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Ahmed Lawan’s deep state and the dangers of postponing the evil day

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BY PAUL OBI

“For to employ the coercive apparatus of the state in order to maintain manifestly unjust institutions is itself a form of illegitimate force that men in due course have a right to resist.” — John Rawls

Since 1999, Senate President Ahmed Laman has been on the radar of the political arena, titling to the hustle and bubbling of politics in Nigeria’s capital Abuja and home state of Yobe. He is also not new to Nigeria’s current political dispensation. At the inception of democracy in 1999, Ahmed Lawan was elected a member of the house of representatives and later a senator in 2007. With degrees from the University of Maiduguri, Ahmedu Bello University and a PhD from Cranfield University, United Kingdom (UK), Lawan has all the requisite expertise and knowledge to stir the Nigerian ship to a coast of people-driven reforms and good governance.

But in the murky swamp that has come to define Nigeria’s political elite culture in Abuja and across the states, the senate president is part of the swamp and deep state that has for years kept Nigeria on her knees. It was surprising therefore for Lawan to have somersaulted when he warned of the dire consequences of the Nigerian state ignoring the clamour by youths for change and failing to address the prevailing quagmire and degradation that has characterised our governance system. Surprising because, since his ascension to the office of the senate presidency, Lawan has left no one in doubt that he was passionately going to play ball with President Muhammadu Buhari’s government if even it was at cross purpose with public good.

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But in many surprises and instances with the Lawan-led senate, the red chamber has sprung up some shock waves that contradict Lawan’s initial stance — by confronting the executive headlong on salient issues of national importance, even to the consternation of many. Critically, Nigeria’s present precarious situation is a product of the deliberate suffocation of the country by the ruling elites. Warp and all, the current elites cannot be exonerated in many facets of Nigeria’s troubling crisis. While Lawan and his co-evals of the Independence Generation had the best opportunities, they have regrettably turned round to bequeath scorched-earth policies and a system that has left the Nigerian youths grasping for breath and survival.

Worst still, within the last two decades of our democracy, there are no concrete efforts to address the Nigerian crisis squarely. Rather, our democracy has raised some of the ruling class to stupendous wealth and riches — whereby, through the lucre of public funds, some have become richer in properties than the Catholic Church. In the same swoop, Nigeria and its teeming populace have now become the poverty capital of the world as acknowledged by the United Nations (UN) and the country’s own National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Beyond the rhetorics of governing for the sake of public good, it has been a subtle romance with cosmetic measures orchestrated by the elite as a form of remedy. Hence, in interrogating Lawan’s recent outburst and vexation, and warning about an impending upheaval if nothing is done to address these systemic and structural inadequacies with Nigeria’s governance system, there’s an urgency to go beyond the peripheral. Thus, when Lawan warned during the #EndSARS Protest in 2020 that “recently, we had some of our youths protesting genuinely. So, our budget, especially in 2021, should be centred on what to do to provide employment opportunities for these youths… And for us, elected people, we are going to be accountable. If we escape this one (#EndSAR protest), the other one is inescapable. And I’m sure people know what I am saying”.

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As germane and important as Lawan’s intervention appears, it definitely did not and will not address the opaque crisis of leadership and jaundiced system fueled by the feeding bottle democracy Nigeria is practically operating at the moment. At its best, addressing the demands of #EndSARS Protest with handouts from the 2021 National Budget falls short of the desired goal, and leaves such intervention merely as window dressing.

What ails Nigeria cannot be vanquished by allocation and estimate embedded in an annual budget. What ails Nigeria is the suffocation and strangulation of the federating units – states, fraudulent electoral system, criminal confiscation of public wealth by the elites and the deployment of state apparatus to hunt and harass innocent citizens as exemplified by the innocuous prosecution of #EndSARS Protesters. In all, the solutions to the afore-mentioned dissipating problems confronting Nigeria lies with the National Assembly – which Lawan chairs.

Recently, the senate president shamelessly tongue-lashed southern governors forum for calling for restructuring. For those who are oblivious of the antics of Ahmad Laman: he is part of the deep state; benefitting where he did not sow anything. What is the contribution of Yobe State to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? How much does Yobe State contribute to Nigeria’s overall Value-Added Tax(VAT) How much does Yobe where Lawan comes takes monthly from the Federation Account for doing nothing? Billions of course. So, are these the pervading enclaves and pillars of injustice that Lawan is afraid of being erased through restructuring? Or is he desirous of protecting and shielding such injustice with reckless abundance? For the records: Lawan is against restructuring and he’s one of the elites deliberately blurring the meaning and essence of restructuring. He’s against youths protesting – #EndSARS, against state Police, slow and unfriendly to amending the electoral act to usher in electronic voting system, afraid of fiscal federalism.

So, what then does Senate President Lawan wants? He wants a lopsided Nigerian system and structure. He is so much in love with the current feeding bottle democracy and injustice. He’s a paddy to a system where the labourers are different from the reapers. But he does not think that this house of injustice will fall one day. What Lawan and his co-travellers should know is that Nigeria cannot continue like this; it is either Nigeria is restructured or face ceaseless agitations for self-determination.

For instance, each day, Kano and Katsina states destroy trucks of beer and alcohol drinks based on their practice of Sharia Law and turn round to collect monthly value added tax (VAT) from revenues derived from sales of beer and alcohol beverages from Cross River, Lagos, Ondo, Plateau, Anambra, Enugu and Abuja, the chances of agitation against injustices and fraudulent federal system will quadruple. For the many times, Zamfara State Governor will zoom off to Abuja with tones of Gold to sell to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Presidency, the spate of militancy in the Niger-Delta and south-west moves closer to an international conflict over resource control.

For the many times, an underfunded federal police is compelled to police a country of more than 200 million, the complexities of modern policing will become more entrenched, as crime becomes the new normal. For every time, bandits attack farmers in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina, the embers of discontent among Nigerians in those states rises astronomically.

For the many times, Boko Haram insurgents terrorize, kill, kidnap citizens and destroy properties in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the midst of bogus defence budget running into billions of dollars, the fragile state of the Nigerian nation-state edges towards the precipice. So, long as Nigerian national assembly members continue to benefit as the highest paid lawmakers in the world with about $2.4 million per annum in a country where more than ten million children are out of school, dozens of malnourished Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and Alamjiri children died of hunger, the chances of a revolution been televised get closer.

Again, Ahmad Lawan is part of the larger problem Nigeria faces presently. With the clamour for restructuring and fiscal federalism, the National Assembly which he chairs has blatantly refused to quench the raging fire. He is more interested in protecting his fiefdom and empire. But it needs to be made clear to the likes of Lawan and his co-travellers within the Nigerian deep state: as the country edges towards the abyss, she has only two options; restructuring – fiscal federalism or every region goes her separate way. The south has made this clear without any equivocation and the Lawans of this world must heed that path peacefully without rancour, not lampooning Southern Governors Forum and proponents of a just system.

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In summation, Ahmad Lawan’s should be held accountable if anything happens to Nigeria. With his lapdog legislative style, the senate president appears to have buried Nigeria’s democracy. The essence of representative and parliamentary democracy is lost with Lawan. His desperation to be the senate president by all means was crafted with inordinate ambitions – to placate democracy and ruin legislative oversight, checks and balances. Those are the legacies of Senate President Ahmad Lawan: but the dangers of postponing the evil day will be too devastating for Nigeria. The ghost of restructuring stares Lawan and his likes in the face, such that, there’s no other leeway to rescuing Nigeria than to embrace restructuring and fiscal federalism.

Obi is a journalist and political communication expert based in Abuja

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