I recall how the military systematically destroyed the Students Union and the Academic Staff Union of the Nigerian Universities in late seventies after the famous “ALI MUST GO” saga, little did I know that this grand design would later be amplified and used by the democratically governments that followed.
The success of the industrial action organised by the Academic Staff Union of the Nigerian University threatened the attempts by the Military dictatorship to impose and perpetuate itself in governance.
The boycotts did not go down well with the Military Junta.
The military adopted various strategies to deal with the associations that emerged during the struggle for political independence.
In his book “Student Power in Nigeria (1956-1980).” Comrade Ebenezer Babatope gave an authentic public account of “Ali must go” saga, which is not the intention of this article to dwelt on.
The Nigerian Labour Union also suffered similar treatment under junta. It was proscribed at least on two occasions all in the guise to whittle down the powers of the unions and render them prostate.
The ability of the trade unions to call for mass industrial action has been checkmated by various court rulings, decrees and legislations that has reduced their capacities to nothing but toothless bulldogs.
The politicians haven realised the enormous power of the labour unions to garner popular support and engineer civil dis obedience , ensured that the unions are check mated and controlled.
The Civilian Governors have in there various states ensured entry in to the top echelon of the major unions are manned by their cronies.
This was easily facilitated by the fact that most of the union leaders that vied for elective offices in the labour unions are drawn from the pool of officers from the state civil service.
This opportunity became so convenient for the state governors to manipulate the process by ensuring only their candidates win elections in to the union executive offices.
They do so by hand picking, sponsoring, funding and planting their cronies and made sure they win the guided elections with the help of other cohesive agencies of the state who are ready to intimidate, cajole and ensure compliance with their sponsors wish.
That is why today State governments are owing workers months of salary, pensions and allowance arrears un challenged.
The Union leaders have abdicated their responsibilities to the workers because they no longer decide their fates as leaders.
Their loyalty has shifted to the state, as the state now decides their tenure for as long as they remain in check.
While the governors are continuously subverting and whittling down the capacities of the labour associations, they are on the hand strengthening their association under the Governors Forum knowing fully well the enormous advantages of operating under a united umbrella.
They do so through tripartite arrangements of Nigerian Governors Forum, the Sub – Regional Governors Forum and the Political Parties Governors Forum, so that you can not escape their fangs.
If one takes a closer look at our nascent democracy and the challenges we are facing one could easily blame it squarely on the gangsterism attitude of the governors facilitated by omnipresent structures of the Governors forum.
Today no body can win any election in to any office in Nigeria without contemplating the enormous powers wielded by the forum.
They decide who becomes the Presidential Candidates for their party, who emerges to be the candidates for the Senate and House representatives, who takes over from them as the governors of the States.
They anoint members of the state houses of assembly and appoint chairmen and councillors of the local governments un impeded.
The party machineries at the national, state and local levels are not shielded from the octopus cluster of Mafioso forum.
The Nigerian President may be seen to be “Executive” and have absolute power, but real power of the state lies with the governors.
Their immunity from prosecution until they leave office breeds all sorts of impediments to the rule of law and good governance.
This gangsterism did stop at the states but it is also being wholly imported in to hallow red chambers of the national assembly. Very soon the total membership of the red chamber would be taken over ex governors and that would complete the full “gangsterisation of the Nigerian political system”
Sadly, enough the process of amending the Nigeria constitution is also in favour of the State Governors as the states houses of assembly must endorse any changes to the constitution and with the way the states assemblies are being controlled nothing progressive would come out of them.
This being the case the national assembly can not do anything under the current arrangements provided by the constitution to remedy the conundrum.
The crafters of the Nigerian Constitution did not envisage this quagmire. They were rather interested in ensuring that there were checks and balances in the system.
They also did not envisage that any particular group will exploit the lacuna in the constitution for their benefits.
The clause giving the governors protection from unnecessary litigations, were meant to ensure free flow in governance but it has become one the albatross of the 1979 constitution as amended.
In view of the foregoing how far can we go from here? Your guess is as good as mine.
What are our options, how can we get out of this quagmire and save our nascent democracy from the gangsters?