Contrary to the official impression that the proclamation of emergency rule is a way to protect the constitution and avert anarchy in Ekiti State, addictive and contagious emergency orders actually undermine the constitution and promote instability.
Emergency rule clause in the 1999 Constitution is envisaged as a measure of the last resort. In the case of Ekiti State, it was the first point of departure by the Federal Executive. We haven’t seen any presidential activism to call all the anti-democratic actors in Ekiti tragic-comedy to order who paradoxically are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of which the president is the leader.
The judiciary as represented by the Chief Justice of the Federation, His Lordship Alfa Belgore acted far faster to warn of the illegality of the Ekiti State House of Assembly in removing the State Chief Judge, Kayode Bamisele well before the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo belatedly repeated the Chief Justice’s commendable warning. The Attorney General did not go to court to halt the political rascality in Ekiti as demanded for by the Agbakoba-led Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) either.
The truth is that there was no visible political will on the part of the Presidency to prevent the problem in Ekiti State. What happened in Ekiti was akin to the very “siddon look” approach in Oyo State. If the Presidency was indifferent to the outcome in Oyo, the same Presidency could not have been over-alarmed about the events in Ekiti through desperate feverish emergency order.
The emergency rule in Ekiti was certainly preventable, avoidable, and undesirable if there was the political will on the part of the ruling party and the Presidency to prevent it by calling all the forces linked to it to order.
The implications of emergency rule are dangerous for our democratic process. If we have to apply emergency order for every seemingly intractable political crisis, and post “seasoned” military administrators with utter disdain for civil administrators, we are only returning the country to military rule in grand style. This was not the promise of democracy in 1999.
However tortuous and seemingly chaotic options debates, consensus, compromises are, these are the ingredients that make democracy work NOT least resistance through shock therapy and posting of sergeant majors to the states who will go and whip everybody to line. And the way the thing is spreading, we are more or less saying farewell to democracy.
From the point of view of reform which is the trade mark of the administration, there is nothing reformist about emergency rule. On the contrary, there is a lot politically deforming about it. The whimsical and cavalier manner we are eager to set aside democratic structures, namely the legislature and executive with fixed tenure, betray genuine commitment to democratic values. There was nowhere that emergency rule and impeachment were cited as solutions to numerous political problems facing the country by the recently held National Political Reform Conference. On the contrary, the historic report enunciated scores of far-reaching proposals such as consensus building, strengthening the parties, compromise, internal democracy to further deepen and consolidate democracy.
There seems to be disconnect between the far-reaching conclusions of this historic conference and our business-as-usual authoritarian disposition. It was bad enough that the warring factions in Ekiti lacked democratic temperament, but corrective measures must not trample underfoot democratic values, compound the problem rather than solving it.
Emergency rule promotes insecurity in tenure and takes us many steps backward. Democracy is about discordant voices. The challenge is to provide effective management of the dynamics not promoting peace of the graveyard through the declaration of emergency rule with a military administrator presiding.
Mr President and his aides should know that in a democracy, the president is not just a Chief Security Officer who applies the law and order perspective to all issues. He is foremost a political leader. The Ekiti crisis like other crisis-ridden states is a political issue that taxes our political sagacity and competence. During the Second Republic, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)-dominated House impeached the Peoples Redemption Party’s (PRP) executive governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa. The impeachment as despicable as it was followed due process. Two decades after, it is a shame that we cannot duly remove a governor in a one-party state and the process ended in emergency order. This shows a sharp political and partisan decline in the current dispensation.
Lastly, emergency rule has also beclouded critical governance issues of anti-corruption campaign. Under the heel of emergency, many people have forgotten the allegations of money laundering and corruption against Ayo Fayose and his deputy, Biodun Olujimi by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In Ekiti, we are inadvertently made to be preoccupied with the process rather than the substantive issues of graft and theft by public officers. Anti-corruption campaign needs not lead to anti-democracy. In fact, to successfully combat corruption, we need to ensure democracy. Emergency rule only pushes corruption and corrupt practices under the dirty carpet, while it deals a mortal blow on democracy.