Octogenarian Robert Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), generated a coup sensation in an interview he granted Channels Television on May 2, 2021. He swore by his father’s grave that if drastic steps were not taken to halt Nigeria’s descent into anarchy, the country would cease to exist in six months. Though Chief Clarke did not call the forbidden c-word by its name, the sense of his remarks was extended to mean a call for unconstitutional regime change.
Chief Clarke lamented the spate of killings in Nigeria, saying “The situation in this country today is so bad that I, Robert Clarke, I cannot guarantee Nigeria staying another six months. The problems are so overwhelming and they have been created by these same politicians since the 1999 constitution came into being. Anybody who feels I’m wrong, let him tell me. Nigeria has to be changed; Nigeria has to be changed from what it is today and the only way to change it is to create a state that would make the 1999 constitution ungovernable for its existence. Nigeria was better in 1982 under Shehu Shagari than it is now in 2021… “
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The Presidency, Department of State Security (DSS) and the Nigeria Army, in an attempt to push back at Chief Clarke, issued statements that amplified the coup perspective of the elder statesman’s observations. Those statements were an attempt to heat up the polity unnecessarily by giving life to a rumour while downplaying the substance of the octogenarian’s interview on Channels Television.
Due to inertia on the part of the government and the military in dealing with the savagery taking place all over the country, the authorities have left so much space for non-state actors to speculate, theorize and generate wild ideas in desperation. Terrorists, bandits and separatists are displacing security operatives, spreading their violent campaign from North to South, filling every heart with apprehension, and rendering Nigeria ungovernable. Under this atmosphere citizens of every shade are coming out of their shell to offer solutions out of anguish, including obnoxious calls for the president’s impeachment.
The kernel of the issue is the unmanageable insecurity all over the country. Terrorists and bandits now have a thoroughfare through Nigeria’s forests, terrorizing Nigerians from rural and isolated communities to even the capital city, Abuja. Last week, the fear that bandits had encircled Abuja gained substance when parents of some boarding school students in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) received distress calls from school authorities who asked them to evacuate their children and ward from schools. Those protected within the four walls of Aso Rock Villa in Abuja may not hear the alarm but others from Maiduguri to Lagos know that they are living in an ungoverned space where criminals snuff life out of innocent and unarmed persons at will.
This newspaper reminds The Presidency that Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states unambiguously that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” As long as the security and welfare of the people are not guaranteed, tongues will continue to wag, some sprouting ideas that would unsettle those in the seat of power. No doubt, the government’s strategies in dealing with insecurity are not working; if they do, they are neither effectual nor effective.
We ask the government to take the advice of physicist Albert Einstein whose famous statement reads thus: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Government must come up with new approaches to deal with the current insecurity; those implemented in the last six years have proved apparently to be no match for the schemes applied by terrorists and bandits. We need fresh short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies to deal with the evil that has engulfed Nigeria like dangerous smoke. Threats and blame-game are no antidotes to this blood-sucking atmosphere.
We condemn any form of insinuation for an unconstitutional takeover of government. Nigerians, no matter how highly placed, in spite of their political or religious affiliations, should not contemplate or suggest a return to the dark and chaotic days of the military when the country was tossed into a free fall, with the abuse of social, political and economic systems.