South eastern states; we are filled with a mixture of sorrow and joy: sorrow because of the re-introduction of camouflaged dictatorship in South-East States; and joy because of the response of Ndigbo people by our call to join the force with us to address this fundamental ills. I see dictatorship in South-East States to the dustbin history.
Between 1984 and 1999, democracy believes, activists and Practitioners engaged military regimes in fierce battles. The reason was not because they hated the military but because military rule was an aberration.
It did elevate arbitrariness, which is been above the law and the militray was not accountable to the people. But with the demise of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria was ushered into an 1-months transition programme, which culminated in her return to civil rule. Although the elections were marred by gross irregularities and frauds, Nigerians received the new administration with unspeakable joy.
In a manner reminiscent of the dark days of military dictatorship, it has become a practice for the various State Governments to, rather than conducts elections through the State Independent Electoral Commissions; they appoint Local Government Transition Committees to turn the affairs of Council. This practice has continued in most states of Federation whenever the tenure of Council Chairmen and councilors expires, contrary to Section 7 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which provides thus: “The system of local government by democratically elected local government council is under this constitution guaranteed…”
However, most states of the Federation, have conducted Councils’ polls. But rather then borrow a leaf from their counterparts, the Abia, Imo and Anambra States Governments have continued to treat Local Government Councils as their departments and or ministries appointing their friends, cronies and relatives to run them.
Most saddening, is the Anambra wave of transition appointment to council area., which has not conducted local government for over 11 years out of 14 years of uninterrupted democratic rule in the country.
It should be pointed out that the appointment of caretaker committees by the Abia, Anambra and Imo States Government to administer Local Government Councils is a contravention of Section 1 (12) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which States, The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not by any person, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any parts thereof, except in accordance with the provision of their Constitution. Although the State House of Assembly made a law establishing the caretaker committees, Section 1 (13) states: “If any other law is inconsistency, and that other law shall, to the existent of its inconsistency, be void.” Consequently, the action of the Abia, Anambra and Imo Government is akin to civilian coup of development and substance of democracy because “… he that does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way (elsewhere, from some other quarter) is a thief and a robber.” And we all know that “The thief cometh not, but to steal, and kill, and to destroy.” This explains why, rather than make judicious use of councils’ resources for the development of our Local Government System, the Caretaker Committees through the connivance of their master fritter them away through white elephant project, misplaced priorities, misappropriation and diversion.
Accordingly, democracy believes, activists and practitioners must insist on the conduct of the Local Government Election in South East especially Anambra, Abia and Imo state. Otherwise, the opportunities derivable from democracy will continue to elude the vast majority of our people. These opportunities include but not limited to right to freely renew the mandate of our leaders and or effect a desired change in unpopular ones, the right to be voted for, the right to demand transparency and accountability in democratic governance. And how can we achieve this? Since, as Karl popper said, “The working of democracy rests largely upon the understanding that a government which attempts or which tolerates establishment of tyranny by anybody else outlaws itself and the citizens have not only the right but also a duty to consider the action of such government as a crime and its members as dangerous criminals,”
I call for a non-violent revolution against the South East State Government for its unwarranted and irresponsible rape of democracy at the Local Government Level. Government Administration in South-East by Federal Government. By non-violent revolution, I mean any action that precludes the endangering of the physical well-being of other demonstrators. No guns, cutlasses… will be carried in this revolution.
To this end, the following steps should be taken in preparing for non-violent revolution against this illegal occupation of Local Government Councils by unelected persons in Abia, Anambra Imo States.
·Negotiation and Arbitration. All the stakeholders in this region, particularly the civil society organizations and political parties that want to bring out the desired change in polity, should dialogue with Government. When this fails, you can through a letter or press statement issue an ultimatum before moving to the next step.
·Public forums, letters to Editors, Awareness Creation, Meetings, etc. following the collapse of the negotiation, you must quickly embark imperativeness to compel the above named States Government to conduct Local Government polls.
·Picketing, leafleting. Here, you visit offices and residence, distributing leaflets, handbills, poster, detailing the issue at stake. At the end of these exercises, you organized a press conference to make public your stand proposed actions.
·Demonstration, Rallies, Marches. By these, you mobilize the people for a maximum show of strength through large number of participants in the demonstration. In mobilizing these groups, you must state clearly to each participant that the demonstration is non-violent and a peaceful rally.
· Strike, Boycott, Stay-at-home, limited No-cooperation. You get the Nigeria Labour Congress, in the respective South-East State Chapters and other trade unions involved in the revolution by encouraging them to embark on strike actions to pressurize the governments to meet your demand. Boycott and Stay-at-home are usually initiated to involve supporters, sympathizers, etc in demonstrations. This step is very successful in drawing attention to the issue(s) at stake.
· Limited cooperation is applied against imposition of caretaker committees in the south East State Government for a particular period of time already set before embarking on the demonstration.
· Massive Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience, Direct Action, General Strike. This is the last stage of the revolution. It must be
used after failed attempts to use other options to compel Theodore Orji to meet your demand. At this juncture, you should not spare any resources at your disposal to ensure all the stakeholders embark on successful non-cooperation with their administration, including non-payment of taxes, levies, etc; take the direct action of occupying the offices of the caretaker committee chairman in Abia State; and call general strike of all workers and organs of Government and ensure sustenance of the strike as to maximize the pressure generated on these Government.
As Edmund burke said, “All that it takes for evil to triumph is for the people of goodwill to do nothing in the time of moral crisis,” we should not hesitate to embark on a non-violent revolution in the said states. It has worked in many countries. It worked in Britain during the military campaign for women’s suffrage. The Salvadoran people used it during their struggle, particularly during the 1960s and 70s. Opponents of the Vietnam War employed the use of draft card burnings, draft file destruction, means demonstrations (such as the 500,000 who turned out in 19969 in Washington, DC), sit – ins, blocking induction centres, draft and tax resistance, D. C. in which 13,000 people were arrested. It worked in South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement. And since non-violent works everywhere, I assure you it will work in the above stated states.
Nevertheless, let me quickly make it crystal clear to you that the use of non-violent revolution in effecting a positive change in the polity is an uphill struggle. You stand the risk of being arrested, detained and even killed. Do not be surprised if, as I round this speech, security agents whisk me off and detain for trump-up charges. Yet, I am undaunted by these seeming threats. Since, as frantz fanon said, “Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor,” I will continue to say, aluta continua, till victory over enemies of the open society is won.
Thanks, God bless South-East
DEDE UZOR A UZOR
CHAIRMAN, CAMPAIGN FOR DEMOCRACY CD
SOUTH EAST REGION