The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has released yet another bombshell. The other time, he called for the sacking of about half of the workforce in the Federal Civil Service. He received a lot of flak for that. This time, Sanusi has called for the ban of ethno-religious organizations in the country, notably, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Ohaneze and Afenifere, among others.
His reason is that these bodies are political associations in false guises. Sanusi said he is opposed to regional, ethnic and religious groupings and wants these organizations to be banned. As should be expected, the CBN Governor has been berated by concerned organizations and individuals notably, CAN, Afenifere and Ohaneze. They consider his suggestion an irresponsible one and want it dismissed.
The motivation for Sanusi’s call is not far to seek. He is apparently worried by the growing politicization of the bodies and the political garb which they conveniently wear. Ordinary, these organizations are supposed to be concerned about socio-cultural or religious affairs. Unfortunately, it is difficult to achieve a strict line of demarcation between what they preach or do and what politics entails. Their roles, one way or another, dovetail into politics. The admixture between the concept that informed their existence and politics is therefore understandable. In a situation such as this, we are bound to have a scenario where some of the bodies interject and interfere openly in political matters.
When an ethnic group finds itself a victim of destructive politics, its plight will most likely draw sympathy and commentary from an organization that is rooted in its ethnic origins. The same thing is true of religious groups. They speak up or protest when governments fail to address issues that affect the wellbeing and survival of their members. When this is the case, the country finds itself entertaining a situation where a clear line cannot be drawn between politics and the activities of these bodies.
Therefore, as much as we appreciate the circumstances that may have provoked Sanusi’s outburst, we are constrained to submit that his call is not realistic. It is mere wishful thinking. These bodies have become an integral part of the socio-cultural and political configuration of the country. To seek to keep them out of the way is to create a state of siege that may come with certain consequences and disruptions.
The possibility of Sanusi’s call is therefore clearly remote. Beyond the impracticability of Sanusi’s recommendations lies the fact that banning the organizations will amount to a breach of the Constitution. It will flout the basic fundamental human rights of the people as enshrined in Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The section states that “every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”. With this constitutional provision, it will be improper to ban these organizations as Sanusi has suggested.
They are protected by the grund norm with which the country is governed. However, Sanusi’s suggestion is a wake-up call for these organizations. The point must be made that some of them have clearly left their original concerns and are now concentrating fully on politics. Even though they are no political parties and cannot, therefore, field candidates for elective offices in the country, their activities and statements have become too political to be ignored.
There is therefore the need for them to moderate their activities in such a way that they will not be too overtly political. We recognize their right to take interest in the affairs of the country. But they need to keep their participation and interest within the limits of their core mandate. If they do that, they will earn more the respect and confidence of Nigerians.