Police Commissioner of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Joseph Mbu, must really enjoy the limelight, no matter the reason. Or how else can one explain his totally unnecessary attempt at notoriety few days ago when he jumped on the wrong side of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign? Until he spoke, few remembered that he was the police boss in the nation’s capital.
By Monday evening, news filtered in that the man, who just returned from fighting a long-drawn out battle with the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, had ordered immediate end to all protests connected to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in the FCT. He claimed to have ‘banned’ the ‘protest’ because it was becoming a source of security risk.
Not surprisingly, a few citizens who all along saw the BBOG campaigns as nothing but a political plot aimed at discrediting the Jonathan administration celebrated the action of Mbu. Some news reports actually said things like, “Government bans BringBackOurGirls protests in Abuja”. When did the action of one out of at least 37 commissioners of police become equated to the position of government? Anyway, the good news, though, is that Mbu was on his own; for hardly had the news died down than the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) issued a disclaimer. I truly wonder how Mbu felt when his boss took the wind out of his sail, more so when such put down was done on behalf of the IGP by an officer lower in rank to Mbu.
The rejection of Mbu’s seemingly abrasive bent to the maintenance of law and order is a welcome one. But while Mbu’s over-reaching order lasted, many were quick to point out, and I restate for the avoidance of a recurrence by Mbu or anyone else, that the constitution of Nigeria guarantees a right to peaceful assembly. This is a right and not some privilege to be bestowed on citizens or moderated at the whims of the state and its officials.
Demonstrations, protests, campaigns etc are necessary appurtenances to democracy; otherwise we create a nation of zombies. That much the IGP’s office recognised in the counter statement when it reiterated that the present Police High Command has “demonstrated a very strong sense of democratic policing”.
Perhaps the likes of Mbu need some lessons in this democratic policing to know that it does not lie in the mouth of a CP to describe citizen’s actions to deepen democracy, rule of law and strengthen security, as an act of ‘lawlessness’, as Mbu did.
Prior to Mbu’s attempt to clamp down on the peaceful protest (which is nothing more than a sit out event), some citizens had also criticised the protests. Some insinuated that the actions were inimical to efforts by government to secure the release of the abducted girls, who by the way have been in captivity for more than 50 days now. Someone even suggested that the citizens’ protests could lead to mistakes by the military due to ‘intense and unnecessary pressure’. My immediate response to such an unprofessional suggestion is that no military worth its salt could be so distracted by the actions of citizens sitting out in a public park and calling on the state to do something to bring back abducted children.
Just asking, where was Mbu in 2010 when citizens, tired of the shenanigans that surrounded the illness of President Umaru Yar’Adua and refusal of his kitchen cabinet to let go of power, went on the streets of Abuja to protest? We, the citizens, protested and demanded from whatever was left of the government at that time to do the needful and ensure the smooth transfer of presidential powers from the ailing president to his deputy, then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, to become acting president. And so when some commentators and government apologists turn round today to get angry about protests by the same populace against government, be it for the mess in the petroleum sector and mismanagement of public finances or in the the failure to contend terrorism, some of us shudder at how soon we forget.
Truth is this; presidency was birthed in public demonstration and demands that enough was enough. It cannot possibly turn around to hate or try to clamp down on public protests. What Mbu did clearly deserves boo and that is what he got last week. May this be a long boo for Mbu and his likes!