November 26, 2018

That invasion of Akwa Ibom State Assembly

By William Inyang

ANYONE who loves Nigeria would be worried about what happened in Akwa State recently. This is certainly not a time to fold our hands and pretend that all is well in Nigeria. Democracy is at risk in Nigeria. That is why lovers of democracy should rise in unison to condemn the attack on the Akwa Ibom State House  of Assembly and its subsequent invasion by the police and other security agencies.

Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly

It all started on Monday when thugs  invaded the Assembly complex, stopping members from gaining access to the building. Expectedly, the police came and restored normalcy and the lawmakers eventually sat to conduct the business of the day.

But not long after, All Progressive Congress, APC,  Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, issued a statement condemning the action of the then police commissioner, John Abang, whom he accused of being political. He directly accused the commissioner of refusing to carry out orders to provide security cover that will enable three legally sacked members of the 26-member legislature to effect a change of leadership. This makes one ask the party chairman the justification for his assertion. Is he saying that it is right for thugs to invade a State House of Assembly in the first instance or is he saying that it was wrong for the police to provide security at a time of chaos?

Oshiomhole would need to tell Nigerians where the police chief missed it.  Should our democracy  still suffer this after almost 19 years in the process?  To imagine that this kind of rascality could have a tinge of official approval is to say the least shameful.  Nigeria ought to have moved away from this level of backwardness. How can thugs  invade Houses of Assembly stopping elected members from performing their duties in this time and now? It is no longer news that the Inspector General of Police has redeployed CP John Abang and replaced him with a new CP, Hyelasinda Musa Kimo.

Of course, the first assignment that Kimo performed was to take over the State House of Assembly, thus creating tension and escalating the siege mentality in the state.  Consequently, thugs, backed by the police, took over the premises, disrupting legislative activities, harassing  members of staff, hindering them from performing their  duties.

The Federal Government- led APC has never hidden its desire to take over Akwa Ibom State. Its former chairman, Odigie Oyegun, said some years ago that the party could not afford to leave the oil rich state in the hands of the opposition People’s Democratic P.arty, PDP . To APC, the state has all the money required to fund its party being the largest oil (producing) rich state  in the country.

According to reports,  the thugs who invaded the Assembly complex on Monday based their action on a court order that vacated the seat of Idongesit Ituen for carpet crossing to another political party without an acceptable reason in law.

The PDP has said the Federal Government is deliberately instigating violence in the state in its bid to  create an impression that Akwa Ibom  State  has become ungovernable to open the way for a declaration of a state of emergency in order to  dismantle all democratic structures and forcefully take over control of the state. The party can rarely be faulted for taking this position at this point in time.

A former governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who recently defected to APC, has been chanting war songs since he left PDP. And fingers are been pointed at the APC as master minders of the invasion.Yet, all that the APC government could do is blame the police commissioner for restoring peace and removing him less than one month after being posted to the state.

Are we saying court orders should no longer be obeyed? Any society that does not have respect for the rule of law has no future. Violence is the weapon of the weak. If the opposition has started sponsoring thugs to invade Houses of Assembly now, what they will do in 2019 is better imagined.

It is bad enough that  thugs have always been used by politicians during campaigns but to now include disruptions of legislative sessions as part of their mandate is dangerous.  Not too long ago, thugs invaded the Ondo State House of Assembly and prevented members from sitting.

It is unbelievable that thugs are now supreme, even above security agencies in the country. They have lost respect even for the police. And with the open support that thugs now enjoy, even the most conscientious policeman will be afraid to do his  job.

How do we want people in other climes to assess Nigeria if our politicians still use thugs to fight political wars?

But then, the Akwa Ibom Assembly invasion should not come as  a surprise because not too long ago, hooded DSS operatives attempted to sack even the National Assembly. That is novel even in the history of democracy in Nigeria.

We can’t afford to be a lawless country. Government should not be seen to be in support of official recklessness and lawlessness .

If APC is sure of having the support of the people, it should keep calm, and allow Nigerians choose who to lead them in peace. Using the weapon of intimidation and violence as  was  done in Akwa Ibom will not work.

It is no longer news that Senator  Godswill Akpabio has vowed that the APC will take over Akwa Ibom State the same way Hitler overran Poland. He has sworn that “war shall see Warsaw and Warsaw shall see war” in Akwa-Ibom state. Whatever could have propelled Akpabio to declare war on his people still beats the imagination.

But if Senator Akpabio really loves his people as he claims to, he not resort to violence to get their votes.

Akwa Ibom state needs an atmosphere of peace to keep the goal of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s vision  of  industrialisation of the state become reality. The gains of the last three years are there for all to see with the people  yearning for more.

*Mr. Inyang, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.