By Sonia O. Abah
Ever since an agency of the United States made a far-reaching prediction some years ago, to the effect that Nigeria would break up in 2015, Nigerians and outsiders alike have been fixated with the year which has been dubbed by some as our make-or-mar year. With barely two months to the dawn of that year and with only three months to the start of the general elections, the signal flashing across the country (particularly from officials of the governing party and President Goodluck Jonathan) are less than encouraging – to put it very mildly.
Consider the shocking statement made by Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina State last week. He was quoted to have said that “you should not be bothered by cockroaches of politics. You know what to do when you have cockroaches in your house. You kill it; yes you must crush them”.
Among these who were first to condemn what was widely regarded as “ultra-raw hate, inciting and reckless statement” were the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU). The EU Head of Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Michel Arrion. Such statements tend to incite violence, he admonished. Hear him: “I would say, it’s really the beginning of something that is a very serious source of concern for us … that kind of statement is, I’m sorry to say, extremely dangerous and not acceptable …”
In the same vein, the USA Ambassador in Abuja condemned the speech, saying that they were deeply troubled by Shema’s utterance. “The rhetorical threat of violence undermines the democratic process and is utterly unacceptable in a democratic society. The United States reiterates its call upon Nigerians to refrain from advocating, fomenting, or condoning violence before, during, or after the elections”.
Even as that strident admonition was being made, the same sort of dictatorial tendency which undermines democracy, was being enacted before our eyes in Ekiti State. In a move brimming with all the ingredients of a Nollywood movie, seven members of that state house of Assembly conducted a curious legislative business. Despite the fact that this 26-member body needs at least ten members to form a quorum, the seven members proceeded to do as they pleased. Backed by a platoon of heavily armed policemen, they approved Governor Ayodele Fayose’s Commisioner-nominees and also okayed his list of LGA Chairmen in record time.
Even as the universal outrage which trailed this legislative rascality was yet to subside, the same gang of seven who are all members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sat a couple of days later and removed the Assembly’s Speaker, Adewale Omirin, and his deputy. Omirin and his 18 other colleagues are members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Dele Olugbami was appointed as “Protem Speaker” by his six other PDP Colleagues.
It would be recalled that just as Ekiti State is still bruising under the onslaught of a group of PDP Legislators, many other states such as Rivers, Edo, Nasarawa and Ebonyi have also been smarting from the same malaise in recent months. Incidentally, with the exception of Ebonyi, all these states are controlled by APC, yet PDP Legislators who are in the minority in these states, have seemingly made it a point of duty to turn law-making intop lawbreaking with reckless abandon. No less sobering is the fact that in all these instances, the police (who are controlled by the Federal Government) are used as if they were an appendage of PDP).
As if determined to catapult reckless to another level, the powers-that-be raised the bar penultimate Thursday at the National Assembly. Their target was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal. In a dare-devil bid to stop Tambuwal from gaining access to the Assembly complex that fateful day, the police blockaded the whole place. Only those favoured by official-dam, including the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, were allowed unhindered passage. Efforts by Speaker Tabuwal and his colleagues to move in were not only frustrated, but led to their being tear-gased with aplomb.
What makes that show of shame particularly disturbing is that barely a fortnight before then Tambuwal had taken the Federal Government to Court over suck reckless conduct, including the unconstitutional removal of his security personnel. As the case drags on, the court had extracted an undertaking from the Federal Government that they would be of good conduct and refrain from breaching the Speaker’s fundamental human rights.
Political analysts who spoke on the latest development were unanimous in their verdict that it bodes ill omen for the forth coming general elections. According to them two of the common strands in the ongoing onslaught against various states’ Houses of Assembly and the House of Reps are the use of the police to enforce PDP’s whims and caprices, and the utter contempt for due process, the rule of law and democratic tenets.
Putting the matter in proper perspective, one of the analysts, Mohammed Anebi, a Legal practitioner based in Abuja, said: “One thing That characterised the recent governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun States was the reckless use of security agents and even soldiers, including the unlawful arrest and detention of supporters and officials of the opposition party. Should such high-handed indulgence be repeated in the February 2015, elections, I fear for this country”
National secretary of APC, Lai Mohammed, was equally unsparing in his analysis of the federal government’s late exploits. “Does anyone need any more evidence that the president’s sole preoccupation is how to win the 2015 elections, rather that the fate and maimed at the epicenter of the insurgency he acquired. “ The plot was simple. The President decided to use the reconvening of House as an Opportunity to remove the speaker …”
With such devil-may-care attitude allegedly permeating the presidency – all in a desperate bid to demolish every opposition ahead of the 2015 poll – the conventional wisdom is that dark days loom. This is more so as it is on record that President Jonathan rarely demurs in resorting to strong –arm tactics in dealing with his political foes (as evident in the virtual sacking of the then governor of Bayelsa State, as well as his ranging war of attrition with Governor Amaechi of Rivers State).
Not a few Nigerians are understandably alarmed that with the sort of recklessness on parade across the land even as insecurity (as symbolized by Boko Haram) and a host of other critical challenges confront the nation, the weeks, nay months ahead may vindicate the USA infamous prediction on ‘Naija’ .