Re: How an Elected Governor Can be Removed under Emergency Rule

by MajiriOghene Bob Etemiku

I read one Emmanuel Majebi’s contribution, Tuesday 06.05.2014, commenting on the ongoing debate concerning the suggested declaration of a total and blanket state of emergency in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno States. I must say that I was rather disappointed with the author’s naïve and one-sided approach to the weighty issues at hand. It was on the question of whether or not any person, president, National Assembly or any extant institution has ‘powers’ to remove a serving governor. The esteemed writer said that he did not have any qualms with responding with a bold ‘NO’ to that question. He went on to say as conclusion that the suggestion that the removal and possible arrest of the governors of these three states is ‘bizarre’ and ‘has no backing except by an act of law making except by an amendment of the constitution’.

A very strong denominator in that write-up is certain recourse to the letters of the constitution. Let me back this up with picking out the relevant section of his write-up. According to the writer, ‘I have gone through the section word for word, sentence by sentence and line by line but I am unable to see how the sacking of a governor under the guise of the declaration of a state of emergency can be gleaned from any portion of this section.

The writer cannot ‘see’, and this is very sad. I guess that’s because he relies very heavily on the denotative imports of what has been written down. I would hazard, for the benefit of this lawyer and indeed for the benefit of most lawyers, that words and how they translate into sentences is no ordinary affair. Words have semantic, connotative and collocative and literary consequences and implications. It is these that add up to the extent that proponents and purveyors of the law recognize that these hidden and not so obvious implications become the ‘spirit’ behind the mere orthographic configurations of mere letters. Therefore, insisting that this present constitution which was foisted on us by the military and held to collective scorn and opprobrium by many of us and which has been used to stipulate that a governor, no matter his perceived connivance with the instruments that undermine our collective existence, cannot be sacked does not make sense at least to a non-lawyer like me. Most of what I know about the law and about its application to the nuances of our lives is taken from the positions of sages like the Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who have said respectively that it spite of the law, grave and great injustices abound; and that if there is an unjust law that undermines my freedom and liberty, it is my responsibility to undermine and disobey that law whether or not it is written in a suspicious document like the Nigerian constitution which has so many loopholes that mischief makers rely on and found to perpetrate their mischief.

Let’s take another example to substantiate my above statement on the above by referring to another curious statement by the author. According to him (and italics and quotations being his), ‘it is pertinent to note that here that the above mentioned section of the constitution does not say, ‘there shall be a sole administrator or there shall be a military Administrator, it says there shall be a governor’. Of course that’s what the constitution has said and for us to quality the quotation and italicized items we must consider as well what the constitution did not say. For example, the constitution did no say that there is going to be Boko Haram, an Islamite group that says that it does not believe in this constitution in question, does not believe in the Nigerian state and that western education in an anathema to our corporate and incorporate existence. The group has shunned all overtures of peace and dialogue and is bent on dismembering our country. For all intents and purposes, those immediately entrusted with the provision of peace and security in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, seem to be more interested in passing buck and accusing the commander-in-chief of his inability to provide peace and security. These governors have mind-bogging sums monthly for that nonce but all we have had are nearly incontrovertible instances of body-language suggestive of a connivance between these insurgents and the local commander-in-chiefs aka governors.

The theory behind an emergency rule is hinged upon a hypothesis of taking actions necessary for peace and security, irrespective of what the constitution says or is not saying. And currently, Nigeria is in a state of war, with a constitution silent concerning what we should do if that war is guerilla warfare and for which the governors have been incapable of containing. And I say this with all responsibility, that the issues on ground go far, and far beyond the mere articulation of the words, sentences and phraseology of a document with many lacunas and loopholes. They are issues of the economy, politics, law, ethnicity, deliberate and sustained attack on the very fabric of our nation because of issues that concern our existence as a nation. A casual or even a ‘painstaking search’ in one document which talks about modus operandi when lives are getting lost every day does not make sense. We should look at the issues, and dispassionately with the bigger picture in mind and thereafter consult with every area instead of just what the law is baying…saying. If after that careful consideration of all areas, and that a blanket and total imposition of emergency rule is needed, together with a deposing of the governors affected, then emergency rule it should be.

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