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QuickRead: Osinbajo’s face-saving apology, Buhari’s ‘romance’ with Onochie; three other stories we tracked. Why they matter

Last week was eventful with #EndSARS protesters still occupying the streets across many states of the federation in protest against police brutality and extra-judicial killings.

Osinbajo’s face-saving apology following the protests and President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of his aide, Lauretta Onochie, a supposed card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner were among the other five political developments that caught our attention.

Here’s how we feel the developments will impact nation-building.

Osinbajo’s apologies

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday, October 16, apologised to Nigerians over the apparent failure of the Nigerian Government to quickly address issues fueling ongoing protests in different parts of the federation against police brutality and extra-judicial killings.

In the apology posted on his Twitter handle, @ProfOsinbajo, the vice president wrote: “Dear Nigerians, I know that many of you are angry, and understandably so. We could’ve moved faster and for this we are sorry. I fully understand how many young people feel. Many feel that we have been too silent and have simply not done enough. These feelings of frustration are justified.

“There are far too many people who have been brutalized at the hands of the police and this is unacceptable. We must take responsibility for protecting young people, even sometimes from those who are paid to protect them.”

Why it matters

Osinbajo’s apology, perhaps, reflects the mood in the presidency. It speaks to a more sober approach to contain the growing nation-wide protests which many fear could snowball into a bigger movement demanding good governance, and not just an end to police brutality.

However, this seeming resolve to handle the protesters with kid gloves must be taken cautiously. The hard-nuts within the presidency, especially its military wing, want a fight and it may not be long before Nigerians witness a violent approach to breaking the spirit of the protesters.

While it is within the rights of the presidency to apologise, it is important that the state recognizes that what is driving the unrests is trust deficit. It would require a good dose of confidence building to get the aggrieved youths off the streets, and the trick may lie in the unveiling of concrete steps and timelines for a comprehensive reformation of the Nigeria police.

Buhari’s romance with Onochie
onochie lauretta

President Muhammadu Buhari was on Tuesday, October 13, accused of taking an illegal action after he sent the name of his Special Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, to the National Assembly for confirmation as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Why it matters

Many would agree that President Buhari’s move smacks of insensitivity and absolute disregard for popular opinion which earnestly yearns for the strengthening of public institutions.

His sudden romance and plans for Onochie looks to put a dent to the rebuilding efforts at INEC which recently has received positive reviews for its activities, especially in Edo and Ondo States.

The President’s move leaves many critics wondering if he has a different understanding of Paragraph 14 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution as amended by Section 30, Act No 1 of 2010, which states that a member of the INEC “shall be non-partisan”.

If he does not, he will do well to listen to the outcries that have greeted Onochie’s unpopular nomination and save his image and that of INEC the expected backlash that portrays his administration as taking one step forward and two steps backwards.

Panel-beating Nigeria’s constitution

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Thursday, October 13, described Nigeria as suffering from ‘systemic weaknesses’, adding that the problem was the reason the country had been struggling to survive in the last few years.

Gbajabiamila, who spoke during the inauguration of the House of Reps ad hoc committee on review of the constitution said, “When you ask me what the state of our nation is, the honest answer is that we are in a fight for the very survival of our country and the continuation of the Nigerian project.

“Recent global developments have exposed all our systemic weaknesses so that we can no longer pretend to ourselves that things are on an even keel and slow progress is enough to get us to where we ought to be yet are still so far away from.”

Why it matters

The speaker merely emphasised what is so glaring and for which many people have continued to call for government’s quick intervention.

What, however, is of concern here is whether the solution to these ‘systemic weaknesses’ truly lies in panel-beating the Nigerian constitution.

This is especially so as many sections and groups in the country believe that the cure to the country’s foundational challenges can be found in a national dialogue that will harp on a total restructuring of the country.

It is to be said that cosmetic changes do not last, and this may be the path that the federal lawmakers are embarking upon. If the mood is properly read, then this round of constitution amendments might well be an exercise in futility.

Deepening fault lines

Governors of the 19 northern states in Nigeria on Thursday, October 15, kicked against the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), not minding the sustained protests across the country over clear excesses of the police unit.

The chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, who expressed the position of the group while speaking with State House correspondents in Abuja, had said that SARS was useful in the fight against insecurity in the northern region.

“SARS is not made up of bad elements alone as it also includes personnel who are doing their work diligently,” Lalong said, adding that “what was needed is the reformation of the unit to enable it to discharge its functions “optimally”.

Why it matters

The reaction of the northern governors and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is a pointer to how dangerously the country’s fault lines continue to widen.

Read also: QuickRead: Battle of three lawyers in Ondo, Budget 2021; three other stories we tracked and why they matter

The position of the 19 northern governors on the vexed issue of SARS gives the matter an ethic or regional colouration.

While opinions can be freely held or traded, facts remain sacred. There is no begrudging the ‘northern’ position, therefore.

However, their stance draws immediate attention to the urgent need for an honest conversation on the future of the country. This derives mainly from the several discordant tunes over resource control, internal security arrangements, revenue mobilization and allocation, among others.

It should be more than evident by now that the claim to one Nigeria is founded on a shaky pedestal.

Akeredolu’s return

The incumbent Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, last Sunday emerged the winner of the governorship election in the State.

Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) polled a total of 292,830 votes to defeat Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second with 195,791 votes. The incumbent deputy governor of the state and candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Agboola Ajayi, polled 69,127 votes to come third.

Why it matters

The Ondo gubernatorial election has been adjudged by local and international observers as free, fair and credible.

Though it was not without some electoral irregularities, the outcome strengthens confidence in the choice of democracy as a credible and reliable system for leadership recruitment.

Coming shortly after the successes recorded in Edo, the performance of INEC is also an indication that the electoral umpire can deliver on expectations if it enjoys true independence and refuses to be manipulated by politicians.

For Akeredolu, it’s time to offer responsive and responsible leadership. The momentum gained through the #EndSARS protests should send clear signals that Nigerians, especially the youths, would do everything legal to hold their leaders accountable. The governor has another rare chance to write his name in good.

For the ruling party, victory in Ondo, perhaps, helps to strengthen their tenuous hold on the South-West and offers a flicker of hope ahead of 2023 political permutations.

By Ebere Ndukwu…

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