NOBODY expected the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Tambari Yabo Mohammed would have stopped a political rally without reasons, good reasons.
What he failed to understand, since he is taking full responsibility for the decision he took last week, is that in politics, everything has a different meaning, depending on the camps, and more importantly, on what the issues are.
Former President Ibrahim Babangida intended to flag off the Kaduna leg of his presidential campaign on Sunday. The police stopped the rally, according to Alhaji Mohammed, because the organisers did not obtain police permission.
Alhaji Mohammed made an elaborate explanation of his action to the press.
“It is wrong to say that the Commissioner of Police stopped the rally. The Public Order Act requires that the police be given at least 48 hours notice for processions that have political connotations.
“But the IBB people came to our office about 10.00 p.m. on Saturday to inform us about the rally.
“When we considered the proximity of the IBB campaign office to the Government Lodge at Alimi Road, where the Vice-President is staying, we decided not to allow them hold the rally to avoid a situation where there will be a clash between their supporters.
“We did that in the interest of the state and so it will be wrong to say that the Commissioner of Police stopped the rally because I did not stop the rally. I cannot stop any rally that conforms to the provisions of the law.
“If they had complied with the law and given us 48 hours notice or even came to us earlier in the day, we could either have changed the date for them or change the venue if they insist on going ahead with the rally.
“You can see that the Vice-President is in town and we are heavily involved in his activities. But that notwithstanding; we would have changed the venue for them and mobilised our men to the place. But they did not follow the rules.
“Nobody asked me to stop any rally. I am the police commissioner here and I am here because I am capable of handling the state. Otherwise, I will not be here.”
It is wrong for the organisers of the rally not to have obtained permission in line with the law, if that was the case, but there are other issues that Alhaji Mohammed raised which indicated that a lawfully obtained permission may have not sufficed.
The mention of the Vice-President’s visit as another reason for stopping the rally appears to be the main reason, which can then be extended to other matters. At the end of the analyses, Alhaji Mohammed may realise that the issues are more weighty than he thinks.
His efforts at maintaining security in Kaduna State deserve commendation, but he lost sight of the fact that stopping a political rally was also capable of affecting the security of the state.
The most important issue from Kaduna is knowing from the police requirements that meet its conditions for granting permissions for rallies, whether they are religious, political or of other natures. This demand should not apply to Kaduna State alone.
We are only months away from rallies and campaigns that should be part of the elections. These gatherings are important for candidates to sell their programmes to the public, one of the few moments aspirants are close to the public. These times are too important to be mismanaged.
Politicians have been accused of not permitting any space for their opponents to operate., they use laws like the Public Order Act to stifle opposition. Alhaji Mohammed dropped that hint in his lengthy explanation.
The rally organisers had obtained all the permission they required and the Vice-President chanced into town, and the rally venue was too close to his window, would the event have held? Would the Vice-President’s right to his comfort, in that instance, overtake other citizens’ right to lawful assembly?
Are political rally organisers expected to predict VIP movements in order not to procure venues? Kaduna might not have had the high-handedness that was witnessed two weeks ago, when security men stopped some Igbo leaders, including former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani from holding a meeting in an Owerri hotel.
They said they acted on “orders from above.” Nobody accepted responsibility for the orders.
A few days later, Ohaneze Ndigbo was denied used of the Peace Garden, beside the International Conference Centre in Abuja. The wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan, they were told, needed the venue for her programme. In both instances, the organisers paid for the venues, advertised the event only to be stopped at the last moment.
The successful abridgement of any individual’s rights emboldens the abuser to do more. Nobody is sure who the next victims would be, and there would be new victims.
There should be no distractions around the elections, particularly in terms of providing political space for all contending positions and people.
In some states, opposing posters, billboards, and political messages on state-funded media are as a matter of rule forbidden. It does not matter if the owners belong to the same political party with the governor. It can then be imagined what happens when they are from other parties.
Things could get worse if the opposition cannot also address rallies under the guise that they could cause security problems.
The police should specify the conditions for rallies and keep to them.
Free and fair elections mean nothing if candidates cannot freely be allowed to sell their programmes to voters.