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Thursday, December 1, 2022

On call for interim government in 2023

Aribigbola  Afolabi

One issue of significance generating debate and attention in recent times in Nigeria is the call by Aare Afe Babalola on President Muhammed Buhari to set up an interim government in 2023. The Elder Statesman hinged his proposal on the challenges of insecurity, economic, political and great sufferings to which Nigerians are exposed in the country. To him the interim government will be in place for six months to prepare a new constitution for the country. In other words the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) based his recommendations on the multifarious and seemingly high level of degeneration in all aspects. He suggested the constitution of an interim government for the purpose of finding realistic solutions to the Nation’s problems.

As usual, it has become an issue of heated debate and discussion. Whilst some agreed with him, others opined that it is superfluous and excessive since the constitution of the country does not provide for interim government and that who will carry out the tasks? To my chagrin and many others, many just focus on the desirability or otherwise of this plausible suggestion. Plausible in the sense that it is an attempt to find solution to a seemingly intractable problem which many are quick to add that they result from a faulty and skewed constitution. Of course, this is not the main focus of this write up. When an elder, especially one that is not given to frivolities speaks, such must not be waved aside and should be seriously considered. Therefore, this week’s write up focuses on the call for interim government for Nigeria in 2023.

An interim government also known as an emergency government or provisional government or transition government as the name presupposes is an emergency government authority set up to manage a political transition generally in the cases of new nations or the collapse of the previous governing administration. It should be emphasized that interim governments are instituted to manage public interest of a country for a short period of time. Also, they are usually put in place until a permanent government is emplaced. It should be added that where an interim government is in place, it has the power to make laws, administer those laws and adjudicate disputes concerning the laws made.

Perhaps, the perceived collapse of government in Nigeria that has manifested in crises of great magnitude motivated Babalola to call for an interim government that will be able to decisively address the hydra headed and seemingly intractable problems confronting the country. Afterall, if there are no crisis of great magnitude, people will not be killed in Nigeria. Some have argued that the killings in Nigeria are far higher than in Ukraine where there is full blown war. The crisis in the country requires a more pragmatic approach and action and I think this is what motivated Aare Babalola to call for interim government for the country. An interim government will be able to take dramatic and quick actions to save the country from impending disintegration. All these are geared to preventing Nigeria from becoming a failed state as already predicted.

Unfortunately, this well thought out and intentioned recommendation seems not to have been well received and considered as it should be. Thus, it has been subjected to some strands of harsh criticisms. The Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, contended that the Nigerian constitution does not permit interim government. Others viewed it as a call to anarchy and that no one should undertake the assignment. It therefore appears not to be receiving the desired consideration. This is a repeat of inaction that welcomed the letter of Chief ObafemiAwolowo sometimes in 1981 sensing the danger in the economy of the country. I could recollect that prior to the demise of the Second Republic in Nigeria in 1983, Chief ObafemiAwolowo in a widely circulated letter to President Shehu Shagari, wrote “My Dear Shehu, … the ship of our nation is sailing fast across a huge rock, and unless you as a leader courageously and swiftly take action to stop and redirect it to a safe shore, the result will be catastrophic”. Instead of considering the import of the letter, the author was taken to the cleaners. If the government of Alhaji Shagari had heeded to that noble and well thought out advice, perhaps, the second republic might not have been truncated. Therefore, the motive of the proposal should be considered and actions taken. This may not necessarily imply setting up interim government but undertake the needful to correct the ills bedeviling Nigeria.

Fundamentally, why the call for the constitution of an interim government for Nigeria? What will be the consequences of such an endeavour and what do we need most to do as people to get things right and be on course like other prosperous nations of Europe and America? Suffice it to say that there are germane issues and problems that motivated the elder statesman to make the indispensable recommendation in the face of rising crises and seeming inability of government to solve the problems.

Indeed, all are familiar with the reasons for suggesting an interim government for the country. The first and most potent reason is the defective constitution which the military bestowed on the country. It has been argued that the constitution is defective and skewed in favour of a section of the country and that it concentrated too much resources at the centre. This has instigated and enhanced corruption at the centre as a consequence of excess resources, whereas, the states that should have more resources that can be deployed to improve the lives of the masses are deprived.

Of course, it is evident that the country is not functioning properly as a federation.  Leadership failure has been the bane of socio-economic development of Nigeria and people of the country. Of more importance is that the call for interim government is a call to right the wrongs that dominate the social and political landscape of Nigeria. The truth is that several things are wrong in the country and the present arrangement and government seemed unable to address these problems. This present call for interim government is analogous to the call by Minister of Defence to Nigerians to defend themselves. Government exists all over the world to protect the citizens. Regrettably in Nigeria, people are killed every time in all parts of the country and yet we have a government. Therefore, any proposal to ameliorate and correct the anomalies associated with governance and crisis in Nigeria should be welcomed and well considered.

Indeed, there are cogent and incontrovertible reasons to consider and reorder governance in the country. However, an interim government as suggested though may be desirable, but it is not the answer because it will be difficult to implement at the moment because it will not enjoy the support of all interests in the Nigerian project. The leeway out to my mind is to receive and consider with all seriousness the motivation for the call. Some have argued that the National Assembly is in a position to amend the offensive aspects of the country’s constitution. That after all, there are no perfect constitutions anywhere in the world.

To correct the imbalances in the Nigerian system, instituting a national constitutional conference will be a better option to an interim government and it is recommended. Some may argue that one took place in 2014. Yes, the problem was that many of the people of the country did not buy into it and it was not legislated up by the National Assembly. Thus, many leaders worked against its success. This is where the place of sincerity, honesty and commitment comes to play. Therefore, various leaders in Nigeria need to shed their toga of arrogance and come to the reality of creating a better Nigeria by agreeing to discuss the future of the country and come with legislation to resolve all the contending issues. A situation where insincerity, selfishness and primordial sentiments determine or control germane issues of national development cannot guarantee peace, progress to move the country forward.

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