Obasanjo’s Triumph of Logic Over Legal Nonsense, By Nasiru Suwaid
In law, a legal position must always be premised on logic, though such declaratory postulation could be bereft of commonsense, which means that such verdict taken must be rationally explainable, even if it seem to the rest of the society, as a nonsensical error of judgment by the administrators of justice. Last week, I was fascinated by the position of one of the chief campaigners of #BringBackOurGirls movement, in the person of Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who while expressing his disappointment at the fate that had befallen the Chibok girls, nostalgically longed for the security conscious administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, noting that were it the Owu High Chief the one presently in power, those abducted girls would have at the very least, have the assurance of the mighty protection of the Nigerian state, even if such power to defend them was procured illegally and used to settle personal scores, just as it had happened with the declaration of state of emergency in Ekiti State, where the sole promoter of the fractionalization of governance and multiple claims on the governorship seat in the state, stood judgment in the act he engineered.
The concept of the declaration of the state of emergency is a legal aberration, constitutionally codified to guide a necessity, which is the acceptance in law that certain situations might arise, where extra legal measures could be adopted to guard the society. In the instance where breakdown of law and order had occurred, either due to human activity of civil disobedience, civil armed conflict or state of war, it could also be due to natural causes of disasters that could render the state ineffectual, as to perform its primary function of protecting, preserving and defending the citizenry as well as securing the territorially integrity of the nation. In the circumstance where it is declared, it is expected that the primary function of the state governor and government, which is the provision of security of lives and property has been transferred to the president and his representative local military commanders, who are to act at the behest of their commander in chief, to restore normalcy to the area of violent insurrection.
However, in a scenario where a state of emergency is declared, the question has always been whether the civil democratic structures are sustained and operated, in this instance, whether the governor is left in office to govern, a situation the state of emergency invoked by the Goodluck Jonathan administration maintained, while that of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration suspended the governors from office during the emergency period. Now, in an ideal state of emergency scenario, the grand assumption is a complete breakdown of law and order, where all the democratic structures are presumed to be unable to function, in such a circumstance, were a state governor to be in office and functioning, how could he or she operate a democratic government bereft of democratic structures of governance, who has the ultimate responsibility to secure the people of the state, where the governor has sworn to perform such function and were he or she to be physically in office, he is seen as the executive governor, whom the electorate knew as the one required by law to perform such function, yet it is not him or her who is performing such function but an appointed military commander.
Putting it more practically, the relationship between Governor Kashim Shettima and President Goodluck Jonathan depict a perfect example, because, theirs is a situation of fractious division, mutual suspicion and counterproductive allegations of subverting the war against terror but the most dangerous of the problems in the declared emergency is nobody has the ultimate responsibility in governing Borno State. The governor is acknowledged even by the federal government as the one governing the state, he pays hundreds of millions of naira to sustain the Joint Task Force yet it is expected that it is the military commanders who have the ultimate responsibility in the state. When something akin to what had happened in the Chibok abductions occurs, everybody struggles to comprehend who is in charge in Borno state, the security officials and the federal government blame Shettima, while the governor, Borno state officials and the collective citizenry of the state accuses the federal government of derelict complicity in sustaining the rebellion, which clearly highlight the fact nobody is in charge of that state, because nobody was expressly conferred with the ultimate responsibility of securing the state.
One of the principal reason for having a constitution is that it defines and specifies the function of a citizen, be they a government official or an ordinary folk and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is very clear on this fact, specifically, the function and duties of a governor as enshrined in the supreme document are manifestly clear. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the situation of a state of emergency in any state in Nigeria, as it is an avenue for a convenient loophole to shirk responsibility, perhaps, the logic Obasanjo used to remove the governors, knowing that two axis of power in a single jurisdiction only leads to confusion and in a situation of divisive insurgency, such division cannot help in solving the problem. Surely, the intendment of the drafters of the Nigerian constitution could not have been to create such a situation, when they inserted the state of emergency provision.
Looking at the Borno scenario, since the beginning of the insurgency and of course, the declaration of the state of emergency, there is not a single day when the democratic structures did not function; the three arms of government operated, the state ministries worked, the law enforcement agencies functioned, indeed, even the local government areas operated, even though the local government chairmen and their principal officials mostly runaway to Maiduguri but even in the time of peace, they usually lodge in expensive hotels in the state capital, until the time for the sharing of received federal grants, then they move back to the council headquarters, in that case, why was the state of emergency ever declared in that state.
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