From Tony Osauzo, Benin A Professor of Microbiology and former Vice-Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, has expressed displeasure with the country’s approach to fighting the deadly Lassa fever, describing the method adopted as “annual recurrent budget of death for the poor people in Nigeria.” Delivering the Distinguished Lecture of the University…
All over the world and over the ages, when a group of people agrees to live and associate as citizens of the same country, the priority is law and order. These are two essentials not only to ensure the survival of the nation but particularly to prevent the mighty and criminal from overawing the weak and law abiding.
To this end, state institutions are set up to serve the interests of the nation rather than individuals no matter how highly placed. That is the universal standard and conscious effort is made in civilised societies to draw the distinction between personal and official interests of public office holders, to avoid abuse of office, especially possible misuse of state agencies for personal or family matters.
First in the line of duty on security matters all over the world is the police. Unfortunately, in Nigeria’s case, there is the disorientation that a state institution like the police exists mainly to preserve and consolidate tyranny of individuals and political parties in government. Never in Nigeria’s political history, not even in colonial days did the police exhibit such subservience, illegality and unreasonable as we are witnessing today.
All because an incumbent President of the Federal Republic (head of government) either suspects or actually reasonably believes he will be challenged for re-election by some of his party members? Why should the police be involved in such rivalry for power, a struggle which is quite legitimate? Such keen rivalry in other parts of the world are merely rountine and enhance development of democracy.
Only last June, the then Australian prime minister, Ms. Julia Gillard, was challenged for the post by a member of the ruling Labour Party, Kevin Rudd, who defeated her. Former prime minister Julia Gillard herself similarly challenged Mr. Rudd, then prime minister, in June 2010 and defeated him. She later held elections and survived by a majority of only one seat. Mr. Rudd also held elections three weeks ago and lost.
The late former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was challenged to a leadership contest in 1990 by her deputy prime minister, Michael Hazeltine. Mrs. Thatcher failed to attract overall majority votes and instead of contesting the second round, she resigned. In the subsequent party leadership election, John Major defeated Michael Hazeltine to emerge the new prime minister. When John Major was perceived to have lost popularity in the party, he was challenged to a contest by one of his ministers, John Redwood.
Also in 2007, former Labour prime minister Tony Blair sacrificed personal interest for party interest by resigning to avoid a challenge by his chancellor of exchequer, Gordon Brown, who succeeded him as prime minister.
The late American Senator Edward Kennedy foresaw the electoral disaster awaiting the Democrats in the 1980 presidential elections and, therefore, challenged the party’s incumbent president Jimmy Carter for the party’s nomination. Kennedy lost the nomination narrowly but was vindicated when Republican candidate Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter.
Back in Britain in 1976, as shadow education minister, late Maggie Thatcher successfully challenged opposition leader Ted Heath for the party leadership. Even in the then ruling Labour Party, some centre leftists led by former chancellor of exchequer, Roy Jenkins, broke away and formed the Social Liberal Democratic Party.
The point of note in all these revolts is that no American president, British or Australian prime ministers challenged for their posts ever employed the police to beleaguer the challengers. Better still, no police boss in United States, Britain or Australia would condescend to do the political fighting for the head of government and if ever directed for such political purposes, a constitutional crisis was bound to erupt and it is doubtful if the head of government involved in that part of the world would survive.
Why then should Nigeria police be different? A political party the PDP, broke into two. Before then, one of the party’s state governors, Rotimi Amaechi, was suspected of not supporting Goodluck Jonathan’s bid for second term or even challenging him against the second term. Should that be a crime for Nigeria police to prosecute? Is Nigeria police an arm of People’s Democratic Party?
On one point, Goodluck Jonathan and Rotimi Amaechi are the same. None of them has made p his mind to contest the 2015 presidential elections and none of them has declared his intention to run. Even if Amaechi has announced his intention to run, is that a crime for Nigeria Police to prosecute? Where is that law in Nigeria, authorising the police to handicap any potential challenger to President Jonathan’s second term bid?
To date, Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest for the second term. But that is not the same as the impression that he cannot be challenged, even within his party for the nomination or that everybody must necessarily support him. And who is to be supported when the same Jonathan, as Nigerians who care are told, has not decided to run in 2015? So, the race should be held up for him by other intending candidates?
A political party split into OLD PDP and NEW PDP. The NEW PDP, instead of forcefully taking over the national headquarters, arranged its own headquarters. Nigeria police, under Inspector-General Mohammed Abubakar, moved in and sealed up the office; by whose instruction? Police said “order from above.” And the same police conceded that the instruction was unconstitutional. That being so, should the police assist in the violation of Nigerian constitution?
Nigeria police is better pre-empted or the agency would soon inform us that it sealed up the office to avoid break-down of law and order. Where was Nigeria police when Nigerian Governors’ Forum also split into two and the electorally fraudulent faction of Jonah Jang opened its office? For obvious reasons that Jonah Jang’s faction is being sustained by President Goodluck Jonathan against the legitimate and generally recognised Nigeria Governors’ Forum, led by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria police never thought of sealing off the office of the dissident governors.
More than that, Nigeria police also sealed up the Port-Harcourt headquarters of the NEW PDP, the same Nigeria police took it on itself to dictate to a state Governor Rotimi Amaechi, what entrance he must lead to his office/official residence.
Ominously, the police in Bayelsa State virtually went berserk by committing contempt of court in declaring the NEW PDP as an “illegal political organisation and advised Bayelsans to dissociate themselves from the party. With the status of the OLD and NEW PDP still to be determined by courts in Abuja and Lagos? Which court declared the party illegal?
A state governor is now at the mercy of a Commissioner of Police, issuing instructions on what the governor can/should or cannot/should not do. In the midst of this fast approaching anarchy, there is the plea that Nigeria police should not be dragged into partisan politics. Surely, that is begging the issue. On the contrary, Nigeria police is blatantly involving itself in partisan politics.
Were Nigeria police not partisan in favour of one and against the other warring political groups, why withdraw the security aides of those against Goodluck Jonathan? Nigeria police exists for all Nigerians and not a particular set.
Where are the numerous retired Inspectors-General of Police? When will they think it fit to ensure that their agency is run along professional lines, even amidst political controversy?
Atiku and Farida under fire
For the second time within a month, Obasanjo picked on Atiku Abubakar. It is also not as if Obasanjo does not know that Farida Waziri is the wife of another man, a former diplomat and a former Senator. Apart from being respected as such, she, as a retired senior police officer, would not be expecting too much to be treated with respect by her former commander-in-chief.
There may also not be adequate consolation for Farida’s husband, retired Ambassador Waziri, who must have been shocked by the verbal assault on his wife. The degree of restraint (or lack of it) in this matter is not cultural. Specifically, Yoruba treat another man’s wife with total respect rather than denigrate her. Accordingly, any shortcoming should be sourced to leadership problem over the years in Nigerian armed and para-military forces.
Whatever the reason(s), Obasanjo was wrong, even on facts. In certainty, Atiku Abubakar and Farida Waziri, as human beings, are fallible and, therefore, with their shortcomings. The same can be said of their critics, including Obasanjo. Accordingly, apart from the usual cheap publicity, there was no need for taking on Atiku Abubakar and Farida Waziri.
Since Obasanjo emerged a saint (according to his claim) when probed by Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC, it was significant that Wikileaks revealed another assessment from the American Embassy in Nigeria on the different reputation of the late General Sani Abacha and president Obasanjo. In fact, the American Embassy (Wikileaks) report rated General Abacha more saintly. Did any of Sani Abacha, Atiku Abubakar or Farida Waziri write the Wikileaks report at the American Embassy in Nigeria?
What is more, all the probes carried out and unlawful administrative trials Obasanjo stage-managed on Atiku Abubakar were nullified by the Supreme Court, as unconstitutional. The reputation of EFCC since it was established by Obasanjo and even till today is that the agency is strictly to intimidate and discredit perceived political opponents.
In the current political crisis in the PDP, Bamanga Tukur (replaying the script Obasanjo played at Akure, Ondo State, during the 2007 election campaigns) threatened to unleash the same EFCC on state governors and party members, challenging his (Tukur’s) leadership.
As bad as Atiku Abubakar was in the past, Obasanjo still had to beg him to support his (Obasanjo’s) second term bid.
Whether Atiku Abubakar likes it or not, he must carry the blame for making himself vulnerable to Obasanjo’s regular vilification. Last time, the same Atiku Abubakar clandestinely visited Obasanjo at Abeokuta, without realising that the media had been secretly arranged to expose his visit.
Poor Farida Waziri. She deserves every pity for her integrity tarnished by cheap grandstanding undeservedly. That was her one-time Commander-in-Chief in action. Whoever might have recommended her for the job, what was strange in that? Less than two years ago, Obasanjo himself was exposed in Nigerian press for recommending more than six of his favoured candidates to President Goodluck Jonathan, as replacements for incumbent members of government parastatals.
If unknown to Farida Waziri herself, the grudge against her arose from her stubborn determination to prosecute those who collected bribes from Halliburton, including those who collected the dollars as proxies for the real corrupt elements.
Till today, that Halliburton scandal has been suppressed. She should hold her head high.
DILEMMA OF A CRIME BUSTER? She should think about the difficult days at EFCC.