Bull by the horn or tiger by the tail?


Today, history literarily beckons on President Muhammadu Buhari to write his name on the sands of time with two tentative options open to him, to take the bull by the horns or the tiger by the tail.
Both the bull and the tiger as it is obvious abundantly are animals with wild and beastly characteristics capable of inflicting grave physical incapacitation or even death if not properly handled. Beginning from 1960 shortly after political independence, we find a straightforward chronological succession of post-independence administrations, from Balewa down directly to Goodluck Jonathan, whose administrative triumphs or flaws had a direct bearing on how they handled these literary beasts, the bull and the tiger, who constitutes a constant antagonism to the daunting task of nation-building. These antagonistic beasts of nation-building usually come in the personified or animalized forms of corruption, cabinet constitution, socio-economic policies, sabotage and vandalism of state interests and fortunes, ethnic  and religious dichotomies, provision of basic amenities and infrastructures (electricity especially) and most importantly the cult and mafia similitude of the NNPC and its sister corporation, PPMC, both regarded as the movers and shakers of the Nigerian economy.
The literary bull and tiger are both reactionary and destructive by nature and like weeds, they grow among the blossoming crops in the political and economic plantation of every country of the world, developing and developed alike. Every government of the world is confronted with these beasts, but the approach of dealing with them is what eventually determines the fatal flaws or glorious triumphs of a particular government.
Let’s quickly peep through Balewa’s First Republic with direct bearings to some of the beastly manifestations that led to the eventual collapse of the First Republic. Under Balewa, government faced an overwhelming task of unifying a federation with over 250 linguistic and ethnic nationalities who were constantly at war with each other over one political interest or the other.
The First Republic under Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was Nigeria’s first claim to democracy and political freedom and its success would have had a tremendous influence on the democratic triumph of the future years. Sadly enough however, the First Republic did not only fail to see the light of day, its negative influences had also been shamefully carried over to successive Republics down to our days.
The factors that necessitated the fall of Balewa’s First Republic were the negative fore-shadowing of events that precluded the 1959 general elections and its aftermath. The beastly bulls and tigers of socio-political acrimony reared their ugly heads beginning with the Action Group crisis of 1959 over which of Chief Obafemi Awolowo or Chief Ladoke Akintola should take absolute control of party (AG) affairs. In the heat of the Action Group crisis of 1959, Balewa ignored the raging bull which he should have taken by the horns but decided instead to take the tiger by its tail, and generations after generation of Nigerians have suffered for Balewa’s mistakes.
The tiger was taken by the tail the moment Tafewa Balewa decided to send Chief Awolowo to prison on trump up charges bordering largely on treasonable felony. This factor and a combination of other factors actually provided the back drop that triggered off the January 15, 1966 Coup and the Nigerian-Biafran war in which no less than 3 million Nigerians lost their lives in a 30-month long fratricidal mayhem of vast dimensions.
Awolowo’s only sin then was that he preferred to serve under a national government with Dr. Azikiwe as prime minister. But contrary to Awo’s expectations, Dr. Azikiwe’s party, the NCNC, preferred to go into alliance with Balewa’s NPC instead of the Action Group (AG). Azikiwe’s decision to align with Balewa’s NPC was said to have been based on the academic superiority to members of Balewa’s NPC who then were less educated, and this Azikiwe thought will put the control of government machineries in the charge of the NCNC. In 1961, the deputy leader of the Action Group, Chief Ladoke Akintola blamed exclusions of Yoruba’s from appointments in the federal civil service due to Awolowo’s refusal to take part in the national coalition government led by Tafawa Balewa. This led to a conflict of interest and personality between Chief Awolowo and Chief Akintola and the latter took sides with the ruling NPC.
In 1962, 65 out of 117 members of Western Region House of Assembly voted to have Chief Akintola removed as the Premier of the Western Region to be replaced by Alhaji Soroye Adegbenro.

The crisis deepened as Akintola with the backing of the federal police disrupted the proceedings of the Western Region House of Assembly. The prime minister, Tafawa Balewa, rejected calls by  Alhaji Adegbenro to provide police protection for the parliamentarians because he (Adegbenro) was an Awolowo loyalist with an unconcealed ambition to replace Akintola, the prime ministers loyalist. Violence broke out again between chief Awolowos supporters and chief Akintola’s supporters and led to the declaration of a state of emergency for six months in the Western Region with respect to a motion moved by Balewa in Federal parliament in 1962.

The fall out of this crisis led to the eventual arrest of chief Awolowo and his supporters and his being jailed for treasonable felony. Meanwhile chief Ladoke Akintola was re-instated as Premier against the wishes of the vast majority of people in the region. With Awolowo in prison, the Action Group was left like a herd of sheep without a shepherd and Dr. Azikiwe’s and Balewa’s interest began to crack along divergent lines. First, Dr. Azikiwe’s NCNC, rejected the 1964 census results as being manipulated by the North to influence the allocation of seats in the federal Parliament. Toward the middle of 1964, the federal electoral commission utilized the approximate census figures to allocate seats in the federal parliament as follows: North-167 seats, East-70 seats, West-57 seats, Mid-west-14 seats and Lagos-4 seats, for the 1964 general elections.

Again Dr. Azikiwe’s NCNC boycotted the 1964 general elections the same way it had rejected the census figures of 1962 because the prime minister did not yield to his suggestion to postpone the elections. Hence, elections did not take place nation-wide as the boycott took place in all of the east and most parts of Lagos as well as Jos and Kano. In spite of this, the federal electoral commission declared Balewa the winner with an absolute majority in the federal parliament. Again Dr Azikiwe rejected the election results, describing it as being fraudulent and sought to use a court order to restrain Balewa’s re-election all to no avail.

Also, Ladoke Akintola’s election into the Western Region House of Assembly was also marred by controversies and widespread post-election violence. The ruling party had falsified the election results in favour of Chief Akintola. Following this, violent riots, widespread arson, killings and counter-killings broke out throughout the western region and Lagos to protest against the electoral malpractice.

The repeated violence continued well into the end of 1959, and a cross-section of young military officers mostly of Igbo stock cashed in on the raging socio-political instability in the country to stage the first military coup in the history of Nigeria on January 15, 1966. Thus the coup marked a significant milestone in Nigeria as it eventually triggered off a chain reaction of events that led to the Nigerian civil war and years of wasteful military intervention in Nigerian politics.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, having once been a military head of state, clearly understands how these literary bulls and tigers move against the machineries of government. So far, the president has taken good steps as majority of Nigerians have seen in his first 100 days in office, especially in the areas of stable electricity. Now, rumors are bouncing around at full throttle the pump price of petrol will be falling back to N65 per litre.

This among others, are the myriad of challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari, and I think Buhari knows better than not taking the bull by the horns instead of the tiger by the tail.

Why it is unconstitutional for Buhari to be Petroleum Minister


By Ademola Orunbon

The President of Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not, during his tenure in office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”- Section 138, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Pursuant to the above quoted Section, the President is expressly, definitively and unambiguously not allowed /disallowed from holding any other executive position throughout the duration of his presidency.

As has become customary, albeit most offensive, feature of the Presidency, Muhammadu Buhari chose to formally inform his fellow citizens of his ill-advised intention to retain the coveted Petroleum Resources Ministerial portfolio while on foreign land, precisely during his recent visit to New York, in the United States of America.

Media sources have quoted the President’s Spokesperson, Mallam Garba Sheu, as citing the desire to personally superintend the restructuring of the corruption-infested petroleum industry, as the rationale for Buhari’s controversial decision.

 The unstated precedence that may have encouraged President Buhari to do likewise, is the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, also held on to the office of Petroleum Resources Minister throughout the latter’s tenure, from 1999 to 2007, in violation of Section 138 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

 It is pertinent to raise a clear alarm not only about the imminent infraction, but indeed to shed more light on an ongoing illegality being perpetrated by the President by reserving the juicy position of Petroleum Minister for himself in contravention of Section 138 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999.

Since his assumption of office on May 29th 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has been acting and exercising the substantive authority of the Minister of Petroleum Resources; and he is likely to continue to do so till the very hour of the publication of this piece. Perhaps he may even continue to do so thereafter if he is not advised to the contrary.

Based on the foregoing, it is indisputable that Muhammadu Buhari is in violation of Section 138 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as the Nigerian believes that he is a law abiding citizen and corrupt-free leader in Nigeria.

It is possible that former President Olusegun Obasanjo and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari may have relied, or may be relying on the seemingly broad power of the office of the President, pursuant to Section 5(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 which states;

“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation shall be vested the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation”.

However, I believe it is settled in law that where certain provisions of any norm are ambiguous on a particular subject matter, the existence of any prohibitive provision effectively supersedes every other section which may suggest otherwise.

This means that the express prohibition provision as slated in Section 138 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 effectively precludes President Buhari from appointing himself Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources and, therefore, also disallows him from exercising the substantive power and authority of the referred executive office.

Accordingly, the widely reported speculation that the President is likely to nominate Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as the Minister of state, Petroleum Resources, should also be reviewed and not be allowed to take place.

Going ahead with this plan is most likely to violate certain provision of the Nigerian Petroleum Act, 1969 which clearly stated the functions of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, the Board of NNPC, the GMD of NNPC and other agencies.

 Since President Buhari has an established reputation as a dogged advocate for the rule of law, I hereby invite other more learned persons and constitutional authorities to weigh in on this very important subject matter, in order to prevent the President from perpetrating a constitutional breach which, as of today has become a reference point, is ongoing.

Nobody can convince me that in a Country of ours (Nigeria) that boasts of many leading authorities in Petroleum Resources Engineering and administration, President Muhammadu Buhari is unable to find any competent and credible person to champion the much anticipated reforms in the petroleum industry.

Like millions of Nigerians and many well-meaning persons all over Africa and the World at large, I continue to pray that may God almighty grant President Muhammmadu Buhari and his cabinet the grace and wisdom to enable them steer this nation aright.  He needs our continued fervent prayers, patience, wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

* Orunbon wrote in from Abeokuta.