The 57th annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association offered various stakeholders a unique platform to offer their unique perspectives on issues of general interest, with a view to eliciting a desired response from relevant stakeholders.
The Governors’ forum was one of such platforms, which allowed chief executives of states in the federation to offer their take on national issues. This year’s forum was graced by Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State (himself a former president of the NBA), Kano State governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and the representative of Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, in the person of Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Emmanuel C. Aguma, SAN.
Moderated by the Country Director of the MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima, the session sought to examine the question of building strong institutions as opposed to promoting strong men, from the standpoint of executive leaders such as these governors. While the three leaders on stage agreed that strong institutions were an absolute imperative for good governance, Gov. Ganduje was of the opinion that these institutions must be built by strong men in the first instance. AG Aguma enumerated the areas in which the Rivers State government was entrenching institutions founded on the rule of law in its domain, citing the example of the judicial crisis that engulfed the state prior to the inception of the present administration, and the fact of the government’s continued support for a free and independent judiciary.
The three men also agreed that security was indispensable in the building and sustenance of strong institutions, as AG Aguma told the audience of the ssecurity architecture of the present administration – which has kidnappers and other criminal elements to seek their fortunes elsewhere, while Gov. Akeredolu decried the omission of Ondo State from the federal government’s amnesty programme for ex-militants as a buffer against future threats.
Gov. Ganduje also spoke of the corrosive impact of corruption as a threat to institutional integrity, and the severe measures his government’s anti-corruption agency had taken to rid the state of the scourge. On security, he spoke of Kano’s strategic location in the north of the country, and how the government was able to contain the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency by preventing the insurgents from using forested areas in the state as a base for their operations in Kano.
In response to questions from the audience during the interactive session, the three leaders also spoke of the importance of women in building strong institutions, and the need to integrate them in the arduous process of critical decision-making and policy formulation.
The last word at the forum was left for the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, who defined the concept of the strong man as actually a weak man – one who cannot achieve outcomes, or lead in any meaningful way except by force and by circumventing laws and rubbishing the values that govern society, in order to achieve personal aims to the detriment of the majority of the people. Strong men, the emir said, were the bane of Africa’s developmental goals, and urged civil society – especially the practitioners of the law – to protect institutions against such ‘weak men’ for society’s greater good.
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