Is The Federal Government A Divided House?

This discourse starts with the categorical aphorism that a divided house, where the forces are pulling in all directions to bring it down and where there is no agreement and unanimity of purpose between its different stakeholders, cannot stand. It cannot progress nor reach the desired heights where its potential is expected to take it. In the journey of life, partners in progress are expected to have a common agreement on their goals and methods and strategies for reaching the goals. This common agreement brings rhythm and rhyme into the work and all hands are usually on deck, not one against the other, but an effort and push in the same direction.

Applying this common sense and using same to assess the administration at the federal level and indeed the Nigerian federation shows that we are still at the rudimentary stage of our forward movement.  First, it was the face-off between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Department of State Services leading to a negative report when the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, went for the Senate screening for his confirmation. It did not just happen once but twice. Yet, the leadership of both agencies report to the same principal, being the President and Commander in Chief. Instead of the Nigerian media which has the obligation of setting agenda and holding government accountable to the people to point out the mischief in two agencies of the executive unduly fighting themselves, it had resort to a convenient whipping boy in the Senate. That issue still lingers and stands unresolved considering that Magu is still in an acting capacity for over a year. It has bred bad blood between the executive and the legislature. However, the EFCC and the DSS are supposed to collaborate and share information on the anti-corruption drive.

Today, we have a more troubling scenario where the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is demanding a report and high profile corruption case files from the EFCC and the agency refuses to obey his instructions and meet his demand. We have a face-off that has become the toast of major media houses commanding headlines and various opinion pieces. Malami is quoted as having described the EFCC’s role as ignoble and that it led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Unit. A Special Assistant to the minister states that the EFCC frustrated the efforts to make the Financial Intelligent Unit independent of the EFCC.

Pray, with the wide ranging powers of the Attorney General under the constitution, including the power to discontinue proceedings, how would the anti-corruption war make progress if push comes to shove? The fact that the Attorney General and the chairman of the EFCC report to one principal and this matter is allowed to fester and get out of hand and now become a media feast should be extremely embarrassing to the higher authorities. But mum is the word from the authorities with no one to caution the belligerents.

We can recall that late last year, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, had a running battle with and was highly critical of the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor were supposed to be members of the Economic Management Team and one then wondered what they discussed at the committee meetings (if they held one) that would lead to a public altercation. In those days, no one actually called them out leading the CBN to call for a retreat between the managers of monetary, fiscal and trade policy to achieve a level of harmonisation needed to jumpstart the economy from recession. As of then, the question was who was in charge and could call everyone to stay in line and work in harmony.

We can also recall the unnecessary feud between the executive and legislature leading to delays in the pace of governmental reforms, the demonisation of the legislature because of its leadership, the cases against the leadership of the legislature, etc. What mileage did the administration get from those posturing?  Nothing positive; rather the leadership was more divided and could not get together to achieve results for which they were elected. Again, the executive sparred with the judiciary, arrested some judges and subjected the unproved allegations against them to heavy media coverage. Nigerians went to town with all manner of spurious allegations against the judiciary. Yes, trials may be ongoing, but the few that have been concluded did not secure a conviction. However, if the administration had been tactical, it could have achieved its purpose if it had strong evidence against the judges without the undue media trial. Working at the highest level between the leadership of the executive and the judiciary could have achieved the purpose. This would have removed undue bad feelings that the executive wanted to humiliate the judiciary. At the end of the day, the executive through the prosecutorial agencies will still go back to the same judiciary to arraign and prosecute the judges at a time when members of the judiciary will be feeling unduly targeted, harassed and humiliated.

Common sense teaches us about the need for cooperation and collaboration to achieve results. The legislature makes laws which will be implemented by the executive and disputes including matters of the anti-corruption struggle are sent to the judiciary for resolution. A tactical approach to governance would involve a process where the President’s agenda is sold to the other two arms that improve on it and cross-fertilise ideas for it to succeed. But a situation where the Attorney General and the investigative and prosecutorial agencies are at logger heads whilst the judiciary feels maltreated, the foundation for the failure of any anti-corruption campaign will be laid.

All the foregoing is happening because of the absence of a rule-based approach to governance founded on constitutional crucibles of the rule of law. At the time the Senate refused to confirm Magu, the popular view was that corruption was fighting back and the senators were damn corrupt. Yes, the executive collectively sold that impression to gullible Nigerians. Now, between the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC, what is happening? Is corruption still fighting back? Between them, who is corrupt and who is clean?

It is clear that to avoid this kind of messy situation in the future, we must return to rules, constitutionalism and principles. The rule of whims and caprices and sentiments, no matter how popular they may be has led us to this unfortunate junction. This administration needs to follow the letters and spirit of the law and where it thinks they do not serve the public good, it should go for their amendment or repeal or seek proper judicial guidance through a suit at the highest court in the land. The rule of law is the way and part to progress.

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