Democracy goes on trial in police court
There is something this generation of Nigerians does not understand. Out of deep ignorance, it is carrying on as if this country shall end with it. But we, of this generation, are at best trustees holding both the natural and political economies in trust for the generations behind us, just as the generations that came before us did for us. In effect, there shall be other trustees after these current trustees in an unending cycle of generational duty shift.
Nigeria is not vanishing anywhere; it shall stay forever if it is well nurtured. Right now, there is tension in the land because of the 2019 general elections, scheduled to begin on February 16, less than 80 days away. Yet the real concerns are not so much about the smooth conduct of the general elections as they are about the national capacity to survive the elections as one country. That capacity is being weakened on a daily basis as politicians through their body and vocal languages sound as if the elections are in themselves an end and not means to a greater purpose of provision of happiness across board through good leadership.
Last Thursday, there was a symposium in Abuja on this all-important subject matter. It was organised by TOS (The Osasu Show) Foundation run by the new rave in television presentation, Ms Osasu Igbinedion, daughter of former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion and granddaughter of the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion. The key point was to interrogate leadership in Nigeria and ask the people to take ownership of the processes of leadership recruitment.
Even so, it was all trite, because just too many conversations had been held on this same matter of supremacy of the people in a democracy and nothing seemed to have changed. If anything, the signs even with just less than three months to the opening of the polls are foreboding. The people are not just able to rise up to their rating, or more appropriately, they have by their actions or inactions allowed themselves to be weighed down from rising.
Ironically, the incubus comprises institutions designed to safeguard the rise of the people. The Police Force for instance, has become so difficult to place in the onerous task of nurturing democracy in Nigeria. The military, the State Security Service and other paramilitary organs designed to create a liveable atmosphere in Nigeria are themselves the nightmares, as they remain stuck in the wrong interpretation of their respective roles. They seem more inclined towards regime protection as against strengthening the institutions for nation building.
In the last three and half years under President Muhammadu Buhari, the only institution that has not been invaded and violated by security personnel is the Presidency; that is, Aso Rock Villa where the President lives. He and his team of state operators are the only ones insulated from the constant harassment of other operators by security agencies, either in the name of fighting corruption or maintaining law and order. The President is the only person that defines correctly corruption and lawlessness and has in fact proclaimed that considerations such as inalienable rights should remain subsumed in the quest for law and order or what he describes as “national security.’”
The judiciary and legislature have been attacked and treated as if they are no longer separate arms in the governmental trinity. At the state level, the attacks have been more frequent and ferocious. State governors who are in opposition parties live in perpetual fear of invasion by Federal Government-controlled security agencies. Indeed Governors of the Southeast and South-south PDP States of Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta have been on an unending study in political correctness in order to survive. These governors have been more submissive than they have been executive or expressive in their engagements with the centre. If the EFCC is not freezing their accounts to establish corruption, the army will be conducting some animal dance steps in their territories.
The latest of these periodic invasions of democratic institutions at the state level happened last week in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State where the police, purportedly acting to stem break-down of law and order took control of the State House of Assembly on Tuesday, November 20 and denied elected legislators access into the building to conduct their constitutional functions.
This is the background. There were defections specifically of some five PDP members to the APC and the PDP Speaker of the House, Mr. Onofiok Luke, citing section 109 (1) g of the 1999 Constitution as amended declared their seats vacant preparatory to a possible by-election by INEC to fill the vacancies. Also, an Uyo Federal High Court on the prayers of one of the affected legislators, Indongesti Ituen, had reportedly offered an interpretation of the relevant section of the Constitution on the basis of which the Speaker was said to have announced the vacancies. This, unfortunately, set the stage for the crisis that followed.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang who prevented the sacked members from gaining access to the assembly chambers on November 19 was redeployed the next day and a replacement, Mr. Musa Kimo announced by the Inspector-general of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris. Abang was deployed to the state only on October 18, 2018 to take over from Mr. Adeyemi Samuel Ogunjemilusi and had spent about a month before his transfer.
The records say Akwa Ibom for no clear reason has had a tremendous turnover of police commissioners in the last three years. This year alone, the state has had about five commissioners of police. The latest, Musa Kimo makes it 25 police commissioners that the state has had since its creation in August 1987. It means while in 30 years only 20 commissioners of police went through the state, five have been recalled in less than 365 days because Akwa Ibom by some statistics has become the most lawless state in Nigeria.
The same statistics have been applied to make other PDP states lawless too to necessitate the huge turnover of police commissioners in them. By an inverse measurement all the APC-governed states including states in the Northeast and part of North central where there is war and life is at the state of nature are very law abiding. In fact, the same IGP who flouted a presidential order to relocate to Benue to stop herders from butchering farmers has been dutifully changing state commissioners of police like wrappers in peaceful opposition states to foist an agenda.
For now, the whole thing tastes so sweet to the APC. And beginning from President Buhari through Chairman Adams Oshiomhole to the governors, the APC establishment appears to be very comfortable with the state of things because it is their chance to get back at the PDP with the same treatment it endured while in opposition. There is enthusiasm to keep the vicious cycle intact. Nobody is thinking of moving forward. But I want to add here immediately that the APC should be prepared to return to the dark side if there is a turn after the event of February 16, 2019.
Instead of statesmen, we are today stranded with buccaneers, power mongers, whose only interest in the political process is self-enrichment from the common wealth. People that had appeared so promising yesterday and on whom the hope of a better Nigeria was anchored are today stuck in Orwellian double-speak. I must confess that most times, I struggle to get the drift of people like Prof. Itse Sagay, Festus Keyamo SAN, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and even Babatunde Fashola when they speak. Everybody tends to sacrifice the hope of a better tomorrow on the altar of ego and quest for the immediate benefits that come with power grab.
Take this for instance. The appropriate description of the structure on which Nigeria should stand to deliver prosperity to its citizens is now lost in the fraudulent sophistry of people who should know better. The President says one thing this moment and his vice says the direct opposite the next moment even as others within the APC establishment gloat, insisting on the sanctity of the current structure and saying what is needed are better operators, like President Muhammadu Buhari, to deliver goodness through a faulty structure. This is what happens when quest for raw power and not the desire to offer service drives the leadership recruitment of a country.
But I cannot fail to add that if the template is not recreated now, the generations to come shall be endangered and will not forgive the glaring failings of this generation and all the opportunities it has to change the narrative. What is important is not what we feel but what is real. And what is real is that Nigeria is not sustainable on the current structure, and its collapse if things remain unchanged, is a possibility and a matter of time, not a probability.
Meanwhile, in Uyo, the new police boss, Musa Kimo had no qualms providing elaborate security cover to the sacked assembly members to sit and initiate proceedings to impeach the speaker and elect one Nse Ntuen as the new Speaker. This is where we are right now in Akwa Ibom. The State Government has accused the police and by extension the Federal Government of bias in the handling of security issues in the state.
I do not know what the Inspector-general of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris thinks of himself but I can tell what others think of him. He is not a super cop. The issues around him are damn too many and not by any description ennobling. Nothing, including his being an IGP lasts forever and if he is wise, he can still do a few things before the music finally stops.
He is doing too much to please one man in a country of about 200 million people. He should be seen as working for the people and not working to foist the agenda of one man. And maybe he should be reminded too that commissioners of police are human beings who are governed by universal ethics. They are not animals in the wild even if a handful of them choose to operate in the jungle.Generally, police commissioners have families of orientation and procreation and like others, are created by the sociology and moral systems that separate good deeds from evil deeds.
They are adults too who can even forgo law to deliver justice. And so, to lock them down in the course of their official duty to a morbidity that repels good reasoning is not only wishful, but also unnatural. I am saying therefore that if the only strategy open to IGP Idris Ibrahim to foist an agenda is to be deploying and redeploying police commissioners, he may have to re-strategize because a number of these commissioners genuinely wish to return to the human community after the police assignment and they may not completely do his bidding as it is already obvious.
Above all, only those unmindful of posterity like IGP Idris Ibrahim seek to live well today and eternally perish tomorrow. Before him, about 18 IGPs had been, beginning with Mr. Louis Orok Edet, the first Nigerian IGP appointed in 1964 through to Solomon Arase from whom Idris took over in 2016. Someone else shall definitely take over from Idris. The position is not permanent; what remain permanent in life are deeds and misdeeds.