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Beyond Jonathan’s N5.7bn post-election largesse

| May 8, 2013 More

Uche Igwe

Georges Clemenceau, the former Prime Minister and wartime leader of France, once said: “When you want to bury a problem, appoint a committee to investigate it.”  That seems to me the regular pattern of the Jonathan administration. It has assumed an amusing and almost ridiculous dimension. Everything it wants to do must be through a committee. Government appoints a committee. When it submits its findings, government appoints a White Paper committee. At the submission of the White Paper, government now appoints an implementation committee. By the time the latest committee begins to contemplate implementation, another drama would have taken over and many of us would have forgotten and another committee would be appointed to do the same work under another name. Though many believe that many reasons motivate government to set up committees, decisive action to solve the problems cannot be part of it. Forming committees has become another instrument of patronage and advancement of primitive distributional politics. It is called job for the boys.

However, I must commend President Goodluck Jonathan for the N5.7bn released to the victims of the 2011 electoral violence. We were told that it was in partial fulfilment of the recommendations of the Sheik Lemu report. The beneficiaries are as follows: Bauchi State — N1,574,870,000; Sokoto — N55,888,506; Zamfara – N93,253,485; Niger — N433,375,875; Jigawa -N208,667,634; Katsina – N1,973,209,440;  Kano -N944827, 000, Adamawa -N420,089, 840 and Akwa Ibom – N43,504,000.

As I look through these rather fascinating figures, several questions keep agitating my mind. Only three of them will suffice noting here: Who can we describe as the real victims of the violence?  What are the other recommendations of the Sheik Lemu Report? Why has the President chosen to revisit the matter two years after?

An online dictionary defines a victim as “someone who was harmed, injured, or killed as a result of crime, accident or the event or action”. Assuming that the intention is to channel these funds to the “real victims”, who are they referring to? Take it or leave it, given our not being good at keeping records in Nigeria, the number of victims of that violence may never be known. Many of them are dead and forgotten. The first set of targets was the National Youth Service Corps members. Then an uncountable number of churches were burnt just as many worshippers in these churches were killed. More than 200,000 people of Southern Nigeria extraction especially Ndigbo were reported to have been forced to abandon their businesses and properties and run back home to the South-East. As in a typical war situation, they have been roaming the country as refugees. Some of them could not even make it back to their home states alive. Others still live in churches and barracks as I write. Few properties belonging to a handful of politicians and traditional rulers in the North who were allegedly supportive of the President were also reportedly burnt but none of them was killed. What about victims in other states such as Kaduna, Plateau and Nasarawa? Should we not exercise caution and take a holistic view in determining those who this compensation is (should be) meant for?

No one can question the prerogative of the President to implement any part of the Sheik Lemu Report that he deems fit. But, the report urged the security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the violence for prosecution. It also recommended the establishment of a Special Election Offences Tribunal. On the day of the submission of the report, the Chairman of the Committee specifically blamed Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) for allegedly making comments that triggered the violence. Buhari was quoted as saying that his supporters must come out and “guard” their votes. Apart from Buhari, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Alhaji Lawal Kaita were quoted in the media as having said that the North would make Nigeria “ungovernable” for Jonathan if he emerged from that election as the President of Nigeria. So, what other evidence is the President waiting for? What about all the culprits who were arrested perpetrating various acts of destruction during the violence? Why have they not been charged to court or have they been surreptitiously released?

Now, let us look at the timing and rationale.  Why did it take government this length of time to look into a matter of such urgent national importance? A member of the House of Representatives from Plateau State, Bitrus Kaze, was quoted as saying that the payment of compensation at this time appeared targeted at appeasing the North to support the Goodluck Jonathan reelection project. True?  Many people have argued that the electoral violence is not in any way related to the Boko Haram insurgency plaguing the North at the moment. How come the Presidency chose to release the money at the time when discussions were ongoing to grant amnesty to the insurgents?  Many Nigerians who died during the post-elections violence should be seen as having made the supreme sacrifice for the emergence of President Jonathan. It will not be right to play politics with their sacrifices. What about the rationale for who will get what? What indicator was used to determine the amount that would go to each state and why? For instance, why would Katsina State get more — almost N2bn – and Zamfara State get only N93m? Or, were the allocations arbitrarily done to pacify some people as has been alleged?

It is important to be reminded that beyond compensation, the most important aspect of the Lemu Report borders on establishing the enabling structures that will prevent the recurrence of such ugly incident in our national life. It was suggested that new Police formations and barracks be established in locations worst hit by the violence. What about civic education, job creation and empowerment programmes for the young people who are ready tools in the hands of manipulative politicians. But as usual, and this has become its characteristic trademark, this government has chosen to implement the most simplistic aspect of the report, that aspect of the report that money can easily buy even though it provides no tangible societal value in the long run. This measure, in the now selective, hurried and clearly haphazard manner it is being implemented, can only translate to rewarding some sections of society for violent conduct during and after elections thereby making the beneficiaries look forward to the next election year of 2015 after which they will go smiling all the way to their banks once again.  If the Jonathan government is sincere to achieve peace and solve the recurring problem of electoral violence, it must implement the report holistically and not selectively as it is doing now. It must, as recommended, mete out punishments alongside compensation and adopt those measures and enshrine those institutions that will not only deter but also pro-actively prevent a recurrence of the incident in view. This is the right thing to do and this can only be the right path to follow. Furthermore, the government must as a matter of urgency implement the reports of the Babalakin Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Bauchi State Civil Disturbance; Karibi Whyte Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kafanchan Disturbances; Niki Tobi Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances; Justice Snakey Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Wase and Langtang Disturbances; Justice Disu Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances, Prof. Tamuno Panel of Inquiry on National Security. We cannot continue to live in a nation where people can freely express their anger by taking the lives of others. An opportunity has been presented to deal with the matter once and for all. If we dare bury these problems or play politics with them, they will resurrect again to hunt us. There can be no sustainable peace without justice and justice is where legality, equity and fairness are all rolled into one.


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