Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The Constitutional Approach (To Problem Solving)

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

The Kano State Military Governor, Air Commodore Hamza Abdullahi, has said in Kano that Student Unionism in higher institutions of learning, particularly in the universities, could be healthy if students adopted a constitutional approach to issues instead of resorting to violence.

He told a delegation of the Committee of Registrars of Nigerian Universities who visited him that while it was the responsibility of government to provide adequate education for stud- ents, the universities also had the responsibility of turning out responsible citizens who could be looked upon as future leaders.

"I do not subscribe to the idea where students take the laws into their own hands because of grudges against the system," he said.

… Now the above-quoted news item published in a Nigerian newspaper ought to be considered as the understatement of the year for what it left unsaid. Since we published that piece of news last week in the Talking Drums, we have received many letters asking whether we could publish the full speech of the governor since they think it might contain very interesting things which could give an insight into the constitutional approach to things, by the ruling military junta. I am happy to say that I have received a copy of the full speech the governor gave. Here it is and must be taken for what it is worth.

"I am very happy that you've found time off your busy schedules as registrars of the country's universities to meet me today. We are all witnesses to the very disturbing incidents of indiscipline in our institutions of higher learning in recent times.

"I am fully aware of all the problems that students have been complaining about and can assure you that the Federal Military Government under the able leadership of General Buhari is doing all it can to sort out the knotty part and parcel of the Nigerian society and which, without a shadow of doubt, are a legacy of the previous regime.

"What we cannot accept, I repeat cannot and will never accept are the acts of lawlessness which students who are regarded as future leaders of this country always resort to to back up their demands. I have always wondered why normal and intelligent human beings, which most students by their training are, cannot adopt constitutional approach to issues and instead, against all common sense, equity, conscience and natural justice, resort to violence which often leads to loss of valuable human lives and property. Can anybody tell me why people always have to do that?... I definitely do not subscribe to the idea where students take laws into their own hands because of grudges against the system. If this country will progress and develop then you all here assembled today would agree with me that unconstitutional means of pursuing grievances against the system should be completely eschewed! We should flush out all the predators who are making the waters of democracy unsafe to swim in ... I am now ready to answer any questions from you," the Kano state Military Governor concluded his inspiring speech in support of constitutional approach to problem solving. "Yes, that lady over there."

"Governor, much as we all here totally agree with you on the need to avoid violence and use civilised means to resolve problems, would you say that there could be an occasion when extra-constitutional means could be employed to speed up action? I'm referring to the case of the Sokoto university where..."

"Madam, there is no point in anybody circumventing the laws of the land with unconstitutional tactics," he said, adjusting his cap. "You would notice that I keep stressing the point that orderly conduct of society depends absolutely on respect for the constitution - the guidelines written by eminent lawyers and debated upon and approved by a body of Nigerians usually described as 'reasonable men and women'."


"Yes, that gentleman in grey suit."

"I speak on behalf of and with the support of the entire student population of this country when I say that certain desperate measures demand desperate remedies."

"That's true, except that we Nigerians, as a nation of peace-loving people have to learn to live within democratic principles where the views of the majority are respected," said the Governor. "Besides, where any group of people in the minority try to impose their will on others, as the students' demonstrations have often amply exhibited, we as a people must come together and resist the trouble-makers in our midst with all the means at our disposal."

"But Governor," someone asked, "surely, evidence in our recent history has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubts that to get any attention at all in this country some form of violence is a must, wouldn't you say so governor? I mean, for instance, with a few gun shots?..."

"Let me see . I think you're right, I think you have a point there."

"In that case, would you agree that violence is sometimes necessary in our present circumstances?, the questioner repeated"

"Ladies and gentlemen, at this stage of the meeting I would restate the whole issue but, of course, you must understand that it's all off-record. Resort to violence because of grudges against the system is the exclusive right of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Anybody else who is dissatisfied with the way the society is being run has absolutely no choice but to use constitutional means. That's the way it is, folks!... That's the way it will be for a long time to come."

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