The Ambode-Banire Warfare, By ‘Kunle Uthman

The executive is the second arm of government, the first and the third being the legislature and the judiciary, the aggregate of which is to ensure checks and balances and good governance. The business of governance shall be conducted by the “Rule of Law” and not of men, and in accordance with the theory of “Social Contract”, which reminds the government of those human purposes which the state can serve and which alone can justify its existence. It is indeed a truism, that civil society runs not on the consent of the ruler but of the ruled (the people), this being an important factor in the development of modern democracies.

Modern democracies have been pivoted on the “political party”, which can appropriately be described as an organised group of citizens who act together as a political unit, have distinctive aims and objectives on the leading political questions in the state, and who by acting together as a political unit, seek to obtain control of the government. Political parties have distinctive features as brokers of ideas, preservers of a sense of continuity and trust in public opinion, organisers and educators of the electorate and the people, dramatisers of politics and keepers of the nation state to be politically active.

In definitive terms, the most apposite and appropriate definition of a “political party” that is in consonance with the modern day “politician” was given by Alexander Pope, as the “madness of the many for the gain of the few”. Thus, in the recent past, the populace and the electorate have been besieged by politicians who maintain a “we-do-not-care” attitude and have displayed political affront and recklessness in the act of governance. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is the ruling political party in Nigeria, having successfully “wrestled” power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, and assumed power with the overwhelming support of the electorate, which had believed in the vision of the “Change” slogan/mantra that they touted and which constituted the “Social Contract” between them and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It is true that the president is the pivot of the federal executive, while the governor is the head of the executive arm of government at the state level, with each enjoined by law to act at all times in accordance with the constitution. However, in the broad sense, the term “executive” would indicate, “the aggregate or totality of all the functionaries and agencies which are concerned with the execution of the will of the state as that will as been formulated and expressed in terms of law.” (Garner, Political Science and Government). I totally agree with this apt description of the executive.

His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is the incumbent governor of Lagos State and the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development is an agency of the executive in the State, having as its head a commissioner who reports to the governor of the State. Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Dr. Muiz Banire is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the national legal adviser of the same political party as the Governor of Lagos State. There must necessarily exist an espirit de corp in that party and a hierarchy of authority. It appears that the chairman of the party ought to be in charge of its affairsand control the excesses of its membership in the public space, but this is definitely not the scenario playing out in the public space between the executive in Lagos State and the national legal adviser of the party.

On November 15, 2017, PREMIUM TIMES published a write-up titled, “Ambode is persecuting me, APC National Legal Adviser cries out.” The content was far more disturbing than the caption. It showed that there is disharmony in the ruling party and “irresponsible conduct” of its officials who apparently engaged in a “macabre dance” of shame and disgrace. The paper stated, “Although both men are from the same Lagos State and are members of Nigeria’s ruling party, they belong to different factions of the party which has virtually been at WAR with itself in the various states since it won the 2015 general elections in Nigeria.” This is extremely disturbing, moreso when the two dramatis personae belonged to the same faction prior to the merger that crystallised in the All Progressives Congress. Both are also described as indigenes of the same state and at various times in their political careers have served (Dr. Muiz Banire as a commissioner, and Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, accountant general) in the same Lagos State government.

Banire, in his press statement, stated that, “Notice came to me yesterday the 14th day of November, 2017 at about 6pm while on lesser hajj in Saudi Arabia about a Notice of Contravention purportedly served on the residence of my 90-year-old mother, Sarat Banire, at her 24A, Remi Fani-Kayode Street, G.R.A Ikeja, Lagos by the agents of the Lagos State Government from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development demanding within 24 hours, proof of planning permit obtained before the building was constructed. The Contravention Notice further threatened demolition of my mother’s two-bedroom bungalow within 48 hours of the Notice.” The demolition or threat of demolition of a house within 48 hours of service of Notice by an agency of government is “irresponsible, insensitive, anachronistic, bad, illegal, oppressive, totalitarian and sad.” This can only take place in a lawless society without the machinery of justice, which Lagos State is not.

However, in the very recent past, the newspapers have copiously reported the “shock treatment” meted out to Hon. Olufunmilayo Tejuoso and her entire family by forceful ejection from her residence by agents of the Lagos State government, without a subsiding court order, and attempts by the agents of the government to justify this illegality and anachronistic behaviour akin to that in a medieval kingdom and “Banana Republic”, where there are no laws and the “King Can Do No Wrong.” Would it then be correct to assume that this would be a continuing trend by Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and his officials and the agencies under his control and supervision? It is necessary to say that the “buck stops at his desk” and he must forthwith caution his officials to desist from “barbaric” acts which tarnish his government and diminish his status and stature among the citizenry.

Banire continued: “I want to sound this note of caution to the Lagos State Government that I am not daunted by all these ‘acts of terrorism’ which it has embarked upon in recent times. My call for internal democracy in APC (All Progressive Congress), prevalence of Rule of Law and resistance to imposition came out of personal conviction to serve my Creator in all ramifications and at every opportunity.”

In the recent past, several reports were made in the print and electronic media about the conflict between Dr. Muiz Banire, and The Godfather (National Leader) of the APC in South-West Nigeria regarding the former’s insistence that by provisions of the APC Constitution, primaries and congresses must be conducted to choose party representatives and not the imposition of candidates for elective offices. At a point, Dr. Banire tendered a letter of resignation to the party, which was rejected by the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC, which reaffirmed him as the national legal adviser of the party.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Centennial Edition (1891-1991), “The Rule of Law, sometimes called ‘the supremacy of law”, provides that decisions should be made by the applications of known principles or laws without the intervention of discretion in their application.” “With us” says Dicey, “every official, from the prime minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen” (Law of the Constitution). Simplified, the Rule of Law refers to a situation in which the people in a society obey its laws and enable it to function properly.

Banire refers to “acts of terrorism” by the Lagos State government against him. These are strong words that impute grave injustice from a government against its citizens. Why tyrannise a 90 year old mother of a national party official? What is the purport of a 48 Notice of Ejection? Is the property in question that of the Lagos State government? Has the Lagos State government been briefed by the federal government to carry out this eviction? Are there no courts anymore in Lagos State or are all the judges of the High Court of Justice in Lagos State still on vacation? Truly, these are extremely troubling, tough and turbulent times in a state that is reputed as primus inter pares among other states in the federation and whose internally generated revenue (IGR) was more than those of 26 other states in the federation in 2016. Can Lagos State under His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode be described as a “Centre of Excellence”?

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is obliged to caution its officials forthwith and without delay. This Ambode/Banire “eviction of Mama Banire” episode is like a Nollywood movie. It has continued to taint not only the Lagos State government but the party itself. It is time to read the “Riot Act” to the Lagos State governor and his officials, agents and agencies to shun the excessive show of power, and to resort to the courts where there are noticeable breaches by citizens. No one truly is above the law of the land. Governance is a trust and government the recipient of this trust in the nature of a social contract. A stitch in time saves nine others.

Kunle Uthman, a legal practitioner and former member of the Lagos State Judicial Service Commission, is secretary of Eko Foundation.

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