In any country that takes democracy seriously, the eight men who filed articles of impeachment against the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, on Monday would have been arrested for treason. And with them, the State Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), the State Commissioner of Police, all other officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), and the Department of State Security (DSS), above the rank of Inspector, who took part in the crime in any shape or form. The list of the rest of the policemen and DSS operatives of other ranks who participated in the infamy should be compiled and sent for urgent retraining with a good dose of civics and self- government, and human and civil rights.
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We want to assume that the Presidency and the office of the Inspector-General of Police were unaware of the conspiracy, but if the police cite orders from above, then the Presidency’s purported innocence of what happened would join other instances when the president was economical with the truth. Senator Akume has been named more than once as an instigator, bankroller and accomplice. The reason all those who took part in the crime deserve a lengthy time in prison is because they had placed democracy at a very grave risk and, in effect, the freedom and liberty of all Nigerians. Millions of Nigerians who have lived most of their lives under dictatorship know the difference. Democracy ought not be seen or taken for a game, or for a joke. It has real consequences in the lives of people.
The DSS and the NPF should do an honest self-appraisal. The events in Benue have mired them in deeper morass. How would an institution that is utterly bereft of character win the confidence and respect of the population it serves, when it habitually acts as if its leaders are either zombies without soul or men without balls or conscience? How is it difficult to appreciate that security organizations must be unwavering in maintaining a posture of absolute impartiality when mediating society’s disputes?
Americans whose constitution and system we copy may curse their politicians, governors, Congress men and business leaders. But when a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent is speaking, they listen. They not only listen, they believe him. No Nigerian law enforcement organization commands such attention and trust today. Americans sometimes despise their presidents and most of his cabinet. But a special regard tends to be paid to the Attorney-General, who often is expected to be a lawyer of stature capable of standing up to the President should the need arise.
Nigerian lawyers are today thinking of reporting the Attorney-General to the Nigerian Bar Association for disciplinary action, especially concerning disobedience of court orders. Until President Donald Trump, the Attorney-General is not expected to be the lawyer to the administration, a job done by the White House Counsel.
The A-G is the lawyer of the people. Americans look upon their military men and women as their greatest, their most honourable citizens. Nigerians loathe the military as the most greedy, savage, vicious, and since recent arraignments of some senior officers by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), corrupt, arrogant and deceitful.
Organizations led by men and women with character and vision, with time, turn into cherished institutions. The DSS and the NPF need to start building their organizations. Their activities in Makurdi in the past few days seem to show they have a long way to go.
John Edgar Hoover, to take an American example, served as the FBI director for 48 years. He served eight presidents who didn’t know how to ask him to go because he did excellent work. He set the character of the institution, its culture and its uncompromising standards. He was human and so he had his own peccadilloes. But Americans know what to expect from the organization he built.
A police force that chaperoned and protected seven House of Assembly conspirators and its discredited speaker to begin a criminal process, but put out 22 members who had legitimate business in the House will not regain the people’s trust for a long time to come. Indeed the Clerk of the House was on Tuesday begging the Police to leave the Assembly premises, so that his men could do their daily jobs. A DSS privy to the Benue conspiracy has lost its legitimacy as a guardian and protector of the state.
There can be no doubt that the 2019 election background noise is animating the conduct of politicians. It is expected, but putting democracy in jeopardy as the gang of eight did deserves condign sanctions. Indeed, it occurred because those who perpetrated similar atrocities in the past went unscathed, which is indicative of the country’s unserious approach to democracy.This is why vote rigging and vote buying which clearly subvert democratic conventions seem to have been accepted as normal.
The policy differences between Governor Ortom and President Buhari were such that if he (Ortom) had remained in the party, it would be with a great deal of dissonance.
How could any governor reconcile the persistent killings in Benue State by Fulani herdsmen with the Federal Government’s policy of indifference, and the admonition of Nigerians by President Buhari to pray as a solution. Indeed, abdication has become all too obvious going by the Federal Government’s current spin that the killings are the handiwork of fake news, and that is according to Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, in his latest stupendous theory enunciated earlier this week. In other words, the killings are just imaginary, the products of fake news.
Nigerians have lost count of the yarns and cover stories the Federal Government has used to explain its inaction on the killings. At first, it was described as just a clash between farmers and herders over resources because the Lake Chad has dried up. Later it was that the killings were all perpetrated by non-Nigerians. Then it was the fault of Gadhafi’s mercenaries. No, it was the Islamic State of Syria and the Levante (ISIL). When none of the above was believed by Nigerians, the government struck on the fantastic proposition that opposition politicians pay to organize the killings to discredit the Buhari regime.
That was the last version before the latest spin by the Minister .Such crass insensitivity would only confirm the fears of the Benue State citizens. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the central organ of the herdsmen, had on several occasions owned up to the killings. Benue State organizations have no doubt about the identity of the killers. MACBAN has President Buhari as its Grand Patron. These must have left the Benue Youths no choice but to put pressure on the governor to quit the APC. Which is the way democracy works. And the decision of Governor Ortom to leave the APC must be counted as the natural consequence of Buhari’s unwillingness to do anything to end the killings by Fulani herdsmen.