PEOPLE in the NPN will be making a most costly mistake if they imagine that they can improve upon the techniques of their forebearers of the NPC/NNDP/NNA, and then provoke a crisis and get away with it. In this connection, it must be pointed out that one of the stark realities of Nigeria’s political situation today is that the existing circumstances are not only very different from those which prevailed in the first half of the sixties, but are also very averse and inimical to the kind of political brigandage this country had the misfortune to witness during that period. One does not have to give the details of the now prevailing circumstances. Only the mentally blind and the self-deluded elements will fail to see them.
The NPN’S Trojan Offer Reexamined
As this is the first Congress after the UPN received an invitation from the NPN to send names of UPN members for appointment as Ministers, it is, I think, right and proper that I should say a few words on the issue of a National Government which, quite plainly in my view, is antithetic to the healthy practice of democracy. There is no doubt that there are advantages and disadvantages in a National Government or in the UPN joining the NPN in running the Federal Government and it is incumbent on us to have a good look at them.
The advantages are said to be as follows:
- Some of our members – we don’t know how many because we have not been told how many – will have the honour of becoming Ministers.
- By having members in the Government we will know all that goes on in the Cabinet and the inner circles of Government.
- The resultant friendship between the UPN and NPN will obviate any diabolical design on the part of the NPN against leading members of the UPN, including especially myself.
- If there were an· abortive coup in the future, the NPN would not, because of our subsisting friendship, make leaders of the UPN, again especially myself, scapegoats of such an abortive coup.
- From the resultant vantage position of Federal power which we share, we will be able to influence the Federal Government to make available to UPN-controlled States the funds necessary for executing their laudable programmes.
The disadvantages are as follows:
- Our members in the National Assembly will become completely incapacitated in their role as champions of what is right and good for the people.
- When all political parties have joined the Government, the voices of dissent will be silenced. When this happens those in Government will be prone to commit enormous errors knowing fuIIy weII that no influential or weighty voice will denounce or even call into question their criminal acts.
- It is more likely than not that those who are nominated as Ministers will within a short time, succumb to the dictates of Alhaji Shehu Shagari rather than watch the interests of the UPN-controlled States. None (“If them” would like to risk a sack to be replaced by another UPN nominee.
- If there were a successful coup, which God forbid, all of us would be victims because we would be regarded as coperpetrators in all the dark deeds that might have provoked the coup.
- Within two or three years, the image of the UPN would be badly dented, its independence and self-reliance would be greatly corroded, and its stand as a Party of the common people would be totally compromised.
- At the next elections, we would have an uphill task to distinguish ourselves from the mass-repellent character of the NPN, and to dissociate the UPN from the evil doings of the NPN.
I could elaborate on the comparative assessment of these advantages and disadvantages. But time and space will not permit.
In any case, we are not without salutary experience in this matter of National Government. In the First Republic a millennium for Nigeria, for its Regions and people, was claimed for such a Government by its ardent protagonists. But the Government turned out to be a haven for abuse and misuse of power and for unabashed corruption on the part of the Ministers; it turned out to be a veritable inhibitor of stability and progress, a hell on earth for our people and the death-blow of our first experiment in democratic rule. Quite frankly, the thing that I dread most about Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s style of government is the way and manner he fashions himself, almost in every respect, after late Balewa’s style of government in 1964.
The second inseparable characteristic of democracy is the Rule of Law. We all know what this imports. It imports freedom from arrest except on charge of recognized crime; fair trial before an impartial tribunal; freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Charter of Stability and Progress and from unwarranted interference by the powers-that-be, etc. The Rule of Law was not fully observed in the First Republic. The Judiciary was subverted, and some sections of it in the old Western Region, in Lagos, and at the Federal level danced gleefully and unashamedly to the tune of the Executive. The facts of history which I have no time to relate in this address are to the effect that some members of the Judiciary in those days contributed as much as, if not more than, any other factor in precipitating the crisis which erupted in 1962, escalated in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and plagued this country poignantly up to the end of September this year. If recent events are anything to go by the auguries for the immediate future of the Judiciary are dismal.
The third characteristic feature is ideological direction. What is required here is that every Government of the day must recognize the ultimate purpose of the State – which is the welfare of the entire people without discrimination – and, having recognized that purpose, to set about making plans for its attainment. But no plan for the welfare of the people will ever succeed unless the very first principle in the pursuit of this ultimate purpose is fully recognized.