In 1998, former president Olusegun Obasanjo as presidential candidate for the 1999 general election was asked what he was coming back to do after leaving office 20 years earlier (1978).
He told his interviewer that he was coming back to office to restore the lost dignity of the human person in Nigeria and, above all, to put a stop to “executive arrogance and lawlessness” in the country.
Though Obasanjo tried to make good his promise with imperfections and abuses here and there, it is worrying to note that 23 years after that assurance was given, executive arrogance and lawlessness are still here with us, giving fillip to excessive use and/or abuse of power by most people who have it.
In Nigeria, power, though recognised to be transient, is used mostly for the wrong reasons. People seek and obtain power not to build blocks, promote and inspire hope in society, but to demolish, oppress, coerce and brutalise whoever fails to massage their now bloated ego.
While some people argue that excessive use of power as we have it in Nigeria today is a residual military mentality which the country had to contend with for over two decades of military rule, others say it is in the DNA of an average Nigerian to exhibit such tendencies once power is in his hand.
A case in point here is Danladi Umar, the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), who has been in the news for abuse of power. People of Umar’s class usually come off as arrogant, impatient, intolerant, temperamental and snobbish.
They move about with an air of importance and inflated ego and would promptly get at anybody, especially those considered to be at the lower rung of the ladder, who fail to recognize this importance or attempts to deflate their ego.
That, in our view, explains why Umar was alleged to have descended on Clement Sagwak, a ‘common’ security guard at Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja. Sagwak had approached Umar to complain about his wrong parking at the plaza and that was all that sparked off the elements in the CCT chairman.
In a five-minute video that has now gone viral, Umar, who presides over the trial of public officers accused of breaching code of conduct, was seen slapping and kicking the security guard after a hot exchange of words ensued between them over the wrong parking.
It was reported too that a phone repairer, Peter Onyiuke, who was present at the plaza, was detained for one week allegedly on Umar’s instruction, following a quarrel they had on the sideline of the scene that was created by the CCT chairman’s attack on the plaza’s security guard.
Umar’s case is not an isolated one. There are many others out there that go on unreported. Before the CCT chairman, there was the case of Elisha Abbo, a senator of the federal republic who also abused his power in dealing with a ‘lowly’ storekeeper.
It took a national conflagration called EndSARS protest that claimed lives and destroyed property with a value running into billions of naira to call rogue security agents to order. These ones regaled in using excessive and sometimes raw power on innocent citizens—beating, brutalizing and sometimes killing.
Our hearts are gladdened that Umar’s case is receiving attention; that it has not gone down the drain as just another unfortunate incident where the victims are helpless.
Sagwak has petitioned the Senate, demanding a probe into his assault by chairman Umar. The petition was laid before the Senate during plenary by Istifanus Gyang (PDP, Plateau North) – the senatorial district to which Sagwak belongs. The petition has been admitted and the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee of the Senate has been directed to probe the case.
Interestingly too, Umar has been summoned to appear before the committee. He has done that but claimed he had not been served the petition, requesting one week to study the detailed petition to enable him to respond appropriately.
He was, however, given two weeks to defend the petition and Ayo Akinyelure, chairman of the Committee, explained that the committee resolved to give Umar two weeks which ends on May 18 so as to avoid excuses.
It is our hope that this case would not, for whatever reason or under any guise, be swept under the carpet. It should be treated with all the seriousness it deserves so that it could serve as a deterrent to other power-drunk public office holders and even uniformed men and women.
Akinyelure has assured that “even though the Senate would be on a two-week break, the committee is prepared to reconvene during the break to hear the respondent.” That, for us, is very instructive and smacks of determination by the committee to do its job.
Our expectation is that the Senate should, for once, prove that its summons can translate into action against those who err as the CCT chairman has. We are against this continuous trampling on the rights of ordinary Nigerians. It is an abuse of power and a slap on the freedom and dignity of the persons involved.
We condemn such acts in their entirety and recommend severe penalties for the perpetrators.