IGP on the G7 meeting invasion By Idowu Akinlotan

The question the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, was asked to respond to by the House Committee on Police Affairs was simple: who ordered the Asokoro Divisional Police Officer, Nnana Amah, to invade and disrupt the G7 governors’ meeting at the Kano governor’s lodge some two weeks ago? The answer was equally simple though downright disturbing. No one sent Mr Amah, the IGP replied. The DPO was simply doing his job, he deadpanned.

It will be recalled that two Sundays ago, Mr Amah had led dozens of policemen to invade the G7 governors’ meeting in Abuja. According to a source at the meeting, the DPO had asked the governors to disperse or be arrested. The governors, five of whom were present at the meeting, would not disperse, but instead dared the DPO to arrest them. The invasion led to an altercation in which a chafing governor would have taken the unprecedented step of pushing the DPO out of the meeting had he not been restrained. The invasion alarmed the country, and was widely condemned by everyone with a sense of decorum. However, like all who dare to oppose the Jonathan presidency, the chafing governor is today under siege, with two of his sons detained for alleged financial malfeasance.

If Mr Amah’s effrontery alarmed the country, the response of the IGP was even more troubling, and the inability of the House Committee to pin him down with poignant and unnerving questions did in fact signpost the decline of Nigerian democracy. According to the IGP, “The DPO was not sent by anybody…As the officer-in-charge of the area, he had the right to know what was going on in his domain…He is the DPO of the area; if anything happens, he would be held responsible. He was doing his job.” He further explained that what the rest of us described as disruption of meeting was in fact nothing of the sort, and that we were all misled by media reports of the event. Alas, the IGP pretends to teach us English by redefining the word ‘disruption.’

Worse, by making light of Mr Amah’s grievous assault on civil liberties, the police boss attempts to rewrite the constitution, remould Nigerian democracy, and redefine the charter on human rights. But the IGP’s not-so-clever response shows very clearly why Nigeria is now a police state, why the police commissioner in Rivers State willfully defies the state governor without fear of retribution, why increasingly the police’s view of liberty is at variance with whatever liberty is vouchsafed to citizens by the constitution. And by handling the IGP last Thursday with kid gloves, the House Committee on Police Affairs also indicate clearly how complicit the National Assembly has become in the subversion of the constitution by a resentful and vindictive Jonathan presidency.

The fact is that though the IGP honoured the House invitation, he provided no explanation to show by what authority the police could disrupt the governors’ meeting or embarrass them, even if it was clear the governors met to ensure President Goodluck Jonathan did not contest in 2015, or if he did, not to win a single vote. The police, Dr Jonathan, and the faceless and shameless power mongers pulling the strings behind the thick presidency cloak of Aso Villa remind us of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s as Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party prepared the ground for fascism. The IGP is obviously no longer in full control of the police, for he seems to us a man of much grander character than the actions the police evince today. More and more, he will find himself justifying his men’s lawless actions, perhaps assured that in the process, and irrespective of what he thinks or not think, believes or not believe, he is pleasing the presidency and defending his increasingly untenable position.

More humbling, and faced with a fascist presidency, we have on our trembling hands a considerably weakened National Assembly without a full understanding of the role of a legislature in combating autocracy. For whatever this weapon in our hands is worth, the Senate seems to have lost its zest for lawmaking and for checking the excesses of the executive; and the House of Representatives has sensed the futility and loneliness of rising up stoutly in defence of civil liberties. They could not question the IGP to get his understanding of what the duties of a DPO were, and whether those duties included in any way the assault on the people’s liberties as contained in the constitution. They let the IGP off lightly by refusing to get him to quote the relevant parts of the constitution that empowered his officers to insult democracy and deny or circumscribe lawful association and assembly of the people.

Last year we started with a defiant commissioner of police proving to be more powerful than a state governor; now we have one DPO looking five governors in the face and telling them to shape up or ship out. Under the military, such effrontery could never be countenanced. In a democracy, it should never be imagined. But under the nose of a president who took oath to defend and protect the constitution, we are experiencing these clear and catastrophic assaults on civil liberties. Who can tell what will happen as the 2015 general elections draw near, when a desperate president egged on by faceless fascists take on everybody and the constitution? Who can tell what other abuses the president’s men will enact, and what other institution, other than the police, they will destroy or render contemptible?

Already, the campaign for state police has become almost unchallengeable, even unanimous. Whether a sovereign national conference is held or not, it is certain that the enthusiasm with which the police have lent themselves to be used to undermine the constitution has ensured that they cannot survive as they are constituted today. It is a question of time before the police are decentralized. When that happens, it will be good riddance to bad rubbish. For with the appalling excesses of the Jonathan government, no one is persuaded that a state government is likely to behave more unreasonably with the police than the federal government now heedlessly does.

Whether the already enfeebled National Assembly, which embraces partisanship to the detriment of the sanctity of the constitution, survives the impending Jonathan onslaught remains to be seen. They failed to understand the issues involved in the Rivers affair, where a few members of the House of Assembly plotted against the majority and then somehow manipulated the National Assembly to employ disingenuous neutrality instead of principled engagement. More and more, Nigerians are beginning to understand that this certainly isn’t the kind of legislature the country needs. Whatever they earn, if they could at least be firm and principled, the country would be grateful that though they cost a pretty penny they are nonetheless useful. Today, however, they look like an appendage of the executive, frightened, cowering and shell-shocked.

Mr Amah is likely to get away with his audacious challenge to the country’s democratic tenets. After all, his senior counterpart in Rivers is getting away with murder. In the face of such distressing exhibition of partisan policing, the IGP hides under semantics, and the National Assembly feigns ignorance, if not sickening amusement. Maybe, in quiet resignation, we should wait for the other shoe to drop. When that happens, let us hope it will not be too late to stir ourselves, too late to reclaim the country from the hands of those intent on destroying it, and too late to feel alive once again and be proud of this corner of the earth the good Lord has placed in our clumsy hands to tend.

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