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Toying With the Fragile Peace in the Centre of Unity

In case there is someone who is lost about the expression “Centre of Unity”, that is Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory’s moniker just as Lagos is referred to as the Centre of Excellence, Kogi –the Confluence State, Niger- the Power State and so on.

The strategic importance of a capital territory to the overall well-being of a nation cannot be lost on even the average citizen not to talk of the fairly discerning or much more the elite. Governments go the extra mile to ensure top-notch facilities, emplace comprehensive security and serenity in their national capital cities to make it a showpiece to tourists and investors from around the world while providing the appropriate conducive and aesthetic environment for residents as well as the federal bureaucracy to do its work.

The capital city is so important that in war situation a nation is considered taken or defeated once the capital city is taken by the enemy. Indeed one major reason why Nigeria’s capital city was relocated from Lagos to Abuja is because Lagos was considered too vulnerable and would be easily overrun in case of an enemy attack, being located by the coastline. If we can go so far to protect our capital city from external aggression it would be foolish to now allow political rascality to inflame tempers and fan the embers of internal squabbles that could lead to civil unrest.

But just as Abia State is dubbed “God’s own state” and the loveless roads and the general squalor you see in the state does not depict the presence of God, just as Plateau State is tagged the Home of Peace and Tourism and yet the blood of the innocent being shed there almost on a daily basis is heartbreaking and repulsive, the quality of Abuja which makes it the centre of unity might be mischievously compromised and corrupted except appropriate steps are quickly taken.
Since it became public knowledge about a week ago that a court had passed a judgement which many residents, lawyers inclusive, agree is fundamentally flawed and an error in law, the discussion that has dominated the airwaves on radio, dominated the discourse among FCT politicians and social commentators and elicited heated arguments in sundry social gatherings is the judgement which elongated the tenure of the FCT Area Councils by one additional year.
To the average man on the street it is beyond ludicrous for the rules of a game to be changed when the game is almost over. A friend said it is like FIFA making a rule today at 4pm and a team involved in a standard 90- minute match which started at 3 pm wants to apply the new rule because it is favourable to them. How do you explain that local government chairmen who were elected for a 3-year term and whose term was due to expire on the 19th May,2022 would want to rely on an electoral act just enacted in February 2022 barely three months to the expiration of their tenure to shop for an elongation of their tenure via the courts? It is bad enough that they could make such a demand but it is much worse that it was granted. It is these kind of judgements that continue to make a joke of the judiciary institution eroding confidence in its pronouncements.
The questions that readily come to mind even for unlearned fellows like yours sincerely are:
If the section which they want to explore is to be retroactively effective, would it not have been so expressly stated?
If the new Electoral Act of February 2022 had prescribed a 2-year term would they have reversed or recouped the extra one year they have already spent? Or would they have had to refund all the salaries and allowances and reversed all the decisions of the extra one year? Would it have been just to pass a judgement to exact such refund or reversal?
Ok if this judgement is to stand, what is the implication for the election that brought in the new set of Chairmen? Does it mean that the results will be kept in abeyance till after the effluxion of the one year? Or does it mean that the election is a nullity and a fresh one will be conducted after the “ojoro” extra year?
This is simply laughable, if not vexatious and is symptomatic of the sit tight disposition of the average African politicians or leaders.
Without unnecessary rigmarole this judgement is condemnable and dangerous in that it does not take into consideration the peaceful, harmonious co-existence of the various people of different extraction, religion and political affiliation in the cosmopolitan city of Abuja.

A simple sampling of the opinions of residents, of lawyers, of analysts, of politicians would show how much incipient anger is in the land in respect of this matter. The feeling is that this evil development is being orchestrated by a section of the political class who are bent on arm twisting the party that won particularly in the most prominent, strategic and financially viable local government area out of its clear and undisputable victory. The greater anger though is that the judiciary will allow itself to be cornered in this manner by the political class. The earlier this judgement is quashed by a court of appropriate jurisdiction, the better.
There is an even greater danger if this judgement is not vacated. The greater danger is that it could become a bad precedent that will open the floodgate to tenure elongation schemes for incumbent administrations across the various tiers of government. What it means is that the Buhari administration could just enact an electoral act that specifies a 6-year tenure for President and the Buhari regime will automatically be the first beneficiary. That will be shamelessly self-serving, manipulative, a breach of public trust and misuse of office! Indeed it would be a perfect recipe for chaos in the land.
It is a good thing that the Minister of the FCT himself at a press conference acknowledged the absurdity of the judgement and added that action was being taken to do the right thing. There is need to emphasise that the diligent prosecution of the matter until its logical and appropriate conclusion is critical in reaching a peaceful resolution of the matter at hand. Any tardiness in the prosecution will send a wrong signal that the Minister’s statement at the press conference denouncing the judgement was a mere face saving measure and was totally devoid of any iota of sincerity.
The clash between Okada riders and Dei-dei International market traders in the capital territory about a week ago that left four persons dead, vehicles, shops and other property worth over a billion naira incinerated in an incident that lasted just for a few hours is indicative of how potentially volatile the city is. It is also to be noted that a day after the announcement that the new chairmen were not going to be sworn-in there was a mild protest with bonfires on various spots on the Gwagwalada-Giri road.
All hands must be on deck to ensure that democratic principles are not trampled under feet so that our actions or inactions do not precipitate unnecessary crisis which could jeopardise the peace and unity of our lovely city. It bears emphasising here that the capital city cannot afford a shutdown whether in part or as a whole. The effects of the COVID-19 has still not worn off. A stitch in time saves nine, all the time.

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