By Ehichioya Ezomon
The December 2021 call by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for a declaration of a state of emergency in Edo State portrays the opposition party in the “Heartbeat of the Nation” as an unserious contender for control of the state in the 2024 governorship poll.
Why would APC that rode to power on the promise of obedience to the rule of law want to cure defects in the system by employing means that defy democratic tenets and commonsense?
In a 22-paragraph press conference in Benin City, the Edo chapter chairman, retired Col. David Imuse, accuses Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of anti-democratic practice that the APC wants President Muhammadu Buhari to remedy by triggering an emergency rule in the state.
Dr Imuse says: “Edo is the only state in Nigeria today without a functional Legislature. What is happening with the 10 PDP jokers, who gather regularly at Governor Obaseki’s office, is comical. They gather to read sheets of papers, pretending to be making laws as Edo State House of Assembly. We all know the true story.
“What Obaseki is practicing in Edo today is a democratic taboo. And when a taboo is allowed to exist for too long, it becomes a tradition. If this taboo is allowed to be exported to other States, it will endanger our democratic culture. Edo is in a serious trouble.
“We therefore call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as a matter of urgent national importance, to declare a STATE OF EMERGENCY IN EDO so that we can truly have a proper sole administrator.”
The Edo APC needs reminded that emergency rule isn’t a tea party at the behest of politicians craving to get to power through the back door, but a constitutional matter to prevent or arrest a breakdown of law and order in parts of or in the entire country.
While call for emergency rule is a throwback to the era of misuse of federal powers to destabilize subnational entities in the First Republic and in the first eight years of the PDP administration from 1999 to 2007, President Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t seem to fancy the fiat, to solve actual or concocted problems in the states.
If it were so, a couple of PDP states with governors critical of the president and his government, and several APC and PDP states with serious security problems, would’ve had their governors and democratic institutions replaced with sole administrators.
Such states are Benue and Rivers, with Governors Samuel Ortom and Nyesom Wike as thorns in Buhari’s flesh; and Anambra, Benue, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Oyo, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara with cumulative security issues that’ve claimed thousands of lives, billions worth of property, and turned millions of Nigerians into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in and outside Nigeria.
A state like Ondo, whose governor, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), gave a quit notice to armed herdsmen occupying forests in the state, and terrorizing indigenous communities, would’ve had a state of emergency declared in it “for challenging federal authority.”
But the Buhari regime hasn’t lifted a finger, in the hope that a combination of factors, including persuading the states to consider incorporating outdated pastoral practices, would solve the frequent clashes between herders and farmers that’ve snowballed into unprecedented banditry and kidnapping across the country.
What’s actually APC’s case against Governor Obaseki and his government to warrant the call for an emergency rule in Edo? According to Imuse, “there are several reasons why a state of emergency has become inevitable in our beloved State.”
He lists them, as follows:
* Contrary to his oath of office, Obaseki can no longer secure life and property of Edo citizens.
* With his “clandestine” borrowing of billions of Naira, Edo has become the second most indebted state in Nigeria.
* He disregards the Rule of Law and court orders except those in his favour.
* Demolishes public and private property, including the Central Hospital, Benin City.
* Turns himself into a maximum ruler, by appropriating the powers of the three arms of government.
* Unable to protect the lives of Edo people, despite claiming to spend N2 billion on a security trust fund.
* Spends his second term in office playing politics, neglects governance, and fails to appoint a full cabinet.
* Signs or enters into MOUs, partnerships and agreements with individuals and organizations that will outlive his government, and leave behind stillborn projects.
* Fails to employ qualified personnel to fill thousands of vacant spaces, and wastes Edo resources in harmonizing the PDP via frivolous appointments to members.
* Obaseki fails to probe, and recover money stolen through a project, which benefits his company, Afrinvest, with a huge commission.
Col. Imuse notes that while Governor Obaseki claimed to have spent the last five years laying the foundation for the development of Edo State, the APC “cannot find any of such foundation stones.
“It is in the light of the precarious situation Edo State has found itself under Governor Obaseki, which is almost akin to anarchy, that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is calling on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Edo,” Imuse says.
“Our call is predicated on the fact that Mr. Obaseki would prefer to be a Sole Administrator of Edo State rather than a democratically-elected governor.
With a state of emergency, his present disposition towards governance will be legitimized. He would not need a legislature, cabinet or even local government chairmen to function.
“… a state of emergency in Edo will have a multiplier effect on the various apparatus of government in such sectors like (the) civil service, health, education, and security of lives and property, among several others, which are all presently in dire need of leavening. We also believe that a state of emergency will be a proactive step to flatten the curve of bad governance the state is now suffering.”
The woes Imuse has leveled against Governor Obaseki are such that advocates of real democratic practice would frown at, and seek to challenge their perpetration through legally and morally-accepted means, such as a redress in the law courts.
But Nigeria’s amended 1999 Constitution grants Obaseki (and other governors) immunity against criminal cases, such as levied by Imuse, in the discharge of his duties as Governor of Edo State.
Yet, the APC can take out civil writs against alleged misdeeds by the government, on which the courts can award damages, and impose injunctions to prevent further breaches by the state. That’s the reasonable course, without recourse to antics that state of emergency rules have become for democratic despots.
Ahead of the 2024 governorship contest, the Edo APC should change its tactics from wanting a back-channel into the Dennis Osadebey Avenue Government House, in Benin City.
Rather, the party should deploy alleged mis-governance of the Obaseki administration to woo Edo voters to its column, and stand a chance to sing the victory song in 2024. Otherwise, the gnashing of teeth of defeat in the platform will continue. Enough of emergency rule shenanigans!
* Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.