It is now abundantly clear that President Jonathan has finally bared his fangs confirming what was widely speculated. By declaring a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, he has intimidated and emasculated the governors of these States. We are witnessing a dangerous trend in the art of governance and a deliberate ploy to subvert constitutional democracy.
The body language of the Jonathan administration leads any keen watcher of events with unmistakable conclusion of the existence of a surreptitious but barely disguised intention to muzzle the elected governments of these states for what is clearly a display of unpardonable mediocrity and diabolic partisanship geared towards 2015.
Borno and Yobe states have been literally under armies of occupation with the attendant excruciating hardship experienced daily by the indigenes and residents of these areas. This government now wants to use the excuse of the security challenges faced by the Governors to remove them from the states considered hostile to the 2015 PDP/Jonathan project.
Let me be quick to say that this administration will be setting in motion a chain of events the end of which nobody can predict. Experience has shown clearly that actions, such as this one under consideration, often give root to radical ideologies and extremist tendencies, a direct opposite of the intended outcome of unwarranted and unintelligent meddlesomeness. The present scenario playing out in the country reminds one of the classical case of a mediocre craftsman who continually blames the tools of his trade for his serial failure but refuses to look at his pitiable state with a view to adjusting.
It has become crystal clear, even to the most incurable optimist, that the country is adrift. That the ship of the Nigerian state is rudderless is clearly evident in the consistent and continual attacks ferociously executed by elements often referred to as the insurgents in some northern states of the federation, particularly Borno and Yobe states respectively.
Indeed, no part of the country is immune from the virulent but easy attacks, veritable indices of a failing state. Unfortunately, the tenuous and uncoordinated approach adopted by this government betrays a grossly incompetent disposition which stands at variance with current realities in the country, nay the international community where acts of terrorism are engaged and contained. No Governor of a state in Nigeria is the Chief Security Officer. Putting the blame on the Governors, who have been effectively emasculated, for the abysmal performance of the government at the centre which controls all these security agencies, smacks of ignorance and mischief.
Terrorist acts are perpetrated routinely and the government at the centre appears incapable of stemming the tide of the horrendous crimes unleashed on the hapless populace. The considerable ease, with which lives and property are destroyed on a daily basis, should excite deep introspection on the part of a government truly desirous of finding a lasting solution.
The Constitution provides that the safety and welfare of citizens shall be the primary purpose of having that structure of any political leadership in the first instance. This Government, through acts of omission and commission, has fallen far short of expectation. It actively encourages schisms and all manner of divisive tendencies for parochial expediency. Ethnicity and religion become handy weapons of domination. Things have never been this bad.
The response to the pervasive chaos in the Northern region of the country has been militarisation, mass arrests and extra judicial killings by the Joint Task Force, JTF, a convenient euphemism for an army of occupation seemingly set loose on the people of the localities concerned. The tenor of the State of Emergency declared by the Federal Government yesterday portends danger for the polity. The full militarisation of security operations in these states will compound the already tense situation.
Both local and international media are awash with news of reckless attitudes of the invading forces. The fact that security operatives are killed cheaply and reprisals from the state find expressions in organised pogroms in the immediate communities is sure evidence of a government, which lacks basic understanding to appreciate the enormity of the current security challenges. If development is about the people, all measures put in place for the sustenance and maintenance of the super-structure of the society must take into cognisance local contents.
It is evident from the grim experiences in recent times that this government has failed, or does not know that it is necessary for it to avail itself of the benefits accruable from exchange of ideas and notes on the latest in terms of technology and human resources among nations of the modern world, especially those which have been fighting terrorist organisations over the years, on the most effective mode of combating this menace. Technologically advanced countries of the world will never discard the idea on the need for the establishment of an effective local intelligence outfit.
Our suggestions along this path have always been met with suspicion and acerbic criticisms from both the informed and the ignorant alike. A government which stoutly defends its opposition to the decentralisation of the police force from its present over-centralised command structure is already experimenting with all manner of means patently extra-legal.
The massacres of local communities attendant upon the attacks on security agents by unknown elements will further alienate the people who should, ordinarily, partner with the government in securing their immediate environments. An army which invades a community maiming, raping and killing defenceless civilians will end up radicalising the youths whose parents and young ones have been wiped out most cowardly and recklessly. This government should concentrate more on encouraging the development of local intelligence which will, inexorably, lead to the practice of true federalism. Adopting the use of excessive force against those perceived as harbouring terrorists does not portray this government as possessing the wherewithal to find abiding solutions to the lingering security challenges.
The President’s pronouncement, which seeks to abridge or has the potential of totally scuttling the constitutional functions of Governors and other elected representatives of the people, will be counterproductive in the long run. A State of Emergency already exists in the states where JTF operates. Residents of these communities live in constant fear. Their rights are violated with impunity under the guise of searching for terrorists in their respective domains.
Hiding under some nebulous claims which border on the intractability of the security challenges posed by Boko Haram or some acclaimed traditionalists who have killed some policemen to render ineffective the constitutional powers vested in elected Governors and other representatives of the people, perceived as not amenable to manipulation for the 2015 project amounts to reducing serious issues bordering on the survival of the country to partisan politics.
Let all those who love this country genuinely advise the federal government not to tinker with the mandates of these Governors under any guise. It is a potentially destructive path to take. If security of a society is about the protection of lives and property of the citizenry, the involvement of the people is a sine qua non to effective intelligence gathering. Any measures put in place which alienate the people, in particular their elected representatives, should be considered as fundamentally defective by every right thinking person in the country.
Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was a two-term governor of Lagos State, and now a leading voice of the opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.