Our Stand: Again, Jonathan Playing With Fire – Leadership Editors

Former president Jonathan dancing after Chibok girl abduction

Leadership Editors
— Nov 24, 2014 |
President Goodluck Jonathan is playing with fire. We said this before at the turn of one of the many scandals marking this government. We’re compelled to say it again.

Jonathan says he wants the approval of the National Assembly to extend emergency rule in the North East for the fourth time. He might want that, but it’s obvious he also has a sinister wish on his laundry list: To impose emergency rule on the National Assembly. From what happened on Thursday, the legislature is clearly the primary target of Jonathan’s request for sweeping powers.

The police siege on the National Assembly on the orders of the president crossed the line. When the president requested the National Assembly to approve the extension of emergency rule in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States last week, the public thought there was perhaps some merit in it. Not that a miracle was expected. If emergency rule was what was required to tackle the savagery of Boko Haram, Jonathan has had emergency powers in the three states for over 18 months now.

It is a sad commentary that some of the most brutal attacks, including the murder of scores of school children in their dormitories, the killing of women in their homes and the abduction of over 200 plus schoolgirls in Chibok occurred under emergency rule. Under emergency rule, Boko Haram has grown from a band of bloodthirsty hounds to an organised force, taking down military helicopters, forcing our ill-motivated soldiers to flee to neighbouring countries, taking territories and even flying its flag in at least 14 local governments across the affected states.

Yet Jonathan, the commander-in-chief, was supposed to use the emergency powers to contain the insurgency.

He has failed.

We have said it over and over again that the first place to declare a state of emergency is in the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, where monumental corruption and the president’s gross incompetence are draining this country of its fighting spirit, its prestige and its very lifeblood.

But so that the president will have no excuse on the day of reckoning, we thought it was just as well that the National Assembly should get a chance to debate the necessity or otherwise of extending the state of emergency for the fourth time.

Sadly, our worst fears have been borne out. A debate was not what the president wanted. He wanted to lure Speaker Aminu Tambuwal into an ambush, impeach him and squeeze the National Assembly into his pocket once and for all.

Since the speaker flipped from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, there has been no love lost between him and his former party, which insists that he cannot dump the party and remain speaker.

Really? So why did the PDP give him a jubilant welcome into its fold when he moved from the All Nigeria Peoples Party as the Deputy Minority Whip in the House of Representatives to the ruling party?

In any case, we believe that since the dispute is already before the court – including the propriety of stripping the speaker of his police aides – the parties involved should avoid any escalation.

But the desperadoes in Aso Rock would have none of that. In a show of shame last Thursday, they collected their own men and women into the chambers and attempted to press an impeachment. They locked out and teargased Tambuwal and his supporters forcing them to scale the gate in a pre-emptive move to forestall the speaker’s impeachment.

Curiously, Senate President David Mark, and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha were both inside before the gates were locked, creating the unfortunate impression that they lent more than a hand to Jonathan’s outrageous attempt to steamroll the National Assembly. Surely, the siege was not another doctrine of necessity.

We are particularly worried that this Jonathan-sponsored travesty is already resonating in other parts of the country. While the bizarre drama in Abuja was playing out, for example, seven out of the 26 members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly lifted a chapter from the Jonathan-Obasanjo playbook and purportedly impeached the speaker. This was in total disregard of the constitutionally required quorum of two-thirds, which should have been 18.

And at an ungodly hour on Saturday, a combined team of the police and SSS invaded the Lagos office of the APC and stripped the party’s data room. This nonsense cannot continue. We’re surprised that the police, famously under-funded and poorly motivated can permit itself to be deployed from one public nuisance to another.

We know that in many parts of the world, as elections draw near, politicians become desperate and common sense is often the first casualty. They forget that having a country is just as important, if not more important, than winning.

Since Jonathan has forced the police and the security services to take sides with him we demand that the National Assembly should use its own resources to launch a full investigation into what happened on Thursday. The investigation should be speedy, its findings published and resolutions passed.

This action is necessary not only to prevent a repeat of Thursday’s madness in Abuja, but also to stop the virus from spreading – or at least make it difficult to copy.

Above all, we call on Jonathan to rise above narrow partisan interests and put Nigeria first.

Enough is enough.