Now That All Arms Are in APC’s Bag

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COUNTERPOINT

By Femi Akintunde Johnson

By the time the National Judicial Council, NJC, endorses the request of President Muhammadu Buhari for five more Supreme Court justices to be added to the zenith of Nigerian judicial system, the ruling All Progressives’ Congress, APC, would have virtually framed the three arms of government in its own ‘image and likeness’.  It will now be pretty difficult to convince anyone, except rabid partisans, why the new administration would fail in delivering on its promises and projections.

The Senate is in the grip of the ruling party, and so also the House of Representatives. Nigerians, apparently, won’t condone the millipede pace of the last administration in taking decisive actions and effecting prompt changes, reviews and reshuffling where and when necessary.

The alluring sing-song of blaming the “past corrupt administration” ought to have worn thin – any recourse to blaming a past that is getting blurred by each wasted day will be awkward and self-indicting.

Let the APC legislature throw up anticipatory and effective legislations to chaperone all the executive gyrations that we have been promised – and the reformed judiciary should soon be able to weave intricate judicious stratagems and procedures that will animate and deepen the ejaculations of a vigorous Executive.

 We have a short time to wait and see, can we start working, really?

Searching For President’s List, Again?

We hear the President’s list of ministers will be ready on or before the July 2, 2019 resumption of the new National Assembly. If it is true, that is a clear one month and half a week after the swearing-in. We thank God for little mercies; at least, that should be a quantum leap forward from the last term when we mopped around for six months before a staggeringly underwhelming list was unearthed!

We don’t think it’s asking too much for the president to release the names of his aides (the so-called kitchen cabinet) 24 hours after his second inauguration. After all, he is not the only one working out of Aso Rock since May 30; and we were led to believe that his cabinet was dissolved on May 28! Or that did not include his aides?

Even so, it is not asking too much if we expect that a list of names and portfolios should officially be in public domain a week after the inauguration for robust debates and discourse on the merits and otherwise of such picks. Or is it not true that the President’s re-election had been confirmed as far back as February 26!?

It is clear now that no “body language” will camouflage any indecisiveness or beating around the bush – we need our President to do some things in a new way, revamping the change ‘mantra’, and plugging into the latest, “Next Level”. We cannot sit before our ladder to the next level, taking ages to contemplate the best way to get up the ladder – Sir, just get up, and go!

Sanwo-Olu’s Big Wild Foot Forward

Well, the honeymoon is over, as the romance between Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Lagosians suffered its first irritation with the rearmament of the hitherto restrained Lagos State Transport Management Agency, LASTMA. The agency was recently given a shot in the arm by Sanwo-Olu, and what followed was a regime of draconian penalties for all sorts of traffic offences – from the sheer irresponsible to the mundane. The highlight of the regulation (apart from its poor language construction which led some to believe it was one big hoax) was the alarming severity of the fines and possible jail sentences attached to sundry violations.

To many of Sanwo-Olu fans, it was like a kick in the gut by a man who ran a people-centred campaign, and endeared himself to voters as a “redeemer” of sort, sent to relieve the “emasculation” of the past. Now, this!

It’s repugnant to logic for any driver to take an obvious “one-way lane”, and thus should face the full weight of the law, notwithstanding the state of our roads. In fact, such a driver should be subjected to psychiatric evaluation which cost must be borne by the offender, apart from reasonable fines. Jailing anyone for traffic offence (which doesn’t involve harm or loss of human life) is obnoxious and grossly outdated.

 Another headache, and cash-cow to disreputable elements among the enforcement officers, are those so-called “hidden” and unmarked “one-way” entrapments known only to residents and “task-forcers”. Surely, for visitors, driving on Lagos roads must be like a “terrorist destination” instead of the much vaunted “tourist attraction”. To serve three years in prison for admittedly a dangerous traffic offence (like one-way driving, eating and driving with one hand) is preposterous.

 Of course, without second-tier monitoring or regulatory technology, it’s a free reign of impunity, extortion and general marginalisation of Lagosians by “the boys”, who along with refuse entrepreneurs, were the most vocal in accusing former governor, Akinwunmi Ambode of deliberate marginalisation. Is this a reversal of fortune, a carte blanche for “the boys” to bounce back?

These fines are so ridiculous that it would have been funny if not that no government agency or official has offered to debunk them. For instance, the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC which introduced the compulsory seat-belt regulation charges N2,000 as fine for its violation (and has probably recorded over 80% observance). For the same violation, Sanwo-Olu’s LASTMA demands N30,000 “per offensive belt” – as my friendly lawyer offered, “that’s the new minimum monthly wage” that some states are still crying and whinnying over their inability to pay!

 As antecedents have shown, when you deploy unreasonably heavy fines for simple offences, the enforcers are the main beneficiaries – givers and takers of bribes will find accommodation in skillful negotiation…to the detriment of same road users and government.

 A word of advice for Governor Sanwo-Olu and his LASTMA, the brutal reality of firing squads have never deterred armed robbery or violent kidnapping. It is better to crank up efforts at promoting awareness and dialogue on responsible motoring for easy offenders (mostly commercial bus and taxi drivers). Mindlessly applying these fines and prosecuting imagined or real offenders will invariably lead to more sufferings for Lagos commuters… then gradually, a huge community of whiners may erupt, causing government to reverse itself. For government is set up for the good of the people, not to intimidate and decimate them. However, a pillar of suspicion and disenchantment would have been erected, which will continually poke at government-people relationship… the consequence of which no one can predict.

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