Early this year, on my way back to Abuja, along the Kubwa expressway, I was forced to trail behind the convoy of the Emir of Katsina. The reason for this was the guns pointing at all motorists attempting to overtake the convoy. It’s not that I hadn’t known that it’s a “state-authorised offence” to drive close to, and by, the vehicles of a personality so revered. I’d just thought that Abuja wasn’t a stretch of Katsina Emirate. I was wrong. A big man anywhere is a big man everywhere. In Nigeria. The procession wasn’t exactly slow, but for the ever-speeding “Abuja drivers”, that might be the longest time spent on that highway.
Our ruling elites, in both political and traditional authority, have become lords of the roads, and our consent to that transgression, as seen in the way we frantically drive off the roads whenever the blaring of their sirens is heard approaching, have allowed it. Their sirens, instead of being used for emergency, are broadcasts of their oppressive presence. Added to gun-toting escorts ready to prove the Orwellian assertion of man’s inequality.
Last Thursday was Ms. Lois Lorvihi’s turn to experience this restatement of her existence as a second-class citizen, in an unpleasant encounter with the convoy of Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State. Report of this encounter on Sahara Reporters reveals that Ms. Lorvihi and her siblings were in the car along Nasarawa Eggon road in Nasarawa State enroute Abuja when they met that bad fate. Behind them was the Governor’s convoy; a sacrilege!
‘Before Ms. Iorvihi could react, she heard a loud siren from behind her. As she tried to steer away from the road, up came a Hilux pick-up van loaded with heavily-armed anti-riot policemen who shoved her car off the road. She was stunned but managed to bring the car to a halt in front of the valley,” reports Sahara Reporters. Further, it says: “Immediately she brought the car to a stop, four of the policemen, known in local circles as “Kill and Go” for their ruthless methods, descended on the car using the nozzle of their rifles to dent, perforate and scratch the body of her car.’
No, that wasn’t the end. It’s also revealed that when one of Lorvihi’s siblings attempted to make a statement on the brutal handling of the situation by the armed policemen, “(they) seized all of her phones, along with an iPad, and smashed all the devices on the road.”
The man, on whose behalf the brutality was perpetrated, reportedly said to Lorvihi, “Young girl, you are so rude. Look at how you’re dressed like a prostitute.” Her response was, “How am I rude? Is this fair? Is this why we voted for you? We did not vote for you so that your convoy will run us out of the road. Look at what your security men are doing? They are destroying my car, beating my brother to a pulp and smashing all our mobile devices just because we had the misfortune of driving in front of your convoy?”
An imperial Governor Al-Makura, dismissing the agitated lady, blurted, “…go to hell!” And the cyberspace went wild, raging, asking both pertinent and mundane questions, with even the former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, lending her voice to those asking the Governor to apologise to the lady and redeem the wrong.
What came, instead of the apology expected, was a denial of Lorvihi’s story from Nasarawa State Government; it was signed by Ahmed Tukur, identified as Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the Governor. It said, “There is no iota of truth in that publication but the misrepresentation of facts calculated to tarnish the image of his (sic) Excellency by mischief makers.”
Their unedited version of the story, as narrated by Mr. Tukur, depicts the strange encounter, thus: “For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, on Thursday 10, September 2015 about 3.pm when the convoy of His Excellency was approaching Nasarawa Eggon Local Government a vehicle was right on the middle of the road and inspite of several efforts by the police outrider and the pilot to slow the car down, the vehicle remained right in the centre of the road refusing to make way for the convoy which nearly caused an accident. The action of the vehicle gave room for suspicion considering the fact that it was at the same area in 2003 that the convoy of former governor of Benue state George Akume now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was attacked.”
Also, the sexist remark attributed to the Governor was denied. What were true about these stories were: the encounter did take place, and the policemen, on the strength of their suspicion of a citizen, were highhanded, brutal. Which itself is enough evidence to court the rage of Nigerians already used to the despotic ways of our siren-blaring political elite. Disappointments are now being expressed by Nigerians on Twitter, and the hashtag #ImpunityofAlmakura is trending, indicating wider awareness and participation. Unlike similar such cases that go unaddressed or even unreported, Lorvihi is lucky to have a legion of supporters who have not only marched in protest to the office of the Inspector General of Police to deliver a letter, but the attention of the nation’s Human Rights Commission has been has drawn to it, and legal actions are underway. We await the truth of this encounter through a legal proceeding, and expect due compensation for the victims. May God save us from us.
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter