By Abdulwahab Oba
“Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor ” – Ginette Sagan
Agba kii wa lója, ki ori omo tuntun wo”. (Elderly intervention saves calamities) , is a proverb whose depth and meaning appears very prominently on the national political landscape in the last few days. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the import of the wise saying, which has been a veritable guidance in the African community was clearly missing when the time came for its application.
Where are our voices of wisdom and caution? Where are the voices for freedom and individual liberty? What is going on between the Nigeria Police Force and the National Assembly is a matter for which I expected to have heard the intervention of our social and human rights crusaders; those men and women who have given their commitment to the entrenchment of the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their creed and tribe, their political views and personal dispositions, as enshrined in the constitution that binds all of us together as one entity under the name of Nigeria.
We woke up on Tuesday to hear the story about how the police cordoned the homes of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekeremandu, few hours after the duo had been served what is now suspicious letters of invitation to answer to allegations of their involvement about certain crimes. In the case of Saraki, the presidency has earlier directed the police, and rightly too, that any further investigation involving Saraki in the Offa saga should either be done in writing or in his office. But in this case, our police decided to do otherwise. Thank God for the strategy that ensured Saraki escaped the cordon and found his way to the National Assembly, otherwise the story would have been different today. The gestapo tactics of the police clearly also suggested something sinister.
At least from the footage of television reports of the day at the senate, we have seem how some senators arrived so early (8.30am), for a sitting that usually commences around 10.30am) and how one or two boated to the camera, ‘we are in charge’, indicating that something was afoot that day. Possibly, the strategy may have been to use the police invitation to get Saraki and his Deputy out of the way and allow some elements pressumebly loyal to the Presidency have their way in removing the two officers who appear now to have become a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party.
But then, the plan failed, at least for now. Thank God it did. If it had not failed, what image would we have created of our country within responsible and democratic comity of nation? Why should the police allow itself to be dragged into what is purely political machiavellianism? What manner of leadership is the current headship of the police? I’m bothered. However, my joy is not limited to the fact that it failed, but the exposure of the fact that what the enemies of democracy failed to achieve through the courts, they have now resorted to self help through men in the senate thereby exposing themselves as the real people working against the deepening of our democratic engagements as a nation. How far they can go in this again, time will tell. May God continue to foil the antics of the unjust.
However, I’m saddened by the reality that so far, we have had only a few of the voices of our social crusaders coming out to condemn the invasion of the houses of Senate President and the Deputy Senate President. My concern stem from the understanding and pursuit I have given to myself on the issue of defending national institutions. Whether we like it or not, the National Assembly is an institution that we all must work, and even fight to ensure it remains strong and independent. I’m often amused when we tag some state legislators as rubber stamp lawmakers for not being bold enough to stand up to their state governors yet when we have a leadership in the National Assembly that is consciously pursuing its responsibilities, we rise against them for obstructing ‘development’. What a paradox!
We need a strong National Assembly, just as we need a strong police system. We have not achieved either significantly under the present administration.
National Assembly is giving us a glimmer of hope that given the right circumstances, it is possible to achieve that dream, but I’m skeptical about the readiness of the police to adjust to democratic norms. Instead what the current leadership of the police is doing is to descend into the arena of politics and get its hand dirtied in the process. It will not help our nation, neither of today, nor of the one we say we are striving to build for tomorrow. Whether we like it or not, President Muhammad Buhari, even if he wins a second term, will one day leave the office. Like it or not, Saraki, like every other previous occupants of the position of Senate President, will leave that post one day. yet the position will always be available for someone to occupy.
Why can’t we then see that it is wisdom to protect the position and not the person occupying it? That it is better to support someone working to protect that institution than to back another working to bring it down? When we have a police that can lock down the National Assembly because the presidency; no, someone possibly close to the president; wants to remove an officer of the Assembly, it shows that the police is not independent; that it is not strong and that it is vulnerable.
Who will trust such a police to be impartial in a case between the presidency and another arm of government? How would the ordinary citizen have faith in the police under such a circumstance? We recollect the ongoing drama over the fate of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. Several court orders have been made to release him from detention, yet none has been obeyed by government. What would it take for a government that is the product of the constitution to obey legitimate court orders? Is our government not condescending to lawlessness? May God forbid. Our president is a man of honour. President Buhari is mindful of his character and integrity. He’s never allow lawlessness and will not allow it now. Our people and the international community will no longer trust our democratic credentials when we disobey our laws.