Lagos Lawyer, Mr Chuks Nnalugha.jpg
A Lagos-based lawyer and public affairs commentator, Chuks Nnalugha, has charged the Federal Government to stop pushing blames and face the reality on ground.
Fellow, Institute of Corporate Administrators of Nigeria, Nnalugha is Legal Adviser to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State chapter. He said the idea of government blaming everybody and everything except itself is no longer working, adding that as long as a bag of rice is more than the minimum wage of an average Nigerian worker, there would continue to be unrest in the country.
In this interview, he also speaks on the recent reappointment of Prof Mahmood Yakubu as the National Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the #EndSARS protest, the attempt by the Federal Government to regulate the social media and on other burning national issues.
There are clarion calls from well-meaning Nigerians on President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the country. What is your view?
Well, those who are calling for the restructuring of Nigeria are the true lovers of the country. Nigeria is failing on a daily basis. Even the blind are now seeing it. The country has slipped out of the hand of the present Federal Government. We are almost in a state of war. No, it is not almost. We are in a state of war. A situation whereby a bag of rice is more than the minimum wage of an average Nigerian worker is a state of war.
By the last time I checked, a bag of rice is almost N40,000 while the minimum wage is N30,000. So, how do you expect Nigerian workers to feed themselves? How do you expect them to pay their children`s school fees, rents, and so on. We all know that a hungry man is an angry man. So, as long as a bag of rice is more than the minimum wage of an average Nigerian worker, there would continue to be unrest in the country. Government should wake up to the reality in the country. The country is now on a cliff, waiting to fall. Nigerian masses are suffering. Those in government should stop blaming everybody except themselves. Our problem is not social media. Our problem is bad leadership. Social media has nothing to do with the hike in the price of fuel and electricity. It has nothing to do with the price of foodstuffs in the market. Social media has nothing to do with the hunger in the land or the rate of unemployment.
How do you see the reappointment of Mahood Yakaubu as INEC National Chairman?
I want to say that Federal Government got it very wrong with the reappointment of Prof Mahmood Yakubu for second term. This is the first time in history of Nigeria`s electoral body that INEC National chairman is reappointed. Nigerians have been complaining of recycling of government officials. This is one of the demands of the Nigerian youths; because, if you look around the country today, public officials are being recycled as if Nigeria is short of talents. It is something that is frustrating to the point of annoyance, that those who played politics in the 60s, those who were in the Army in the 60s and those who were in the civil service in the 70s and retired, are still holding various top government positions. It is also very surprising to the point of confusion that those who have been governors for eight years in their various states are today senators and ministers. So, if you put all this together, you see that there is no chance for an average Nigerian youth to grow.
The most frustrating aspect is that they don’t consider the teeming population of the youths that are graduating on a yearly basis, where they would be fixed. There are no jobs anywhere in the country. Parents would suffer to train their children. When they graduate, they would not get employment. These are part of the compendium of factors that culminated to the youths’ unrest. So, if government is listening to the youths, it would not have reappointed Prof Yakubu, because it is one of the demands that the youths are making. Nigeria is not short of talents, therefore, stop recycling public servants. Prof Maurice Iwu came, did his own bit and left. Prof Jega came, did his bit and also left. Why must you give Yakubu a second term, if you are not looking for trouble?
How do you see the #EndSARS protest?
The fact is that everybody knows that the protest is justified. Politically, economically and even socially, Nigeria as an entity has failed the youths. The youths are angry. The bad leadership that we have in the country has led to bad management of the economy. Things are now so bad that it is by the grace of God that most Nigerians feed. As I said earlier, in a situation whereby a bag of rice is more than the minimum wage of a Nigerian worker, how do you expect him to have rice as part of his menu? The cost of bread has also risen astronomically.
In 1789, one of the causes of the French Revolution was the rise in the price of bread. Because, bread is seen as something that when every other type of food is not available, one can go to a nearby shop and pick a loaf of bread at an affordable price and eat. But today, this is no longer possible. Today, bread is out of the reach of the common man. So, the problems that led to the #EndSARS protest are very obvious, that we should not be asking what caused the protest.
Now, on the part of the police; it is very clear that Nigerian youths are not free where the Police are. Police that are supposed to protect them abuse their fundamental human right and they treat the life of this young Nigerians as: if you die today, you will come back tomorrow. As a practising lawyer, I have listened to many cases and I have also handled so many cases whereby for no apparent reason, excessive force was used by the Police against innocent Nigerian youths. However, I am happy that the Inspector-General of Police accepted whole-heartedly that his men are culpable and has embarked on immediate reforms.
Therefore, I want to use this opportunity to advise him that as a law enforcement agency that handles guns, its members need men of sound mind. The psyche and temperament of every police man needs to be adequately monitored consistently. And, above all, there is need for educational qualification of at least Senior Secondary School Certificate for admission into the Nigeria Police. This must not be compromised. There must be constant training and seminars for the Police. Further to this, Police should be well paid, because most of the time, it is poverty that leads them into asking for N20 and N50; and if the person did not bring it, they will kill him. Police barracks should also be well maintained so that when they are not on duty, they can sleep very well. If all this remedies are employed, it would remove stress and frustration and this will also reduce their aggressive tendencies towards the public.
How do you see the attempt by Federal Government to gag social media?
Well, trying to gag the social media is the type of measure that drowning people always adopt in order to see how they would be saved. If you don’t know the cause of a problem, it would be difficult to tackle it. The question that I want to ask is: What problem does Federal Government have with social media? The cause of the youth unrest is as clear as day light. It has nothing to do with social media. The youths have no jobs. The youths have no future in Nigeria. The youths are hungry. The youths are protesting against unemployment, they are protesting against bad leadership, they are protesting against insecurity, on and on. All these are as a result of poor and inept leadership that we are saddled with in the country.
If the youths are gainfully employed, they would not have time for social media. If the economy is well managed and the youths are assured of three meals a day, they would not be bothered about social media. So, the truth is that any attempt to ban or regulate social media without addressing the anger and frustration in the country would trigger off a more serious protest that would be very difficult to control. So, let Federal Government adopt policies that would better the lot of the masses. If they do that, the tension in the country would reduce. But as long as a bag of rice is more than the minimum wage in Nigeria, you cannot blame social media. Or, was it the social media that made the government to increase the price of petrol? They should be sincere with themselves and try to solve the problem from the root, instead of looking for what or who to blame.