Let’s admit for paper sheet purposes, that police have the powers for life and/or death, offences (such powers can be invoked) must first of all exist, to corroborate credibility of the police for being purposeful rather than playing to the gallery to impress (its) higher authorities. Secondly, the police, in order to enforce threat to enforce a law (like banning public protests) must ensure it has the capacity and seriousness to enforce such threat. Even then, in civilised societies, repeat, civilised societies, the power of life and death is not absolute.
An American police officer, Derek Chauvin, (has) just commenced serving 22 and half years’ prison term for unlawful murder of an innocent and unarmed citizen, George Floyd. The offence was
classifed as lower degree murder, in narrow escape of stiffer sentence for first degree murder.
Nigeria is yet to attain that standard, as every crime, murder of bus conductors or sudents by armed police in Nigeria ends mysteriously untried. But that does not stop Nigerians from asserting their rights, if only to distinguish between a civilised society and a barbaric gathering, especially if occupied by human beings glorifying in casualties that may be recorded.
What gave the police the impression that criminals would hijack the Lagos protest of Yoruba Nation and that the lie warranted the ban of the protest? Wherever Yoruba Nation held its enlightenment gathering had never been infiltrated by thugs hired by the other side to discredit the Lagos protest. But Yoruba Nation repeated its peaceful endeavour by putting back to the police to arrest any expected thugs. Otherwise, Yoruba Nation officers and officials disowned unauthorised false information that the Lagos enlightenment gatherin had been postponed. Who issued the purported postponement distraction in the first place? Certainly, paid agents of the other side. Yoruba Nation not only reconfirmed the enlightenment gathering in Lagos but actually met the police on the scene without any violence. Yoruba Nation enlightenment gatherings at key centres like Ibadan, Osogbo, Ekiti, Akure, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta without any violence? Why would Lagos be different? That was the strong point Yoruba Nation, decent people, made to wrong-foot police that the force was out to prevent concocted violence. The Lagos gathering of enlightenment held and nothing happened.
Before the Lagos gathering of Yoruba Nation met, not many residents of the city were aware of the existence of the organisation. For police, the agency’s flaunting of its power of life and death, the threat of hell and brimstone with all coming to nothing at the end of the day all provoked negative publicity for the police. The major beneficiary? Yoruba Nation whose activities are now more widely known than before not only in Lagos but throughout Nigeria. Any further police thoughts of banning meetings or even protests anywhere in Nigeria but Lagos in particular can only ridicule the police.
There was the #EndSARS protest at Lekki, President Muhammadu Buhari and the then IG Adamu both immediately conceded total dismantling of SARS. But Lagos police continued to moan its ban on what it called “any protests” in Lagos. By the way, there must be a distinction between the enlightenment Yoruba Nation is pursuing in South West zone and political/social protests police is mixing up. In fact, in societies coping with protests, police know their powers and limits. At about the time Yoruba Nation was enlightening the people in Lagos, Brazilians were protesting (again protesting) not only throughout the capital, Brasilia, but also throughout the major cities, demanding that their “President Jair Bolsoraso must go” for the poor handling of coronavirus, which so far has caused the second highest deaths in the world. The police never banned nor interfered with the protesters. But, more importantly, President Bolsoraso remains in office because the demand is ritualistic among protesters all over the world. Furthermore, Yoruba Nation never demanded that Buhari must go. What, therefore, was the purpose of the so-called police ban on the enlightenment gathering of Yoruba Nation in Lagos? Nigerians have a name for such overzealousness: Eye Service.
One blunder was the invasion of the house of Sunday Igboho in Ibadan by security agents. Suppose there was accidental discharge? Nigerians would be deceived that the man was resisting arrest. A hardly recognised figure before the invasion of his house in the dead of the night has been transformed by security into a political celebrity in Nigeria. How do these people think? The invasion of Sunday Igboho’s house has also triggered sudden co-operation between Yoruba Nation and IPOB. That is a collaboration, which invited Yoruba leaders to be speaking out against arrest of IPOB members. This was never the case all along. The harassment of Yoruba Nation and IPOB has made them realise that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
After initially keeping mum on its invasion of Sunday Igboho’s house, Nigeria’s secret police eventually confirmed its action and exploited its failure to get Igboho as a basis for ordering him to report at any police station nearest to him. Anybody well acquainted with Nigeria’s political history in 1998 should not rush to offer any advice to Igboho. He should be allowed to strictly exercise his discretion. For five years, legal provisions of criminal trial spread across long adjournments at the request of the prosecution, filing of motions by both defence and prosecution at the pleasure of judge enabled the government to keep MKO Abiola in detention for that long period. When it appeared Abiola might be released, he was reported dead. The choice is, therefore, Sunday Igboho’s.
Of course, 1998 is a far way from 2021 and what might have been tolerated in 1998 is not tolerable in 2021, even around the world.
Credit: Daily Sun