The incumbent Sokoto State Governor, Mr Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has warned the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration against playing politics of exclusion, saying it was dangerous for Nigeria’s corporate existence. Tambuwal, who spoke during the national flag-off of “Project 20 million”, a masses-driven and grassroots mobilization initiative, in Abuja yesterday, said such exclusion would only drive moderate voices underground while creating a platform for hardliners.
The governor who was represented by his Special Adviser on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), Mr Akibu Dalhatu, also lamented the growing culture of impunity in the country and the erosion of fundamental freedoms, saying the rule of law and due process were now observed in the breach. To deepen democracy, he suggested the inclusion of citizens in governance, adding that Nigerians must be part of the budget making process in order to be able to monitor how appropriated funds were disbursed.
Tambuwal said: “What deeply worries me is the sustained cries of exclusion in the governance of our country by some sections of our country. And this has been going on for many years without any conscious or deliberate effort to assuage their feelings. When people feel excluded and those who are supposed to address their concerns continue to treat them with contempt, certain forces alien to democracy and national unity may rise up in those areas and take firm control. Moderate voices would be driven underground. This is a dangerous development for our country.
“We must join forces to prevail on those in charge of federal authority to change their approach. They must engage sections of the country who feel excluded from governance. The country belongs to all of us. When elections are over, you must unify all Nigerians and proceed to deliver dividends of democracy. The nation is yet to develop a framework for effective engagement of the citizenry in governance. This must never be done on an adhoc basis. In the development of government policies, we must factor in citizen participation. Their input gives legitimacy to whatever we are doing.
“When I was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, we organised Town Hall Meetings in all the Federal Constituencies to distil and collate the inputs of Nigerians in the Constitutional Amendment Process. That was the first time the constitutional amendment process was truly participatory and transparent. The people embraced the process with enthusiasm. They felt that their voices were beginning to count in the affairs of government. One major area that we have not been able to effectively engage the citizenry is in the budget making process. The Appropriation Bill at the Federal Level must not remain an exclusive affair of the Executive and National Assembly.
“We must adopt the participatory approach to budget making. Before the Budget Office of the Presidency and the Ministry of Finance and Budget Planning finalizes any budget, they must organise Town Hall Meetings across the country to gather the inputs of the people and determine priority areas. If the people participate in the budget making process, they will also follow how the appropriated money is being spent. They will demand transparency and accountability from government officials. The people’s engagement in these processes strengthens and deepens democracy. When the people feel that they are part and parcel of government, they will defend democracy with their heart and might. The Rule of Law and Due Process is a major characteristic of good governance.”
According to Tambuwal, “All persons, institutions and entities are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated. The laws will always be enforced no matter who is involved. The process of reaching judgment on any issue must ensure fairness and proceed according to laid down rules. Accused persons must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. lmpunity must have no place in our affairs.
“It is sad to note that we have been following the rule of law and due process in the breach. Court orders are disobeyed with impunity. Institutions of democracy have come under sustained attacks. There is steady erosion of fundamental freedoms in our land. This is indeed worrisome and must occupy your attention as people interested in influencing the decision -making process in the country”, Tambuwal stated.
According to him, the nation is at a crossroads, as there are different forces jostling for attention. “There are different forces battling for the soul of the country. Some of the forces are pro-people and pro-development. Some of the forces are pro-national unity. Unfortunately, some of the forces are pro-disintegration. They hide under the guise of certain agitations to set our people against each other in order to achieve a pre-determined devious goal. We must be vigilant”, he warned.
The Director General of Project 20 million, Mr. Okechukwu Chukwunyere, said the project was aimed at raising 20 million Nigerians who desire good governance, accountable leadership and making Nigeria great. He said, “In our country today, we are faced with banditry, rape cases, corruption, mismanagement of funds, nepotism, insurgents, and so many issues that threaten the unity of this country. How can we better Nigeria? Posterity will not fail to judge us all for our actions and inactions.
“We are so divided on concepts, like honesty, value for life, equality, excellence etc that we can hardly achieve consensus on the instrument for evaluating them and the sanctions to give for infractions. Two monsters we have in the room are zoning system, which breeds mediocrity and nepotism, and electoral system, which foists incompetent people on the people. The citizens are not only powerless but castrated. Impunity is so entrenched that we have lost our sense of shock and outrage on so many daily occurring aberrations.