By Shaka Momodu
I saw an advertorial published in several newspapers by the Rivers State government but I initially paid little attention to the contents. On a closer look, I realised some of the contents were excerpted from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Administrative Inquiry into the December 10, 2016 Rivers State rerun election which indicted security agencies in the violence and controversies that trailed the exercise. In what looks like a Nollywood script, many security operatives were partisan and wilfully obstructed the electoral process.
In indicting the security agencies, the five-man panel, led by Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, stated: “One of the low points of the Rivers rerun elections of December 10, 2016 was the flagrant intervention of security operatives in the process. This was widely identified by staff of the commission and independent observers alike as one of the major factors that led to the failure of the process in some local government areas.
“There were too many security agencies involved in the process outside the framework of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). It was not clear whether many of them were acting as part of their various organisations or as groups and individuals serving political interests.
“Most importantly, many of them showed profound political partisanship. Ironically then, security operatives, who were expected to protect the process, turned on it. There were reported cases of wilful obstruction of the process by security operatives, including snatching of materials and intimidating voters. In other cases, they refused to accompany and protect men and materials for the elections.
“But the most mind-boggling were cases of hostage-taking, hijack of materials and physical attacks on INEC officials perpetrated by security operatives. Of singular note was a certain policeman named Akin Fakorede, who ostensibly is a commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Rivers State. Mr. Fakorede first tried to lure INEC staff to travel with him from Port Harcourt to Emohua LGA under the pretext of enabling them to collate results. But for the intervention of national commissioners, we suspect that he would have put our staff in harm’s way.
“When he failed in his initial bid, he stalked the INEC official to the collation centre in Port Harcourt and physically assaulted Dr. C Odekpe and Mrs Mary Tunkayo. In fact, Dr. Odekpe ended up with a gash on his head and both spent days at the Air Force hospital in Port Harcourt.”
Fellow Nigerians, what you have just read are excerpts from the INEC report indicting security agencies. But of particular concern is the role played by Mr Akin Fakorede whose name was specifically mentioned in the report.
According to the Rivers State government, the same Fakorede was “promoted to the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and transferred to Yobe State as an Area Commander of Nguri on March 29, 2018. On April 4, 2018, he was returned to Rivers State as the Commander of F-SARS.”
Guys, watch the trend: Fakorede was promoted, transferred to Yobe and retransferred back to Rivers within a period of six days despite his weighty indictment by the INEC which accused him of violence and assault on its officials. Come to think of it, what made the police authorities to flip-flop so dramatically within such a short period of time? Doesn’t it mean he performed “excellently” to the expectations of the powers that be and they needed him in Rivers for future political assignments? Doesn’t it mean he was rewarded for deploying violence, beating up officials of the INEC and manipulating the results of an election in favour of candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? I am convinced something is fishy here. Yet no one is speaking out?
I had waited to see if Fakorede’s conduct as documented by the INEC, which amounts to crimes against officials of the state on sensitive official assignment will outrage the human rights community/pro-democracy activists. But not a single whimper has come out from them. I have not heard human rights activist and senior lawyer Femi Falana condemn the police authorities for failure to dismiss Fakorode from the force, instead of which, he was rewarded with a promotion.
And to rub salt in the wound, after he was initially redeployed to Yobe, he was brought back to Rivers where he had helped to perpetrate impunity, violence and electoral malpractices. I have not heard our great Nobel laureate and wordsmith condemn Fakorede for his conduct, which was totally unbecoming to a senior officer of the law. Why has he not deployed his “big grammar” and prodigious profile to draw attention to the danger Fakorede poses to democracy in Rivers and also to call on the police authorities to dismiss him from the force and proceed to put him on trial? Why has he not called out the Police Service Commission (PSC) for rewarding the same officer who not only assaulted two senior INEC officers but was also indicted by the INEC for perpetuating electoral malpractices? Fakorede, according to INEC, left a gash on the head of Dr. Odekpe and also physically assaulted Mrs Mary Tunkayo; both officials had to be treated in a military hospital. Can Soyinka claim not be aware of the INEC report?
There seems to be a conspiracy of silence on the part of our so-called pro-democracy activists, more so on the part of our revered Nobel laureate, Soyinka, and the once-upon-a-time fiery Lagos lawyer, Falana. In his heyday, he sported a comrade goatee and stood against all forms of anti-democratic tendencies, thereby endearing himself to the Nigerian public. He strapped his convictions to his chest and walked through fire in his fight for a free society. What has happened to him?
None of these two has commented on the INEC indictment of Fakorede, let alone his subsequent promotion and redeployment back to Rivers after his initial deployment to Yobe State that lasted just a few days. None of them has commented on the brazen use of the police by a cabinet member of the Buhari government to harass and intimidate everyone in the state. None of them has uttered a word to condemn the violence and the outright shooting war between Rotimi Amaechi’s supporters and the supporters of Senator Magnus Abe which culminated in the attack on the court that was hearing a motion for an injunction filed by Abe to stop the local government congress from holding. In that attack, the police were accused of helping Amaechi’s supporters to subvert both the democratic and judicial processes. In time past, such a blatant attack on the court would have attracted hysterical reactions from Soyinka, Falana and civil society groups like the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), the Campaign for Democracy (CD), etc. Not so surprisingly, they have all kept mute. Even the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has not issued any statement to condemn the barbaric attack on the court. Suddenly, it too, has lost its voice.
Why are these two frontline critics, Soyinka and Falana and other vociferous custodians of public good not talking? Or is their intervention only necessary when it is convenient to the objectives of the APC? It now appears that when it does not advance that objective, they are likely to turn a blind eye to all forms of impunities. Why did I say this? It’s because we are haunted by their hypocrisies. When they united to condemn the impunities of the last administration, I wished to believe then that it was genuine and that something good and great had come to our country. But it has turned out to mean they succeeded in contaminating our polity with hypocrisy on a grand scale. It was all a biased partisan rage in pretence of upholding democratic values and the rule of law because the party they supported was at the receiving end of the rough edges. Now that they have a boastful individual whom they threw everything in the field, including their reputations to defend – in the driver’s seat of impunity at the federal level disturbing the peace in Rivers, the meaning of impunity has changed. What was intolerable just a few years ago is being silently greeted with gleeful approval! Is this the change they talked about? This “change” has been a witches’ brew of impunity and poverty of logic, so strong that it has made many to lose their senses. What a crushing disappointment! I have heard some people justify the current massive impunity with such lousy talk like; “the last government also did this and did that, so why can’t the APC do it too”. Each time I hear this nonsense, I am always baffled. I once asked an APC supporter to tell me why we voted out the last government. What I got was a long rambling, answer. To me, Nigerians voted for the APC because they promised “change”, and not to break history’s “worst” records.
Interestingly, despite the attack on the court, the judge still sat and granted an interlocutory injunction stopping the congress. The Amaechi faction pointedly stated it would not obey the ruling. True to its boast, it disobeyed the court and went ahead to hold the local government congress. Even this still did not rile Falana and co.
Amaechi’s assault on the judiciary didn’t just start today. When he was the governor, courts were shut down for well over a year. He is the only one to have done so in the history of our constitutional democracy. Since he got away with that, he has revved up his attacks to the next level. Unfortunately, the court he and his supporters now desecrate made him the governor even when he did not contest the election.
The assault on constitutional democracy in Rivers State has obviously taken a multifaceted turn: from the several election reruns to achieve and foist a pre-determined outcome of giving Amaechi’s APC a firm footing in a state where his electoral fortunes had earlier taken a beating – to the most recent attack on the court to frustrate an APC faction from getting possible legal relief.
The security forces instead of staying neutral and keeping the peace in an intraparty election – escalated the crisis by brazenly siding with Amaechi’s faction. By now who does not know that he was one of the principal financiers of Buhari’s election? For that, he now controls the full arsenal of the coercive forces of the state to harass and intimidate everybody in Rivers. He is the one who must be obeyed. God only knows how far he would go in an interparty election.
Unfortunately, Soyinka can’t find his voice to condemn the man he praised to the skies in 2015 as “the arrowhead of that charge that led to the change”. That change certainly does not include the attributes of democracy – the centerpiece of which is the exercise of free choice by free people. You see, in their misguided and hasty efforts to make heroes of undeserving people, they conveniently waived some key characteristics that heroes may possess.
Now flash back to three and a half years ago when Joseph Mbu was the commissioner of police in Rivers State and Amaechi was the governor. Amaechi you will recall had a running battle with Police Commissioner Mbu. The duo of Soyinka and Falana had a running commentary on the “misbehaviour” of Mbu. They accused him of undermining the duly elected governor of the state in his attempt to please Abuja.
The media was awash with statement after statement by Soyinka, Falana or such other activist groups and interested voices about cop Mbu “gone rouge”.They fingered the then First Lady, Patience Jonathan as the mastermind of the crisis in Rivers State. Soyinka stated then that the First Lady was “getting away with murder”. That may have been true. But the cold irony is that Amaechi is today getting away with murder, the laureate and others can’t find their voices anymore.
‘Mbu Must Go’ was a cardinal objective of Soyinka , Falana and the civil society groups – the satellite brigade of the APC. Every passing day, pressure grew to sack him. The APC wasted no time doing just that immediately it assumed power. Behold the human rights community and the media celebrated with fanfare. Why the double standard now when Akin Fakorede has exhibited worst tendencies of impunity and abuse of power by interfering with election and beating up INEC officials on legitimate assignment? Why two moralities? This is precisely where my despair with these people lies. Make no mistake here, punish anyone who breaks the law. If what Mbu did was objectionable, why should Fakorede’s be acceptable?
By Shaka Momodu