DSSIt is immaterial whether this column’s warning just last Thursday that the Department of State Services (DSS) is on the prowl and it needs to be reined in was an act of serendipity. What matters is that the warning is increasingly becoming a frightening reality. We need not look far for the ominous signs of the cluelessness of the government mutating into dictatorship. If the trouble were only that the government has become clueless about managing the economy and snatching the citizens from the cauldron of poverty, we would not bother. But the government has repeatedly demonstrated its apparent antipathy towards the people by assaulting them.
We need not explore the unceasing cases of police brutality. These are familiar. They are apparently provoked by the citizens’ refusal to oblige police officers with the bribes they demand. We need not also be reminded of the military’s maiming and killing of Shittes and IPOB members. There was the official justification of such mowing down of citizens under the rubric of squelching threats to the peace and order in the polity. But we are deservedly outraged at the impunity of security operatives when their attacks on the citizens are not provoked by the latter’s actions which conflict with the presumed interest of the state and the collective good. And this happens in an atmosphere of democracy where the dignity of the citizens ought to be privileged. In October last year, an easy-going Joseph Izu, a footballer with Shooting Stars of Ibadan was killed by soldiers in Rivers State. Last month, Alex Ochienu, a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God was assaulted by two soldiers in Abuja for refusing to heed their cruel command to frog-jump.
There was also the case last month of a Nollywood actress and movie producer Jewel Infinity who was travelling from Port Harcourt to Onitsha. When she got to a checkpoint, a soldier said that she was gossiping about him. He did not accept the lady’s protestation of innocence that she was only engaged in a friendly debate with a fellow passenger in the vehicle in which they were travelling. The soldier demanded that the actress should knee down and apologise. Her refusal to do this was met with beating with wood and rod.
The unprovoked brutality being meted out to the citizens by security operatives is in tandem with their reading of the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is clear that Buhari either tacitly or directly endorses this brutality. This was why he approved the DSS raid of the homes of the justices of the Supreme Court over the allegations of corruption.
It is because this impunity has gone unpunished that the DSS has become emboldened. But we did not imagine that such impunity would be taken to hallowed premises of an institution of learning. They strove to justify their attacks on justices under the guise of arresting them for corruption. But in the case of the school where they brutalised teachers, they were not out to arrest some corrupt persons. It was rather a case of a brazen display of raw power against citizens that they are supposed to protect.
What climaxed with staccato bursts of gunshots began with a teacher of the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, Cross River State, chastising a pupil with some strokes of the cane for misconduct. This chastisement did not elicit remorse. On the contrary, it provoked the ire of the pupil who decided to teach the teacher a lesson in the misguided use of power. In no time, she invited her sister who is a DSS operative who came to beat up the teacher. Later, this DSS operative was joined by her colleagues and hell was let loose. They assaulted every teacher in sight, using their hands and the butts of their guns. Those who dared to photograph or video the madness had their phones seized by the DSS operatives.
This is the inevitable tragedy that befalls a government institution whose ideology is not underwritten by a quest for excellence. For it is clear that that pupil could not have secured admission to the school on merit in the first place. She might have gone through the connection of her parents who believe that a Federal Government institution is a place meant for only those with the right connections while those without these connections are denied admission. Yet, we expect teachers to fully impart knowledge to pupils like this. And when such misbegotten pupils fail their examinations, we would now turn around to blame the poorly motivated teachers for not doing their job well.
In this regard, now that the Federal Ministry of Education is enraged at the intervention of a lawyer who offered his services to the assaulted teachers, we only hope that justice would be done. The case must not be swept under the carpet as the DSS operatives who were involved in these attacks must be severely punished. It’s such official sanction that can save the society from slipping into anarchy. For the danger is clear that if the government fails to stop the impunity of the DSS and other lawless security operatives, the citizens would see them as an additional challenge to the threat of terrorist herdsmen. This would impose the necessity of the citizens defending themselves with guns and next time the DSS unleashes its operatives, they would meet gun-backed resistance by the citizens. And despite the so-called connections that the pupil has, she must not be allowed to return to that school nor any other Federal Government college. Let the parents teach her or take her to a private school where she would not be disciplined.
Amid this impunity that has gained official approval, the cheering news is that the citizens are becoming aware of their plight. If the government has refused to acknowledge that it has failed to live up to expectations, it has to be reminded of this. This was exactly the case last Monday when the citizens came out to protest against the worsening misgovernance that has exacerbated their economic condition. The fact that the police tried to stop them shows that the government does not bother about what the citizens really want. Yet, the government came to power on the back of such dissent. Thankfully, the citizens did not succumb to official intimidation as they embarked on the protest as planned.
But in the face of the impunity of the government of Buhari, such a protest would only be meaningful when it is not a one-off affair. For as long as the government refuses to change the lot of the citizens as it promised during electioneering, the latter must consider it a civic responsibility to themselves and the generation unborn to tug its conscience with such a protest. Besides, if those citizens who went out to protest really realised that they have been swindled by politicians who made promises that they cannot deliver, they must resolve to vote in the right people next time there is an election. They must not again be swayed by the party and ethno-religious appeal of politicians but by their capability to deliver their promise of good governance.