Akpan Etukudoh Asare
The absence of a true and vibrant opposition in Nigeria is not only the bane but a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s democracy.
This was the position of a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) at the 32nd convocation lecture of the University of Calabar where he was the key speaker
He decried the practice whereby the government is run based on patronage.
He emphasized that the leadership of the country at various levels should not be keen on being flattered as flattery is poison.
He said the assimilation of the opposition started when state governments began appointing local government caretaker committees in flagrant violation of the country’s constitution saying this must change and politics should not be a game of deception.
Mr. Agabi made this known at the International Conference Centre, Calabar while presenting the 32nd Convocation lecture of the University of Calabar.
“Our democracy is characterized by the dominant role played by money. it is characterized by attempts at annihilation of the opposition. In virtually all our legislative houses, we do not have an opposition.
“As long as it is so, the efficiency of government will be impaired. If we are serious about constructive and transparent government, we must restore the opposition. Constructive opposition is essential for growth and the assimilation of the opposition started with the appointment of local government caretaker committees in flagrant violation of the constitution.
“Democracy does not mean the right to do as we please the right to live as we please without regard to the rights of others.
“We have practised politics as a game of deception or intrigues and proceeded on the false assumption that politics without force or fraud cannot produce result.
“We must institute merit. A government founded on patronage will fail. Our leaders ought to know that flattery is poison. It kills both the flatterer and the flattered. It ought not to be enough to belong to the ruling party or to be the friend of the governor or the president”, he said.
He emphasized that the mentality that we need not use our talents, the mentality that all we need is to have a patron in office is responsible for all the frauds that attended our elections.
He said it is unrealistic to dismiss the country’s constitution as the product of the military emphasizing that the constitution of any country is an evolving document and every generation will be opportune with time to make an input.
According to him, rather than rejecting the 1999 constitution which is binding, the proper approach should be to work within it to achieve national objectives or even its own correction.
“To dismiss the constitution as the product of the military is unrealistic just as it is unrealistic to dismiss the nation as an artificial creation. We should bear in mind that a constitution is an evolving document and is prepared for all generations, so every generation will be opportune to make its input.
“Let us do what we can now and not worry too much about the future. Its claim in the preamble to be the product of we the people should not continue to provoke mockery, the proper approach is not to reject the constitution but to work within it to achieve national objectives or even its own correction
“Those who gave us the constitution were under no illusion that it was a perfect document. We cannot throw away the existing constitution and leap into the dark. If the present constitution is a devil, it is the devil that we know.
“As defective as the constitution may seem it is the only vehicle that we have to ride to our destination if that destination is the peace, unity and prosperity of our country”, he said.
He said lack of respect for the constitution has played a significant role in the crisis affecting the nation and a state cannot brazenly flout the constitution and continue to regard itself as a nation maintaining that the stability, integrity and unity of the nation is threatened by such misconduct.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Occasion and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Professor Akaneren Essien said the lecture is the institution’s contribution to the development and advancement of the country.
He said through the lecture, the University community hopes to reinforce the people’s faith and hope in the country for a better future and commended the lecturer for making a well-thought-out presentation.
He equally commended the Institution for its academic strides over the years stressing that he is impressed that institution is now 10th in the country in the area of research publications.
Also speaking, the Institution’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Zana Akpagu said the topic of the lecture which is “One nation, one destiny: The way Forward” was apt and addresses issues that are uppermost in the minds of the people.