The upcoming meeting of the National Council of State (NCS) will be the first since the inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration on 29th May 2015. It should produce profound resolutions for the myriad of socioeconomic challenges testing the collective will of Nigerians as never before. In particular, the Federal Government’s security, social welfare/employment efforts and the war against corruption must thenceforth be owned and driven by this august body.
The NCS is an organ of the Nigerian government first created by former Head of State General Murtala Muhammad in 1975 whose functions include advising the executive on policy-making. It comprises the president as chairman; vice president (deputy chairman); all former presidents and all former heads of the government of the federation; all former Chief Justices of Nigeria; President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives; state governors and Attorney-General of the Federation.
The responsibilities of the council include advising the president in the exercise of his powers with respect to the appointments of INEC commissioners, members of the National Population Commission, the National Judicial Council, prerogative of mercy and award of national honours. The council also advises the president whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order and on such other matters as the president may direct.
Top on its agenda for next week’s meeting is to consider names of nominees to fill vacant positions of National and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Commission currently has six national commissioners out of 12, while 21 out of 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners are yet to be appointed. President Muhammadu Buhari would also brief the council on the nomination of Ibrahim Idris as acting Inspector-General of Police. The Nigerian Police Council (NPC) is expected to ratify the appointment thereafter.
Beyond this, we urge the Council to unequivocally support President Buhari’s sterling efforts to bring the criminality, insurgency and militancy currently ravaging the country to a stop. We are confident they would use their wealth of wisdom and experience to x-ray the situation and settle on pro-active measures to restore the confidence of Nigerians in their nation. To this end, they should resolve to call on political, traditional, religious, cultural and ethnic leaders to end their direct or indirect support for all felonies. Similarly, all those in political leadership at various levels must be told in clear terms to watch their utterances. Today, the greatest threat to either the state or democracy is politicians and other leaders of the country.
As the highest Constitutional advisory body, the National Council of State must assume the role of guardian council or national repository of wisdom. This can and should be fully exploited for the benefit of the national especially in these troubled times. The meeting is also an opportunity to test the integrity of the body which last met in May 2015 just before the exit of President Goodluck Jonathan under controversial circumstances. The meeting before that in February 2014 was marred by the absence of Presidents Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo. The Council must draw a clear boundary between politicking and statesmanship and stay resolutely on the latter side.
We do not expect the NCS to endorse every proposal of the President and Federal Executive Council but their robust inputs are likely to improve the administration’s policies and programmes. Indeed, this top class consultation should be extended to the National Assembly through a forum where it could discuss its legislative agenda. If the Council members buy into it, all the better for its quicker realisation. Members of the NCS who come from all parts of the country must not shy away from saying their minds. Our minimum expectation is that minor differences aside, the National Council of State would resume its role as the guarantor of national unity, grand monitor on good governance at all levels and chief driver for rapid national development.