Sunday, May 11, 2014 3:45 pm
One year after the Goodluck Jonathan Administration declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the wake of unrelenting attacks by insurgents, the affected state governments are poised for battle against looming extension of the policy
On 14 May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan, in a live broadcast on state radio and television networks declared a state of emergency in three north-eastern states, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, in response to increasingly violent attacks by Islamic extremists, Boko Haram, who had been battling to create an Islamic state in the country’s mainly Muslim north for several years.
The President directed the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, to immediately deploy more troops to those states for more effective internal security operations. The troops and other security agencies involved in operations were ordered to take all necessary action, within the ambit of their rules of engagement, to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists whose actions, according to the President, amounted to a declaration of war and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state and threaten its territorial integrity. An action he said his administration would not tolerate.
With an initial extension of the state of emergency upon the expiration of the first six-month period last November, the governments of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states have been working to bring the state of emergency in their states to an end. Extensive interaction and discussions have been carried out by the state governors, who are all of the All Progressives Congress, APC, with the party’s members at the National Assembly, with a view to denying the President the permission to extend the policy in their states.
Following indications by the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, that it might not conduct elections in states where there is palpable insecurity, stakeholders within and outside the states have been expressing concerns about the prospect of disenfranchising some Nigerians in the forthcoming 2015 general elections and this has been causing the governor some discomfort and anxiety.
The situation was not helped by statements made by former Kano State governor and ex-chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, who recently dumped the opposition party for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The former governor advocated the extension of the state of emergency in the affected states as well as their possible non-inclusion in the forthcoming general elections.
Stakeholders in the affected states and their governors went haywire over Shekarau’s position and poured invectives on him.
Governors Kashim Shettima of Borno, Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, alongside other northern interests, berated Shekarau and vilified him as an agent of the PDP-controlled federal government, accusing him of carrying out the bid of his paymasters by politicising the Boko Haram insurgency and the general insecurity in the North-East region.
They quickly mobilised their representatives at the National Assembly to frustrate the President’s expected request for an extension of state of emergency in their states and contended that there was absolutely no reason to even contemplate an extension in any of the three states. They pointed at Afghanistan where a successful election was recently conducted and observed that Afghans were celebrated worldwide for liberating themselves from the scourge of fear, thereby sending a strong signal that no amount of threat would deny them from choosing their leaders through democratic processes.
Shekarau’s calls were subsequently followed by those of Ijaw national leader and former federal commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark.
Clark, who is believed to be one of the closest allies of the President, had in a recent statement on the state of the nation, urged Jonathan not only to extend the state of emergency in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states but to also suspend their governors from office and appoint sole administrators in their stead.
According to Clark, “There is nothing like partial declaration of a state of emergency in the 1999 Constitution; what section 305 (c) of the Constitution contemplates is the recourse to ‘extraordinary measures to restore peace’ and security where there is a breakdown of public order and public safety. This in effect means that all democratic institution should be suspended to permit the military exercise full control until peace and order returns.”
The governors again rose in unison in condemnation of Clark and berated him over the statement which they said was “unthoughtful, provocative, diversionary, totally out of sync with democratic norms and values and unfortunate”.
Nyako and Gaidam, in a joint statement issued by their spokespersons, Ahmad Sajoh and Abdullahi Bego respectively, also gave knocks to Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, whom they accused of taking a position similar to Clark’s. They referred to the duo as promoters of fascism who were only acting to undermine the nation’s democracy.
They further noted that the governors of the affected states were democratically elected by the people in their respective states.
In a similar vein, Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana, a senior advocate, described Clark’s calls for extension of state of emergency in the states as an undemocratic tactic akin to dictatorship.