So, Obasanjo Can Sack A Governor?

A devastating tragedy seriously eyes any nation whose president could just wake up one morning and decide to sack the governor of a state, his deputy and the state House of Assembly. Now the constitution that empowers such a revolting manifestation of raw dictatorship could not have been crafted by democrats, and therefore, could do with an urgent review to allow the inclusion of adequate mitigating clauses to abridge the robust dreams of non-khaki tyrants. Given the manner of president that this nation has been yoked with, the people of Nigeria cannot afford to make light the fact that sovereignty belongs to them, and that every government should derive its legitimacy from them. Indeed, the ruler of any nation owes his existence and legitimacy on the throne to the people, and not the other way round. Certainly, the people at all seasons reserve the right to stand up to their rulers and demand a halt to all forms of excesses, because, at the end of the day, it is their life and future that is solely at stake. Only a people willing to have its march to prosperity and greatness perennially frustrated by self-serving rulers and their unpatriotic cheerleaders will fail to assert this unambiguous right any time occasion and circumstances make it necessary. And this is where I pity Nigerians most, battered into pitiable passivity and insufferably timidity by many years of military rule.

Certainly, it is only the provisions contained in such places like Section 305 of the Nigerian constitution that anti-democratic presidents like General Olusegun Obasanjo would like to read, accept, distort and implement with indecent haste. Indeed, since last week when I saw President Obasanjo on TV announcing the suspension of the Plateau State Governor, Mr. Joshua Dariye, whatever minute faith I had managed to muster towards our so called constitutional democracy has since evaporated. A new and potent fear of full-blown dictatorship has in fact permeated the polity, and only the perennially foolish and irremediably light-minded would fail to realize that what we thought was some bit of democracy in Nigeria is already in a hurriedly made coffin, beside a shallow grave. And predictably, the two decadent Houses in Abuja have wasted no time in giving an overwhelming endorsement to an action whose only merit lies in its ability to halt our march to genuine democracy, embolden lovers of absolute powers, and take us farther back to pre-historic dictatorship.

Fortunately, there are eminent citizens among us who have over the years demonstrated their ability to understand the Nigerian constitution far better than the anti-democratic elements in Aso Rock, and the rowdy House of fawning, ‘honourable’ minions claiming to represent us in Abuja. The distinguished lawyer and elder statesman, Chief Rotimi Williams, says Obasanjo’s action in Plateau State amounts to “a contradiction of well known principles of true federation operating in a democratic society.it is illegal and unconstitutional.it is tyrannical.” Also, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and a number of eminent legal scholars have seen what happened in Plateau as a deliberate misapplication of the constitution to achieve a less than noble agenda. And because we always habour this fatal optimism that has always returned to us a great dividend of hurt and regrets at the end of the day, many of us are still busy saying : ‘No, it can’t be possible’, even when the first dance-steps of undisguised totalitarian rule is being rehearsed right under our nose. Baba is not known for disguising his preferences!

I have read conflicting reports about the stand of the governors on this matter. But they must go beyond the dangerous equivocations I am seeing so far, and stand on the side of the law and decency. It should not be lost on them that Obasanjo’s success in Plateau is a clear indication that none of them is safe any more. They ought to be reminded that the fellow called Adolphus Wabara, whose political and material survival depends solely on his willingness to support any programme from Aso Rock, no matter how injurious to the nation, or its capacity to stagnate Nigeria’s political and economic progress, is still on the loose out there in Abuja, a clear and the present danger to all that is good and healthy. Indeed, with the Anambra example, no one should be in doubt any more about Aso Rock’s capacity to manufacture crises of any dimension and magnitude to achieve any of its murky agendas. Do not be deceived. May be, by the time Anambra was boiling, no bread-seeking charge-and-bail lawyer had crept out of his dingy chambers in Ilaje to Aso Rock to show the General Section 305.

The emergency rule declared in Plateau State is certainly an over-kill. If the intention was really to solve the crises, why not beef up security in the affected areas which is just about 12% of the entire state? Why the hurry to dismantle the entire democratic structures in the state, as if they are the issues in contention in Yelwa? Who really is to blame for the failure to contain the crises in Yelawa? Is it not the federal government that has full control of the entire security machinery in the country instead of the even vulnerable state governor, whose personal security can even be withdrawn by the federal government as we have seen in Anambra? And what is the use of reading out the numerous sins of the governor before announcing his suspension? A state of emergency, when there is a convincing need for one, should be a serious patriotic intervention, which attracts the federal presence to any area in the event of natural disasters or grave security situations that may have degenerated to a war situation. The emergency rule is declared to save the situation not to indict the governor to score some cheap, unedifying point. Only the State House of Assembly has the right to investigate the governor and award appropriate sanctions if they have reasons to feel that he has failed in his duties. To have tied his intervention to the so called ineptitude of the governor amounts a dangerous over-exaggeration of powers on the part of the president. What of the CAN chairman that dared to ask a probing question to an ‘elected’ president? Was the extreme action taken merely to show him and his likes elsewhere who may want to make bold tomorrow that: ‘Look, a General is in-charge here, not some bloody civilian’?

Only a few days ago, I watched with disgust as some Federal legislators wallowed in vulgar over-simplification of the contending issues of ‘indigenes’ and ‘settlers’ in those crises areas. Yes, we agree that wherever you have lived and paid taxes for some reasonable time, you have the full rights to claim and enjoy the citizenship of that area. But has anyone tried to investigate what the Plateau intellectuals have consistently called ‘internal colonialism’ in those places, whereby the village heads are almost all made up of the so-called settlers of the Hausa/Fulani stock? And so, when the ‘settlers’ let their cattle loose on the farms of the ‘indigenes’ and their crops are devoured by the ravenous animals, if they report to the village heads, the story is that they hardly get any justice and protection for their crops, even though, the ‘indigenes’ constitute the majority. Are these the issues which a state of emergency would resolve? If Obasanjo has no knowledge of this so called ‘internal colonialism’ or has not accepted its legitmacy, why would he be writing to the Sultan of Sokoto on a crises that was raging in far away Yelawa?

All I am saying is that the real issues should be solved, by dialogue, round-tables and realistic approach. No one can decree peace by military fiat, or else, General Chris Alli may in fact remain the ruler in the Plateau interminably. You don’t enforce peace by papering over the festering issues that breed the crises and thinking that they would just disappear. I may have said only one side of the agaitations, as I heard it, but the ruling class there may also have their own grievances. Gen Alli is already using the very wrong words that may compound his work and prolong his rule in the area. He has reminded the people of the chilling episodes of Odi, Zaki Ibiam and other places of official massacre. One newspapers said he has “spitting fire” and threatening to shoot cow thieves and all that. His language sounds more like that of a General war front, itching for crimson actions, than a peace maker.Government should better ask him to go now and put in place a neutral Peace Body to look into the complexities of the matter on ground and evolve a realistic solution. The Yelawa crises should not be used as the litmus test for full-blown dictatorship project.

ugoe@swissinfo.org

Written by
Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
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