5th July, 2011
Last Saturdayâ€™s arrest of the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir el-Rufai has brought to the fore once again the overzealousness of some officials of our security agencies. The arrest is not only unwarranted but condemnable. The way and manner he was arrested also show that some of our security officials are yet to do away with the siege mentality of the military dictators that held sway in the country before the advent of democracy.
El -Rufai was coming into the country from overseas and in a gestapo-like manner was accosted by State Security Service operatives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and whisked away to their headquarters to answer questions on what security officials referred to as his â€˜seditiousâ€™ comments in his column in a ThisDay newspaper days before.
Even though el-Rufai confirmed that he was treated nicely by the SSS officials during his interrrogation in their office, we consider the arrest of the former minister as an assault on his fundamental human rights to hold an opinion and express such opinion.
Perhaps, we should remind the security agents that we are no longer under military rule where people can just be picked up at will and dehumanised without any tangible offence.
Our security agencies should be reminded that we are in a democratic setting and there is need for them to exercise restraint in their dealings with the public.
We make bold to say that the arrest of el-Rufai for expressing his opinion about the present government in power in his column in a newspaper is an unecessary distraction and a disservice to the present administration which has been doing everything to co-opt the opposition into a government of national unity. What the unwarranted arrest of el-Rufai has succeeded in doing is to paint the Goodluck Jonathan administration in a bad light to the international community. The SSS by its action has inadvertently sent the wrong message that this administration will not tolerate the opposition. And tolerating the opposition is a critical element of democracy.
It is our contention that there are more critical issues facing the country and deserving the attention of President Goodluck Jonathan than a harmless comment made by a member of an opposition party.
The current administration should not be made to dissipate energy on unnecessary things when there are more pressing issues like the security challenge posed by the Boko Haram group which is throwing bombs all over the country; the epileptic power supply; massive unemployment; minimum wage debacle between state governors and the organised labour which is threatening to ground the country; kerosene scarcity; high price of cement and poor infrastructure, among others.
Rather than distract the president with frivolous arrests and witchhunting of political opponents, every assistance must be rendered to him to focus on these problems and provide solutions.
We also want to inform the security agencies that the offence of sedition for which el-Rufai was arrested has been struck out of our statute book more than 10 years ago. It no longer exists.
Rather than create enemies for the president and thereby distract him from providing dividends of democracy to Nigerians, the SSS should preoccupy itself with arresting the Boko Haram threat.
The security outfit should join the Army and other security agencies in containing the Islamic sect which has vowed to make the country ungovernable.
They can do this by gathering intelligence on the activities and method of operation of the fundamentalist group, rather than chasing shadows.