On Wednesday, Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku of Taraba state sounded an alarm over a recent siege to his private residence by men of the Nigeria Police. As someone who is more concerned with tackling the insecurity bedevilling his state, the architect and former Minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan came out smoking over what he described as application of double standards in the nation’s democracy. He wondered if a governor from the All Progressives Congress (APC) could be subjected to such an ordeal as visited on him by police.
Even before now, there have been allegations of behind-the-scene attempts by Governor Ishaku to arm a militia group involved in the Taraba crisis. While these allegations gained currency, the police may have been encouraged to invade the governor’s private residence with the hope of seizing a cache of weapons allegedly stored by the Taraba state governor. Now that the invasion has revealed the allegations as infantile, the police has remained quiet over the raid and refused to issue an apology over the wild goose chase.
There is no doubt that the governor has been a target of close security surveillance, following Taraba’s opposition to open grazing and cattle colonies in the wake of incessant security challenges that have trailed affairs of the state. The law on ranching that was passed by the Taraba State House of Assembly that outlaws open grazing was a deliberate move by the state government to stave off further bloodshed between farmers and herders. Not minding stiff opposition to his plan to push back demons of destruction and restore order to a state that has been turned into a theatre of bloodshed, Ishaku, like Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, has stood with the majority of Taraba citizens in resisting any plan to establish grazing reserve, cattle routes or Ruga settlements as recently proposed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
As the chief security officer of his state, Ishaku is clearly convinced that any attempt to establish grazing reserves, cattle colonies and Ruga settlements, among others, cannot be for the overall interest of the majority of the state citizens. Realising the need to stand by his people at all times, the governor has seen the wisdom of abandoning what pleases Abuja politicians and pitching his tent with citizens of the state. His action and disposition have not gone down well with forces that are determined to make the state an oasis of bloodshed.
With the weapon allegations now fizzling into the thin air, the masterminds of the siege may not be weary in pursuing yet another attempt to achieve their nefarious objectives. In a democracy, the willingness and determination of relevant organs to interrogate the system is vital and crucial to the survival of democracy. Sensing the dangers poised to one of their own, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, headed by Hon Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state, condemned the siege, just as the Middle Belt Forum lampooned the police for staging a siege to the governor’s home.
For Governor Ishaku, the motives behind the invasion is not lost on him. As the executive governor of the state, he is in pains rationalising why the raid was carried out against the backdrop of his rights and privileges as enshrined in the country’s constitution. Seizing the opportunity offered by the visit of the former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Aisha Al-Hassan, to his office, the governor described the nation’s democracy as not only embarrassing, but also insulting without respect to the rule of law.
Describing the recent siege as disrespectful and a clear violation of his rights, he declared: “I feel very bad that the democratic government of the All Progressives Congress is not living according to the tenets of the constitution. It is disgraceful, embarrassing and insulting. I’m shocked that only my party, the Peoples Democratic Party condemned the police’s siege to my house. APC didn’t talk about it. Don’t they have governors? Can somebody walk into an APC governor’s house and search it? They broke the gate, broke all the doors of my house and threw out my children. I used two years to beg them (children) to come back to Nigeria. Now, one of them has gone back, I’m still begging him to come back to Nigeria. This is nonsense”.
Apart from the siege to the governor’s private residence, Ishaku is angry at the quietness of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors over the siege. For him, the invasion of his home was done purely because he was a member of the opposition party. The rule of law demands equal treatment for all, irrespective of political, religious and ethnic affiliation. When double standards and varying rules are applied into the practice of democracy, chaos and anarchy may become the norm, rather than the exception. For the governor, there is no love lost between him and the Federal Government over issues bordering on security challenges that have plunged the once peaceful state into running river of blood.
Taraba state was recently brought under intense searchlight when former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) called on Nigerians to adopt the self-defence option in the face of alleged collusion between killer herdsmen and security agencies. Beyond the issue of attacks on communities by herdsmen, ethnic conflagration involving Jukuns and Tivs, among others, has become constant signals of troubles for the state.
Against the backdrop of mass killings in the state, Ishaku lamented that as the chief security officer in the state, no state governor is capable of combating insecurity as the Federal Government is in complete control of the security apparatus. Therefore, it has become obvious for states to establish state police in order to work with communities towards eliminating criminal elements behind the incessant murders in our communities.
With state governors incapable of issuing out orders to the military and the police to contain criminals, Governor Ishaku adds, “there is nothing we can do about security. We have been calling for the establishment of state police, but nobody seems to consider our position. State Police remains the only viable option to contain insecurity across the country now.”
For state governors to play their roles as chief security officers, the establishment of State Police to avoid the bureaucratic delays of the behemoth Federal Government that may prove less efficient in security response during emergencies is necessary. The need to observe the rule of law should be seen as paramount across party divide, as violation of rights of Nigerians, including that of governors, could weaken the democratic structure and make the rule of law susceptible to selfish elements in the corridors of power to weaken our democracy.
There is danger in deploying double standards in our democracy. Security agencies, including the police, must take full cognisance of the rights and privileges of political leaders and avoid subjecting their family members to an unpleasant experience. As a government founded on the tenets of the constitution, security agents should not be too overzealous in carrying out unapproved raids without following due process. When Nigerians keep quiet in the face of such violent assault on the rights of fellow citizens, the candle of hope for our fledgling democracy dies a little. Those behind the illegal raid on the governor’s residence must be fished out and punished in order to serve as deterrent to others.