By Yinka Odumakin
MY friend the “Premier of Sambisa Forest”(a joke we have poked at each other from the 2014 National Conference”)Professor Abubakar Sodeeq ,was one of the panelists at the Prof. Gambari-led Savannah Centre national discourse last Friday in Abuja while former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar spoke on the subject of restructuring .
The Professor while trying to puncture Atiku’s preference for the six geo-political zones as federating units said that it was the size of the regions in the First Republic that led to its collapse.
I had to come up to argue that the collapse of the First Republic had nothing to do with the size of the federating units but all about the absence of justice, the prevalence of iniquity, the reign of impunity and the desire for conquest and domination. And that the same issues are threatening the country today even with kwashiorkor federating units.
As this debate was going on the news was trending that the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf has rejected the suspension order slammed on him by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, a decision approved by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
Usman who came on board as NHIS boss last year, was given a marching order by Adewole, to proceed on suspension for three months following mounting petitions against him on alleged fraudulent practices and nepotism by concerned groups. The letter suspending Yusuf, who hails from the same state as President Muhammadu Buhari, was given to him on July 6, 2017, directing him to go on three months suspension to pave way for an independent probe of the mountains of petitions against him.
In the three paragraph letter entitled “Suspension from Office” and addressed to Prof. Yusuf , Adewole said, “I refer to the series of petitions against you which were forwarded for your comments. I am to draw your attention to your response which has been considered unsatisfactory. I have therefore, directed the setting up of an investigative committee on the various allegations against you.
“Consequently, you are directed to proceed on three months suspension with immediate effect to pave way for an uninterrupted investigation, in accordance with Public Service Rule”, the letter said.
However, in a daring tone never witnessed in the last 18 years of civil rule Prof. Usman fired back at the Health Minister on July 12, telling him that he could not proceed on the suspension as the minister lacks the power to sanction him. He told Adewole that it was only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who appointed him, who could remove him from office, which has tenure of five years in the first instance and another five, if renewed.
The embattled NHIS boss advanced five reasons why Adewole could not suspend him and why he would not leave his office to anyone else. He said, “By virtue of the NHIS Act particularly section 4 and 8 thereof, my appointment and removal from office whether by way of suspension or otherwise is at the instance of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Rebellion in the house
The rebellion(tawaye in Hausa) by Yusuf has serious implications for the polity in the days ahead given the tenuous balance in the country and the specter of uncertainty given the unease in the power room since the Lion King left the “zoo” and the “cub” has been coordinating. We have not forgotten how an Assistant to the President openly stated that the Acting President would not sign the budget a day after Prof. Osinbajo said he was ready to sign the 2017 budget. It took weeks of back and forth and a statement by Garba Shehu that the President had given his nod before the Acting President could sign the Appropriation bill into law.
The next major one was Attorney General Abubakar Malami and Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu disowning the Acting President in one day following the Senate’s decision to shut the door of confirmation with a threat of impeachment if Magu was not removed as EFCC chairman following his rejection twice by the Upper legislative chambers.
I am one of the citizens who argue that Prof. Osinbajo was in the wrong to have used the office of the Vice-President to amplify a legal rigmarole by a private Lawyer for purposes that are more self-serving than public good,it is however inconceivable that Mallami and Shehu would have gone to town that way if it was the President who committed such gaffe!
The direct challenge to the authority of the Acting President by Prof. Yusuf is loaded and a big red flag. If the “suspended” NHIS boss insists that only President Buhari can suspend him, it brings us back to the point being made about the “coordinator” bit in the latest letter transmitted to the National Assembly by the President as he embarked on his latest medical trip. Yusuf is obviously saying he does not accept that Osinbajo has full authority of the President to exercise his powers while he is designated Acting President. Those who raised issue with that line in the transmission quickly shut up after the Acting President said he was being treated like a “son” and that he had searched the whole of the Villa and could not find the “cabal” people were talking about. I don’t think such search is necessary any more.
History to repeat self
If Yusuf gets away with his “tawaye”,the specter of Ogundipe days in 1966 may be looming large over this country once again with history about to repeat itself. By the way, Ogundipe served as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters Nigerian Defence Forces between January 1966 and August 1966. After the coup which overthrew Aguiyi Ironsi, he was the most senior officer as a Brigadier. But it was clear northern officers were not ready to take instructions from the Ago Iwoye -born officer,a few kilometres from the Ikenne home of the Acting President. After Northern officers had their way of installing Lt Col. Gowon as new Head of State,Ogundipe fled to London where he died in November 20, 1971.
He has been dubbed a coward for not taking over leadership. But he could do nothing within the contradictions of Nigeria.He had no troops, and he was unable to rely on the few individuals available to him, many of whom were northern and were unwilling to take orders from a Christian southerner.
Brigadier Ogundipe’s order to a northern NCO deployed to the Federal Guards Company. The soldier blatantly said he would not take orders from the Brigadier unless approved by Captain JN Garba. So, Captain Garba was sent for and came to the Police HQ. He was initially interrogated by Lt. Col. Anwunah, searching for information about what was happening in the country. Garba then aggressively confronted Anwunah with the grievances of northern soldiers and why they had struck. When Anwunah reported Garba’s intransigence to Ogundipe, Ogundipe told Garba:
“I wish you boys had waited. I have just received the report about the January coup this morning and it’s on my table right now. Try to talk to your friends in Ikeja, and I am sure we can settle this matter, even at this stage.”
Capt. Garba, now placed in a difficult position, returned to his office to make a call to Murtala Muhammed in Ikeja and brief him about what had just transpired. Muhammed endorsed Garba’s actions and instructed him to maintain contact.
At about 3pm, on July 29, Ogundipe invited Garba again and instructed him to contribute a platoon to a second assault force which he was sending to dislodge the boys at Ikeja. Garba notified Muhammed at Ikeja and then contributed a platoon to Ogundipe under one 2/Lt. Osuma (then known as “Usman”) with separate orders that should he be ordered to shoot at fellow soldiers he was to refuse and return to base. 2/Lt. “Usman” did exactly as he was told before subsequently escaping from Lagos on August 1st himself. When he got back to the East, he used his real name (Osuma) to request that his property be sent back to him there. Needless to say that Ogundipe’s second attempt to establish military supremacy failed woefully.
The rest is history as we had to go through a civil war as one event led to another.History it is said repeats itself twice,the first time a tragedy and the next one a farce.Hope we are able to reorganise this country now to avert the looming disaster .
Re: Imperative of State Police
LOCAL or state policing is the standard arrangement for the maintenance of law and order in any community or, indeed, country. Nigeria operated thus in its first half-century, via a plethora of Native Authority N.A., Police forces across the country. They were absorbed into the Nigeria Police Force NPF, under federal command in 1969, in reaction to the excesses of politicians in the First Republic. Returning to the pre-1969 status requires rigorous interrogation, for a variety of reasons.
State police wholly staffed by locals and similarly commanded risks morphing, in short time, into either a Praetorian Guard or reserve ethnic militia. Gifted a disciplined force legally at their command, leadership in the states will, sooner than later, dispense with the army of thugs hitherto in their employ and use the former to enforce their writ. The saga in Anambra is not a distant memory – there a DIG (in federal police) caused the abduction of a sitting governor for the purpose of forcing his resignation at the behest of an illiterate political Godfather. Had there been state police at the time, Governor Chris Ngige would have long been a goner.
Turning state police into a reserve ethnic militia is a distinct possibility in those states where ethno-religious irredentists are in power and yesterday’s minorities have become today’s majority, with the conduct and the swagger to match. Police forces in these states will inevitably become the exclusive preserve of the dominant ethnic/religious group(s). A portent of this is in the recent genocide in Sardauna Local Government, Taraba state. There, federal police couldn’t rouse it to take proactive measures despite signs of imminent outbreak of inter-ethnic violence, clearly taking its cue from the body language of state authorities.
The fears expressed above should be properly addressed in the run-up to the introduction of state police alongside, or in replacement of, Nigeria Police Force.
-M T Usman