The recent threat by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SANto the effect that the Federal Government might consider imposing emergency rule in Anambra State should the deteriorating security situation persist is totally unacceptable, uncalled for, unconstitutional, hypocritical, provocative and capable of plunging the country into serious crisis.
We demand, therefore, that President Muhammadu Buhari should immediately, not only call the Nigeria’s chief law officer to order but issue firm directives to all security agencies under his control as commander-in-chief, to redouble their efforts in guaranteeing safety of lives and property across the South-East in particular and Nigeria in general.
Since it is the primary responsibility of government at all levels to protect lives and property of citizens as well as ensure the people’s welfare, Malami’s threatened state of emergency, coming days after the murder of Dr. Chike Akunyili, widower of one-time Minister of Information/Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, late Prof Dora Akunyili, in Anambra, further smacks of insensitivity on the part of the Federal Government.
The Attorney-General had sent shockwaves across the land recently when he declared to State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in Abuja that, “So, what I’m saying in essence, no possibility is ruled out by government in terms of ensuring the sanctity of our democratic order, in terms of ensuring that our election in Anambra holds.
“And you cannot out rule possibilities inclusive of the possibility of declaration or state of emergency where it is established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state; government to ensure the sanctity of security of lives, properties and democratic order. So, our position as a government is: election is going to hold, necessary security in terms of democratic order must certainly prevail for the purpose of this election,” that is the November 6 governorship poll in the state.
We, however, note with serious concern that though his assertion remains in the realm of probability for now few weeks to the election, it is heart warming that Nigerians swiftly, in unison rose stoutly to denounce it and also, drew the Minister’s attention to the pervasive security challenges confronting most parts of the country especially in the Northeast and the Northwest states of Kaduna, Zamfara, and Katsina (home state of President Buhari), where many innocent souls are being massacred by bandits, insurgents and kidnappers on regular basis yet government hasn’t deemed it fit to impose state of emergency.
They further cited the Northcentral states of Plateau and Benue where blood of hundreds of innocent Nigerians is being shed by criminal elements while sadly too, no fewer than 500 communities have reportedly been captured and currently under occupation by Boko Haram terrorists in the Shiroro local government area of Niger State.
It is unfortunate that rather than confront the monsters squarely and task the Federal Government-controlled Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigeria Police Force to intensify their efforts in finding lasting solution to the security challenges across the country, Malami opted perhaps inadvertently, through his pronouncement, to stoke the already charged atmosphere in the Light of the Nation as well as other Southeastern states where the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a non-state actor ordered sit-at-home continues to take massive toll on businesses and socio-economic activities in the region.
The disruption in the economic activities which has resulted in revenue loss of billions of Naira and man-hours weekly, continues to unsettle people of the region who in our view, are daily getting helpless and frustrated due to fear of the ‘unknown gunmen’ viewed by many as allegedly ‘sponsored by forces outside the Southeast’ even as no meaningful development thrives in the midst of insecurity and uncertainty.
Therefore, rather than further inflame the ember of disunity through unguarded comments before the election in which 18 political parties have been cleared to field candidates, we caution the Federal Government and all the relevant stakeholders such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, security operatives, political parties and the electorate to discharge their respective roles creditably in order to engender a conducive environment for a peaceful, free and fair poll in Anambra.
This is particularly imperative considering earlier warning by IPOB to issue a month-long sit-at-home directive should the Federal Government failed to bring their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, currently facing trial at a Federal High Court in Abuja, physically to court at the next adjourned date.
Significantly, Malami by all reckoning, missed the point for insisting that Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State should improve on the security situation to avert the hammer while as a matter of fact the onus lies on the Federal Government controlled security agencies to adequately safeguard lives and property before, during and after the forthcoming exercise.
It is common knowledge that Obiano, like his counterparts in other states are merely designated as chief security officers in their respective states, even as they don’t have direct or indirect control over security operatives based on the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Regrettably too, the Minister’s assertion should be viewed as lacking any basis or merit considering that the clamour for State Police by the people has been vehemently rejected by the Federal Government on the grounds that it would be prone to excessive abuse and manipulation by Governors just as regional security outfits such as Amotekun in the South West are denied powers of prosecution and of acquiring sophisticated weapons that could match the ones wielded by terrorists, bandits, killer herders and kidnappers amongs others.
We wish to draw the Minister’s attention to Section 305 (1-6) which clearly stipulates conditions that must first be met before Mr. President may contemplate declaration of emergency rule in any state.
Specifically, it reads in part; that ‘Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by instrument published in the Official Gazette, of the Government of the Federation issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in the Federation or any part of thereof’.
Besides, subsection three (a-c) clearly spells out that the ‘President shall have power to issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency only when the federation is at war; the federation is imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war and there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert such danger’.
In other words, the situation in Anambra hasn’t reached any precarious level compared to what obtained in Borno and Yobe states where the INEC conducted the 2015 and 2019 general elections notwithstanding the grave security challenges then when Boko Haram insurgents sent hundreds of innocent souls to their untimely graves, destroyed unquantifiable property and had many local government areas under their control.
Ironically and very unfortunately too, it is on record that Buhari polled more votes in the war-torn Borno (836496) than peaceful Lagos State (580814) during the 2019 presidential election which was a clear manifestation of massive irregularities that marred the exercise in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
So the pertinent poser is: Why plan to declare a state of emergency in Anambra now when you didn’t consider it expedient to do so in the North East states in years past? We say an emphatic no to politically-motivated double standards and nepotism on the part of power that be. The Anambra gubernatorial election, which some political analysts have predicted will be a straight contest between the candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC given their current relative strength across the state, but also, must be free and fair with the INEC officials being genuine umpire and security personnel complying fully with rules of engagement.
We wish to strongly remind Malami of the unsavoury chain of events of the First Republic when a state of emergency was declared in the Western Region on May 29, 1962 by the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, ostensibly to capture the region from the Action Group government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo at all cost and impose an unpopular government on an unwilling people.
That declaration borne out of selfish political gain, it would be recalled, triggered spontaneous negative reactions which culminated in a major crisis that claimed many lives, popularly known as ‘Operation Wetie; the Wild, Wild West; military coups and, eventually the Nigerian civil war. The chief law officer should also therefore, be guarded by the famous admonition by George Santayana, an American philosopher but originally from Spain, who noted that ‘those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeating its mistakes’ which is also, why we are totally opposed to any emergency rule in Anambra.
More importantly, the political parties and their gladiators must in the national interest make their campaigns issues-based and refrain from character assassination while the registered voters should troop out with their Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs on the D-Day to elect the candidate of their choice.
This is one sure way of making their votes count and be counted under a peaceful atmosphere and should be mindful that the contest, which should not be treated as a do-or-die affair will produce only a winner out of the 18 candidates jostling to emerge victorious.
Such exemplary conduct on the part of the electorate and relevant stakeholders will certainly paved the way for a peaceful election and swearing in of Obiano’s successor on March 17, 2022 and go a long way to fostering the needed peace and disappointing Malami and other naysayers who, might have envisaged a declaration of emergency in the state on account of further bloodshed and total break down of law and order.