• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Rivers: Putting the “Sim Card” in the phone’s emergency mode

How Rivers’ fresh political crisis is affecting state’s economy

The recent call for a declaration of a state of emergency in Rivers State by the Chairman of the Rivers State APC is, to say the least, reckless. The chairman must have been debilitated by ignorance to have made such a call. Indeed, the WS of Africa was right when he noted that the problem with Nigerian people is that we have a short memory.

It is on record that the declaration of a state of emergency in the then Western Region in 1965 and the travails of Obafemi Awolowo and several AG chieftains, rather than urgently doing something to pacify the people and arrest the situation, consumed the trio of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, and Ladoke Akintola. Why? They were dangerously deluded. The Rivers issue is political, and it must be solved politically.

We cannot continue to be onlookers over what I will best refer to as Wike’s deluded state of megalomania, which is ultimately aimed at destabilising the state through his proxies over his feud with Governor Sim Fubara. We must shy away from telling the protagonists of the state of emergency that it’s a call to death on arrival. It’s a situation that deserves constitutional compliance by every party involved, not a state of emergency.

The hostility of Wike towards the Governor of Rivers State as a result of their political fallout is not in any way healthy for the country’s budding democracy. In fact, it only portrays the deadness of conscience and the absence of civic dignity. While it is on record that the president, in the initial state of the crisis, weighed in, since both parties have removed their gloves in this war of attrition, one would have expected the police in the state to be neutral in such a delicate political feud, but from all indications, the state police seem to be tilting towards Abuja.

Section 305, Subsection 3 (c and d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), is very clear on the state of emergency. The Declaration of State of Emergency is not meant to be used recklessly. The Rivers issue does not require any extraordinary measures to restore peace and security or extraordinary measures to avert danger other than strict adherence to the rule of law, most especially by those fanning the embers of discontent and war.

The Police Act empowers the police to maintain public safety and public order, protect lives and property, prevent and detect crimes, and enforce all laws. If not that the IGP and, indeed, the Rivers State CP have taken a partisan leaning, by now, arrests should have been made. Those fomenting trouble in Rivers State should have by now been arrested.

Read also: PDP helpless in Rivers’ crisis because party compromised at all levels – Ugochinyere

The attempt to bomb Hotel Presidential in Port-Harcourt by some pro-Wike youths protesting (as reported by the Governor) when some Senators on official duties in the State were lodged there could be likened to the mob attack on four Northern Governors who were on a solidarity visit to Amaechi in Port-Harcourt during the heat of his crisis with Madame Jonathan and Wike as Minister of State for Education. The same way John Mbu, the then Rivers State Police Commissioner, looked the other way, is the same way the police in Rivers State have been looking the other way, obviously reading Abuja’s body language.

One does not need a soothsayer to know that there are those hellbent on destabilising the Rivers State government and getting the Governor, Fubara, out of office by all costs and by all means, no matter how foul. The President does not need to be told that the Rivers crisis portends clear danger for democracy in Nigeria before he must act.

If not now, there is no better time to call a spade. Anyone who is interested in interrogating the motive behind the irrelevant call for a state of emergency in Rivers State will understand that such a call was instigated by the manipulative skull of Wike and is being echoed by his sympathisers.

Rivers State, despite the political crisis, has been relatively peaceful. Unlike the Southeast region, where there has been a bloodbath and destruction of government-critical infrastructure for the past five years, we must now ask: Why is there a state of emergency in Rivers?

The call for a state of emergency must be dismissed as a diversionary response to the political issue in Rivers State. Isn’t it instructive that despite the dimension of the violence in Imo State and, indeed, the South East States’ security architecture, there has not been a reason to clamour for the declaration of a state of emergency in the region in order to arrest the situation?

It is important to refresh the memory of the Rivers APC Chairman and his apologists that, for years now, we have been inundated with disturbing news of violence in the southeastern part of the country. ESN, the armed wing of IPOB, has held down the whole region via a sit-at-home declaration, amongst other parallel acts. Unfortunately, the government has maintained a total silence about the evil going on in the region while the people are left to gnash their teeth in excruciating pain.

On April 5, 2021, ESN attacked a correctional centre in Owerri, where 1,800 inmates were freed. The gunmen also attacked Imo State Police Command headquarters and freed suspects while gunning down two military men at a certain junction. They have attacked nothing less than 11 police divisions in Imo State alone since February 2021 till date, killing officers and setting alight at these stations, thereby opening the state up for broader insecurity.

In Anambra, no fewer than 10 police officers were killed in 2022, and six police divisional headquarters were attacked by ESN members who have been tagged as unknown gunmen. The most disturbing of it all is that the Ebonyi State Police Command said they cannot get the exact number of police officers that have been killed since this uprising started in the state.

The timeline of violence in the Southeast region is so heartbreaking to the extent that the people now live in perpetual fear and severe pain. The Southeast series of violence is proof of the dismissal of further reliance on the federal government for the protection of citizens.

When Obafemi Awolowo raised an alarm about the economic crisis bedevilling Nigeria under Shehu Shagari, the former asked the latter if he had asked himself the question “cui bono.” Alas! Shehu Shagari, while disregarding and trivialising the evil under his administration, replied to Awolowo that he did not ask himself questions in Latin but in Hausa and, or, English. He did not see the storm coming, but he got consumed.

Negative events always commence with irresponsible pronouncements, such as the call for the declaration of a state of emergency in Rivers State by the State APC Chairman. Despite the fact that a number of people, most particularly those loyal to Wike, have used inflammatory rhetoric, threatening imminent violence, the APC Chairman has not seen a reason to call for the arrest and prosecution of these people. Rather, he wants the state to be under emergency rule, which will in a way rub the governor off whatever executive power he left.

I call on the Presidency not to compound Rivers’s political crisis by going the way of a declaration of state of emergency. The rule of law must be allowed to thrive, and the immunity some of these non-state actors threatening fire and brimstone in Rivers enjoy all the way up to the Police Command must be stripped off. If there is a declaration of a state of emergency in any part of the country today, it must be the southeast region that has been so ravaged by the activities of ESN.