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State of emergency and national matters arising

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
IT has been the worst of times in Nigeria; this past month. The harvest of deaths has troubled Nigerians in ways that hack back to the frightening days of the civil war. There are very few places in Nigeria today that do not have the re-inforced presence of security forces.

There is a lot that is wrong in the land! From Baga through to Bama, and other places in-between, Nigerians are caught up in an orgy of death and destruction which questions the efficacy of the state, as is presently constituted. Something just had to give.

It seemed that the Nigerian state has just woken from a slumber as its hegemony collapses all around it, in practically every corner of the country. A troubling variety of anti-state actors have become emboldened by the manner that the state has operated.

Citizens don’t feel safe at home, work, leisure or at prayer. And the constitutional provision that emphasizes the central place of security of person and property, to the purpose of governance, has become very hollow in Nigeria. Citizens don’t have a strong state to run to for cover. Self-help has become so central to the survival of people in communities.

It was against this background, that President Goodluck Jonathan took his decision to impose a state of emergency.  The military will get a free reign while the institutions of governance in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa will continue to function.

This was the only victory for reason in a process which seemed to have alarmed Nigerians from all walks of life, when the rumour first emerged a couple of days ago. People seemed to have recognized that the central government has a challenge to get to the roots of the insurgency, but they would not brook the suspension of lawfully constituted governmental authorities in the states concerned.

That is fine in itself but fundamentally, what does the declaration mean? How are the troops to operate and what will be the rules of engagement that one will hold the Nigerian security forces to strictly adhere to? What are they going to do differently from what they did in the recent past, which has led to accusations that the military inadvertently became recruiting sergeants for the insurgency?

The challenge of enforcing the emergency is not going to be a tea party. The troops must be as compassionate as they possibly could be in the circumstance; unfortunately, that so far, is not the practice.

But more central is how the sphere of authority of the governments in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa will be protected from erosion by rampaging troops that feel loyalty to their field commanders or the security hierarchy in Abuja.

But we will not tire to state that there are underlining socio-economic as well religious/ideological issues that must be creatively deconstructed if there is a desire to find the lasting peace which our society deserves. There are deep-seated manifestations of injustice in the land that revolt the heart of the patriot.

The ruling class continues to maintain its inordinate privileges to the detriment of the basic needs of the majority of the people of Nigeria. And today, 75 percent of the population is now under the age of 35.

It is an embittered generation, with few positive options to live a decent livelihood; they make up the gang of robbers and kidnappers;  are the main components of the ideologically-driven members of Boko Haram and they are the cultists prowling the universities, raping their classmates and contemporaries; they are the yahoo-yahoo boys extracting money from people around the world to finance unearned but lavish lifestyles of the best cars and the most beautiful girls.

In all these anti-state activities, they mirror the brazen manner of ruling class irresponsibility at the heart of the dysfunctional state that our country has increasingly become.

The Borno governor, Kashim Shettima was very right when he warned last week, that Nigeria is peeping down the barrel of revolutionary upheaval. But it seems that we are much closer to an anarchic deluge; unfortunately, the ruling class only serves more of the same: their privileges above everything else.

A lot of these problems need to be resolved in the realm of political struggle. For most of the period since 1999, the form and content of politics have merely reinforced a piratical propensity of the ruling class in our country.

Those with access to the levers of power indulge in the most criminal prebendalism that has morphed into the state of crises which engulfs the nation today. In all that we are grappling with, the state itself has eroded in competence and ability while its legitimacy means very little to those who have openly challenged its monopoly of violence and are willing to duel to the death, to harm it to the point of dissembling.

The declaration of a state of emergency is a show of teeth and the beginning of the extra projection of the coercive arm of state power. But the issue is whether it can lead us to a favourable outcome. Just the day before the emergency was declared, Imam Abubakar Shekau released a new video.

He claimed responsibility for Baga and Bama; reiterated that Boko Haram now captures women and children in retaliation for their own detained by the state and he will not touch amnesty by a long pole. We are caught up in a logjam from hell and we will need more than Solomon’s wisdom to beak the tragic and violent impasse.

Anyiam Nnaemeka’s, the NYSC, Zamfara State and I

ON Tuesday, this week, THE GUARDIAN newspaper’s YOUTHSPEAK backpage column, carried a piece by a youth corps member, Anyiam Nnaemeka, serving in Zamfara state. It is a very instructive read.

At a time when dead-ender, old ethnic chauvinists never cease to threaten us with warfare; breakup of our country and worse; old people who enjoyed the best the nation ever could have given, but who are no longer relevant in the scheme of things.

The young man serving in Zamfara state kept an open mind about his posting, after the initial scare, constructed out of ignorance and prejudice, to discover the humanity of the people of the community within which he has been posted to serve.

Not for him the crude prejudices that reign all over our country today; the posturing for advantage across vicious divides and the profiling of the OTHER; Anyiam experienced and connected with the humanity of the people of Zamfara state.

I will like to quote this young Nigerian extensively because he was really so honest in his observation: “serving in Zamfara has afforded me a lot of opportunities I would not have had if I remained down South in the East. At least I have experienced Zamfara for myself and can now separate fact from fiction. Zamfara is peaceful and friendly.

You’re appreciated as a corper. Living here is affordable, food is abundant, the sharia is not harmful, there’s fun in Zamfara…I’ve seen their religious practice and I can compare with mine. I’ve seen their flaws and I now know how I can help. I’ve understood that you don’t stand far off and make up convoluted stories about people. Come closer, live among them and friends, you’ll be amazed at how much you did not know.

But more importantly, I’ve seen that we are all the same Nigerians and can exist as one; you as a Christian, I as a Muslim and life will go on. Our cultural and religious differences are simply variety which we all know is the spice of life. There’s really no need for the hate”.

For Zamfara, you could substitute with any other Nigerian state, North or South, and Anyiam Nnaemeka, could very well be Bashar or Adeleye or Bassey. Young people are posted around the country, away from their homes, and in the process discover the shared citizenship and humanity upon which we can build our country.

These young people defeat the concerted effort by many elements to de-legitimise our country, using the “tribal warfare” mindset that belong in Antiquity. The din of this effort at de-legitimisation was very high in the wake of the killings which followed the April 2011 elections when some youth corps members were tragically killed in Bauchi state.

They agitated for weeks to end national service but two years down the line, Anyiam Nnaemeka and other young people are defeating the forces of national disintegration. Nigeria is going through a lot of crises today, but it is a nation with tremendous possibilities for development and liberation.

PDP and the invigorated opposition: The Fixer-In-Chief’s cross

IT is often said in political circles that the fear of Chief Tony Anenih is the
beginning of political wisdom. The old colonial-era policeman, by dint of hard work; a dollop of cunning and unbridled viciousness, has become the eminence grise of ruling party politics in our country.

There’s just something that makes the chief tick and that is the uncommon loyalty to leaders of his party and the willingness to carry out dirty jobs to enhance the survival of the ruling class project. In recent weeks, the old cop has been up and about, shoring up relations within the PDP and building bridges to the aggrieved within the party.

More than any other party leader, Tony Anenih knows things are in a bad way for the vote-rigging contraption called the PDP and he is alerting: “We must not live under the illusion that our party is invulnerable. Although, the existing opposition parties are still too small, fragile and sectional, we must not ignore the possibility that a merger of these parties may constitute a threat to our dominance of the political terrain”. Tony Anenih has spoken.

Those who do not listen to the colonial-era policeman will lose out in the race for 2015, because even the party’s suzerainty is being closely questioned by Nigerians and the re-invigorated opposition. Tony Anenih is in his best elements at the moment.

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