The Declaration of State of Emergency: A Response to Paul Adujie

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

It was Dwight D. Eisenhower who once said, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” And that is precisely what President Olusegun Obasanjo has done by his declaration of state of emergency in Plateau state. He was impetuous. He was imperious. He was uneven-handed. He abused his constitutional power. Over all, this president is courting disaster. And so I wonder how and why Mr. Paul Adujie could have come to the conclusion that “the president acted properly” considering this president’s militaristic and anarchy-inducing action. Hence, Adujie’s pronouncement is both hasty and unfounded.

Hear Mr. Adujie: “The president have reacted with exquisite restraint, he was thoughtful, modest and even graceful…The president…is a vivid embodiment of a democrat.” My God! Not even the president’s spokesperson would use such effusive and gushing language to describe Obasanjo’s democratic credentials. And not even the president would believe such about himself.

Again, hear Mr. Adujie: “President Obasanjo, is in the right, to have declared a state of emergency in our beloved Plateau state. The crises there, had gone on for too long, and it was spiraling out of control, clearly, it was time the federal government acted! Lets blame the president, only when he deserves it.”

Well then, why hasn’t the president declared a state of emergency in Kano state, Lagos state, and in Kaduna, Benue, Kwara, and in the Niger Delta region? After all, lawlessness reigns supreme in some of these states than in Plateau state. Now, let’s see if Mr. Obasanjo can toy with Kano and Kaduna – without dangerous repercussions; and let’s see if he can rain in some of those “political untouchables” sitting in high stools and regal mats!

And why the penchants, on the part of the president, to always invite the Armed Forces to quell crises that are strictly police matter? The president should leave the army out of politics; and allow them to deal with external aggressors, peacekeeping matters and other constitutionally mandated issues. The police (and may be the intelligence service) should be put in charge of security breaches. Otherwise, a day would come when the president sends the army to Sokoto or Calabar; but instead the army takes it upon itself to ride their tanks into Aso Rock.

The crises in Plateau state and in other parts of the country are due to several reasons. At the obvious level, we have elites who are manipulating and encouraging gullible citizens to engage in mayhem and destructive activities. They make obvious our religious and ethnic differences. At the end of the day – it is the poor and the innocents that suffer; and not the rich, the famous and the powerful who are ensconced in their European, Abuja, and Minna, American or Kaduna villa. Year after year for the last two decades or thereabout, we have had countless incidences of religious and ethnic conflicts; and since the advent of the current government, these conflicts have assumed a more dangerous dimension.

Even so, no Emir, Oba, Obi, or any political- bigwig has ever been arrested and prosecuted for their insidious activities. What we have is a failure of leadership on the part of the state and the federal government. And neither the states nor the federal government commands respect and followership. With the passing of each day, they lose their moral and ethical compass and also lose their constitutional basis to govern. In addition, we have democratic institutions that are not working properly. The Judiciary is in a limbo; while the Congress has become a mere rubber-stamp for the whim and whimsical wishes of the Executive branch.

Finally, Mr. Adujie asked: “And why would Mr. Dariye not commiserate with the different factions, particularly to allay the fears that pervades some quarters, that he is a sponsor or co-sponsor and a neck-deep participant, in the crises in plateau state?…Why could he not display or demonstrate neutrality and be seen as such, as even the slightest appearance anything, other than being objective, would have created biases and inflamed the situation much more.”

These perceived shortcoming on the part of Governor Dariye (assuming they are true), does not justify the president’s actions. The governor may be an ass, inhumane, and unfeeling, and may even lack social skills – but does that have anything to do with constitutional requirements? Dariye’s attitude and leadership style was not a threat to national security and continuity in governance. On the contrary, I would posit that Obasanjo’s past and recent actions are capable of causing national crisis – a crisis that is likely to engulf him and the current republic.

Mr. Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Norman, Oklahoma
May 21, 2004

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