National Assembly Immunity Delusion Syndrome

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On Monday this week, VANGUARD newspaper carried a report that the National Assembly will soon commence a constitution amendment process, towards ensuring immunity for heads of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The hint came from Leo Ogor, Minority Leader, House of Representatives, in an exclusive chat with VANGUARD. Ogor argued that: “if the head of the executive arm, the President and his vice should enjoy immunity, the heads of the other two arms of government, the legislature and the judiciary, should also benefit from the immunity”.

For Leo Ogor, such free-for-all distribution of immunity (like confetti!): “would reduce distractions and crisis in the National Assembly”. And the confetti of free-for-all “immunity” is being designed for Senate President and Deputy; Speaker, House of Representatives and Deputy, and even without solicitation but clearly a bribe and blackmail, the National Assembly hopes to also “dash” the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), their free-for-all “immunity”.

Well, Leo Ogor and those pushing the idea should know clearly, that they are embarking on an exercise in futility, because it will NEVER fly! Nigerians are no fools. The background to this deluded plan is Bukola Saraki’s indictment flowing from his controversial assets declaration and trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). So with Leo Ogor’s plan, Bukola Saraki, with “immunity”, would not have his day in court; and that desperate search for “perpetual injunction” has been the central judicial ambition of politicians who corruptly enriched themselves at the expense of the Nigerian people. The National Assembly has become the redoubt of many of these controversial individuals and this is the basis of the harebrained plan for “immunity”. This is also the context to understand the irresponsible and self serving motion that the House of Representatives passed mandating the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to seek a “political solution” with President Muhammadu Buhari, over the criminal indictment which Bukola Saraki faces at the CCT. They have so audaciously placed the personal interest of one of them above the laws of the land and could not even ask, what “political solution” they seek, portends for Nigeria’s criminal justice system. A powerful legislator should be removed from the course of justice, on the basis of a “political solution”. That’s how irresponsible these characters are!

Members of the National Assembly have wasted so much time since they controversially became inducted on June 9, 2015. They have not done anything meaningfully in the interest of the Nigerian people and yet have continued to draw humungous salaries and allowances. These legislators are far more interested in their own personal and collective survival than any fidelity to the oath they are sworn to, to protect the best interests of the Nigerian people. Objectively, I think as things stand and especially with such irresponsible plans as mooted by Leo Ogor, this 8th National Assembly is trying to constitute itself as a veritable danger to Nigeria’s democratic development. Nigerians must tell this band of legislators that they suffer an immunity delusion syndrome. But they will have to deal with their delusion through very appropriate dosages of realism and responsibility because the plan to amend the Nigerian Constitution so that Bukola Saraki gets “immunity” to evade justice for example, will NEVER pass. I am sure even the judiciary will be quite embarrassed to be included in the deluded quest for the freebie of free-for-all “immunity”. Whoever offends the law should face the consequences of his actions: no immunity or “political solution” will ever be allowed to hamstring the process of justice! Leo Ogor and his colleagues should face what they were elected for: SERVICE!
PROFESSOR ABDULRASHID GARBA: TURNING A NEW LEAF AT NECO
In 2012, workers of the National Examinations Council (NECO), in Minna, Niger state, were locked in a major battle with the Professor Promise Okpala led management of the organization. The issue was about the unionization of the workers, which Professor Okpala interpreted as a personal affront. He tried to destroy the unionization drive by dispersing the workers in different directions through punitive transfers. The embittered workers took their case to the National Industrial Court and they won against the arbitrary anti-worker posture of NECO boss, Professor Okpala. But he chose to obey the court’s decision selectively and the crisis generated by his high-handedness lingered through his reign at the national examination body. I followed the workers’ struggle because one of their leaders, Ibrahim Ali, has been my friend for about twenty-five years, dating back to our days at the Bayero University in Kano.

This background has become particularly relevant because of the changes that have begun to take place at the National Examinations Council (NECO), with the appointment just over 100 days ago, of Professor AbdulRashid Garba as the new Registrar/Chief Executive of the organization. One of the first issues that he unknotted was the unionization problem which had hung on NECO’s neck like an albatross, by initiating a process of strengthening union activities as a step towards consolidating the rights, welfare and the general condition of service of members of NECO staff. Another innovation introduced by the new chief executive is the committee system to investigate and present reports on the best ways to revitalize service delivery and organizational behavior. Pursuit to that, Professor AbdulRashid Garba said he believes in ‘participatory engagement’ and integrity as core leadership traits. Professor Garba comes with a very solid pedigree as an educationist and scholar who found his scholarly métier in educational guidance and counseling, and is in fact a Fellow of the Counseling Association of Nigeria (CASSON). He had posted over a quarter of a century of experience as a teacher and researcher at the Bayero University in Kano, while he has taught, researched and collaborated with professional colleagues around the world and has similarly published in scholarly journals around the world. He brings to his new assignment as Registrar/Chief Executive of NECO, the exacting standards of my alma mater, the Bayero University, Kano. And those standards have begun to manifest; for instance, the previous leadership of the organization unfortunately, instituted a deliberate policy of dividing and playing members of staff against each other, on the basis of ethnicity and at a point, NECO was divided between members of one ethnic group against all other Nigerians. That is a wound now being healed as well as entitlements of the workers that were previously neglected, but have also been fully paid. But in my view, these efforts to heal the festering sores within the organization are merely the first necessary steps to improve organizational responsibility as well as service delivery.

When staff are incentivized and properly mobilized, they will most likely buy into the vision of the new leadership of the organization. Professor AbdulRashid Garba has his vision of how to re-position a national examination organization as important as NECO. And that importance will be consolidated in the years to come as more and more Nigerian youth become mobilized for examinations that will be launch pads for tertiary education and a life of work to build our country. When institutions get the leadership that can inspire confidence and unfold new visions then newer vistas of development will surely open. NECO deserves a shiny place in the sun of Nigeria’s educational development and that is the central plank of the vision which drives Professor AbdulRashid Garba’s leadership. That will gradually unfold in the years ahead and they will redound to benefit of NECO and all its publics.

THE PAINS OF NIGERIAN TEACHERS AND THE ABSURDITIES OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS
On Monday this week, Nigerian teachers joined their counterparts around the world to celebrate World Teachers’ Day. The National President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Michael Olukoya underlined the serious security threat that faces Nigerian teachers today, against the backdrop of the Boko Haram insurgency. Today, 19, 000 teachers are recorded amongst the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northeast part of our country; while over 600 teachers have lost their lives to terror attacks. They included 308 teachers in Borno; 75 in Adamawa; 18 in Yobe; 25 in Kaduna; 120 in Plateau; 63 in Kano and 2 in Gombe state. Central to the belief system of  Boko Haram, is that ‘Western’ education is a ‘sin’, and they have therefore targeted teachers; pupils and educational infrastructure in the Northeast of Nigeria. The people of these states have suffered untold hardships and that is made particularly vicious by the fact that these are already disadvantaged people and states in the first place, and so the little that they possess has been systematically targeted for destruction by the insurgency. It is imperative not only to defeat Boko Haram, but to also begin a process of rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure, particularly educational infrastructure, in that part of Nigeria. And the best way to defeat the fanatical and backwards ideology is to ensure that education is given a pride of place for girls and boys so they can help to build their states, region and our country in general, in an atmosphere of peace and democratic consolidation. In that process, adequately remunerated and motivated teachers will play a central role.

As we talk about our teachers and their plight, a tragedy of monumental proportions is unfolding amongst Nigerian students at the tertiary level of education. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has made a transition from conscience of Nigerian society to an association of student touts and thugs. I say that with pain in my heart, because as President of the University of Lagos’ Marxist League in 1980/81, it was my generation of student activists that drew up the NANS NIGERIAN STUDENTS CHARTER OF DEMANDS. It was a very militant, democratic and anti-dictatorship platform, which represented the yearnings of Nigerian students for a patriotic education that served Nigeria’s development and was in tandem with the demands of the Nigerian working people and the patriotic democratic movement in Nigeria. Nigerian students had a proud tradition of standing for the best interests of the Nigerian people. But today the story is different. Our student movement has become an organization of thugs and touts available for the highest bidder, usually the most despicable and corrupt politicians in the land. NANS now issues very dubious awards as it did this week to the controversial politician Buruji Kasahamu. And a few weeks ago, it was also hired to demonstrate in support of Bukola Saraki! Certainly, that is not the same NANS that we painstakingly built as a platform of ideals and patriotism. If we wait long enough, everything changes. In NANS case, the change is for the worst and its mercenary condition just shows that Nigeria’s future is in considerable jeopardy with the type of characters posturing in today’s NANS leadership! Pity.
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