By Gabriel Amalu
This column is worried, each time politicians call for declaration of state of emergency to deal with difficult national challenges. The latest gambit is from the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus. In what he termed a non-partisan comment, Secondus called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security in the country. In the early days of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, his government also threatened to declare a state of emergency on power.
As I listened to the national chairman of PDP proffer what he thinks is the answer to the security jigsaw puzzle, I came to the conclusion that the PDP leader is bereft of clear thinking. By asking the president to declare a state of emergency, is he offering the president extra-constitutional powers, without any worry that it can be misused? As the leader of the main opposition party, he should be the last to concede such powers to the ruling party.
The powers to declare a state of emergency is contained in section 305 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). Sub-sections 1 and 2 provides that the president may by instrument published in the official gazette of the government of the federation issue a proclamation of a state of emergency in the federation or any part thereof, and immediately thereafter forward same to the president of the senate and the speaker of House of Representatives for the houses to decide whether or not to pass a resolution approving the proclamation.
Section 305(3) lists conditions precedent for such declaration. That “the federation is at war; the federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; that there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the federation or any part thereof to such extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security; there is clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measure to avert danger”.
It continued: “there is an occurrence or imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity, affecting the community or a section of the community in the federation; there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the federation; or the president receives a request to do so in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (4) of this section.” While the federation may be at war, is it of the nature that an opposition party will offer extraordinary powers to the president?
Though the National Assembly can negate the declaration of state of emergency if they oppose same; that may not happen if the leader of the main opposition party is the one who called for it. Should the president harken to Mr Secondus, and declare a state of emergency, he could take extra-ordinary measures common in a military regime, and claim that they are necessary to deal with the prevalent security challenges.
In his contribution on national security, the governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, one of the state chief executives believed to be apologists of President Buhari’s regime, rightly noted that Nigeria is the only country practising federal system of government but which operates a unitary police, and called for a change. As far as this column is concerned, the problem of our country lies in the fraudulent 1999 constitution (as amended). Apart from the nature of its birth, the makers of the constitution deliberately concentrated excessive powers at the centre.
All the hullabaloo about where the president would come from is because constitutionally, the president wields too much powers, which is bound to be abused. The makers of the 1999 constitution in their malice-laden ingenuity dispossessed states the usual powers of sub-national governments, on economy and policing. It is that disproportionate balance of power that has made it possible to have a president, especially if a bigoted president, as a constitutional leviathan.
The challenge we have had since 1999 is that we have never had a statesman as president. Ensconced in the trappings of the power and accoutrements of office, the presidents we have had, spend valuable time protecting the fraudulently gained powers at the detriment of national progress. The tragedy of presidential powers becomes monumental when the occupier of the office is deformed by tribalism, bigotry, economic illiteracy and social illiberalism.
But in Secondus’s naivety, he couches his offer of extra-ordinary constitutional powers for the president as an act of patriotism. Luckily for him, his party in a meeting over the weekend, subtly disagreed with him; while promising to offer alternatives. Of course, if their antecedent is any guide, the PDP is malignantly afflicted. The presidents the PDP produced did not fare better that the current president except with regards to handling of the challenges of insecurity.
And in my view, if President Muhammadu Buhari can shorn himself of ethnic insularity and become the president of Nigeria instead of pandering to his ethnic group, he would be remembered as a better president than those produced by PDP. Tragically, it is that insularity that has worsened the security situation in the country. It is that insularity that made the president to threat the menace from trained armed herdsmen with levity, which in turn has emboldened other non-state actors to arm themselves in a free for all armed banditry.
So, the solution to our national security challenge does not lie in granting extra-constitutional powers to the president, but in making a constitution that equitably shares powers between the centre and its constituent units. Perhaps, the chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus has no idea of the needed constitutional amendments to stem the crisis in the country? What a tragedy!
For example, what is the position of the PDP on the loud call for state police, or is Mr Secondus not aware that a lot of the crisis in the states of the federation, relating to kidnapping, armed banditry and sundry criminality is the result of poor law enforcement capacity of the federal police? So, how would the exercise of extra-constitutional powers by the president add value to security in Benue State, where his party-man and governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, has accused the president of ethnic chauvinism?
Unless the idea is to ensnare the president to make grave mistakes, which will be silly in the face of national challenges, the suggestion by Uche Secondus is dumb. Thankfully, Governor Aminu Masari of Kastina State, one of the epicentre of the insecurity in the northwest, has said that declaration of state of emergency is not the answer, even though his premise is that the military is already overstretched.
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