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Hannnatu's law and Nigeria's high moral ground

Hannatu’s case reveals Tinubu as one president who has no regard for the law of the land, one who is ready and willing to bend the law of the land to achieve his ambition. Even if Hannatu is not disqualified by the law as she is saying, she stands condemned under the law of morality. 

BY TUNDE AKANDE

Hannatu Musawa is the new minister in the newly created Ministry of Art, Culture and Creative Economy. Creative economy and blue economy are buzzwords and contributions from the lexicon of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to the political space in Nigeria. We have a blue economy ministry and while Nigerians are still grappling to unravel that, they heard another one, creative economy. It is as if Bola Tinubu and whatever his advisers think by such outlandish words, Nigeria’s myriads of problems will go away swiftly. Tinubu is fast becoming a lexicographer and Nigerians are waiting to see the miracle of economic solutions by lexicography.

But then Hannatu got into hot water and lawyers have been doing their usual business of debating the legality of her appointment back and forth. Hannatu, her background not too well-known except by Google, is a foreign-trained lawyer who came back to the country after graduation and served for a brief while in the NYSC, Nigeria’s compulsory youth service which compels all graduates to serve their fatherland. Hannatu abandoned the service as his accusers, Human Right Writers Association, Huriwa alleged and again re-enlisted in the service eight months before her appointment as a minister where she was posted to do her primary assignment in a lawyer’s chamber in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Hannatu’s father, Musa Musawa was a veteran politician from Katsina State. She bears her father’s name which may mean that up till her appointment she is either single or divorced which may mean again she has a tinge of feminism. That will be odd in a part of Nigeria that is ultra-conservative. Her father’s clout may have conferred on her the status of a sacred cow. Such powerful Nigerians are above the nation’s law. Huriwa says she is not qualified to be appointed a minister of the federal republic because she has not completed the mandatory national service.

I have heard three lawyers comment on the legality of her appointment, two of them in the privileged class of senior advocates. One who is not a SAN said the important clause in the NYSC Act is that a Nigerian must have refused to serve to breach the law and be a criminal arguing that since she has not refused to serve, nothing limits her being appointed as minister. But Femi Falana, fiery SAN and enemy of the enemies of Nigeria said she is not qualified to take readers on social media through a case on the issue where the Supreme Court had ruled that a person undertaking NYSC cannot contest for election into the House of Representatives. For anybody to be made a minister such a person by the law has to be qualified to be a member of the House of Representatives. Falana concluded that Hannatu was not qualified to be made a minister.

Hannatu herself joined the fray, she is a lawyer, there is nothing in the law of the nation that stops her from being appointed as a minister, she said boldly in a statement she issued to the press. She countered that a section of the mainstream media and social media had criticized her appointment. She had served for eight months before President Bola Tinubu called her up to serve in the culture and creative ministry. Upon graduation abroad she returned to Nigeria to enlist in the service at Akwa Ibom; she left, she didn’t say she abandoned the service which people are saying, because of a family issue. She re-enlisted again eight months ago and she was serving before she was called to be a minister. Her words sounded like the law of the nation and we are yet to see what line the president will toe or if one of the human rights activists takes the matter to court for a judicial pronouncement.

There have been precedents. First was Adebayo Shittu, a graduate of law at the Obafemi Awolowo University who went straight upon graduation to be elected into the Oyo State House of Assembly in the administration of late Governor Bola Ige. He got a waiver from this service and continued as a legislator. There was a recent case of Kemi Adeosun, erstwhile minister of finance in the Buhari administration who was alleged to have skipped the service. She was also alleged to have presented a forged certificate of exemption. An investigation set up by former President Muhammadu Buhari found her culpable and she was pressured to resign. She later won her case in the court. And now Hannatu Musawa. Why the rush to make her minister for culture and creative economy that the president could not wait but had her terminate her service to the nation? There is nothing so spectacular in her curriculum vitae to warrant such haste. She is a lawyer who writes a column with no specific training in culture or creativity. What does the president want to achieve in arts and culture that could help Nigeria’s comatose economy back on its feet that warrants Hannatu’s choice? If she is a feminist, that even is a negative because the different cultures of Nigeria are still very conservative. While taking the oath as a minister, Hannatu knelt for President Tinubu, a practice not in her Fulani culture. The culture of women genuflecting belongs to the Yoruba of which Tinubu is one. Maybe she was practising or demonstrating her readiness to really bring back the nation’s dying culture or perhaps she was just grandstanding or demonstrating gratitude to the president for appointing her a minister. She later felt sorrow that her late father did not live to witness the inauguration of his third child as a minister. In Nigeria being a minister or a commissioner is a high achievement not necessarily because those so appointed are competent or going there to do spectacular things. Usually, most go to pilfer the treasury. They have joined the class of ‘elite of elites’ with access to the nation’s honey pot.

President Tinubu is yet to comment on her case and only an obscure organisation has taken the case to the federal high court, Abuja. But Hannatu attended the first meeting of the federal executive council during which President Tinubu told the ministers that he would not tolerate failure from any of his 45 ministers, the most bloated cabinet so far in the history of the nation. Hannatu’s case reveals Tinubu as one president who has no regard for the law of the land, one who is ready and willing to bend the law of the land to achieve his ambition. Even if Hannatu is not disqualified by the law as she is saying, she stands condemned under the law of morality. How should other youths feel who have toiled under very difficult circumstances to serve in far-flung places? In Nigeria, some animals are more equal than others. Tinubu is showing very early in his administration that equity, justice, and fairness will not be the hallmarks of his administration. If this is not the intention of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he should show Hannatu the way out to let Nigerians know they can win only by the rule of law and right doing.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Masters degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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