– 2023, Emergency Declaration and the Igbo QuestionTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers
Anambra and the Declaration of a State of Emergency
If the situation in the country had not deteriorated to such an all-time low in so many ways, especially in terms of tribalism, ethnicity and distrust of Government, and issues were hitherto handled in the best possible manner, the statement of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) would not have been received as badly as it was in the South Eastern Nigerian Quarters – it would maybe have been weighed properly on its merits. Suspicion among the different Nigerian ethnic groups and political parties, is palpable. Therefore, it was easy for some to ‘cherry-pick’ the part of the AGF’s statement which mentioned not ruling out the possibility of declaring a state of emergency in Anambra State, and leaving out the more categorical part of his same statement where he said: “The Government will certainly do the needful in terms of ensuring that elections are held in Anambra, in terms of ensuring necessary security is provided, and in terms of ensuring protection is accorded to life and property”.
Or did the fear of even such a hint in the AGF’s statement, stem from the fact that in 2004, President Obasanjo did actually declare a state of emergency in Plateau State, suspending the Governor and State Legislature, following a crisis of attacks and killings by Christian Militants on Hausa and Fulani Muslims in the Yelwa area of the State in May 2002? The state of emergency lasted for about six months, but by virtue of Section 305(6)(c) of of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) (the Constitution), a state of emergency can be further renewed and extended by the National Assembly. In 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan also declared a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, due to deadly Boko Haram attacks.
I suppose to many, the thinking is that, if elections could hold in Maiduguri, Borno State on February 23, 2019 just hours after a Boko Haram attack in which rocket propelled grenades were fired into the city and several explosions were heard throughout Maiduguri a couple of hours before voting began, and a state of emergency was not only not declared there, but the voter turnout was recorded to be even higher than that of Lagos that suffered no terrorist attack at all, then what is so special about the pockets of violence that Anambra may be experiencing, that would warrant the declaration of a state of emergency? After all, these days, there are pockets violence all over the country, and no state of emergency has been declared anywhere (see Section 305 of the Constitution).
Closer to home, if a state of emergency has not been declared in the APC State of Imo where all manner of violence occurs practically on a daily basis, including a massive jail break in which 1800 Prisoners escaped (as of May 2021, over 1200 were still at large); where there’s a breakdown of law and order, why should one be declared in Anambra, because less than 20 people were killed in the space of a few weeks there? (Every life that is lost, is precious).
As most things in Nigeria these days, the allusion to the declaration of a state of emergency in Anambra State ahead of the upcoming November Gubernatorial election, has been translated to mean that the South East zone is being treated more harshly than the rest of the country, contrary to Section 42 of the Constitution (discrimination), or that the APC wants to take Anambra State by all means. The issue of whether the conditions for such a declaration exist, is immaterial – its now about – “since you didn’t make the declaration in Borno, Ondo, Kaduna or Imo (all APC States), you cannot make one in Anambra”. Sadly, for quite a while now, this is how our country has been governed – not always on the basis of what is in the best interest of the country and the people, but, unfortunately, on the basis of partisanship, tribalism, ethnicity and their ilk; and since “what is good for the goose, is good for the gander”, even if the conditions did exist in Anambra to warrant a declaration of a state of emergency, to the extent that such conditions also existed in Maiduguri, Imo and other places and no state of emergency was declared in those places, it would be unfair and discriminatory to do so in Anambra. Thankfully, President Buhari has laid this controversy to rest, by confirming to the outgoing Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, that no state of emergency will be declared there.
The truth of the matter is that, whether it is the Boko Haram insurgents, or bandits, or those who are destroying national assets in Imo State, or forcing people to sit at home, or the hoodlums that hijacked the #EndSARS Protest and destroyed transport buses and the Lagos High Court – they are all terrorists within the definition of Section 1(2) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (TPA). With the state of the economy, plus the kind of hardship Nigerians are currently passing through, I can’t understand why IPOB which claims to be acting for the benefit of the Igbo people, will be using threats, violence and intimidation to prevent the people from going out to earn their daily bread. How do they expect their people to survive, especially those who earn daily wages, like Labourers – who if they don’t work on a particular day, won’t have money to feed themselves and their families that day? This is also an act of terrorism, within the context of Section 1(2)(b)(ii) of the TPA (seriously intimidating a population).
Marginalisation of the South East: Fact or Fiction?
The issue of the marginalisation of the South East zone or discrimination against it, is one that now occupies the front burner in Nigeria, especially as it has not only given rise to secessionist movements like MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra founded in 1999), and the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), but is also alleged to be the cause of the unrest and violence that the South East zone is currently experiencing. Cries for secession by the South East have always met with stiff resistance from the Federal Government – whether by means of the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War to prevent the establishment of Biafra by Lt Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, or the arrest and detention of the Founder of MASSOB, Ralph Uwazuruike in 2005 under the Obasanjo administration on charges of Treason, and now the arrest and detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the Founder of the Proscribed IPOB on charges of Terrorism and Treason.
Many reasons and/or examples have been proffered, to substantiate this allegation of marginalisation of the South East. As a Lawyer, I can only examine this allegation vis-à-vis the provisions of the law. It is indisputable that Section 3(1) of the Constitution places the South East zone at a disadvantage, being the only zone that has five States, while the North West has seven, and the others, six States each. Even though Abuja, FCT is not a State, geographically it falls into the North Central zone, and also has one Senator and two members of the House of Representatives. Automatically, those with more States have an advantage over the South East zone, which has the least number of Governors, least representation at the Senate and House of Representatives (See Sections 48 & 49 of the Constitution), and least number of Ministers. In short, least in most things. Even, the Federal Judiciary – judicial appointments are done on a State by State basis, and by virtue of this fact, the South East zone would have less representation in the Federal Judiciary.
That said, this situation of imbalance was in existence long before President Buhari’s administration came into office in 2015. And, even with two Presidents from the Southern part of Nigeria, Presidents Obasanjo (South West) and Jonathan (South South), and several other alterations to the Constitution (including an alleged attempt to amend Section 137(1)(b) to allow for a third term during President Obasanjo’s tenure), this particular state of affairs regarding the disadvantaged position of the South East was not addressed. Of course, we know that technically, State creation is a legislative function and the procedure for it is set out in Sections 8 & 9(3) of the Constitution. On the face of the provisions, State creation looks like a convoluted, almost impossible task; but, in reality, most State Houses of Assembly are controlled by their Governors, so with the buy-in of the Executive, it is easily doable.
Would creating more States in the South East (and in the other zones which have six States) to equalise with the one who has seven States, help to assuage those clamouring for secession? Or does it require more? What can be done to keep us as a peaceful ‘One Nigeria’ built on equality and justice? I firmly believe that together, Nigeria is stronger as a nation. Kindly, share your thoughts on this, my dear Readers.
2023 and the Clamour for a South Eastern Presidency
I think it will probably take more than the creation of more States, to pacify the South East zone! However, I do agree with those who maintain that, the clamour for a President who hails from the South East is an intra-party matter. Nigerians can only select and vote for Presidential candidates, who are presented at the polls by their various political parties. Therefore, it is for those who seek this particular outcome, to convince PDP or APC or whichever political party they belong to, to field candidates from the South East.
From the body language of the Parties, even if the Presidential position is zoned to Southern Nigeria, it may not be zoned to a particular area. When it was zoned to the North in the last cycle, it was zoned to the North in general. For example, PDP had candidates from the North East, North West and North Central. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON, who is from Adamawa State, North East zone, emerged the winner of the 2019 PDP Presidential Primaries.
This time around, we are eager to see how the Parties will zone the position of President. It is however, rather worrisome that less than 18 months to the next election, we do not really know who is in the running, let alone have their manifestos for evaluation. The three major campaign promises of the Buhari administration, remain unfulfilled – that is, fighting insecurity and corruption, and revamping the economy. It is no longer enough to give motivational speeches filled with empty promises – as we say in law, ‘he who alleges, must prove’ – Nigerians want to know who, what, and most importantly, how!