By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
Since he sat in fellowship with the opposition and got catapulted to that great height he has never really slept with both eyes closed. He has flown without perching, and when he perched, he perched on one foot.
A few weeks ago he cried like a hen troubled by the shadow of a foe above. He said the police were after him. After Dino Melaye’s ordeal, no one would blame him even for crying wolf. Saraki was once Senator Melaye’s umbrella and shield. That was before the police came out of their trance and fell on a Morocco bound Dino Melaye. And left him running helter-skelter to a stretcher, seeking refuge behind doctors. Saraki, having ruffled feathers with his ambitions must have sensed the hawks circling, this time for the hen. His panic was loud in his screams. Other rattled hens in PDP and nPDP lent him their quacking voices. The police didn’t bring forward the cultists who would be given roles to play in a treacherous script written by the police Inspector General against Saraki.
No cultists were paraded. But his premonition wasn’t a piece of hallucination. It didn’t take long before a denouement came. The vampiric gang of armed robbers that invaded Offa banks and casually slaughtered 33 people were brought before the media, a few days ago. The gang leaders sang copiously and harmoniously. They said they were Saraki’s thugs. They are known as the Good Boys. They were election hands hired and maintained to disrupt elections wherever an outcome was potentially unfavourable to their principal.
The response of the public has been predictable. Since our politics became poisoned by bitter partisanship and virulent sectionalism, rationality has yielded to superstitions and sentimentality. Opponents of the Federal Government have portrayed the confessions as the unripe fruits of torture. The epidemic of armed robbers singing confessionals, implicating politicians who are in some active opposition against the ruling government, is actually frightening. The public ought to be concerned. Such a scourge has the capacity to wipe out dissent or drive it into a dark hole. But the horde of human rights activists who think the police should disregard the confessions of armed robbers once it touches a powerful politician are unmindful of the full consequences of their shortsighted activism.
In Nigeria the rich and powerful get away with crimes. The law only manages to scratch them when they are wrongly positioned. Without a little help from vendetta or witch hunt, it’s almost always impossible to bring the powerful to book. When the weak arms of justice are strengthened by selectivity to deny one unfortunate rich politician impunity, the poor must cheer and not mourn.
It is true that were Senator Saraki in the good books of the Federal Government the police could have interpreted the hymns sang by the Good Boys differently. The ethical grounding of our police is still suspect. But in Nigeria, politicians become enviable ‘grassroots politicians’ only when they can muster street violence. Thuggery has remained an important factor in deciding elections. Thugs are fed and maintained by big politicians. The politicians equip them with cudgels and guns. And these thugs cannot lie idle till elections to make their sluggish return, every four years. In between, they put their nefariousness into other uses.
So the Good Boys of Kwara combine routine armed robbery with political thuggery. It’s possible their closeness to power made them thoroughly callous. But Saraki couldn’t have asked anyone to rob a bank or to murder 9 policemen. That’s inconceivable. Associating Saraki with the Offa robbery without any evidence beyond the confessions of loose political association by the robbers would be gravely malicious. That Saraki’s daughter’s wedding Asoebi won by one of the robbers is notwithstanding.
But there was enough in the confessions to warrant an explanation from Saraki. So the monarch of Offa and other Saraki soldiers ought to have kept quiet. The Olofa should have let the police finish their investigations before reminding them where Saraki’s second home was located. Some of the robbers were part of the celebrated Saraki condolence visit to Offa. The monarch ought to have praised the police for their diligence in apprehending the armed robbers that spilled blood all over his town.
If the confessions of the Good Boys had implicated a Chief Nwokoye of Alaba International market, the story would have been different. And there would have been little genuine sympathy from the crying section of public. Such a Nwokoye’s house would have been invaded and ransacked, in the early hours of the following morning, by flip flop wearing men of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). And neighbours would have flocculated in groups, sadistically recounting Nwokoye’s once baffling success. Well, Saraki is not an ordinary Nwokoye, but Nwokoyes shouldn’t be made to feel that the law is a respecter of persons.
The police must do a thorough job. The Good Boys have named other accomplices in thuggery and election violence. The Police cannot overlook electoral crimes simply because it set out to probe armed robbery. Police must gather evidences of electoral offenses too. All culprits must be prosecuted. We want to stamp out thuggery as much as we want to stamp out armed robbery. The penalty for destruction of electoral materials is two years imprisonment.
The Good Boys have sung in Abuja. They could be the black sheep of a good shepherd. The police must show utmost good faith. Frivolous investigations and prosecutions harm public confidence in the institution. The police must keep its head down and follow all leads. And prosecute every person, big or small, implicated in any crime after the investigations.