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By Morakinyo Babajide-Alabi
It is a pity we are back on this Ekiti State versus the Department of State Services (DSS) imbroglio again. Obviously it will take more than a short time for the mess caused by the arrests and subsequent detention of the four members of the state House of Assembly to be cleaned up by the parties concerned.
Last week was a busy one in and outside the state of “Fountain of Knowledge”. The “free” state lawmakers took their cases to the streets of Abuja and attempted to get the attention of the international community to the “unconstitutional” invasion of the legislative chamber, arrests and detention of four of their colleagues by the DSS. They reasoned if they could get the ears of the envoys in the embassies of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, the DSS could have a change of heart and release their colleagues. Maybe the UK or USA can even send security operatives to effect the release of the detained lawmakers.
You will be pardoned if you had mistaken the lawmakers on Abuja streets for a bunch of labour or students union members demonstrating against the high level of corruption in the country. They were given away by their flowing three piece native dresses and designer suits in the hot weather of Abuja and the well designed placards they carried aloft. The placards demanded the release of their detained colleagues, and proclamations that nobody can pressure them to impeach their leader and governor Ayo Fayose.
The logic behind the demonstration of these lawmakers at the gates of the embassies is still hard to understand. Apart from the noise and disturbance to the peace of the neighbourhood in Abuja, the lawmakers were not reported to have gained access to the grounds of the embassies and made their demands to the envoys. Beyond addressing the media at the gates, it is hard to make a sense of their mission.
After the march Nigerians thought they have heard the last of the unscripted “drama”. But we were wrong, as the state government through its Commissioner of Information, Lanre Ogunsuyi committed the biggest gaffe in information dissemination yet for 2016.
Ogunsuyi addressed a press conference on Thursday where he announced that information reaching him indicated that one of the detained Ekiti lawmakers, Afolabi Akanni, representing Efon constituency, had died in the custody of the DSS. Like many Nigerians, the information brought chills down my spine. What? “Honourable” dead? What a wicked DSS, or is it APC? How can they allow “honourable” to die?
I did not doubt the veracity of the news, because it was from Commissioner – the supposed mouthpiece of the government who, anytime he opens his mouth, speaks on behalf of the state governor and millions of Ekiti indigenes all over the world. He had categorically told the world that Akanni died overnight after taking ill in the DSS custody.
The operatives of the DSS must have laughed themselves into a state of exhaustion on hearing this news. I can imagine them shaking their heads in disbelief at the news that has now ranked Ogunsuyi as probably the most unprofessional government spokesperson in the world. When the DSS operatives recovered themselves from the comedy coming out of Ekiti, they acted swiftly and called a press conference where they “miraculously” brought “honourable” Akanni back from the land of the dead.
Akanni, acting like one unprofessional Nollywood star, tried as much as possible to impress he had just been brought out of the morgue. He bent over, stretched, yawned, rested his head on the table all in unconvincing attempts to portray his health was failing or that he had been maltreated in the DSS custody. A career in acting will not earn this “honourable” any wage.
At this point I wondered what would be going on in the minds of Ogunsuyi and top officials of the state. But I could not hide my disappointment and shock at the handling of this “episode” by the state government. Whatever sympathy Ogunsuyi or his principals expected from the false claim instantly turned into anger from Ekiti indigenes. The citizens of Ekiti – “Fountain of Knowledge” has again received a rather poor portrayal of their intelligence level.
As the scenes were playing out, the common people of the state are paying for the show of shame. There is no doubt that the machinery of governance in the state has been paralysed and nothing developmental is taking place right now. While the lawmakers have abandoned their duty posts in Ado, members of the state executive and judiciary are looking over their shoulders every minute for the shadows of DSS. They are restless as they do not know what will happen next.
The Secretary to the State Government Dr. Modupe Alade at a press conference in Akure admitted there were heightened fears among political aides of Governor Ayo Fayose. These aides in question, it can be presumed, are the governor’s political appointees who should “run” the state. The SSG revealed that the political aides now live in fear and are concerned with their safety, and, not the governance of the state.
There is cause for concern as the SSG also revealed that DSS “operatives” have been threatening these political aides via telephone calls. This is a serious matter that calls for investigations to ascertain if these claims are genuine and if unscrupulous individuals in the state are not using the DSS to blackmail these politicians. However, on the other hand, the politicians should not entertain any fear if truly they have no skeletons in their cupboards.
On the other hand, we should also be economical in our blames of these “political aides”. The story going around in the state is that most of them, including lawmakers, have been pencilled down for arrests by the DSS for one charge or the other. For them, therefore, the fear of the DSS is the beginning of wisdom. They obviously do not want to be caught unawares like the lawmakers that were ‘carted’ away to Abuja.
Opinions have been divided on activities of the DSS. Some observers are confused on its role in the investigations, arrests and prosecutions of citizens in crimes. The “invasion” and arrests of the Ekiti lawmakers and the charges “rumoured” against them have exposed the DSS to criticism. Many of the charges, observers believe could have been handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigeria Police.
The arrests and detention without trial are sources of concerns for Nigerians. They argued that in this political dispensation the DSS should not be allowed the free hand to detain citizens without trials. These comments have however not fazed the operatives as they continue to maintain they have not done anything outside their line of duties.
How many times have Ekiti people been portrayed in bad light in recent times? They seem to be attracting to themselves all the bad press one can ever imagine. Is there an end in sight for the redemption of the state? Not so much hope as the politicians waiting in the wings seem no better than the ones on “display” right now. Crisis and infighting are the order of the day in all the political groups.
Published in the Sunday Vanguard of March 20, 2016. CLICK HERE