The Honourable Assault and the Rest of Us
– By Emmanuel G. Onofua
“It is unacceptable and very embarrassing for an aide of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Prison Service to slap a female Honourable Member of the House. He has completely offended the House” thundered the Minority Leader, of the House of Representatives, Mr. Leo Ogor while citing Section 16 of the Powers and Privileges Act which protects legislators from assault. In support, the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila added “I’m not interested in the issue of fair hearing. The man is guilty of assault, battery offence and violence against women”.
Those were vitriols that followed the alleged assault on a female member of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Onyemaechi Mrakpor. While totally condemning the alleged act, I am moved to question, why the anger, interest, total condemnation and summon of the Minister of Interior and Nigerian Prison boss? Are these Lawmakers even in Nigeria? Are they aware of the treatment the rest of us are subjected to on daily basis?
I momentarily took myself on a mental excursion to previous events I have either witnessed, experienced and or read/heard about; the encounter of the Lawmaker does not even sufficiently define the magnitude of terrible treatments other Nigerians face every time from security officers. Be it Army or Air force officers, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police Force, Civil Defence, Immigration Officers, Prison Service, Federal Road Safety, Nigerian Custom officers, Vigilante groups or even Man O War, the story is same and in Fela’s words – they leave sorrow, tears and blood as their regular trademark.
There seems to be a spirit that comes upon security officers the moment they put on their uniforms. That same spirit instantly makes them serial oppressors; they suddenly become super-humans and from then on their relationship with civilians is a prey/predator situation.
Take our highways as a case, if you are pulled over by the Police, military officers or any security agent, you have to in your best interest act as a mannequin; one cannot as much as argue his own date of birth, complexion or even what you had for breakfast if you are avoiding battery.
In Benin City, it is almost an abomination to drive a flashy car when you are or look below age 35. The police will pull you over and charge you for DWY (driving while young). This I have not only witnessed but experienced. In their wisdom and in my view, their lack of it, young people driving flashy cars must have engaged in dishonest ventures to afford such cars.
Sometime in September 2013, just in front of the Eagles Square, I and other Nigerians watched helplessly as a young man who was a first-timer in Abuja was severely beaten to pulp. His crime was attempting to walk past the military zone, a pedestrian walkway with no notice opposite the Eagles Square. He got a raw deal, beaten by three energetic soldiers with wooden planks and made to stand with his head resting on the grass while his body rested on a tree. They didn’t mind the blood gushing out of his nose. This I was not told but witnessed and I wrote a letter to the National Assembly on this incident. It was never read or deliberated upon; why, because it happened to one of the rest of us.
There are two kinds of evil people: those who do evil things; and those who are aware of evil things being done, have the power to stop it, but don’t even try to. The brutality of security officers in Nigeria has been on for decades unchecked and aided by the silence of our lawmakers until now that it has gotten to one of their own.
She was slapped once, maybe twice or even more; multiply that by ten, the result is what she would have gotten if the assault was not “honourable”. In my opinion, she was given preferential assault; she was assaulted with respect because of her status. Several times I have wished for the “honourable assault” each time I see someone getting the “rest of us” treatment.
Doing nothing has consequences too. It is the seemingly harmless traces we leave behind that can later be used to destroy us. Our national leaders should know that what goes around may take a long time. In the end, it would come around.
Emmanuel G. Onofua
Writes from Abuja, Nigeria