Democratisation of Violence or State of Emergency?, By Babayola Toungo
The request for the extension of the state of emergency in the northeast states tabled before the National Assembly by Goodluck Jonathan and sheepishly approved by the House of Representatives is clear indication that they have harkened to the misinformed call of the Southern Leadership Assembly and not the informed call by the North East Leadership Forum. While the former live over a thousand kilometres away from the northeast, the later are right at the centre of the mayhem. The act of tabling the request in itself is further prove positive that the Jonathan administration “has now become a government of impunity run by an evil-minded leadership..” to quote Admiral Murtala Nyako.
While the people of the three states – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – are counting the days and eagerly waiting for the last day of the emergency rule, those who the Admiral described in his Memo as “murderous/ cutthroats imbedded in our legitimate and traditional defence and security organisations” are pushing for the extension of the emergency. As it turns out, Admiral, the “cutthroats” are also embedded in the political class. The people of these three states have been living through hell in the past one year. Their routines have been dislocated, their economic activities were grounded and their psyches have been brutalised. Worse of all, the security situation became shoddier under the emergency regime. An unnecessary curfew is imposed on the people making life more difficult than before the proclamation. All businesses must be closed from a certain time to a definite time. One is not allowed to venture out once the curfew hour kick-ins. Even the act of taking a sick relation or expectant mother to the hospital has become risky because one may either be shot or arrested. While they were enduring these, those calling for the extension of the state of emergency are ensconced in far away places like Abuja, Enugu, Port-Harcourt or Lagos.
It is not unusual for the soldiers to close down a whole town in the middle of the day in the name of “stop and search operation”. While the innocent and law abiding are harassed, humiliated and confined to their houses defenceless and at the mercy of killers, the killers are having a field day with unbridled impunity and access – choosing and picking their targets.
Another fall out of the state of emergency is the unwitting “democratisation of violence” – the proliferation of arms within the northeast of arms and ammunition. Today in the northeast, a toddler knows what an AK-47 looks like. Small arms and rifles are now common sight. It also led to the escalation of violence to unthinkable proportions. Before the declaration of the emergency regime, the insurgents operate in small ways before the audacious Baga massacre, which was attributed to the military. This was the point that the mayhem took a life of its own and the declaration of the state of emergency only escalated the killing sprees. With the insurgents killing and destroying at will, the soldiers are harassing, humiliating and brutalising the people. The innocent poor are now living a life filled with violence from both sides.
While I may not be a security expert, I am yet to see anything to convince me of the need to extent this martial tactic. I am rather more convinced that the emergency rule should not be extended because of the results so far seen by the entire world and the pains it inflicts on those residing in the emergency states. For those who are objective and unbiased, I want us to put the emergency rule on a scale and see what it has achieved. This is without prejudice to creed, region or tribe. We should view everything from a human prism untainted by our usual prejudices.
The invasion of Bama, Konduga, Gwoza Izge and Gamboru Ngala all took place while the emergency rule is in force. The “insurgents” seem to be emboldened by the emergency declaration because they know all law abiding citizens are confined to their homes like chicken by the attendant curfew that is part of the emergency. The insurgents who the emergency rule was meant to tame had a smooth ride overrunning military formations like the Air force base in Maiduguri and the Giwa Barracks. The destruction of Mobbar, Mafa and some other villages along the Maiduguri – Damaturu highway were all carried out under the emergency rule. And during curfew hours.
Students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi were massacred in their sleep while Yobe state was effectively under the jackboots of the military, whose Commander in Chief is the President of the Federal Republic. Beni Sheikh, another town in Yobe was invaded and many people slaughtered in cold blood. Residents of Damaturu, Potiskum and Damagun, all in Yobe state, had to learn to sleep with both eyes open during in the past one year as the insurgents make sweeping visits to their towns from time to time unmolested. Parents of schoolgirls in Chibok lost their kids under the emergency period and are yet to be reunited with them. Their only consolation (if it can be called so) is that they are sure for the moment their children are alive, if the video shown to the world by their abductors is to be belived.
The northern part of Adamawa has not known peace from the time the emergency rule has been introduced in the state. Numerous villages and towns around the area were attacked several times without response from the soldiers that are purportedly drafted to beef up security in the area. The Adamawa state governor escaped death by the hairs of his beard at one time when he went to condole with those who came under attack by God knows who.
Interestingly, all the aforementioned attacks always take place in the night. Security personnel are on the prowl during these curfew hours to ensure its compliance by a browbeaten citizenry. The people living in these areas are caught between a brutal gang of killers and an unsympathetic security personnel whose presence is only felt at the ubiquitous road blocks that are now a veritable source of frustration to travellers and toll collection centres to those who man them.
The House of Representatives members hinged its motivation for the approval to extent the emergency rule in the three states on “evidence” presented before them by the Service Chiefs. The House will have done itself a world of good by presenting this same evidence to the people of the northeast in order to convince them to buy into the extension. Living in their Abuja comfort zones and appending their names to the continued brutalisation of their people by a military whose tactics are no better than those of the insurgents is easy for them. I will advice most of them to avoid their constituencies because the evidences before the constituents paints a different picture. Most of them believe they are better off before the emergency.
These are some of the few things the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states have been subjected to in the past one year. And this is what their so-called representatives want them to continue with for another six month.
The proclamation of a state of emergency in a democratic dispensation is an aberration and can therefore not be used ad infinitum. If Jonathan believes that the Boko Haram menace falls under the factors numerated in S.305 (3) (c or d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), then in my opinion, the threat by the Ijaw Youth Congress should be treated under S. 305 (3) (f). With the near collapse of civilisation in the eastern region in the recent past when Port Harcourt was practically set ablaze, no such drastic action was taken on the region. What is the difference now?
If the logic of those calling for the extension of the state of emergency in the three northeastern states is allowed to prevail, then the northern region of Nigeria should brace itself for a declaration of state of emergency in the whole of the region before the 2015 elections. Either by design or default, the north is on fire – Boko Haram in the northeast, farmers/ herders clashes in the north central and bandits in the northwest.
The success of the Civilian JTF in Borno is inspite of the emergency, not because of it. Were the people of Raan, Kala Balge local government to rely on the soldiers to save them, their town will have been laid to ruins. For the people of the northeast, emergency rule is akin to lining them up to be killed. This, they are rising to reject. The result? Everybody is arming himself the best way they know how. This way they are all soldiers defending their lives and livelihoods. Violence have been democratised by the emergency rule and who knows what becomes of these “civilian” JTF’s after the war against Boko Haram is won? I leave that to your imagination. The Senate may yet save the people by denying Jonathan his request.
If all else fails, then Diariz God.