limitless resources, has nevertheless become a caricature of harrowing poverty, destitution and suffering humanity.
This catalogue of misfortunes is compounded by a complete loss of values, heedless cult of money worship and obsessive love of acquisition. Our current elite have no values, no honour, no vision, no integrity and no compassion for the suffering of the masses of fellow Nigerians.
5. Conclusion and Recommendations
It is obvious that things cannot remain like this for much longer or there will be cataclysm. It is clear to me that given the proclivities of the privileged elite, Nigeria is not yet ready for the operation of a liberal democracy. All we have done is to abuse, abuse and abuse again, all the privileges of the Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy conferred on us by the Constitution. We must now utilize our creative powers to operate our Constitution without giving room for these abuses.
We need democracy, not the democrazy we are practicing now, where all members of a legal legislative Chamber will abandon the Chamber and accompany one of their members, charged with criminal offences, to intimidate a lawful Tribunal. This has two implications;
(a) endorsement of the alleged infraction and
(b) abandonment of duties for which enormous remunerations have been self- awarded.
We cannot have a situation in which the legislature in a fit of petulance rejects every bill, refuses to confirm every executive nomination, postpones consideration of the budget and refuses to consider it because the Executive will not be dictated to regarding the officials it appoints to carry out Executive responsibilities.
Also we cannot have a situation in which those who sit in judgment over others for the transgression of law, declare themselves above the law.
We cannot tolerate a situation in which 30 or 60 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, accompany a colleague under trial, to the Court in order to intimidate the trial Judge. That is gross misconduct and indiscipline on the part of the Senior Advocates.
So what do we do? I propose that the Executive which is the real driver of governance, apply strength, power and discipline in operating our democratic dispensation. Lee Kuan Yew did this in Singapore and rescued that Country from poverty, misery, chaos and underdevelopment by firm and determined use of power. Today Singapore is a 1st World Country and a popular destination for Nigerians who are a people who like good things.
In my online search about Lee Kuan Yew, the following achievements were attributed to him.
“Singapore had problems with political corruption. Lee introduced legislation giving the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) greater power to conduct arrests, search, call up witnesses, and investigate bank accounts and income-tax returns of suspected persons and their families. Lee believed that ministers should be well paid in order to maintain a clean and honest government. On 21 November 1986, Lee received a complaint of corruption against then Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan. Lee was against corruption and he authorized the CPIB to carry out investigations on Teh but Teh committed suicide before any charges could be pressed against him. In 1994, he proposed to link the salaries of ministers, judges, and top civil servants to the salaries of top professionals in the private sector, arguing that this would help recruit and retain talent to serve in the public sector.”
Furthermore, it was stated that:
“As Singapore’s Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990, Lee presided over many of Singapore’s advancements. Singapore’s Gross National Product per capita rose from $1,240 in 1959 to $18,437 in 1990. The unemployment rate in Singapore dropped from 13.5% in 1959 to 1.7% in 1990. External trade increased from $7.3 billion in 1959 to $205 billion in 1990. In other areas, the life expectancy at birth for Singaporeans rose from 65 years at 1960 to 74 years in 1990. The population of Singapore increased from 1.6 million in 1959 to 3 million in 1990. The number of public flats in Singapore rose from 22,975 in 1959 (then under the Singapore Improvement Trust) to 667,575 in 1990. The Singaporean literacy rate increased from 52% in 1957 to 90% in 1990. Telephone lines per 100 Singaporeans increased from 3 in 1960 to 38 in 1990. Visitor arrivals to Singapore rose from 0.1 million in 1960 to 5.3 million in 1990.”
“On the other hand, many Singaporeans have criticized Lee as authoritarian and as intolerant of dissent, citing his numerous – mostly successful – attempts to sue political opponents and newspapers who express an unfavorable opinion. Reporters Without Borders, an international media pressure group, requested Lee and other senior Singaporean officials to stop taking libel suits against journalists.” Did this intolerance of indiscipline have anything to do with Singapore’s phenomenal development?
Another example in our very backyard in East Africa, is Ruanda, a country that was brought down to a comatose state by genocide and crimes against humanity during which over I million citizens were massacred. Today, under the firm rule of Paul Kagame, within a democratic framework, Rwanda has developed so rapidly that it has overtaken Nigeria, in terms of standard of living, the quality of life, social development, infrastructure and so on.
Of Kagame, it has been universally acknowledged as follows:
“Rwanda’s economy has grown rapidly under Kagame’s presidency, with per-capita gross domestic product (purchasing power parity) estimated at $1,592 in 2013, compared with $567 in 2000. Annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year. Kagame’s economic policy is based on liberalising the economy, privatising state owned industries, reducing red tape for businesses, and transforming the country from an agricultural to a knowledge-based economy. Kagame has stated that he believes Rwanda can emulate the economic development of Singapore since 1960, and achieving middle income country status is one of the central goals of the Vision 2020 programme. ”
Finally, those who have studied Kagame’s transformational contribution to Rwanda’s growth have made the following observations:
“Most observers describe Kagame’s personality as one of seriousness and intelligence. Richard Grant, writing in London’s Daily Telegraph, described Kagame as radiating “a quality of intense seriousness that is both impressive and intimidating”. Roméo Dallaire, commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide, described Kagame as having a “studious air that didn’t quite disguise his hawk-like intensity”. Kagame has a highly dominant personality, which he uses to enforce his rule and to ensure that his vision for the country is followed. American journalist Stephen Kinzer, who wrote the biography A Thousand Hills in collaboration with Kagame himself, describes him as “one of the most intriguing leaders in Africa”. Kinzer credits Kagame with leadership skills that have fostered Rwanda’s rebirth following the genocide, but also cites a personality of “chronic impatience, barely suppressed anger, and impulsive scorn for critics.”
I request the audience to please note the following, the write-up just quoted refers to Kagame’s personality as including “chronic impatience, barely suppressed anger, and impulsive scorn for critics”. “International and hawk-like intensity” are also used. You can’t make omelets without breaking eggs. It is this impatience, this barely suppressed anger, and impulsive scorn for critics that propel his strong and firm leadership leading to his country’s salvation from poverty, misery and underdevelopment. We need a leader with suppressed anger to eradicate corruption and indiscipline in our public life.
South Korea is probably the most developed country in the world today. Please don’t take my words for it. Visit the place. USA, Canada, U.K. and even Germany cannot match the level of development South Korea has reached in electronics, power, infrastructure, manufacturing, digitization, environmental standards etc. This feat was achieved under the illiberal rule of Park Chung-hee. Today, South Korea is the world’s leading model of a non-corrupt society. I do not advocate a Park Chung-hee type of hard and uncompromising government. We need a balance between order and a society that is running riot, where anything goes, and criminals act with impunity and then thumb their noses at us all.
It is widely accepted that Park Chung-hee was authoritarian. But he made up for this by his miraculous upliftment of Korea from a third world to a first world country. This is what has been said about him.
“Park has been ranked by the public as the greatest South Korean president but he remains a controversial figure in modern South Korean political discourse and among the Korean populace in general. While some see him as a resolute leader who helped sustain the Miracle on the Han River, which reshaped and modernized Korea, others see him as an authoritarian dictator who squashed political opposition and dissent while prioritizing economic growth and contrived social order at the expense of civil liberties.”
To confirm his incredible achievements, the following has also been stated about him:
“Park is credited with playing a pivotal role in the development of South Korea’s tiger economy by shifting its focus to export-oriented industrialization. When he came to power in 1961, South Korea’s per capita income was only US$72.00. North Korea was the greater economic and military power on the peninsula due to the North’s history of heavy industries such as the power and chemical plants, and the large amounts of economic, technical and financial aid it received from other communist bloc countries such as the Soviet Union, East Germany and China.
“A sign of the growth of the South Korean economy was that in 1969 there were 200,000 television sets in operation in South Korea and by 1979, there were six million television sets operating in South Korea. In 1969, only 6% of South Korean families owned a television; by 1979 four of every five South Korean families owned a TV.”
It is time Nigerians engaged in deep reflection about how to get out of this chaotic state of affairs.
In a book written by an American National, Karl Maier, about Nigeria, entitled This House has fallen, in the year 2000, long before the present deterioration and degeneration of our Nation and its peoples, he made the following perceptive remarks.
“Designed by alien occupiers and abused by army rule for three-quarters of its brief life span, the Nigerian state is like a battered and bruised elephant staggering toward on abyss with the ground crumbling under its feet. Should it fall, the impact will shake the rest of West Africa.”
We cannot rise up from present quagmire without confronting with some force, the enemies of society. I repeat, you cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg. I don’t need to say more. The Executive Branch of Government should reclaim the driving seat of government; be firm, but fair, be resolute, and be totally intolerant of the present indiscipline, greed, insensitivity and irresponsibility of the tiny privileged elite. It must put its foot down and say “No more”. Democracy is not a rioter’s party, where impunity greed, irresponsibility and indiscipline reign. Something has to be done now before it’s too late. The time is now.
A Paper Presented by Professor Itse Sagay at the 27th Convocation Lecture of the Federal University of Techology, Minna, Nigeria
Professor Itse Sagay, a distinguished legal scholar, Professor of Law and human rights activist is the former Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Benin, Nigeria, a constitutional law expert and Senior Advocate of Nigeria