The many Questions left unanswered by the State of Emergency! – By Frisky Larr



As a legal document, the constitution of any country hardly makes for good leisure reading as would a suspense-packed thriller novel. It often serves as a point of reference when contentious issues arise that need looking up – at least for the average layman of jurisprudence.

I had to look up the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of Emergency in three states of the Nigerian Federation lately. I looked up the section of that document that the President pointedly invoked to declare the State of Emergency and found his justifications as plausible as truth could be. The conditions that have to prevail in any geographical region of the country to warrant the declaration of a State of Emergency were clearly defined and outlined in the constitution without ambiguities.

Unfortunately however, I found no part of this crucial document that defined what a State of Emergency should entail. It does not say a word on what should happen to elected institutions when exigencies force the central government to paralyze democratic governance in any part of the country or the country as a whole. It seems however explicit on resting the powers of declaring a State of Emergency squarely on the shoulders of the President with legislative checks and balances. Failure to specify the precise implications of a State of Emergency thus underscores one important question left unanswered by the infamously imperfect Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

As is usual in anything Nigerian, mediocrity is often celebrated with skewed logic and narrow-mindedness. The new kid on the block being the search for a reflection of sentiments! Wherever we find our sentiments and preferences reflected in writing, speech or action, we often regard as perfect, objective and immaculate. Unfortunately, experts characterize the law as an ass that may not always fit within the frames of common daily logic or subjective personal sentiments.

A State of Emergency in any given dispensation – Dictatorship or Democracy – is always an affront on civil liberties. It is the adoption of spontaneous and urgent measures to confront any urgent and dangerous issue that may threaten dire consequences in the absence of swift actions. Actions that cannot wait for the windy, tedious process of legislation, assenting, rejection, vetoes, veto-overrides etc.! Put bluntly, States of Emergencies are not meant to be compatible with democratic processes and are often limited to time frames in constitutional democracies.

Having played the giant on the fringes aspiring to garner strategic political favors in the run-up to 2015 since the start of the costly and foreseeable consequences of the Boko Haram menace from the very start, President Jonathan finally came around to take a decisive action at long last!

News filtered out that the declaration of a State of Emergency was impending. In his usual style, the President denied vehemently in the afternoon what he was to declare in the evening of the same day. It reminded Nigerians in one brief moment of the fuel subsidy ambush and the vehement denials in the run-up. Yet I asked myself how such information found its way out of the President’s inner circle in premature manner. It was all about Boko Haram, with its pervasive presence everywhere in government institutions.

States that were affected by the declaration got a hint of the information trickling out to force an amateurish denial. Of course it prompted pressures and intervention by some powerful forces that seem to have a way of exerting a sense of awe on our powerful President. The sole fear being the loss of power by Governors and Assemblymen that the declaration of a State of Emergency would automatically trigger. Again our President weighed options with 2015 close to his political heart. Indeed questions are raised if the need to boost chances for 2015 suddenly persuaded the President to finally adopt this carrot and stick approach that many political sages advised very early enough to avert the carnage that had become routine.

Be that as it may, the State of Emergency was declared with the caveat of leaving elected democratic institutions in place. This has ever since, been widely celebrated as a victory for democracy because democratically elected institutions in the views of such people, cannot or should not be decreed out of function by a central instance.

The implementation of the State of Emergency since its declaration however, has clearly revealed that the Governors and Assemblymen have virtually no governmental function left for the next six months that the measure will last. At best, Governors continue to participate in and vote in the Nigerian Governors Forum. Was there a tactical calculation at play in unseating Rotimi Amaechi? State of Emergency notwithstanding, they however continue to collect their salaries and allowances while budgetary allocations are now channeled to the military administrators of each of the three states. The names of these administrators are however yet to be known to the public. Just so much for the celebrated kangaroo democracy!

The precarious situation of the Boko Haram states however, is such that the sect and its deadly ideology were founded, nurtured and sustained on the back of regional-political chess games. Boko Haram is widely believed to have eloped political control over time and partly assumed a superordinate stature over politicians. With the antecedent that known political stalwarts who have at best, acted as accessories to Boko Haram have always been treated with kid gloves devoid of judicial accountability, the wisdom behind the retention of politicians in office while a clean-up operation is in progress begins to beat every imagination. Nigerians are still waiting till the present moment, to catch a glimpse of judicial retribution for Senator Ndume.

The political capital that has been thrown overboard in the declaration of the State of Emergency in three states obviously smacks of a lack of seriousness to root out the evils of Boko Haram from the depth of its REAL source – the facilitating political instance! One major question is why the commanding military administrator who accts in lieu of a state Governor is not granted sweeping executive powers for six months to not only operate from State house but also launch a powerful independent inquiry into the role of politicians in facilitating Boko Haram in the states affected. Operating from State House would no doubt have offered access to invaluable documents. Now, we have a cosmetic massive military operation to fight and wipe out fighters and bombers while the issue of facilitators plays no role at all. At best, public suspicions see the masterminds of Boko Haram in State Houses and Governor’s Lodges, Houses of Assembly, National Assembly and Aso Rock. What then does the government of President Jonathan have to fear in going for the jugular and having everything about Boko Haram brutally exposed and betrayed to solve the problem once and for all?

Even more disturbing is the question when i.e. at what precise point in time did the government of President Jonathan become aware that Boko Haram ran training camps like the Niger Delta militants did in their creeks? If intelligence furnished the President these facts, why did he continue proclaiming Boko Haram as faceless and invisible when he knew where they were? The Nigerian Military did not become aware of military camps that they marched into and wiped out just when the operation began. They had a blueprint for the operations. Above all else, the Governors of the affected states were not only aware of such military camps within their states; they virtually ceded the control of parts of their states to Boko Haram without asking for military assistance from the central government.

Yet Nigerians celebrate mediocrity praising the retention of such elected evil forces threatening the corporate existence of the entire nation with open political collaboration financed by the public coffers. While many may posit that the central government fears stepping too hard on toes at the heat of machinations for 2015 and did not want to suspend political institutions – which State of Emergency should and has automatically translated into whether we like it or not – I make bold to suspect that President Jonathan has quite a lot to hide that may hurt him real bad if any probe goes as far as exposing the deep murky waters of this crazy Boko Haram.

Six months later after camps have been wiped out and fighters driven across the borders and many dumped in jail, the military will retreat, politicians will regroup to form political thugs while core remnants of Boko Haram may become more discreet, more resolute and perhaps even more sophisticated. They will still be financed domestically and abroad. President Jonathan has unwittingly squandered an opportunity to empower a military administrator to uncover just one minimum fact: the channels of funding from abroad and political functionaries facilitating the flow of fund or even submitting fund to Boko Haram. Is President Jonathan not interested in getting behind all these facts or is he bluntly put, just dumb?

Will President Jonathan demand public respect after declaring in his official visit to Borno State that he will not negotiate with Boko Haram only to set up an Amnesty Committee a few weeks later apparently crumbling under the yoke of pressure from vocal northern appeasers of Boko Haram? Posterity will ask a lot of questions that President Jonathan will have to answer up to sooner or later if Nigeria survives as a nation.





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