‘Emergency rule is a threat to democracy’ Olufemi Aduwo is the national coordinator of the Rights Monitoring Group (RMG). In this interview, he says emergency rule is a threat to democracy. Excerpts:
With the present insecurity in the Northeast, do you see the chances of INEC holding elections in the states under emergency rule?
At the beginning, the federal government did something like test running where the emergency rule was declared in some local government areas, it did not work. It back-fired. Now it is going to one year now and it has not worked, so you have to change tactics. It is only in Nigeria that you can hear state of emergency like that in short time. It has to be a long term affair to get to the root of the crisis. As I talk now, I don’t think the Military know the strength of Boko Haram, if you want to fight the enemy, one of the first things to know is the strength of your enemy, the logistics, so the emergency is a threat to our democracy. We must get alternatives to end this crisis. Contrary to what many believe, dialogue is still the best option, this is what America is doing about the insurgency they are tackling though they pretend they were not dialoguing with the insurgents they were tackling, even though through proxy, there are many ways of fighting insurgency.
The government has instituted dialogue mechanisms in the past that seems to have failed, how do you want government to go about this?
Government never said they wanted to dialogue. Remember that there was the Minister of Special Duties committee. He deceived Nigerians; he told us the Boko Haram agreed to lay down their arms, when he never spoke to any Boko Haram. In an ideal society, this would not happen. You lied to the government, and you never do anything at the end of the day it was zero. Even people in government are not sincere, their statements and actions are even worse than Boko Haram. These people are known and I believe there is a way we can all resolve this, the issue of Military is not working, so there must be another way out. Remember, two years ago when America declared Boko Haram as an international terrorist group, government said no, but now they said yes, we agree, and want foreign people to assist you.
There had been complaints that the emergency rule was not yielding positive results because it was not in totality…
What is not in totality here? You want the governors to be sacked, for what? For example, in Adamawa, there is no reason to declare state of emergency, the state is peaceful, you don’t see Army in the streets of Adamawa, it is peaceful, except at the borders. Of all those arrested, no single persons is a citizen of Adamawa State, so why are you punishing the whole state? I think the Military are not being sincere on why the emergency was declared in Adamawa. This step is a threat to democracy. If Pakistan and Afghanistan can still organise elections and they are still managing, there is no reason not to hold elections in those states, I think our leaders are not sincere. You heard what somebody said on VOA, this is weighty and a serious indictment, if people we relied upon to save us are the same people who are enemies, then something is wrong.
What is your expectation from the national conference?
I don’t see anything coming out of this conference it is just for people to talk and go back home. It is like organizing a seminar on voter education, the outcome of the seminar is not binding on INEC to take it. Since there is no legal framework for the conference, so it is a talk shop. The government wants amendment of the Constitution to pave way for referendum, it would not work.
How then do you think the country can move forward?
During the attack on America then, the Democrats, Republicans and others came together to move forward. But this conference, you see people pushing for ethnic agenda, personal interests and so on. It is good to talk if the people are sincere. When you go to conference with 10 national agenda and get even two approved, you move forward and not that everything must be approved, it does not work like that.
Do you then see the national conference as an indictment on National Assembly?
We have said it over the years, people are yearning for true fiscal federalism. We are running an expensive federal government with so much money is going for overhead cost at the expense of capital projects for national development. We should use the 1993 conference to form the basis of reducing high cost of governance. After all, South African Lawmakers stay in their constituency, but we are running a government that is too expensive. We must find ways of reducing that cost. If the National Assembly has been sincere, they would have done the needful by amending the Constitution, so the conference is an indictment on them the National Assembly, they know the conference report is coming to them and it would go to the dust bin.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s ambition to run in 2015 is being seen as part of the problems confronting the country. Do you want the president to run in 2015?
Mr. President is qualified to contest, the Constitution guaranteed him that. Some individuals whether they are 10, 14 or whatever number cannot take the duty of the people of Nigerians that they signed agreement, there is nothing wrong in a sitting president being voted out. What I don’t like is the President not declaring his interest to contest when we all know he is interested. The campaign is on already, but PDP have problems to address, Mr. President inherited 27 state governors, after the 2011, they dropped to 23, now they are about 19 and there are about three others whose legs are divided between PDP and APC. Mr. President allowed people like Bamaga Tukur to destroy the PDP.