Malami Owes Nigerians An Apology

By Ifeanyichukwu Afuba
Abubakar Malami, SAN, (Minister of Justice And AGF)
Abubakar Malami, SAN, (Minister of Justice And AGF)

Following the scaremongering by the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that a state of emergency might be declared in Anambra State towards ensuring conduct of the November 6, 2021 governorship election, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano promptly called the federal attorney general's bluff.

Governor Obiano who earlier denounced the proposal as unacceptable in a statement by the Anambra State Commissioner for Information, C. Don Adinuba, met with President Mohammadu Buhar less than twenty four hours later to register objection to the Minister's frivolous declaration.

In a roundly condemned interview, the Minister of Justice had embarked on an alarmist narrative of the approaching election.

Punch newspaper of October 6, 2021 reported Malami as saying: "... no possibility is ruled out by (the federal) government in terms of ensuring the sanctity of our democratic order, in terms of ensuring that our elections in Anambra hold. And you cannot rule out the possibility of declaration of state of emergency where it's established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of lives, properties and democratic order."

Malami's outburst was wrong on several fronts. As a senior and experienced lawyer, he should not be seen trivialising the instrument of state of emergency. The provision contemplates the collapse of systemic law and order which is as far removed from Anambra's recent situation as outer space. We have come some way from the gross abuse which Obasanjo's imperial Presidency subjected the clause. There can be no controversy that invocation of state of emergency is a last resort in search of public safety and order and even at that, there are due processes prescribed by section 305 of the Nigerian Constitution.

It was insensitive of the Minister of Justice promoting the agenda of emergency declaration in a context and manner that would obviously heighten tensions. There had not been any engagement with the Anambra State Government on the issues. In the event, Malami's emergency agenda - setting was a bombshell which triggered much disaffection.

Nigerians were understandably enraged at the discriminatory standards that found some terrorism - plagued states of the north undeserving of emergency intervention but considered Anambra's sporadic security challenges fit for the sledgehammer. The bad faith galled and the effrontery behind the emergency campaign stood out in bold relief.

Again, the blame game on which the emergency ruse sought anchor was illogical. It beats reason how State Governors who were made merely ceremonial chief security officers by the 1999 Constitution (amended) can be held to account for insecurity in their states. What has been the response of the Justice Minister to the long agitation by Nigerians for state police? Malami was only on a voyage of self illusion when he pontificated that the inability of the Governor of Anambra State to protect lives and property could necessitate the emergency option. It's on record that Obiano is about the most security institutions - supportive Governor today. Every Inspector General of Police since 2014 has attested to the significant empowerment received from the Anambra State Government. What more can a Governor do?

It should also be stressed that the emergency contraception cannot lead to a successful election. The emergency route can only ruin the scheduled November 6 governorship poll. By its extra ordinary framework, the emergency dispensation curbs rights and freedoms. It disrupts and rolls back open society, ushering in a climate of fear. You cannot hold transparent, free and fair election in these circumstances. Malami, a member of the Anambra APC Governorship Campaign Council knows this.

Was Malami playing politics? Was he interested in finding an opening for his party and its unpopular candidate in the governorship election? We may not be too sure but there seems a disturbing link. For the past one or two weeks, the APC campaign efforts has been absorbed in orchestrating the recent killings in Anambra State. And the kite of emergency proclamation follows in a flash.

Mercifully, the Presidency has washed it's hands off Malami's misadventure. President Buhari, it emerged, assured the Anambra State Governor that the federal government had not contemplated the dangerous idea.

It is heart - warming seeing the mature way Obiano has handled this provocation. He rose to the demands of leadership and courageously demanded that the right thing be done. This leadership style of getting results without confrontation but also without conceeding rights was on display in 2015 when the new Governor surprisingly secured relocation of Boko Haram suspects in the State with seeming ease. It's still Obiano's finest hours.

Malami should apologise to the people of Anambra State, nay, Nigerians.