20 January 2012

Nigeria: Soldiers Go, Soldier Come

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, short of going to court, has done all he can by condemning the flooding of Lagos streets with soldiers. The disruptive effects of soldiers, in presumably peacetime, appearing with combat gears and performing police duties denote panic or excessive force.

The President obviously under-estimated the rage in Nigerians in his management of the increase in fuel price. His advisers who were out of touch with the Nigerian thought this was a usual protest - it was not.

So many Nigerians had issues they wanted resolved. The fuel price ignited their protests. We had one protest, but many agenda.

The acceptance of a nationwide, though levels of compliance varied, showed the ire of Nigerians. Both the strike and canvasses it provided for etched landscapes of suffering in the land, were avoidable. Unfortunately, we make too much of our supposed democracy that we constantly ignore constitutional encumbrances that defer democratic governance.

The President drew his powers to paint his own landscape with soldiers from the Constitution. Governor Fashola was angry that deploying soldiers to Lagos, without informing him, slighted his over-stated role as chief security officer of Lagos State. The Constitution did not say the President should tell the governor, but a combination of courtesy and the circumstances of the times demanded that he should.

When Governors and the President stood on one side against the people, they thought they were a block devoid of ideological and party fetters. For Governor Fashola, the shock was more from what he could call conspiracy. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, a political philosopher, once described politics as "concentric circle of conspiracy".

He explained it by alluding to the fact that all unwanted quantities are excluded as the concentricity of the conspiracy convulses.

Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed and his likes are pushing the hard line. In justifying calling out soldiers, he said, "It is the responsibility of this government and we should not waver or get deterred in confronting this senseless act of few misguided elements of this country. We call on all Nigerians to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses while the government is determined to get to the bottom of the causes of this act of violence and remove them from the face of this country."

Nigeria may ignore the insult about millions of them being called "few misguided elements of this country," but they will not cease asking governments to account for their dealings with the people.

As Nigerians say, "soldier come, soldier go, the barrack remains." Are soldiers the solution to the agitations of the people? We do not think so. When they leave, the problem remains.

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