Nigeria’s federal government on Wednesday, hinted at the possibility of declaring a state of emergency in Anambra State to protect the electoral process and constitutional order, if the November 6 governorship election in the state becomes heavily threatened.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who was very specific on the issue, gave the hint while speaking to newsmen at the State House, Abuja, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided by President Muhammadu Buhari.
An observer has however taken a swipe at the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, for his seemingly nonchalant attitude to the deteriorating security situation in the state. The individual who doesn’t want to be identified by name wondered why the Governor is yet to visit the family of Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of late Professor Dora Akunyili, who was brutally murdered by still yet to be identified gunmen last week.
“The governor appears holed up in government house, while his state is on fire. He seems to have lost control to villains who strike at will and disappear. He neither associates nor attends meetings with his colleagues.”
The emergency rule suggestion came as Ebonyi State Governor, and Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi, Wednesday, said counter-secessionist groups might emerge in the zone if the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) did not call its members to order and stop the threats and killings.
But the leadership of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Southern and Middle-Belt Alliance (SaMBA) rejected the idea of emergency rule in Anambra State, saying it is completely unwarranted.
Malami said the federal government would not fail to take precautions to ensure that the democratic order was kept safe, saying no possibility is ruled out, including the declaration of a state of emergency.
The minister stated, “When our national security is attacked and the sanctity of our constitutionally guaranteed democracy is threatened, no possibility is ruled out. As a government, we have a responsibility to ensure the sustenance of our democratic order. We have a responsibility to provide security to life and property.
“So, within the context of these constitutional obligations of the government or the desire to maintain democratic norms and order, there is no possibility that is ruled out. The government will certainly do the needful in terms of ensuring that our elections are held in Anambra in terms of ensuring necessary security is provided, and in terms of ensuring protection is accorded to life and property.
“So, what I’m saying in essence, no possibility is ruled out by government in terms of ensuring the sanctity of our democratic order, in terms of ensuring that our elections in Anambra holds, and you cannot rule out possibilities, inclusive of the possibility of declaration of state of emergency, where it is established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of security of life, property, and democratic order.
“So, our position as a government is, these elections are going to provide necessary security in terms of preserving democratic order. Order must certainly prevail for the purpose of this election.
“We resolve to have these elections, the elections are going to hold and no possibilities are ruled out in terms of ensuring the provision of security, for the purpose of safe conduct of the election, as far as Anambra is concerned.”
Equally addressing the security concerns in Anambra State, Umahi, who described the agitation for Biafra as “madness”, said the South-east elite did not want secession, but only desired that the zone be treated fairly and equitably as other zones in the country. He vowed that the South-east would not be grounded or turned to a killing field by secessionist agitators.
Umahi spoke Wednesday as a guest on Channels Television’s “Sunrise Daily” breakfast programme.
The governor said youths in the region, who shunned dialogue to make their grievances heard and resolved, but chose the path of agitation to cause criminality, would be “isolated as criminals”.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, the senator for Abia South, had said aside from IPOB and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), there were more than 30 separatist organisations in the South-east.
But Umahi, who reacted to the claim, said the two separatist groups he knew of were IPOB and MASSOB. He said Abaribe spoke “from the point of his information”, adding that while MASSOB has never been violent, IPOB circulated messages of fear and killings in the zone.
According to the governor, who defected from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in November last year, “The separatist groups we know of, IPOB, we know of MASSOB. MASSOB has never been violent and they are approachable and they tend to reason with us, but this other people, IPOB, their command is never in the country and everyone of them stays out and dishes out messages of bitterness and messages of threats and fear and killings and are not here with us to feel the pains.
“So, these are just the two groups that I can talk about but I fear that if IPOB does not call their people to order and stop these threats and killings and all that, other groups will rise up to counter it. But there is no way South-east would be grounded, there is no way South-east will be sitting at home while other parts of the country will be doing businesses whereas we are the people that should be moving, because we earn our living by moving.”
Umahi said the stay-at-home order by IPOB to protest the detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services since June, would not be obeyed by south easterners if there was enough security presence in the zone.
The APC chieftain also said it was not true that criminals from outside Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states were perpetrating the bloodletting in the South-east, including the burning of police stations and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“We are chief security officers in our various states and we understand what is happening; we know that it is our people that are killing our people and they started killing security men, they started burning houses, they started stopping people from moving freely and we started shouting,” the governor said.
In the lingering stay-at-home order, which has paralysed economic activities in the zone, Umahi said, “People are not sitting at home out of obedience or compliance; people are sitting at home out of fear for their lives.
“If you have a policeman to everybody, nobody is going to obey any sit-at-home, nobody is going to obey that. We are going to do what we have been doing to safeguard the lives of our people, because we’ve got the confidence of our people that you cannot have Biafra by the way they are going about it.
“Every elite in South-east is not desirous of Biafra. We don’t want Biafra; we want to be treated equally like other regions in Nigeria. So, this idea of Biafra, Biafra is madness and we have said, no, we don’t want Biafra.”
The governor alleged that IPOB and other separatist groups in the South-east were being given a push by “pretentious agitations” in the South-west and other parts of the country.
He said, “If we go our separate ways, South-east people will lose a lot because we have invested a lot in every part of this nation. It is not to our advantage to leave our investment and walk away.”
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the ruling party in Anambra State, warned the federal government not to toy with the idea of emergency rule in the state. In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Tex Okechukwu, APGA described such move as uncalled for since Anambra State, saying Anambra has for over seven years ranked as the most peaceful state in Nigeria.
The statement questioned the rationale behind the idea of emergency rule in the state, less than one month to a governorship election, by the same federal government that had not suspended normal constitutional procedures in states with worse security challenges, like Borno, Yobe, Kaduna, Niger, and Nasarawa.
However, those are not in an election situation.
The party advised the federal government to look inwards and unmask those formenting trouble in the state, instead of taking a decision that could cause more harm than good to the country’s democracy.
APGA also called on all well-meaning people in Anambra State to rise up and condemn the plan, as it would truncate all the achievements of the state government.
“We reason that some persons are afraid to face the electorate in Anambra State and are devising a face-saving method to trample upon the will of the people,” APGA declared.
It urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to succumb to “the devious machinations of a few desperadoes, but to look more at the far-reaching benefits of sustaining the peace and progress that had existed in Anambra State before the present insecurity set in.”
Meanwhile the PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the move to impose emergency rule in Anambra State was a ploy by the APC-led federal government to suppress the people, manipulate the electoral process, and rig the outcome of the governorship election for its candidate.
Ologbondiyan stated, “Our party demands that the APC and its administration should come clean on their roles in the sudden rise in insecurity in Anambra State ahead of the election.
“This demand is predicated on apprehensions in the public space that the spate of insecurity in Anambra is contrived to heighten tension in the state so as to derail the democratic process to the advantage of the APC.”
PDP insisted that the federal government had the capacity to ensure peace in Anambra before, during and even after the election, if it so desired.
The party said in the statement, “We, therefore, invite the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC federal government to be guided accordingly. Our party also charges the people of Anambra State to remain calm and alert as well as take steps within the ambits of the law to resist plots by the APC to derail the electoral process in its inordinate ambition to seize Anambra through the back door.”
SaMBA Rejects Emergency Rule
The Southern and Middle-Belt Alliance (SaMBA) rejected the suggestion by Malami for a state of emergency, in a statement on Wednesday. The group wondered why Malami would threaten such in Anambra State while ignoring the northern states of Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger, where a “Festival of Killings” was going.
In the statement signed by its spokesman, Rwang Pam Jnr, SaMBA said Malami should not forget that despite the “killings festival” in those northern states, elections were conducted without the declaration of a state of emergency.
The alliance stated, “It is surprising that the Attorney General of the Federation will make such statement seeing that such statement may lend credence to the suspicion that the crisis in Anambra State is being orchestrated by some clique in the ruling All Progressive Congress Party to win the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
“Elections were conducted in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger, despite the ‘killings festival’ that is going on in those states in the country and AGF did not talk about declaring state of emergency in those areas.
“We note that security forces have moved into the South-east region to secure lives and property and, therefore, call on Malami to bury the thought of declaring a state of emergency in the state for the conduct of November 6 governorship election.”