The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, raised a key issue at the Independence Day public forum called The Platform. He drew attention to the effect of impunity on Nigeria’s development. He mentioned instances where public officers feel they are superior to all others and insist on being treated preferentially. His views aligned so much with what I have also observed over the years.
My observation includes public officers with over-bloated ego, surrounded by hangers-on and sycophants who have raised sycophancy to an art. These officials find it unacceptable to share public space with the rest of us ‘mere mortals’. That is why they and their aides run other road-users off the road to pass. Odinkalu gave his personal experience of a religious leader with police entourage doing that to him.
I once flew into Abuja on the same aircraft with a deputy governor of a state who travelled with a large number of combat policemen. When we alighted and I got to the taxi rank, I saw the immediate past governor of the state, whose deputy governor I just travelled with. This former governor, who in his days as governor also moved with heavy security, took a regular airport taxi like the rest of us. A few minutes later, while we were on the airport road heading for the city, the convoy of the deputy governor ran everyone (including his former state governor) off the road to allow him an easy ride. I wondered how the former governor felt. The moral of the above incident is that political power is so transient that it is silly for people to use it to bully others.
Still talking about inordinate show of power, I also see in some offices where an elevator could be reserved for the use of just one official – such as the Minister. And where it is open to use by all, whenever the chef executive uses it, nobody else can share it with him/her. In the National Assembly, for instance, some lifts are reserved only for the use of whom they call ‘Honourable’ (sic) and ‘Distinguished’ (sic).
Interestingly, news coming from the United States (U.S.) during the week indicated that President Barack Obama recently rode an elevator with an armed felon who was acting strange. Can you beat that? The president rode an elevator with other ‘regular’ citizens? There’s just no way that could happen here, you know.
But I had a different and more positive experience this past Thursday morning in Abuja. I witnessed an ‘unusual’ scene; unusual within the Nigerian context. On my way to work, I saw this convoy of police vehicles come out of a feeder road to the major one I was on. I was ahead of them at the junction they were negotiating from, so they came behind me. My first suspicion was that the outrider on a motorbike was going to do what they usually do – run everyone else off the road, so that his principal could have a smooth ride to the office or wherever he was headed. But that did not happen.
They just kept a dignified distance and went through the few traffic bottlenecks caused by cars exiting or entering the major road. Even when we got to a point where there was a traffic warden controlling traffic, the convoy didn’t get ahead. We went on all the way until we hit a major roundabout on the way to Gwarinpa Estate and the convoy turned right and headed towards the city centre while I headed for Gwarinpa.
I do not know who it was in the convoy, but the registration number of the main car was ‘NPF-02-9’. I can only say and imagine that the person acted decently, unlike most public officers we see around who go about with bloated ego and self importance. Whoever drives that car deserves commendation and I pray he helps influence his colleagues to act as civil as he displayed that day.
As a sad postscript, though, the police still bungled that same day. Just when I thought the police would maintain a clean slate at least for a day, it turned out that same Thursday, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Joseph Mbu, was in the news again for the wrong reason. Daar Communications, owners of Ray Power and Africa Independent Television (AIT), said Mbu had detained her reporter for allegedly referring to the police officer on television as ‘controversial’. Pray, does Mbu’s action not amount to another impunity? And if Mbu’s latest action is not controversial, I need to be taught the new definition of the word.
First published in The Niche on Sunday October 5, 2014. http://www.thenicheng.com/impunity-exception-controversy/#sthash.svfKXwPX.dpbs