Two avoidable virtually simultaneous protests in different parts of the country recorded many deaths, which could only call into question our value of human lives. Such were the incidents that, on reflection, it remains baffling why, despite similar suicidal encounters over the years, potential fatal victims continue to foolishly risks their lives for needless bloodbath.
Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and its adherents would appear to be exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of worship, movement and association. That would be normal and lawful in the scheme of things. Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, IMN is a proscribed entity. Even the leadership could still have arranged with law enforcement agencies to celebrate their annual religious festival. Instead, the IMN unlawfully resorted to type. In advance of IMN’s planned procession (protests?) through many cities in the country, police authorities reminded the religious sect of the proscription of their organisation as distinct from individual members, such a loophole offered the prospects of peaceful celebration, even in procession, for the IMN members.
Instead, the IMN definitely resisted the position of police authorities. That was unnecessary confrontation with armed law enforcement agents. Imagine unarmed religious celebrants in such a mismatch. Legal experts submitted that IMN might have their prescription overturned in a court of law on grounds of denial of fair hearing in the trial of the saga leading to the prosecution. Until such a legal redress, law enforcement agents have a duty to sustain the proscription. Apart from that, IMN has a reputation of its protests degenerating into violence in which innocent disinterested members of the public were attacked and indeed occasionally lost their lives.
A vivid example was IMN’s protests to the National Assembly, which was repulsed by police. In frustration, the protesters could not ensure the safety of by-standers and passers-by, among whom was an aspiring journalists fatally wounded. In that confusion, unknown shooter pulled the trigger and the journalist died. In the protest episode, police, in enforcing the proscription, banned the IMN procession but the Shites insisted on going ahead against armed security personnel. No matter the geniuneness of legitimacy of a cause, it is sheer madness to risk lives in enforcing or exercising even constitutional rights, such rights which cannot be constitutional in an atmosphere of a prevailing proscription of the organisation.
Now, who lost in this tragedy? The same Shites who claimed that not less than 15 of their members were killed by armed police. When unarmed protesters confront armed police in a showdown, such is the mismatch. Hence, while Shites claimed to have lost 15 members, the police opposition returned to barracks virtually unscathed. Even on past occasions when police recorded fatalities, such were absorbed to have died in line of duty, of course, in reaction, police always behaved like mad dogs.
Have the Shites learnt any lesson? He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. Shites must employ court process to get the proscription of their organisaton, IMN, lifted. Until then, the group must avoid unnecessary deaths of their members.
If the Shites are notorious for embarking on suicide missions, what can we say of university undergraduates? Students of Federal University, Oye Ekiti, lost at least two of their colleagues when they reportedly ambushed or ran into the official convoy of Bisi Fayemi, wife of the state governor.
Such rascality is passport to imminent possible death. Would parents of the deceased students appreciate them for their untimely death? Surely not. Parents educate young ones purposely for proper upbringing and employable future, rather than vandalism. Anywhere in the world, official convoys are accompanied by armed security. Their only function is to ensure, by any means possible, the safely of their principal.
There are no two ways about it. Neither is there any apology. Indeed, summary punishment awaits even entire security personnel whose principal comes to harm, especially fatally. That is the stern training. Nobody dares ambush of an official convoy or he will not live to tell the story. The regulation is universal and the higher the official position, the less the doubt allowed any intruder on his mission.
The intention of those who ambushed the official convoy of the wife of Ekiti State governor could not be immediately clear but her security personnel would not gamble.
Seemingly less educated villagers somewhere in Abuja, by their action were clearly more sensible when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo drove into them. Being in smiles and clearly friendly, they apparently saw in Osinbajo someone whose support they could enlist to solve their long-standing problems in their village. In response, Osinbajo came out of the car, listened to their complaints with a promise to contact the appropriate quarters. The friendly conduct of those villagers in embracing the Vice-President, who accordingly came down from his car to listen to their problems, contrasted sharply with the notorious threatening behaviour of students, who, in similar circumstances and despite their education, would have been banging on Osinbajo’s official vehicle, if not stoning him. If that happened, security personnel would have performed their duty to whisk the Vice-President to safety.
As in the case of the defiant Shites, who also lost in the security scare created by protesting students of Federal University, Oye Ekiti? The students who lost two of their colleagues. In addition, the university was closed down, mostly likely indefinitely. Rituals of probe may follow to fish out the ring leaders among the students.
Security personnel in Ekiti excellently discharged themselves. Throughout society, security is uppermost, especially for public office holders, as well as members of their family.
Since the point has been made on the safety of the governor and his family, Fayemi should consider steps to have the university re-opened soonest.
Nigeria better for it
Despite the clear-cut direction of proceedings of the presidential election tribunal from the beginning to the end, sections of the media, a couple of days before the verdict, seemed to have hyped an illusion of a sensational outcome. On the contrary, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s case was almost solely based on the figures claimed to have been surreptitiously obtained from the website of the election’s promoter, Independent National Electoral Commission. And the moment that erstwhile seeming invincible evidence crashed at a decisive stage of tribunal proceedings months ago, the verdict was predictable.
There was, therefore, no surprise, since the remaining evidence were more of appurtenances to the INEC web palaver. Yet, whatever we may say, election petitions must be considered very vital in a growing democracy, especially in Africa. Indeed, election petition should be encouraged and sustained as a sort of sword of Democles to check. We must not forget that Muhammadu Buhari prosecuted three monumental election petitions before eventually making it to Aso Rock on the fourth attempt in 2015. Every presidential candidate does not need to go that far to achieve his political ambition.
From the trial of Atiku Abubakar’s election petition, it is certain that, henceforth, elections will be more fairly conducted in Nigeria, with a potential winner bearing in mind that he may not comfortably be settled inside Aso Rock until he strongly establishes his victory at an inevitable election tribunal. Equally, from the exhaustive and painstaking judgment on the Muhammadu Buhari vs Atiku Abubakar election petition, any future litigant in such circumstances will reckon with the burden of proof he has to discharge in pursuit of victory. Indeed, henceforth, presidential election petition in Nigeria is beyond the reach of political kindergarten. That is the level to which the election tribunal has raised the demand for the proof of any claim by both plaintiff and respondent.
This particular election petition trial has formidably discredited, henceforth, any idea of pleading with contestants not to exercise their rights under the Constitution to seek relief against grievances.
The outcome of the election petition tribunal has mounted speculations about end of the road for Atiku Abubakar in his aspiration for the Nigerian presidency. End of the road? Political struggle is not a tea party. From President John Kennedy’s massive defeat of Richard Nixon in the American presidential election in 1960, it seemed all over for Nixon. But he soldiered on and, by the time he entered the race again in 1958, he won comfortably.
The only setback for Atiku Abubakar was mostly extraneous factors. In 2015 when he lost the nomination and in 2019 when he was defeated, he lost to an invincible conqueror – Buhari – a fellow Northerner, fellow Muslim and more of a cult hero in their North. And, in 2007, Atiku Abubakar’s current political mentor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo went all out to block him.
Age? Currently, Atiku Abubakar is 73. In 2023, he will be 77. So what? The leading Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 race in United States, Joe Biden, like Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President, is 76 years. The man, Atiku Abubakar, will only have to contend with young Turks in the PDP in 2023, Aminu Tambuwal, Nyesom Wike, Bukunola Saraki and perhaps other dark horses.
By the way, it was disappointing that the tribunal never saw it fit to summon irresponsible Nigerians for contempt of court in the insinuations on members of the panel.
Whoever loses at the Supreme Court should be game enough to congratulate the winner.