Two down, one to go
Many people have said that what happened in a High Court in Abuja presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on Friday has never happened in the history of this country. That is true but how can history be made if the unthinkable does not happen? The story sounds bizarre but our democracy has had several elements of bizarre-ness since 1999. This is not the moment to mention them. There are two men who have been cooling their feet in detention for the past 126 days for mounting a public demonstration under the banner of Revolution Now. The security agencies rounded them up, packed them into detention and the struggle for their release on bail began shortly after August 3 when they were picked up. The two men Omoyele Sowore, a journalist and politician and his co-protester Olawale Bakare were able to meet their stiff bail conditions but the Department of State Services (DSS) churned out one excuse after another to keep them locked up in their place of confinement.
Then on Thursday last week Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu gave the DSS 24 hours within which to release the detainees. In addition she asked the security outfit to pay N100, 000 to them. That same day DSS released them and also paid the money to their lawyer.
The next day the two men appeared in court and when it was confirmed that the two orders of the Court had been obeyed by the DSS the Judge, obviously elated at the prompt obedience to her orders, said they (DSS) had demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law. She said further: “No one is above the law. Those who are to govern citizens in the discharge of what is considered to be their statutory duties must at all times conform with the rule of law. That is the path to greatness. The DSS has earned themselves the respect of the Nigerian citizens and all the arms of government.” After this effusive praise of the DSS she fixed dates for the hearing of the case.
Then pandemonium broke out. Gun-totting DSS men moved into the court room to arrest Sowore and Bakare. Chaos broke out. Law and order broke down. The temple of justice was violently defiled. Obviously Justice Ojukwu spoke too soon because while she was lavishing praises on the security outfit she had no idea that they had a trump card under their belt.
They showed their true colour right in the court room in the full view of lawyers, journalists, civil society activists, friends and relations of the two men in the dock. In the effort to re-arrest the two men they had no reservation whatsoever about desecrating the temple of justice and pushing Nigeria into the orbit of a shit-hole country as patented by President Donald Trump. This repulsive action was a minor coup against the judiciary. Last year, the National Assembly had had its own bitter taste of the crude exhibition of raw power by the DSS. The only difference between that one and this one is that the men in black were not hooded this time around. Last year when the DSS operatives invaded the National Assembly and attempted to take over the place Nigerians were aghast. The DSS men were armed to the teeth but they did not show their faces. They hid their faces behind masks like armed bandits of old. In that stand-off one lady, a member of the House of Representatives, Ms Boma Goodhead showed exemplary courage by telling them that where they were was not their playground but a sacred ground for legislative activities. With the support of other Nigerians that minor coup was aborted and the truncation of our so-called democracy was averted.
What that means is that of the three arms of Government only the Executive Arm has not yet been invaded by the DSS. Will they invade a meeting of the Federal Executive Council? Not likely because their audacity, their fiendishness, comes from there. Since they are a patriotic organisation that is working for the peace and progress of Nigeria I wish they could bump into a meeting of the Federal Executive Council meeting and ask them some questions for which Nigerians need answers: why are our bad federal roads being ignored? Why does our electric power remain epileptic? Why are our hospitals, even our so-called Teaching Hospitals still consulting clinics? Why are our federal universities mere glorified secondary schools? Why are our roads and lives taken over by armed bandits, Boko Haram, kidnappers and other purveyors of violence without any appreciable counter response by our security agencies? Why is there such a high level of poverty and unemployment without any appreciable level of response towards their mitigation? These are some of the questions that ought to agitate the minds of any government organisation that is definitely committed to the country’s peace, stability and progress. Mr. Sowore is not a threat to the country. Hunger, unemployment, divisiveness and insecurity are far more potent threats than anything else you can think of. I watched Mr. Sowore’s Revolution Now demonstration on television. It was just a handful of people, not big enough to cause the kind of alarm that the DSS thinks they are capable of. Sowore’s message is the same that Nigerians are sharing in newspapers and social media every day. Sowore’s crime seems to be the use of the word “revolution” which is just a generic word that Ralph Waldo Emerson thinks is “a thought in one man’s mind.” Mr. Sowore was a presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (ACC) in the last election. In that election he scored just 33, 953 votes which came to 0.12% of the votes cast. Is that the man about whom the DSS is fretting, foaming in the mouth, behaving badly and exposing Nigeria to global ridicule?
Some people have asked the Nigerian Bar Association to discipline Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Babatunde Fashola, Abubakar Malami and all the other lawyers in the Buhari government for the nasty behaviour of the DSS and the failure of the government to call them to order. That is an unreasonable demand because these lawyers have not committed any offence directly or indirectly.
The DSS does not report to any of them. They cannot even be held vicariously responsible for the misbehaviour of the DSS. The DSS and indeed all security outfits are in the final analysis agents of the Federal Government which is headed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The buck stops at his desk. He is the one and only person who can rein in these fellows if he thinks they have exceeded their brief. It is true that serving in the government whose security outfit behaves in such an unruly manner imposes some kind of moral burden on not just the lawyers but all other ministers as well. If they have a sense of shame they should feel ashamed of this flagrant rape that occurred in the temple of justice. And if they have any influence on their boss, the President, they should gently draw his attention to the fact that what has happened is not likely to put him on the right side of history, history of democracy or history of Nigeria. Buhari ought to worry about the verdict of history. A man who contested for the presidency of Nigeria four times and won at the fourth attempt should not let all of those efforts be in vain. His second term gives him a gilt-edged opportunity to demonstrate that the reason for his show of tenacity was that he had a contribution he wanted to make for the advancement of democracy. That is why he has been calling himself a born-again democrat. Born-againism whether of the religious or political version just has to be made of sterner stuff otherwise it will be seen to be rooted in fraud. It would be wise for Buhari to call these goons to order so that his government is not seen merely as a reincarnation of his 1984-85 brutal dictatorship.