First, let’s get something very clear here, the moment a democratically elected president begins to romance the idea that the powers he already has are no longer enough for him to effectively discharge his duties and as such, he must acquire more powers, trust me, that president is a certified dictator.There is really no euphemistic way of putting it.
Forget the semantics, forget whatever sweet-sounding name it is garbed in, what President Buhari is asking for is not the powers to heal our economy because most of the things mentioned in the proposed bill are things you don’t need any extra powers to do. For instance, do you need emergency law to make tourists pick up their visa within 48 hours when the extant law did not forbid them from doing so? What Buhari is asking for is the power to usurp the duties of the legislature and rule the country like some monarchy. We are not fools.
Seeking a blanket approval in a democracy is tantamount to asking to be allowed to rule with decree. How can a sitting president be asking for powers to amend laws? In a democracy? Who needs emergency powers when we are not at war? Where did president Buhari get this kind of criminal audacity from?
Before we allow anyone take us back to the 15th century, we will do well to remember that every dictator always starts with altruistic demeanor.
In Turkey, Reccep Tayip Erdogan asked and got emergency powers after the failed coup attempt. The Turkish people thought he wanted to exercise it in public interest but he actually used it to pursue vendetta and consolidate his hold on power, turning himself into a full blown tyrants. Today, some Turks are wishing the coup had succeeded.
In Germany, Adolf Hitler didn’t force his way to power. No! As a matter of fact, Hitler came to power through legitimate means and with visions that seemed quite impressive. All the powers that turned Hitler to a dictator were acquired through democratic means.
Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933 after which he proceeded to forming his government. Weeks later, the Reichstag (German parliament building) was set ablaze by some crazy Dutch communist drifter. Hitler exploited the atmosphere of fear to convince the president to issue the “Reichstag Fire Decree” giving him powers to arrest and detain opponents without trial and censor the press.
He would later convince the parliament to push through the “Enabling Act Of 1933” which gave him plenary powers to enact laws on his own. In a nutshell, the Reichstag (German parliament) surrendered its legislative powers to Adolf Hitler. He then abused those powers and turned Germany to a one party state and when president Hindenburg died, Hitler quickly consolidated his powers and we all know how it all ended -the wars, the holocaust, etc.
Now, just as Hitler asked for and got plenary powers, president Buhari is now asking for the same powers to not only set aside extant laws but equally amend certain laws such as the UBEC Acts. In a democracy? What then will be the duties of the legislature?
In democracy, a president can only seek parliamentary approval for specific economic and security interventions and this must be clearly spelt out to enable the parliament monitor the process of its application to know when its being abused. But the moment a president start tinkering with the idea of seeking sweeping powers to set aside some laws and amend others, believe me, that president is a “follow-come” dictator who is of a very distant relation with the term ‘democracy’.
Do you need emergency powers to make govt agency like NAFDAC to improve on its turnaround operation time? This is like saying you need emergency powers to get the police to maintain law and order when that is supposed to be the constitutional duty of the police.
If president Buhari is incapable of working within the confines of existing laws which is exactly what this move lend credence to, he should honorably resign. To preside over the country is not a do-or-die affair.
How can a president whose office holds more powers than even the office of the U.S president be asking for extra powers?
How can a president who is still keeping all of the 11 jets in the presidential fleet against his campaign promise to sell them off still be asking for more powers to attend to our ailing economy?
Why do we even need to sell off national assets under such a dubious process when we have saved over 3 trillion from the TSA, over 2 trillion from the subsidy removal and another billions of naira returned by looters? Isn’t this what the government told us?
There are things you hear from this government at times and you’d be left wondering whether to die laughing or die crying. This is certainly one of such things.
But come to think of it, didn’t we get disastrous outcome when this same Buhari ruled with absolute power some three decades ago?
By Charles Ogbu