Opinion

Opinion: Robbed On Duty And The Nigerian State

 

The feeling of being robbed is an intense and painful experience. If you’ve been robbed before, you know that feeling of violation, that feeling of being stripped down in public and the helplessness that covers you like a flood. If you’ve been robbed before, you know too well the moments that haunt you consistently, with flashbacks that make it impossible to live in peace in the immediate present. You know too well the erratic nature of trigger points that could send you back to that moment even when you happen to escape the flashbacks. It could be a word, a color, it might even be a facial expression that holds you ransom and takes you back to the day you were robbed. If the impact of an armed robbery only affected the victim, then its impact might be curtailed but it usually affects the people close to the victim- typically the family, robbing them in immeasurable ways. So the worst part of a robbery aside its immediate effect on the victim is the multiplier effect that makes anyone close by suddenly feel unsafe.

The beauty of democracy is the idea of it being representative, as opposed to the original Greek version- the modern version of democracy assumes most of our voices will be heard indirectly. In Nigeria, our democracy attempts to ensure that despite our diversity the model of representation from the Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly across the federation all connote the idea that somehow the interest, issues and general needs of people in different constituencies can somehow be heard. Although violence, corruption, ethnic rivalry and more have plagued our democracy, there’s a faint hope that it is getting better with every election cycle. Our democracy is far from being perfect but some believe we are better off with it in its deficient state than without it at all. In that case, wisdom dictates that the semblance of democracy we have must be valued and protected with the hopes that with lessons learnt from the past and political will for the future, our democracy can only get better.

On July 27, 2016 the Benue State House of Assembly suspended Hon. Kester Kyenge- representing Logo State Constituency for five months in a bid to ‘tame’ him and teach other members to never challenge the leadership of the House. His crime was uncovering financial impropriety and the misapplication of funds that was earmarked for the supply of vehicles for the 30 honorable members of the Benue State house of Assembly. The entire process was mired in allegations from the company engaged to purchase the vehicles being a conflict of interest, to members getting shortchanged on the cash option to purchase their own vehicles and the monies given (N10 million) being less than the N13.9million allocated per member. 14 members of the House complained of foul play under the group ‘Consensus for Change’ but the 3 house members who in protest refused to collect the N10million were punished and their vehicle allocation funds were withheld entirely. They went further to inform the Executive Governor who promptly intervened and requested that all members be given their entitlement upon which they were told that the monies had been spent. The issue was reported to the Economic Commission for Financial Crimes (EFCC) and they promptly investigated the issue and requested that all funds received by members of the Benue State House of Assembly be handed over to the commission so that due process could take place. The case took an odd twist when Hon. Kester Kyenge was held for a week in a cell to refund monies that he never received in the first place. His international passport was also taken away from him. This was followed by a 5-month suspension without pay or allowances from the State House of Assembly, which was against the standing rule of the house. The rules provide for a maximum of 2 legislative weeks suspension only after fair hearing and when the House Committee on Judicial, Ethics and Privileges has established culpability.

Our institutions are what make us an organized society allowing us to operate at levels higher than animals. Protecting the sanctity of these institutions especially the ones that directly represent the people must not be undermined. When a representative of a people is robbed of doing his core duty of speaking, standing and acting on behalf of the people of Logo State Constituency, the tragedy is not the allowance or car or money due to one man, the tragedy is the robbery of the dignity of a people. Hon. Kester Kyenge was one of the few voices that spoke out boldly on the devastation the terrorist herdsmen wrecked on his people. He traversed his constituency, visiting families whose lives had been shattered by the crises and worked actively with the little he had to help his community begin the arduous task of rebuilding their lives. He used his platform to speak boldly on the insecurity that plagued his State and was actively learning about measures from home and abroad that could help reduce its frequency. The principal officers reiterated that it was meant to ‘tame’ one man, but they’ve succeeded in taming a whole community already damaged by the silent war ravaging the North Central of Nigeria.

No great nation can be built on the back of such injustice done on the level that matters most- the level closest to the people. The class of politicians that represent us is a discussion for another day, but our democracy in its fragile state must be protected and the people’s mandate cannot be trampled on at whim. Whether it’s Benue or Kogi, Lagos or Adamawa the voice of the people has and will always be the voice of God. There can be no progress if representatives of the people are robbed on duty. At the whim of those who don’t understand that leadership is a sacred call to serve and act with accountability and responsibility and not to display a naked barbaric form of power.

The good people of Benue State deserve for justice to be served and at large the good people of Nigeria deserve for their institutions on every level to be run in the best way that will serve them and not rob them or worse still become an object of pettiness and mockery.

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Article written by John M

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