By Jerome-Mario Utomi.
The nation’s political terrain is tensed up with intrigues as the gale of declaration for different political interest/positions daily resonates on our political wavelength with the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of his second term bid on Tuesday 10th April 2018 as the latest. Nigerians on their parts are not leaving anything to chance as the need for all to register and obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) is sermonized by every group with religious bodies, not an exception.
Indeed, the urgency and the imperativeness of the call are incontrovertible. But beyond, is a growing concern as telling evidence reveals that possession of the PVC or voting the ‘right’ candidates may afterwards not guarantee the Nigeria of our dreams since post-election affairs in Nigeria is customarily marred by herculean frame of challenge, as the nation has witnessed in recent the so-called ‘right people’ become the reality that the nation worried about.
An occurrence many believe is fuelled by a leadership challenge characterized by both system and method defects but ‘enjoys ‘constitutional backing. A case in point is the nation’s 1999 constitution, as amended with particular reference to the second chapter tagged; the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.
Adding context to this discourse, section(16)(2) among other provisions states as follows; “that suitable and adequate shelter, reasonable national living wage, old age care and pension, and unemployment, sick benefits, and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens’’.
But for an unexplainable reason, this well envisioned and perfectly embodied provisions were again incapacitated with a dull and uninspiring appendage called ’’non-justiceable’; a provision that prevents Nigerians from seeking legal redress against the government when denied access to these provisions even when hitherto used as a political manifesto.
Buttressing this standpoint, going by the 2019 electoral timetable as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), political office seekers will soon besiege our homes/streets brandishing these provisions/items as their electoral manifestos despite its non- justifiability status.
To a discerning mind, this political computation explains why some ‘public officers’ upon the assumption of office, view their positions not as an opportunity for the public good but as an avenue for private gain; as the system has constitutionally provided a leeway out of accountability.
To a greater extent, therefore, if it is socio-economic growth that we seek, if it is peace, stability and cultural development that we are aimed at achieving as a nation, then, something dramatic needs to be done to reverse these provisions as the current posturing of the section can neither underwrite social justice nor promote social mobility but rather, will remain a ‘ready-made’’ but empty political manifesto for aspiring public office seekers.
In keeping this provision, one point we often forget is that ‘justice and peace happen when the dignity of each person is respected and people have access to voting, education, health, housing, lands, employment, and safety’.
Sadly, the biggest flaw discovered in this chapter is that it negates the 1993 Vienna declaration on the universality, indivisibility, interdependence, and interconnectedness of all human rights, recognized by the United Nations in the following timeless words ‘that human rights today includes civil and political rights and the broader range of social, economic and cultural rights, together with the rights to developments’
Like in other countries, what Nigerians are saying, looking at commentaries is that for the 2019 elections to bear the expected result there should be constitutional provisions that will encourage/enable the citizens seek legal redress against any political office holder/representative that exhibits the inability to fulfill these promises. And possibly have him/her legally removed without waiting; as the constitutionally stipulated four-year tenure is considered too long a time to allow a ‘leader’ that has established some level of incompetence.
What has however remained curious is the political wisdom behind this portion of our constitution as a peep into that of the United States of America shows a nation that reveres with religiosity what ours referred to as non-justiceable.
More damaging is the fact that this exists in our shores despite our being a signatory to the covenant on Economic, Social, And Cultural Rights (ECOSOC) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
Consequentially, this constitutional provision has so far brought out the worst rather than the best from our leaders, promoted inactions, made nonsense of the view of democracy as a social contract and perpetually placed our fundamental human rights on ‘life support’
Illustrating the above if a political office seeker should approach the people for their votes, the masses should have a commitment from the candidates in exchange for their vote. If access to quality education is that commitment, how do I seek redress if he defaults since it is not justiciable?
Also, allowing this weak structure to exist is a pleasurable welcome to non-performance of our leaders. But upgrading it to enjoy the same status with chapter four will mean an invitation to political, socio-economic development as our leaders will come to the realization that leadership is not about payment of civil servants salaries but people purposed development. It will also at a more significant level discourage corruption in our space as an idle fund that litters the government treasury will be committed to projects.
Viewed differently, under this condition as provided by the constitution, if a citizen is deprived of access to quality education, where/ how will the citizen gain the knowledge to recognize and eventually claim the promised fundamental human rights as enshrined in chapter four? Again, in sickness, and such citizen is deprived of access to quality healthcare, of what use will his fundamental right to freedom of association be?
For Nigerians to win this election, therefore, it is imperative that we first recognize that our problem as a people is not electing our representatives/leaders but majorly weak institutions operating in a weak system and take steps to have them addressed.
Jerome-Mario, Springnewsonline, writes via; firstname.lastname@example.org