29 June 2014

Nigeria: Tambuwal, Soldiers' Harassment, and Fascism


Fascism, I was told in Government class, is a type of government led by a dictator, having complete powers, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and, often, racism.

When I checked through the implications of having a man in position of power in Nigeria exercise such a magnitude of power, I cringe with fear running through my heart.

I have been watching political developments in my beloved country in the last few months, and when properly conceptualized, I feel, very strongly, too, that elements of fascism are creeping gradually into the governance of this nation.

Initially, I didn't want to believe my hunch, because the noise was being made by the opposition political parties, who are naturally married to noise-making in the name of drawing attention to themselves and creating the impression that the government of the day is oppressing them.

However, I had no option but to believe that, surely, fascism is creeping into the nation's government when following the harassment of the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal by military men in Kaduna exactly a week ago today.

The news went viral last Monday on social media that soldiers, acting on "Orders from Above", stopped the speaker's official convoy and insisted that the person and car of the speaker must be searched for possible concealment of weapons or items forbidden by law.

Tambuwal, who was a keynote speaker at a function, had his convoy stopped by soldiers on duty at the 17 Hotel, venue of the International Conference on Security and Development: Challenges of Pastoralism in West and Central Africa", contrary to protocol, while other invited guests were allowed to drive in without molestation.

Some security details attached to Tambuwal, comprising of policemen and men of the DSS, kicked against the development but the soldiers insisted that they were acting on "orders from above."

Angered by the development, Tambuwal reportedly stormed out of the car and trekked to the venue, a few metres away.

Expectedly, members of the House of Representatives put aside party loyalty and formed a common ground in their condemnation of the harassment of the Speaker of the parliament, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, by security operatives when the issue came up for discussion last Wednesday.

Immediately the plenary was declared open and a letter from the President read after the opening remarks made by the Speaker, a motion was moved to introduce the matter of the harassment of the Speaker, and a motion moved for the House to dissolve into executive session.

The parliamentarians at the close-door session, were miffed by the action of the security men who insisted on searching the official vehicle of the Speaker before allowing him into the venue of a seminar, insisting that it was wrong of them to insist on committing the "crime" even when the speaker identified himself.

According to one of the parliamentarians who attended the close door meeting, members at the executive session were angry that the constitutionally guaranteed respects the parliament enjoys is being tampered with, and are worried that some form of fascism is creeping into the nation's democracy.

Members were afraid that if the matter was not tackled, the perpetrators might be emboldened to make an attempt on the life of the Speaker and it might be too late to reverse it if he's killed under any guise.

Members, in their argument, drew attention to the fate suffered by Governors Rotimi Amaechi of River State, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, who at different times, suffered one form of harassment or the other with security men insisting they were acting based on "Order from Above".

The source disclosed further that members were united in the rejection of the apology letter tendered by the NSA to the Speaker and insisted that the matter ought to be dragged before the National Security Council as it was an infraction taken too far.

The House in plenary after the executive session, did not disclose officially what was discussed but merely said the House Committees on Defence, Army, Police, interior as well as Public Safety have been mandated to investigated the issue and report back to the House within one week.

Tambuwal, speaking after the House reverted to plenary, explained that the matter at stake goes beyond his person adding that though, he as an individual is not above the law, the office of the Speaker ought to be respected.

He disclosed that he has always been on the side of the law and saw no reason why anyone will disrespect the office of the Speaker of the parliament which is expected to enjoy some privilege and protocol from the soldiers who are paid by tax payers.

"I subjected myself to thorough search by ground staff of Air France about two weeks ago when I travelled to Paris as an individual and not Speaker of the House of Representatives. I was frisked and my luggage searched.

"But I also remember that when I travel on official duty, I enjoy some form of protocol and benefits as I always get treated with respect as an official of the Nigerian Government.

"This was lacking in Kaduna on Monday. However, no one should have the impression that we are trying to say we are above the law, no, the issue here is about respect for the institution of the parliament and not the person of Aminu Tambuwal."

I took a look into the whole scenario and came to the conclusion that some persons might be contemplating making a "monster" out of the image of the president. But I also had another impression that the presidency might be enjoying the humiliation being meted out to "enemies".

It is not a secret that Tambuwal and the presidency are having a cat and mouse relationship. Same is also extended to the leadership of PDP who are tactically keeping Tambuwal at arms length.

Both Tambuwal and members of the PDP leadership will understand me better on this assertion. Whatever grouse anyone might have with Tambuwal, I don't want to be involved in the game, but I want to insist that the office of the Speaker should be respected under whatever guise. If a constitutionally recognized office is so debased by soldiers who should respect all authorities so demanded, I think something is definitely wrong.

If what happened to Tambuwal is not an indication of Fascism in the making, then, I think I need to dust my books and read once again how fascism should be defined.

Contact: folusoakinwumi@yahoo.com, 0803 190 8637


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