A former Minister of Lands and Housing, Chief Nduese Essien, has refused to doff hat for military intervention, but opted for ‘Government of National Unity’ to charting a new course for Nigeria.
Essien, 80, who branded military rule as the worst form of government for the country, sought the constitution of Government of National Unity to address the maladies bedeviling the country.
Earlier, Afenifere, the pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, had called for a Government of National Unity (GNU) ahead of the 2023 general elections, just as a renowned socio-political activist and critic, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, made a similar advocacy in May 2023.
Addressing a press conference at his country home in Eket, Akwa Ibom State on Saturday, the two-term former member of the House of Representatives, said ‘‘In my 80 years on earth, I have seen colonial administration of Nigeria. I have seen Nigeria since Independence in 1960. I have seen Nigeria under different shades of military rule and temporary civilian rule up to 1998.
‘‘I have been an active participant in the government of Nigeria from 1999 in the House of Representatives and as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria up to 2011. Since then, I have been on the sidelines of the evolving political scenario in the country.’’
The elder statesman who was more worried with the happenings country bemoaned ‘‘Today, I stand before you with a heart heavy with concern and a spirit emboldened by resolve. Our beloved country, Nigeria, is at a crossroads, grappling with crises that threaten the very fabric of our society.
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‘‘Endemic corruption, insecurity, impunity, nepotism, bad governance, and a flawed leadership recruitment system have cast a shadow over our nation’s future. But even in the face of these daunting challenges, I remain steadfast in my belief in the resilience of our people and potential of our great country.’’
According to him, ‘‘First and foremost, let me address the cancer of corruption that has plagued our society for far too long. Coming out of military rules and an interregnum of civilian administration in 1999, Nigeria was rated the second most corrupt nation in the world. The new administration in 1999 was aware of the enormity of the problem and set out to immediately address it by instituting mechanisms to reduce corruption. By 2008, Nigeria had ascended the corruption index to 121 out of 180 – a significant improvement resulting from the efforts of 8 years. By 2023, 145 out of 180, reflecting the deteriorating level of corruption in the country.
‘‘Corruption is not merely a crime; it is also a betrayal of the trust placed in our leaders and a theft from the pockets of every hardworking Nigerian. We cannot hope to move forward as a nation until we root out corruption at all levels of government and society. Regrettably, corruption is most unlikely to reduce in Nigeria with the laisser-faire attitude of successive administrations wanting to accumulate excess resources to outpace opponents to win the next election. What is required is a selfless leader with a determination to address the menace the way Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore tackled it.
‘‘Equally pressing is the issue of insecurity, which has left too many of our citizens living in fear for their lives and livelihoods. From the menace of Boko Haram in the Northeast to the banditry and kidnapping ravaging our communities, no Nigerian should have to endure such terror. We must bolster our security forces, invest in intelligence gathering and technology, and address the underlying socio-economic factors that fuel extremism and criminality. But we must also recognize that security is not just about guns and bullets; it is also about justice, opportunity, and dignity for all.’’
The octogenarian politician noted ‘‘Dear countrymen and women, since 2015, we have witnessed the worst levels of nepotism in our nation, the lopsided appointments which have negated not only the Federal Character principles enshrined in our constitution, but also the tenets of justice and equity. Impunity too, has been ever so pervasive, with powerful individuals and institutions flouting the law carelessly while ordinary Nigerians suffer the consequences.
‘‘This culture of nepotism erodes trust in our institutions and undermines the very foundations of our democracy. No one should act outside the law. No one should be above the law. We must collectively ensure that justice is blind – meting out punishment to the powerful and protection to the powerless.
These maladies have become so entrenched that it appears no administration emerging through our electoral process will ever be able to overcome them.
‘‘The quality of governance in Nigeria has continued to plummet through successive administrations since 1999, and gotten worst since 2015. I therefore urge President Tinubu to do his best to address these issues and keep the country together to the end of his first tenure. Thereafter, a government of national unity should be formed to chart a new course for our nation.
‘‘The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also failed in its duty to uphold the integrity of our electoral process. The cascading fraudulent conduct of general elections stands as a testament to the erosion of our democratic values. I demand for an immediate investigation of the INEC and a comprehensive overhaul of our electoral system. We cannot go to another election with this porous system.
‘‘Furthermore, the judiciary must be reformed to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. The prevalence of cash-for-judgment schemes undermines the very foundation of our democracy and erodes public confidence in the judiciary.
At the heart of these crises lies the issue of governance – or rather, the lack thereof. Governance in Nigeria has continued to deteriorate with successive administrations.
‘‘Our leadership recruitment system is broken, allowing unqualified and unscrupulous individuals to ascend to positions of power, while those with the vision and integrity to lead are sidelined or silenced. We must overhaul our electoral process, strengthen our democratic institution and empower our citizens to hold their leadership accountable. True leadership is not about wielding power; it is about serving the people with humility, honesty, and compassion,’’ the former Minister asserted.
He, therefore, ‘‘urges President Tinubu to do his best to address these issues and keep the country together to the end of his first tenure. Thereafter, a government of national unity should be formed to chart a new course for our nation.’’
Essien said the body should comprise former Presidents, leaders of different political parties and people of impeccable character to come together and form the government.
‘‘I think the body should be similar to the National Conference formed and inaugurated by the former President, Goodluck Jonathan to come out with solutions on how to move the country forward,’’ he expatiated.