Last week, two major events happened that signposted further that law and order have given way to the rule of brute force. The first was the police repression of the protest peacefully staged by Ibadan, Oyo State residents, who were angered by the seeming collapse of the law enforcement capacity of the Nigeria Police Force, which enabled the men of the underworld to run a ritual shrine in a forest not too far away from the residences of law abiding citizens.
The second incident, which is even more sinister and points dangerously to the possible role of some operatives of the law enforcement agencies in the widening spate of kidnappings for ransom payments across the country, was the forced abduction by armed Police operatives of Ebere Wabara, a senior editorial staff of the Daily Sun newspapers, one of the most respected newspapers in Africa.
Wabara, who is unarguably one of the best things to have happened to Nigerian journalism given his prodigious learning and vastness in the English language, was kidnapped by the armed police operatives, who travelled all the way to Lagos State from the Abia State Police Command to effect the arrest of this gentleman of the press over some of his recent articles criticizing the goings on in his state of birth, Abia.
Few hours after he was kidnapped from his family home in the presence of his family members, including very young children, the Abia State Police Command had the effrontery to announce that he would be charged for sedition, an offence that is unknown to the Nigerian statutes and the constitution. This unfounded charge of sedition was a colonial weapon used by the foreign occupiers of Nigeria long before independence to suppress voices of opposition to their dictatorial regime. Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution gives media workers the fundamental human rights to serve as watchdogs of public officials without let or hindrance.
First, I got an alert about this sad incident from one of Nigeria’s emerging human rights advocates and poets, Odimegwu Onwumere, who posted on his Facebook page to tell Nigerians about this unfortunate event. According to Onwumere, the veteran media expert, Ebere Wabara, was arrested in the early hours of March 28, 2014 at his Lagos Residence and taken to Aguda Police Station before being taken away to Abia State based on the alleged order of Governor Theodore Ahaefule Orji of Abia State, who was said to have ordered the Commissioner of Police in the state to effect the arrest. It was reported that those armed police who effected the abduction of this senior journalist rebuffed the pleas of the Force Publci Relations Officer, Frank Mba, to only take his statement and let him be but decided on their own terms to drive this gentleman to Abia State.
It was learned that it was the son of the governor, Chinedu Orji, popularly known as and called Ikuku, who allegedly influenced the father to order for the arrest of Wabara.
The Abia State Government reacted belatedly to the story making the rounds that it was involved in the sinister plot to abduct the Lagos State-based journalist, who in recent times is known to have consulted for the erstwhile Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, as media adviser and who has written profusely to criticize the misrule going on in Abia State.
It is public knowledge that the Abia State governor and his erstwhile godfather, Orji Uzor Kalu, are no longer best of friends following political differences. The Abia State Government has spent huge public funds in hiring writers who have in the last two years written several articles published in some Nigerian media to lampoon the former Abia State governor.
Orji is known to have gathered some political jobbers from his state who headed to the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abuja to oppose the decision of Kalu to return to the political party he actively helped to become realistic through numerous huge financial donations. In the first instance, Orji Uzor Kalu, one of the original founders of PDP, was literary chased out of the party by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who engaged the former governor in serious political warfare.
Kalu staged a come back to his party on finding out that Obasanjo has lost out significantly in the control of the party’s hierarchy but little did he know that his political enemies are his own brothers and sisters from the same state.
Right thinking members of the public are therefore shocked to find out that the Abia State Police Command has decided to become partisan in the ongoing political fight between a former godfather (Orji Uzor Kalu) and his former god son (Theodore Orji). Though Nigerians have been accused of having short memory, but it is hard to forget that Orji Uzor Kalu singlehandedly handpicked his then Chief of Staff, Theodore Orji, and installed him as governor even when the current governor was incarcerated in the maximum security prison in Kirikiri, Lagos State. Orji Uzor Kalu’s then Abia State administration used the legal instrument to secure his (Theodore Orji’s) bail from gulag, which facilitated his being sworn in and clothed with the immunity from arrest and prosecution in accordance with Section 308 of the constitution.
It is heart warming that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, intervened and ordered the release from police captivity of Wabara, who was kidnapped by the police over his professional affinity with the former governor of Abia State.
Confirming the story to media specialist, Onwumere, the wife of the kidnapped journalist, Mrs. Wabara, said: “In the early hours of today (last Friday), I was about to drive my children to school. My husband came down from the upstairs to view how we were preparing unknowing to him that there was a siege. The supposedly police people arrested him and took him to Aguda police station, before informing that they were taking him to Abia State on the orders of the Governor.”
The woman added: “I am not sure when a right to opinion, which my kind-hearted husband was doing, becomes a crime in Nigeria. I presupposed that this is a democracy, but with the supposedly act of the governor; I am afraid that dictatorship has returned to Abia State. “I’m calling on all media practitioners to follow-up immediately to find out, where they have taken my good-natured husband to and, make sure that he is released unconditionally. I’m calling on the authorities in the country and away, to swoop into action and fight against this inhumane act that is being meted out to my husband, as injustice to one Nigerian, is injustice to all.”
It is gratifying that the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Nigerian Guild of Editors raised the alarm, which compelled Abubakar to do the needful by ordering the immediate release of Wabara. But beyond the release, there is the immediate need for the Federal Povernment to probe the possible linkage of the operatives of the Nigeria Police Force to the widespread cases of forced kidnappings that have been happening all across Nigeria because since the Nigeria police practices illegal hostage taking and now forced abduction of Nigerian citizens in broad daylight, it is not impossible that some of their operatives may be aiding and abetting kidnappers.
Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.