Nigerians condemn cancellation of FEC meeting for VP Sambo’s brother

“I think it (the postponement) is one of the most irresponsible activities of government in Nigeria in recent times,” Mr. Suraju said.

Following the cancellation of Wednesday’s meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC, to commiserate with Vice President Namadi Sambo over the loss of his brother in an auto crash, Nigerians have accused the government of being sympathetic only to top officials while treating the rest of the citizenry with contempt.

The vice president’s brother, Yusuf Sambo, died on April 27 after an accident at the Bill Clinton drive, Airport road, Abuja, and a three-day Islamic prayer was held for him on Wednesday, the day of the cancelled meeting.

The FEC is the highest decision making body of the executive arm of government and comprises the president, vice president, ministers, and some presidential advisers. The council holds it meeting once a week, Wednesday’s, where decisions on important national issues are taken. Critics of the meeting have said it is merely held to award contracts to allies of the government.

One of those who criticised the cancellation of Wednesday’s FEC meeting is the Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, Lanre Suraju.

“I think it (the postponement) is one of the most irresponsible activities of government in Nigeria in recent times,” Mr. Suraju said.

“The vice president’s brother is not an official of government, is not a member of the Federal Executive Council; then you start to wonder that because of that automatically all other Nigerians whose lives are to be affected by the decisions of the Federal Executive Council meeting of today are going to wait for another one week. Many of those who are on the lifeline are probably going to die because the vice president’s brother has just died in an accident on the road that the Nigerian government has refused to put in proper state.”

Mr. Suraju said it is worrying that the government hasn’t deemed it fit to suspend the FEC meeting over the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno but is quick to suspend an important matter of the state because the vice president is bereaved.

“This federal government that has not found any reason to suspend the federal executive council or move the executive council to Borno State where over 200 innocent Nigerian students are held in captivity, is now suspending the FEC because of the death of the vice president’s brother, I think it is most preposterous. The standard of governance in Nigeria has been reduced completely below human imagination.”

“He’s not the chairman of the FEC. It is the president that is the chairman of the FEC. He’s the vice chairman. So the meeting can go on with the president, he (Mr. Sambo) is the one that needs to be with his family. The member of the FEC can as well go to condole with him after the executive council meeting. Suspending the meeting for that purpose, for what exactly is that meant for. A reasonable system and government would think and review what happened on that road to have led to the death of the man and be sure that other Nigerians don’t die in that manner again and unfortunately once you don’t care about ordinary people it gets to some time when it’s going to be your turn.”

Also, the Chairman of the Partners for Electoral Reform, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said the loss of the lives of ordinary Nigerians is mere statistics in the eyes of the leadership of the country.

“If you continue to deal with the tragedy befalling our people via statistics; if you look at the Nyanya tragedy you will see that in most of the cases we just talk in terms of figures; in terms of statistics. If we talk about the Chibok girls we talk in terms of statistics we do not place names on those affected. It is nice to say captain Sambo, but when it concerns to other Nigerians, we present statistics. It simply just shows how insensitive our leadership is to the things that affect the ordinary people. It is not just about the quality of the citizenship it covers every other aspect,” he said.

“We need to talk about the quality of the Nigerian citizen. Are we in every sense equal? Does our leadership think very seriously about what constitutes our citizenship? What value do we place on the lives of our citizens? Whereas they make every effort to give themselves comfort, to give themselves everything that is required to have a good life. They don’t show the same concern to what concerns the majority of Nigerians. I think President Goodluck Jonathan needs to be told in clear terms that he has sworn to defend the interest of Nigerians and anytime that he discharges that responsibility the way he’s being doing in terms of the dancing and all of that it does not resonate with Nigerians.”

In his reaction, Lagos-based lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, said the cancellation of the FEC meeting is a strong message by the government that state functionaries and their families are more important than ordinary Nigerians.

“It is an exemplification of the privatisation and personalisation of the Nigerian state as well as convention and practices,” he said.

“It is so insensitive with regard to the national situation. Girls have been abducted and their parents are in mourning. In the middle of this national tragedy there was no cancellation of the Federal Executive Council meeting.

“By this cancellation, what the government is telling us is that they are more important than the generality of the people, that if a thousand of us is buried it will not matter.

“This cancellation sends the wrong message that state functionaries and their relatives are more important than the Nigerian people; that the Nigerian people exist for them rather than they existing and working for the Nigerian people and that does not show a mark of humility in power. Humility in service is a mark of statesmanship. When state functionaries do things like this it tells the people that they don’t matter. That is selfish and unacceptable. The presidency needs to apologise to Nigerians for this act.”

Mr. Ogunye also frowned at the manner the president consoled his deputy, describing it as “heartless showmanship.”
“It was a tragic incident and our heart goes out to the immediate and extended families of the deceased. The president had gone to the vice president’s lodge to commensurate with the vice president and this was shown on National television. In that occasion I was dumbfounded when I saw the president in a televised commensuration visit using a microphone. It was a heartless showmanship. It was a publicity stunt. A president was visiting the vice president and it was televised. Something you have to do in hush tones.”

For civil rights activist, Shehu Sani, the cancellation of the FEC meeting showed how the Nigerian state treats its citizens.

“Nigerian leaders shed more tears when they are taking fish or goat head pepper soup or when the masses of people lose their lives,” Mr. Sani said.

“Nigeria is a class society whereby the poor and the oppressed are considered as second-class citizens and the rich and the powerful are considered first class citizens. The lives of the political elite and their family are considered more valuable than the life of the ordinary man in Nigeria. It has become customary for our government to consider the death of any member of the political class to be of greater importance or significant to that of ordinary Nigerian. You can see what has been happening in this country in the last 10 to 14 years.

“Each time a political leader dies or any member of his family you will hear such words as it is a national loss, a national tragedy, a big loss for the country. But when you have the massacre of hundreds of Nigerians, nobody will hear anything about it the normal business of governance will go ahead. The issue of what happened in the vice president’s case is one of so many and it has become part of the tradition of our government to lower the flag and cancel the activities of governance each time they lose one of their own. And as far as I’m concerned when it concerns the poor and those in the lower ladder of the society they just don’t care. I can say in clear terms that when the political elite lose one of their own you will see a torrent shower of tears and there is no time to mourn the death of ordinary Nigerians.”

The Co-founder of the Integrity Organisation, Soji Apampa, however, said the government took the right decision by suspending the FEC meeting. He, however, said the government should learn to extend such gesture to tragedies that affects ordinary Nigerians.

“I think the loss of any citizen is an unfortunate event. And we commensurate with the family of the vice president over this unfortunate tragedy and it is a terrible tragedy. I think they have in fact done the right thing to show sufficient concern for them to put on hold state issues in order to respond appropriately and commensurate appropriately with the vice president’s family,” he said.

“However, I wish they have had the same foresight in the time of national tragedy, for example, the kidnap of the girls in Borno. I wish the president has taken the same effort to show Nigerians how important the tragedy occurring to so many families. The point is to show commensuration, is to show solidarity, with the citizen at the trying time the same way they are cancelling the meeting otherwise they should have said it’s a personal tragedy for the vice president, therefore he alone will be missing from the meeting.”

“But we would like the president to have a different way of reacting when there is a national tragedy because he keeps making him look disconnected from the people and it’s sending us the message that he does not need us. He does not need the people for his agenda and what he wants to achieve and with the high level of speculation about his running in 2015, I don’t think this is a way of endearing the electorate to yourself; except you really believe you don’t need them in order to be re-elected.”

The condemnation of the cancellation of the FEC meeting is one among recent nationwide criticisms of President Jonathan’s actions.

The Jonathan administration has been severely criticised for what some describe as lack of empathy and insensitivity over national tragedies. Nigerians expressed outrage after the president attended a political rally in Kano where he was seen dancing barely 24 hours after the April 14 Nyanya bomb blast that killed more than 70 people.

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