Will, or shall we say, can,Obasanjo place Lagos under a state of emergency?
Special to NigeriaCentral.comand USAfricaonline.com
Bola Tinubu , governor of Lagos state, has said that he wasappalled and angered by the criticism from Nigeria's PresidentOlusegun Obasanjo that Tinubu was losing control of law and order inthe state. Obasanjo has implied that the situation which has beenmade rather difficult by the actions of the Odua Peoples Congress, amilitant Yoruba group, could force him to impose a state ofemergency.
His January 13 letter to Tinubu, among other things, stated: Ineed not remind you of the Oath of Office to which you swore in May1999 as the Executive Governor of Lagos State. As Chief ExecutiveOfficer of the State, the onus of the protection of the lives andproperty of the citizens of your state rests squarely on yourshoulders. Indeed, the raison detre of your office is the maintenanceof law and order in Lagos State and the provision of good quality oflife for people living in the state." Obasanjo made a direct personalreference to Tinubu, specifically refering to "your seeminglyunguarded utterances in support of the dastardly acts of brigandageand banditry of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC)." The OPC has alsobeen charged for attacks on police stations.
The embattled Lagos governor who has been facing serious andviable charges regarding his claims to have acquired degrees from U.Sand Canadian colleges, took the volley back to Obasanjo by statingvehemently that "I am appalled, on the other hand, that you haveoffhandedly accused me of unguarded utterances in support of thedastardly acts of brigandage and banditry of the Oodua PeoplesCongress (OPC). And this without the slightest iota of evidence toprove such a grave allegation coming from an office as exalted asthat which you occupy."
He criticised Obasanjo whom he said "referred vaguely to anewspaper which allegedly reported these fictional utterances falselyand maliciously ascribed to me but surprisingly failed to name thepublication in question. When, I must ask, has it become consistentwith the tenets of democracy for an individual to be adjudged guilty,in this arbitrary way on the basis of unspecified, obviouslyimaginary utterances made in unidentified publications?"
On the alleged failings of the Lagos governor to fulfil his duty,he stated that "...no one took that solemn and sacred oath on mybehalf on May 29, 1999. As Governor, I am the Chief Security Officerof the state responsible for safety of lives and property under myjurisdiction. And it is as a result of this consciousness that I haveconsistently led the way in condemning the dangerous constitutionallacuna which confers on a state governor the empty status of chiefsecurity officer but effectively denies him the wherewithal tofunction as such. I am glad that many of my colleagues in variousstates have followed my example by calling for either state orregional police formations."
Tinubu did not mince words in claiming that Obasanjo "hasunfortunately maintained a baffling silence on this all importantconstitutional matter that borders so crucially on the sanctity oflives and property."
The issues of law and order have served as reasons in the past forthe military to intervene and kick the civilians out of office.Hence, many Nigerians, according to NigeriaCentral.com and USAfricaThe Newspaper reporters and consultants in different parts ofNigeria, seem to support the demand, even if belated, by PresidentObasanjo that Tinubu and federal police act more decisively to haltthe dangers and problems which the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) hascaused, and the attendant problems of ethnic conflicts between thenorthern Hausas and Yorubas in differentparts of Yorubaland. Also, Afolabi Amao, a Lagos Divisional PoliceOfficer (DPO) in the Bariga area was allegedly thrown into the Lagoslagoon by members of the OPC. Divers are searching for his body.
It will be equally important to note that Obasanjo's party, thePeoples Democratic Party (PDP) was massively routed by Tinubu'sAlliance for Democracy in Lagos, and in Obasanjo's local councilarea, count/district and the entire state of Ogun. Therefore, it willnot be far-fetched to hear from many cynics the usual claims ofpartisan motives and sub-ethnic interpretations (although Tinubu andObasanjo are both Yorubas) since both issues are recurring factors inNigeria's geopolitical power plays. I believe Obasanjo's concerns arevery well-founded and must be commended. Yet the question remainswhether Obasanjo and the federal police should allow cynical claimsto restrain their response to the sensitive situation in the formercapital city of Nigeria? Or was President Obasanjo merely blusteringwhen he insinuated in his letter the possibility of declaring a stateof emergency in Lagos? More critical, will Obasanjo fit the image ofsome of his critics who have said that the retired General cannotdecisively "deal" with some of his own Yoruba folks (particularlythose of the OPC) who seem to gradually undermine his increasinglypopular government? His heavy-handed and massive response whichdemolished parts of Odi town has continued to raise questions, too,about the lack of will as regards the OPC and their patrons. Or willhe work, in tandem, with Tinubu to put into effect such necessarydecisive moves as to halt the killings and hooliganism in and aroundLagos, particulalrly as spearheaded by the Ganiyu Adams-led OPC?
As the days and times of the nearly one year-old democraticgovernments in Nigeria deal with the challenges, most of those issueswill be increasingly tested on the canvas of time and realities ofEko (Lagos) and the wider context of Nigeria's geopolitics.
Nwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ1997, is the Founder & Publisher of USAfrica The Newspaper,USAfricaonline.com(first African-owned U.S-based professional newspaper to be publishedon the internet), The BlackBusiness Journal,www.BBJonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com.He covered U.S president Bill Clinton's visit to parts of Africa,March-April 2, 1998. He is writing a book on the experiences ofrecent African immigrants in the U.S.
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