Sunday, 10 October 2021 06:07

State of emergency: Why only Anambra? - Bola Bolawole

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The Presidency or, better still, the Attorney-General of the Federal Government and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has reportedly threatened Anambra state with a state of emergency; his ostensible reason being the killing spree ongoing in the entire South-east region, Anambra inclusive. Some have attributed the killings to Independence-seeking Igbo under the umbrella of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Nnamdi Kanu, currently in detention in Abuja after his reported abduction from Kenya by the Nigeria government and or its agents. Others have fingered an arm of the security agencies as having a hand in the killings. Government must investigate and speak the truth. IPOB is campaigning to quit Nigeria and have Biafra. For this same cause a 30-month civil war was fought between 1967 and 1970, as a result of which millions of lives and limbs were lost. The then Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, military governor of the Eastern Region, led the Igbo to war but they lost to the Nigerian side and their dream of a sovereign nation was truncated. Half a century after, however, the flame of secession again burns brightly in the South-east; no thanks to the alleged mindless marginalization of the Igbo by the retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari administration. In his body language, in his spoken words, in his actions, and in his appointments, Buhari has left no one in doubt that he might still be at war with the Igbo. For him, the civil war might not have ended, and the three Rs by the then military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon – Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation – might be sheer bunkum. Buhari defended the allegation of marginalization of the Igbo by his government by saying they gave him only 5% votes in the election that brought him to power as against his own people in the North who gave him 97% votes. He also not long ago referred to the Igbo as a dot in the midst of nowhere. Experience has shown that such volatile, intemperate, insensitive and provocative statements and ethnic profiling, apart from being unbecoming of a statesman, are also the building blocks of ethnic cleansing, sectarian strife and uncontrollable violence. Ask the Rwandans! Ask the Ogoni!

For sure, many South-easterners never let go of their Biafra dream but it is Buhari’s treatment of the Igbo that has poured petrol into the smouldering fire of Biafran irredentism. It is like there is a deliberate plot to incense and provoke the Igbo so they can be drawn out again for another kill. Witness the various “Operation Crocodile Smile” in the region! Witness the automatic alacrity with which the IPOB was branded a terrorist organisation while Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and bandits are cuddled, settled, protected, and treated with kid gloves at the worst by the same government that was quick to descend on IPOB with a sledge hammer. The killings and destruction of property in the South-east are senseless and horrendous – but so also are the longer-running killings in Borno, in Yobe, in Zamfara, in Kaduna, in Katsina, in Niger states and other parts of the North. Why has a state of emergency not been declared in those states? Why have the perpetrators of heinous crimes in the North not been properly branded as terrorists like the international community has done? The double standards are damn too obvious and are indefensible by any rational and sensible criterion. Within the Southeast itself, why is it only Anambra, an opposition state, that is being singled out for a state of emergency? What of Imo - and what of Ebonyi? There is no state in the region that does not reel from the “volcanic” eruptions caused by the IPOB-declared sit-at-home-order every Monday. If it is because elections are due in Anambra, can't anyone see that a state of emergency will worsen, rather than help, the situation? A state of emergency in Anambra ahead of the governorship election is tantamount to a clever-by-half tactic by the ruling APC to steal the election and capture the state sleight of hand. We may be on the march to a one-party State and creeping fascism may soon descend heavily on all of us.

But, before then, this warning: When a state of emergency was declared in the Western Region on May 29, 1962 by the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to steal the region from the Action Group government of Obafemi Awolowo and impose an unpopular government on an unwilling people, what happened? That singular action led to a spate of actions – Operation Wetie; the Wild, Wild West; military coup and, eventually, civil war. George Santayana says those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeating its mistakes.  Some mistakes are so damn costly they must not be repeated. If elections are looking improbable in Anambra because of the agitations there, then, the right thing to do is not flex muscles and exacerbate an already bad situation but to listen to wise counsel and begin the process of de-escalation of a self-inflicted problem except, like we had earlier said, this is a deliberate effort to give a dog a bad name so as to hang it. But once an action is triggered and it assumes a life of its own, who can predict its outcome? A word, as they say, is enough for the wise!

But in the event that Malami or the Presidency is hell-bent on declaring a state of emergency, there are many areas of our national life crying for one. The education sector is one. ASUU and the other unions in the education sector have cried themselves hoarse trying to draw the government’s attention. Strike after strike, negotiation after negotiation, rather than thaw, the situation hardens. Quality education has departed these shores. Yet, education is the bedrock of any nation’s development. No nation develops better than the quality of its educational sector. Let Buhari, as a matter of urgency, declare a state of emergency in the education sector and I will applaud him. Needed urgently, also, is a state of emergency in the health sector. Our hospitals are far worse today than the “consulting centres” the coup plotters said they were in those giddy days of military dictatorship. In those days there were still doctors and consultants; only there was no equipment and drugs; but, today, virtually all the consultants have relocated abroad in search of greener pastures and wholesome environments that promote their practice. Anyone that is anybody in the country these days, President Buhari himself inclusive, jets out of the country for medical attention. People die preventable deaths; yet, health is wealth and a healthy mind is to be found in a healthy body. From his own personal experience I am sure Buhari himself knows the importance of sound health; he should, therefore, be prompt in declaring a state of emergency in the health sector.

Insurgency has driven farmers off their farms and food shortage has resulted. Prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed, hitting the roof in many instances. Yet, our people have a saying that once hunger is eliminated from a man’s problems, whatever is left becomes manageable. In many cultures and traditions, thieves are left off the hook once they can prove that hunger drove them. A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. In times past, poor Nigerians fed from the dustbins of the rich but, today, with the middle class virtually wiped out, there is nothing worthwhile in many dustbins for the desperately poor to scavenge. Productivity will drop. Crime will fester. More people will take ill and hospitals and workforce that are already inadequate and overstretched will further bust in the seams. More preventable and avoidable deaths will follow. So, Buhari should hurry up and declare a state of emergency in the food/agriculture sector. This is the time that we need all the “Operations” – Operation Feed the Nation; Operation Back to Land, Operation Food for All, etc.

According to some statistics, Nigeria has one of the largest populations of youths in the world. Yet, these youths struggle to gain admission into the institutions of higher learning. But for private schools, only God knows where we would have been! After the ordeal of going through school – no scholarships; no bursary, fleeced by poor, hungry, angry and oppressive Faculty; incessant school closures, and exorbitant school fees in many cases, they pass out to face a harsh economic environment of no jobs, no unemployment benefits, and no grants to start off on their own. When they complained #EndSARS, they were mowed by security forces deployed by the government. Thousands in paid employment keep losing their jobs on a daily basis as a result of oppressive Naira exchange rate, epileptic power supply, corruption at every turn that makes the cost of doing business prohibitive here, low purchasing power of the people, etc. Nigeria’s unemployment rate (2021) is put at 32.5 percent while the inflation rate is over 17%. The Naira exchange rate is close to N600 to US$ while the nation’s debt stock is over N100 trillion. Eighty-eight percent and above of all government revenue goes for debt servicing (not payment of the capital) while more foreign loans are needed to keep on the semblance of governance. There is nowhere a state of emergency is needed more than in the economy. So, what is Buhari still waiting for?

We can go on and on! What of the decrepit state of infrastructure all over the country? How about epileptic power supply? And should we not talk of the state of insecurity that has enveloped the entire country? On top of them all, a state of emergency is needed in the seat of power itself! We have never been this badly governed! Yes, a state of emergency is needed like yesterday in many areas of our national life but, as is characteristic of it, a corrupt, inept, incompetent, incoherent, clueless, and nepotistic government looks in the wrong direction in pursuit of a selfish and self-serving agenda that has all but run the country aground. But, mark my word, Anambra may be, like Napoleon Bonaparte’s, their own Waterloo, or like the biblical king Ahab, their own Ramoth-gilead! Need I say more?

FEEDBACK

Thanks for sharing your lovely piece (“Succession dispute in Nigerian universities: Matters arising”). I do have two issues that I wish to correct. One is that LASU is the best-run state University. Osun State University that was built by Gov. Olagunsoye Oyinlola and pioneered by Sola Akinrinade, the Kwara State University, Malete built by Gov. Bukola Saraki and Kogi State University are state universities with better foundations and structures. Weighed against the resources of Lagos State, I am strongly of the opinion that Lagos has really not built a quality university. You can extend this argument to many other areas of life, particularly infrastructure, where Lagos is lacking in spite of the huge taxes it generates. If you go to many schools off the major roads in Lagos, you will simply weep. The second issue is about the fact that China, Singapore, the Indians and the Japanese do not seek Western validation the way Africans do. That may be a bit sweeping. Go to Harvard, Stanford and Yale or the top-rated universities in the West and see the load of Chinese, Indian and other Asian students there. - Tony Iyare

  • Bola Bolawole

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