© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
When boxed in, think outside the box.
By Owei LAKEMFA.
NIGERIANS are in a box. They are boxed in. But it must be admitted that the political elites who are responsible, are in the box with us. That should be a little comfort because while we have become mere spectators watching, cheering and clapping for the entertaining political pugilists, they are thinking outside the box.
For instance, when Distinguished Senator Dino Melaye did not want to be taken to court, he simply jumped out of the moving police vehicle. It was an ingenious move because rather than land in court as the police intended, he landed in the hospital.
In the second attempt, he jumped out of his car claiming an attempt to kidnap him, sprinted and climbed a tree like a practised monkey where he camped for eleven hours! A Distinguished Senator on a tree for eleven hours, gives the impression that we are practising Monkey Democracy.
But one act that has left me baffled is the political summersaults following the Department of State Security Service (DSS) siege on the National Assembly on Tuesday, August 7. The occupation did not come as a surprise. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) administration had executed a similar operation in 2014 when it tried to remove the former Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal. On that occasion, the Honourable Members had thwarted the scheme by climbing the fence and jumping into the Assembly.
Given such experience, this time, the state invaders did not allow the legislators anywhere near the gate, so there was no drama of any Honourable or Distinguished climbing the fence.
After about two hours into the siege which was beamed live across the world, an attempted coup to remove Senate President Bukola Saraki who had fled the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and taken shelter in the opposition Peoples’Democratic Party (PDP) began to unravel.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo took the decisive step of sacking the powerful Director-General of the DSS, Lawal Musa Daura over the invasion. It was a deft move which saved our country from further ridicule. It was an action roundly applauded. The ovation became louder when it was revealed that Daura was being detained and interrogated.
But just as Nigerians were heaving a sigh of relief, a pro-government disinformation machinery began to circulate a story that actually the siege was organised by the Senate President using the secret service in order to embarrass the Buhari administration. It is as ridiculous as claiming that Hilary Clinton took control of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) using to seize the Congress Building in order to embarrass President Donald Trump. This story is like a child caught dipping his hand in the soup pot and blaming his brother for the act.
Again, this is not new. Fourteen days earlier, another siege had occurred. It was July 24. That day, the Senate was billed to read out the names of Senators defecting from the ruling APC to the PDP. By 6 am, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)had laid siege on the home of Deputy SenatePresident Ekweremadu preventing him from leaving for the Senate on the pretext of an invitation dated that same day and which it had not even served. Simultaneously, a second siege was on at the Senate President’s residence.
This was beamed live on television, and the Police which was involved in the latter siege said nothing for hours. When the siege was broken, the Police hierarchy claimed that the Senate President had employed the police to stage a fake siege. It, however, claimed it was “investigating” the incidence. It is like some true-life crime stories on television when the spouse of a victim with ten or more bullet holes would claim their partner committed ‘suicide’.
Three weeks ago, another of these ridiculous blockages happened at the Benue State Assembly. The Police seized the Assembly, preventing the staff and majority legislators who had defected from the APC to the PDP, access. These legislators had decamped with State Governor Samuel Ortom. The Presidency which controls the police quickly distanced itself. Despite this denial, the invaders stayed at the Assembly for another two weeks. As the Police vacated the Benue State Assembly, the EFCC which like theDSS and Police, is fully controlled by the Federal Government, imposed an illegal and unconstitutional freeze on the bank accounts of the State. Again, the Presidency denied that it was responsible, and ordered a vacation. Yet, the heads of these Federal agencies like Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris and EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, have not been called to order like Daura.
Meanwhile, a mammoth crowd witnessed the historic defection of my friend, His Excellency, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. The APC almost spoilt the fun with claims that the PDP that gave birth to, weaned and cultured Akpabio, destroyed Akwa Ibom in the last sixteen years. It was a Freudian slip because in the period the APC referred to, Akpabio was variously the commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and lands and Survey under the Atta administration before he took over as the executive Governor of the state for eight years. So logically, if the PDP ruined the state, then nobody would have played a greater role than Akpabio. But never mind the fun and energetic dancing by APC chieftains went on. I must confess that I have never witnessed a greater sacrifice than that of Akpabio; leaving the PDP where he was SenateMinority Leader, to the APC where he has no known political office. The only explanation for this is a proverb amongst my Niger Delta people where Akpabio comes from. They say a man that uses a goat to set a trap cannot plan to catch a rabbit; it must be something bigger than a goat.
I salute Akpabio for moving from the PDP to the APC. I wish him luck. I salute SenatePresident Bukola Saraki for moving from the APC to the PDP. I wish him luck. Our political elites are practised pugilists with fanciful footwork that would have made Mohammed Ali envious. They shuffle and dance around the ring from the red to the blue corner. This, the uninitiated call cross-carpeting or ‘defections’ We cannot forgive them, for they know what they are doing. What should be of greater concern are our youths and the poor queuing behind these elites, being their foot soldiers on the social media, at campaign events and even on the battlefield.
Those we should not forgive are ourselves who vote the same people into office but hope each time for a different result. We boxed in ourselves. As a first step towards our emancipation, we need to admit this. When boxed in, think outside the box.
Owei Lakemfa, former secretary general of African workers is a human rights activist, journalist and author.