Mr. Raphael Ige – Oke-Ife man; Yagba man, Lokoja man; Kogi man; Police man; Ignominious man as Daily Independent Newspaper cited; whatever type of man he was, his death poses more questions than it has left unanswered. Whatever we make of the former Assistant Inspector of the Nigeria Police, the truth of what he was, will remain unknown. Whatever prompted a man who served his fatherland for thirty-three years; and who at the International Equitable Association (IEA) Industries crisis in Abia reversed his bad decisions, lest he was going to truncate a meticulous service, to become the weakest link in the Anambra State saga of July 10th 2003 will be buried when his body is interred.
As Mr. Ige’s body is set to commence its decay in the bowel of the earth, there remains the unresolved imbroglio between Governor Ngige and those who used the deceased to attempt criminality and unlawfulness. Would Anambra State politics continue its decay without being checked? Would the unconstitutional acts of those who counted on the deceased be absolved under a family affair? Would Mr. Ige die without a national conscience to absolve him for obeying an unlawful “order from above”?; would we continue to speculate about a matter of history and justice that we need to learn from? Was the deceased poisoned to stop him from spilling the beans? Was he bribed not to expose the weakness in our Police Force? The queries are too varied and it is obvious that in a country where a former Head of State could die in mysterious circumstances without a public inquiry to ascertain the cause of death, the demise of this retired police officer would go the same way. No matter what is said of the deceased, there are three areas that his death portends bad omen.
Firstly, for Inspector-General of Police – Mr. Tafa Balogun – this death may be one by which he gathers more enemies than friends. Consider this assumption. Could it be possible that Messrs Ige and Balogun had a working relationship based on trust and respect? Could Mr. Ige have trusted his senior officer to the extent that orders, which ought to have been signalled were accepted orally and unquestionably? Was the deceased so assured that July 10th was not a date with destiny but a local difficulty that he could handle and get away with? No one may know. There is certainly a new wind blowing in the Police Force. Not many senior police officers will ever take undocumented orders from Mr. Tafa Balogun. This is evident in the reply of Assistant Inspector General of Police for Zone 9, Alhadji Abdulrahim Yusuf, who painstakingly emphasised his orders were communicated officially – when asked about withdrawal and restoration of security details of Mr. Chris Uba and Mr. Chris Ngige respectively.
Mr. Balogun’s orchestration of “studying” the Appeals Court ruling in contrast to his despatch at the Order of Mr. Justice Nnaji demonstrates the confidence that Mr. Ige may have had in a successful pursuit of the whims of his former boss. The Inspector General claims that his Force is torn between the Constitution and the rule of law. As his job is the enforcement of the rules and the interpretation of the Constitution is in the courts, he must understand the distinction between the Courts from which judicial orders emanate. Was he being pretentious? If he is confused, could the police not have sought a clearer interpretation of the Appeals’ Court Order from the same court? As that clarification has not taken place, its refusal is the same error that the deceased police officer committed. Mr. Ige would have known the unlawfulness of his deployment to arrest a serving governor; if not, could he not have checked the lawfulness of the “Order from above” with his Command legal advisers? Perhaps, in our police force, there is no room to validate superior orders. If that were the case – this death exposes not only the Inspector-General, his police force may also not be absolved.
There is another aspect of what seems to be a misconception of Mr. Balogun. At an interview, he said the police “did not go the whole hog to remove the governor” because such an action would have amounted to “rough justice.” This response is nothing but a subterfuge. Without the intervention of the Vice-President, the deceased and his men would have gone ‘the whole hog.’
Secondly, this death is a bad omen for Anambra State politics. The Ngige-Uba spectacle hardly bears well for the reconstituted Ohaneze. With its inability to pronounce public condemnation of Mr. Uba and his cohorts, it has started on a wrong footing. Ohaneze is setting a bad precedent because its silence or passive intervention is only set to weaken its hand; and suspicion that it has been ‘settled’ does not assist its position.
It is perhaps the ‘settlement culture’ that defiles Anambra State politics the most. Mr. Umaru Dikko, the former Federal Transport Minister, in assessing the political dispensation lamented that money politics is its bane. Mr. Dikko is unqualified to pontificate on money politics. He admitted that much, when he said the amount of spent these days is nothing compared to what was spent in the second republic. Could he have been living on Mars and has he not heard of the systematic devaluation of Nigerian currency and mores?
The occurrences in other States have been taken to a new depth in Anambra politics. The abyss of the ‘settlement’ perverseness for which pledges of support by politicians are made at the shrine of one deity or the other depicts the calibre of our political leaders. The demise of Mr. Ige confirms that politics in Anambra is in the hands of Abracadabra men and women. Law and Order may be allowed to breakdown so that a state of emergency is declared; ostensibly, Mr. Uba would be victorious, even, if it were not intended. The only place in the country for Mr. Uba is a custodial sentence as a lesson to other would be adventurers. It is inconceivable that a citizen could plan and execute the abduction of a serving governor and he is still operating freely with police escort.
Thirdly, this death is a bad omen for Mr. Obasanjo. As Dr. Kenneth Mbadiwe would have said: let us begin from the beginning. Is Anambra State politics, the gift of forty days fasting? The rumour mills are rife that the State is connected with this death as it was in the demise of Messrs. MKO Abiola, Yar’Adua and a few others. This president must establish an independent inquiry to allay fears that he could possibly not have been connected.
Let the paradigm to the British Government in the death of Dr. Kelly, the former British weapons inspector serve as a notice to our president. The death of that weapons inspector became a matter of speculation and there was no way a decent government could have ignored its responsibility to its electorate, without conducting an independent judicial inquiry. Am I suggesting the Nigerian government is indecent? Let us wait and see. If the pattern earlier implied is sustained: no inquiries will be conducted. Markedly, the death of Dr. Kelly is distinguishable when contrasted to the ‘natural causes’ that killed Mr. Ige. Nonetheless, both men were in the eyes of the storms created by their governments and that singular similarity is adequate for the need for an inquiry.
The return of the security services in interrogating the journalists that reported the purported visit of Mr. Justice Nnaji to the president’s Otta residence is a return to the days of Messrs. Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. If the president believes the newspaper report has maligned him, he should use the Courts of Justices and not the security services. This interrogation is an abuse of power. What national security is threatened in a report of private visitors to the president’s personal home?
Whatever happens in Anambra State in the next few days would continue to amaze many people in this country. A note of warning must be sounded to our politicians and particularly the president. We are now at a precarious state of affairs. This is not Sao Tome – a conurbation of little hamlets. The affairs of this nation are so complex that its president cannot remain silent while the nation burns. Once, civilians are taking over the responsibilities of the State to protect a serving governor and vigilantes are protecting law and order, systematically, the president becomes embroiled in a situation at which he ought to show leadership and uphold the constitution. Does Mr. Obasanjo wish the death of Raphael Ige pose a bad omen to his legacies? May be he can tell us all.
The writer is a solicitor of the Supreme Court, England and Wales and a Lawyer at a Firm of Solicitors in London, England.