The Unlearned Lesson of Plateau Emergency Rule

DAWODU.COM 

Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues

 

2009 US DIVERSITY VISA LOTTERY INFORMATION

 

October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007

 

 

LUNARPAGES.COM and IPOWERWEB.COM - Despicable WebHosts - Read My Story

 

 

 

 

The Unlearned Lesson of Plateau Emergency Rule
 

By

 

Bolaji Akinyemi

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

 

culled from GUARDIAN of June 8, 2004

SINCE the proclamation imposing an emergency on Plateau State, the mass media has been awash with comments and commentaries. They have been very illuminating and have shown that Nigerians still care a lot about this country, that people from all strata of society still believe that their views matter sufficiently for them to take the trouble to put pen to paper or appear on television screens. And that is to be regarded as a saving grace. The end is in sight when the thinking people who form the critical mass of the citizenry think it is no longer worth it to care enough to express a point of view.

The comments and commentaries have been so many that it will be invidious to draw attention to some of them and yet I cannot help but mention the highly touching and personal angle introduced by Mrs. Funmi Balogun-Alexander, Plateau Emergency Rule: Another View; ThisDay, May 29, 2004. It may not assuage the pains but I will share with her a more harrowing tale involving a distinguished female jurist. She was born in Ibadan and come from a distinguished and ancient Ibadan family. She went to school in Ibadan, studied law and settled down to practise there. She got promoted to the bench in Ibadan, Oyo State and progressed through the ranks until it was her turn to become the Chief Judge of Oyo State. Then it was discovered as if it was hidden for over 30 years, that she was married to someone from Osun State. She was denied the appointment. And that would have been the end of the story if not for the fact that vacancies on the Appeal and Supreme Courts are filled on zonal rather than state quota basis. And yet at one time, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti states used to be one Western region. And just in case any of the readers of this article and that of Mrs. Balogun-Alexander is about to jump into conclusion that it is a Yoruba disease, let us remember the brouhaha over whose state quota Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance, is filling. The argument is between those who believe she is filling the quota of her husband's state of origin. The President and the Vice President should be congratulated for ensuring that the First Lady and Second Lady are not from their husbands' states.

I also found Rev. Father Matthew Hassan Kukah's Plateau: State of Emergency As Metaphor, The Guardian, Sunday, May 30, 2004, instructive and ingenious. It was a treatise on where our rulers both colonial and post-colonial took the wrong turning off the road.

Is there anything new to be said

bulletI believe so. There is a national trait in our character, which always locate the responsibility for crisis on others while avoiding an inward glances at our own responsibility. Most of the comments and commentaries have concentrated on the legality of the action and actions taken both by the President and the National Assembly and most of the commentators have a legal background. As much as I recognise the valuable role of law in the affairs of men and welcome the valuable contributions of lawyers in Nigerian political life (I am serious - not tongue-in-cheek compliments), I would hate to see this emergency crisis resolved by the Supreme Court on such narrow legal grounds a la two-third or beyond all reasonable doubt versus balance of probabilities, or any such technicality that would not address the core of the issue at stake.

This issue - power to declare state of emergency - is too important for several reasons, most of which Nigerians have not averted their minds to. In 1978, when Nigerians were debating the draft constitution submitted by the Constituent Assembly, the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs held a symposium on the foreign policy aspects of the Draft Constitution. Three major areas attracted our attention. Provisions dealing with signing and ratification of treaties and international agreements; and provisions dealing with the state of emergency in case of war or imminent threat of war. What the participants were worried about was the possibility of the abuse of political advantage of the power to declare an emergency based on the imminent threat of war and the consequences of such a declaration on the eve of national elections. If the actual war or imminent threat of war does not involve actual occupation of Nigerian territory, then what would be the purpose for the declaration of emergency

bulletThe United States was at war with Vietnam for almost a decade, and there was no declaration of emergency. She was at war with Iraq, and there was no declaration of emergency. Did the drafters of the 1979, now repeated in the 1999 Constitution mean "civil war" when they just wrote "war"
bulletDrafters of both 1979 and 1999 Constitutions were looking back at the 1962 crisis in the then Western Region. Nothing is wrong with that. But in the life of a nation, it also helps to look forward and anticipate problems and propose mechanisms for dealing with those problems. I am afraid we have not heard the last of the capacity for political mischief making of Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with the power to declare a state of emergency. In a political system, where there was collusion between the Federal and state governments to dissolve all elected local governments and postpone local government elections for two years, where is the guarantee that come 2007, there could not be collusion between Federal and state governments (including National and State Assemblies) to declare a national state of emergency and extend the life of all elected institutions
bulletThis is the first unexplored minefield.

The second is also a grievous minefield, and it appears as if sitting governors have woken up to the dangers this poses to their tenure. If a state of emergency can be declared based on sectarian killings in a local government, then which state is safe in a multi-ethnic nation

bulletIn the absence of goodwill and there has been a considerable shortage of goodwill and plenty of bad temper under the current dispensation, any local tin god can engineer sectarian disturbances in any ward of any local government, and you have all the ingredients for proclamation of emergency from a hostile Federal Government.

The critical issue, which needs to be addressed, is how did Nigeria get into a situation where in addition to citizenship and nationality, we now have "settler" and "indigene" as part of our political but not constitutional lexicon

bulletNot that it is totally new but just that like everything which Nigerians latch on to, it is given a twisted if not perverse meaning. Indigenisation, derived from indigene, came into popular usage in the mid 1970s, to categorise Nigerian controlled business from non-Nigerian controlled business. It is probably more accurate to state that in its implementation, it distinguished between Africans and non-Africans, as I believe that no attempt was made to distinguish between the business owned by Togolese, Nigerien or Ivorien and those owned by Nigerians when the Indigenisation Decree was being monitored. Now, the concept has been imported into the domestic set-up without legal or constitutional backing.

I believe that we would have to start off by pointing accusing fingers at the British colonial authority as the originator of the system that has landed us in the settler-indigene dichotomy. I know that this would be regarded as the usual knee jerk reaction of an African who cannot see beyond colonialism as the source of all his problems. But the fact remains that before colonialism came to Nigeria, no part of Nigeria was in a watertight compartment. West was interacting with the North, East was interacting with the North, coastal people were interacting with the hinterland, and people of the Middle-Belt were in relationship with the far North and the South. The only thing missing is evidence of East-West relationship beyond Benin. This was a continuous and dynamic process that involved war, trade, marriage, religion etc.

How far it would have gone and what shape it would have ended in without the colonial intervention is anybody's guess. But when the British intervened, they decided to seal off the North, the East, and the West as if each was carrying a virus that the other needed to be protected from. Even if federalism were going to be introduced into Nigeria, it could have been done on a geographical geometric basis instead of the ethno-national basis they adopted. What were really the basic and fundamental and irreconcilable differences between the far North and the South-West, and between the Middle-Belt and the South-East or the other way around that the British had to fossilise the divisions into regions

bulletWhat was the rational behind the divisions into regions
bulletReligion
bulletThere were more Moslems in Western Region than in the Middle-Belt. Language
bulletHow many people spoke Yoruba between Benin and Asaba in 1914 or Ibo in Abonema, Degema, Ijaw land and Port Harcourt, Obudu, Uyo, Calabar in 1914
bulletIt was an untidy arrangement that lacked rational construction. I concede that the caliphate spread to Ilorin. But how much of the caliphate was in the Middle-Belt before the advent of colonialism
bulletThen our politicians latched on to the concept of federalism based on ethno-national differences and exploited it for all its worth to the stage where we not only have 36 states but there are agitation for several more states that are on-going. Politicians and proto-politicians know a thing or two when it comes to creating grievances from no just causes. I believe that it was Nikita Kruschev, the wily leader of the Soviet Union in the 1960s who described politicians as a breed of people who would promise to put a bridge in the desert and when you point out that there is no river there, promise to put a river under the bridge. Demand for state creation became a good vote-getting gimmick and all of a sudden, Ekiti people discovered that they were fundamentally different from Ondo people. Wawa people discovered that they were different from other Ibo people. Jukun people discovered they were different from their neighbours and Ogonis discovered that they were different from the Andonis. Not only did each group discover these fundamental differences with their neighbours; each group then proceeded to invest their neighbours with such demonic qualities as to justify being separated from them. Excesses are another descriptive term for Nigeria politics. Every concept, whether political, economic, cultural, religious etc is turned on its head in Nigeria with very perverse results.

Professor Adele Jinadu in his 2004 University Convocation lecture pointed out that we are second only to the United States in the number of states in our federation. That came to me as a surprise as we are usually first in such excesses. We beat such huge countries as India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia to it. Not to worry. We shall soon catch up with the United States. It is not in our character to be second in vices of excesses. I was not surprised when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) conducted a study on how many people believed in the existence of God as a physical entity, only to discover that the number one country was Nigeria and yet Nigeria was also the most corrupt and vicious country in the world. One turbulent Roman Catholic Priest once told me a joke. The Pope sent an emissary to Nigeria and was met at the airport by Anthony Cardinal Okogie. Ten minutes after leaving the airport, the emissary turned to Cardinal Okogie and remarked at the huge number of churches and mosques which he had noticed and as to how the Cardinal would reconcile that with the negative image of Nigeria. Cardinal Okogie was supposed to have remarked: "Just think how more evil Nigerians would have been without the number of religious places of worship."

Should it have come as a surprise that the bitterness which usually accompanied state creation would also have created an "us" vs "them" situation

" Should it have come as a surprise that there would be a feeling of hostility towards indigenes of the new state by the indigenes of the old state

The way forward

Excessive drive for state creation has led us to the stage where we now have the dichotomy of indigene-settler as the mother of all evils all over the place. Father Kukah is absolutely right that the superimposition of the Christian-Moslem dichotomy as an analytical concept is misconceived. Mrs. Balogun-Alexander's example and that of the one, which I made reference to, and several others have nothing to do with religion. We have not got to the state where senatorial zone or local government zone matters. I was once involved in a situation where we had to select a candidate only to be told that the most capable and eminent candidate came from a ward which had already produced a vice-chancellor.

The elite is responsible for the agitation for state creation. They are the beneficiaries as they eye the offices of the Governor. Chief Judge, Permanent Secretary etc. The peasant farmer in Adamawa or the fishermen in Epe or the cattleman in Bauchi could not give a damn about state creation. Yet, when things fall apart, these ordinary citizens become the victims. They are the ones who get slaughtered in these orgies of violence.

There are aspects of the past we cannot unravel. State creation is one of those aspects. Even if Nigeria is restructured, and we have the superimposition of zones on the states, that will still not address the issue behind this crisis. The political elite will have to get together to address this issue on a policy level.

Governor Bola Tinubu, who is turning out to be one of the most innovative governors around, seems to have addressed his mind to this problem and came up with a solution on a limited scale. Tinubu has a few non-Lagos indigenes in his cabinet; he has two non-Lagos indigenes as special advisers and a couple of non-Lagos indigenes as High Court judges - two as former chief judges - and hundreds in the civil service. Tinubu deserves a lot of praise for this and not the brickbats he has received from so-called Lagos indigenes whose roots can be traced to some Nigerian hinterland. Tinubu has sent a political message to the residents of Lagos that he would minimise the "settler-resident" dichotomy in Lagos. But Tinubu alone cannot achieve it as a national goal. Reciprocity should come into play and it must go beyond token appointments as special advisers as I am aware that some governors have appointed non-indigenes as special advisers and they have not been heard of since then. I recall that in 1999, after the first elections, some non-Lagosians came to speak to me to lobby Tinubu to appoint at least one non-Lagosian into his cabinet in order to cement the NADECO links. My reply was that I would do so provided one Governor from their zone would reciprocate. I never heard from them again.

At the Council of State level, there should develop a consensus that governors should give one or two cabinet posts, a few posts in the judiciary, and a few board memberships to non-indigenes. This will send a thunderous message to all, troublemakers and peacemakers, an antidote has been found to the settler-indigene syndrome.

Symbolism matters in human affairs. Symbols speak volumes to listeners. Perception often matters more than realities on the ground. If government policies create the impression that it has taken sides on this issue, government would only provide an environment, which would nourish the continuation of the crisis. It is in this light that I think it is to be regretted that the state of emergency was limited to Plateau State. A similar message should have been sent to the self-righteous avengers of their kith and kin.

And while we are at it, let us be careful that we also do not deliberately or otherwise create the consciousness that the posts of Chief Judge and Minister of Federal Capital Territory are reserved. One of the politically astute appointments by Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa in 1960 was that of Alhaji Shehu Yar'Adua as Minister of Lagos Affairs. Prime Minister Balewa was simply saying to the country that the Federal Territory of Lagos was the symbol of all Nigerians and he would appoint a non-indigene of Lagos to symbolise that.

If a state of emergency can be declared based on sectarian killings in a local government, then which state is safe in a multi-ethnic nation

In the absence of goodwill and there has been a considerable shortage of goodwill and plenty of bad temper under the current dispensation, any local tin god can engineer sectarian disturbances in any ward of any local government, and you have all the ingredients for proclamation of emergency from a hostile Federal Government`

I am afraid we have not heard the last of the capacity for political mischief making of Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with the power to declare a state of emergency. In a political system, where there was collusion between the Federal and state governments to dissolve all elected local governments and postpone local government elections for two years, where is the guarantee that come 2007, there could not be collusion between Federal and state governments (including National and State Assemblies) to declare a national state of emergency and extend the life of all elected institutions

This is the first unexplored minefield

RETURN TO HOME PAGE

horizontal rule

1999 - 2006 Segun Toyin Dawodu. All rights reserved. All unauthorized copying or adaptation of any content of this site will be liable to  legal recourse.

Contact:   webmaster@dawodu.com

Segun Toyin Dawodu, P. O. BOX 710080, HERNDON, VA  20171-0080, USA.

This page was last updated on 10/27/07.