Urhobo Historical Society
May 29, 1962

By Chief Obafemi Awolowo

In reply to Balewa's motion for a state of emergency, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of opposition in Nigeria's Federal Parliament, and leader of the Action Group [party],  tabled his opposition amendment. The following are excerpts from his speech:

"I beg to move the following amendment to the motion already proposed by the Prime Minister:

"To delete all the words of the motion after - That - and substitute - "This honourable House declares that having regard to the provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria a state of public emergency does not exist."

"May I draw the attention of hon. members to the provisions of Section 65 of our Constitution. It is not usual for members to read the constitution unless occasion such as this arises or some other incidents, which affect us occur. Section 65 reads:

"65(1) Parliament may at any time make sure laws for Nigeria or any part thereof with respect to matters not included in the legislative lists as may appear to parliament to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of maintaining or securing peace, order and good government during any period of emergency."

"The section 3 - (3) In this section "period of emergency" means any period during which (a) the federation is at war; (b) there is in force a resolution by each House of Parliament declaring that a state of public emergency exists; and (c) there is in force a resolution of each House of Parliament supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of the House declaring that democratic institutions in Nigeria are threatened by subversion.

"That is the section, Mr. Speaker, and I hold the view very strongly - and that view is in no way shaken by the speech made by the Prime Minister that the step which the Federal Government now proposes is uncalled for and unwarranted.

"The first question which any reasonable person ought to ask himself is this. Is there a state of public emergency in the Western Region

''Well,' he said, 'this case is coming up on the 5th but because of this uproar inside the chamber something must be done even before the 5th.'

"May I say in this connection that I cannot help expressing the feeling that the prime minister feels greatly concerned about the action of the governor of the Western Region of Nigeria, I would not say for a personal reason - but for a reason which is not unconnected with his own position in the federation. May 1 say that until Chief Akintola refused to resign I myself had not discovered the provisions under Section 33 of our constitution in the Western Region, and I am aware until that provision was invoked that the governor-general or the governor could remove the prime minister or a premier if it appeared to him that the prime minister or a premier if it appeared to him that the prime minister or the premier no longer enjoyed the support of the House of Representatives or of the House of Assembly, as the case may be.

"But that is our law. If the prime minister feels that the governor-general may one day wake up and remove him from office, then he could do something about it. As far as I know the two parties in coalition with him have never at any time suggested that he should resign his office. On the contrary, from the demonstration which we have noticed in this honourable House, they are all loyal to him and he has no cause to be afraid either of his own party, the NPC, or the NCNC which is in coalition with the NPC.

"But here is a man (Chief Akintola) who himself pleaded guilty to the charges of maladministration, anti-party activities and indiscipline and was found so guilty by his own compeers. The only question on which members divided was whether he should be sentenced to life imprisonment or to a fine or whether he should be cautioned and discharged. That was all. As to the verdict, it was unanimous; but whether he should be called upon to resign or whether he should be cautioned and given some less punishment, was the issue, it was the votes of eight-one people against the votes of twenty-nine members.

"As I said, the Prime Minister has nothing to fear from the governor-general. I think they are on the best of terms and the parties in coalition are very friendly to him."