Regard for citizens should be sacrosanct in any democracy. This is the reason why Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili has not ceased to advocate and emphasise the need for political officials to respect the highest office in Nigeria – “Office of the Citizens”. Corroborating this view, President Muhammadu Buhari, shortly after he was elected, warned police and military security personnel attached to him that the “arrogance of power, lawlessness and disregard for the rights and convenience of fellow citizens would have no place in his government”.

However, President Buhari’s concern for the rights and convenience of fellow citizens, which prompted the warning he gave his aides has no meaning to some political officers, who have not failed to tell us to our face that the respect they have for us does not go beyond when they are canvassing for our votes.

This is quite sad.

This brings me to the story of the recent experience of Ms. Iorvihi in the hands of the governor of Nassarawa State, Umar Tanko Al-Makura and his goons. According to Iorvihi, as reported on September 12 by Sahara Reporters, she was mistreated, not for committing a crime but, because her car failed to quickly get out of the way for the governor’s convoy to pass, at a particular dangerous bend of the road where safe manoeuvring was virtually impossible.

Lois Iorvihi
Lois Iorvihi

She claimed that the overzealous security personnel of Al-Makura dented her car with the nozzle of their riffles, rough handled her brother who pleaded with the police to take it easy and shattered her phones and Ipad beyond repair, in order for the incident not to be on record. And perhaps, to avoid another story of “Adams Oshiomhole and the Go-and-Die Widow”. To worsen the issue, Iorvihi said when she alighted from her battered car and approached governor Al-Makura, in his vehicle which had been forced to come to a halt, to report the misdemeanour of his aides, she was rebuffed by the governor who described her as being rude, dressed like a prostitute, and could as well “go to hell”.

It’s fair we admit that some daughters of Eve could be impudent in this era of gender equality. However, If a lady who was rude and dressed like a prostitute deserves to go to hell, I think a political leader who would beg citizens for their votes during electioneering campaign and suddenly becomes a behemoth after he is voted into office should lead the journey to hell. And, he should be accompanied by the cowardly policemen who would harass and intimidate other road users at the behest of their principal but shamelessly scamper for safety when they hear that armed robbers are somewhere close to their duty post.

Still in an effort to deny this act of impunity that has attracted criticisms from the public, Al Makura’s Special Assistant On Media and Publicity, Ahmed Tukur, publicly put up an inane defence that Iorvihi was rude but denied that she was mistreated by the governor’s aides, even despite the fact that pictures taken from the scene of the incident reveal how Iorvihi’s car was dented.

From this defence of Ahmed Tukur, some questions are begging for answers. First, why were the phones and iPad used in recording the incident destroyed by Al-Makura’s overzealous aides? I suppose they ought to be happy to refer to such video clip as an evidence of their polite interaction with the rude woman who failed to leave the road for emperor Al-Makura’s convoy. Besides, Al-Makura is not the only governor in Nigeria, so, why was another governor’s name not mentioned in relation to this?

We know Al-Makura’s media and publicity person needs to do his job, but this ought not to insult our collective sense of wrong-doing. Nigerians are fully aware of how overzealous policemen attached to governors misbehave on highways. Likewise, the reckless driving of governors’ motorcades is not strange to us. Perhaps, their office’s immunity shields them from obeying traffic laws which often makes their security aides mistreat citizens who they ought to protect.

Ms. Iorvihi's damaged car
Ms. Iorvihi’s damaged car

A few instances would suffice my assertion.

A few weeks ago, it was widely reported that Senator Godswill Akpabio had an accident due to the reckless driving of his convoy that jumped a traffic light and and crashed into an American embassy vehicle. Ironically, the world class hospital he built as the erstwhile governor of Akwa Ibom State could not handle his case, and he had to be flown abroad for better medical attention. Following the Apkabio accident, the Federal Road Safety Corps deployed a team to investigate the circumstances leading to the accident, only maybe because the accident involved a serving senator. But we can rest assured that even if Akpabio is found guilty, there would be no punitive measure taken against him.

In the same vein, according to a report published on Premium Times on November 23, 2013, Kogi Sector Command of the Federal Road Safety Commission, after its investigation, blamed the auto crash that killed former Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) President, Professor Festus Iyayi on a wrongful overtaking of the bus he was in by a vehicle in the convoy of Kogi State’s governor, Idris Wada. But, despite this revelation, has anything been done about it? Will the law also have it cause in this case?

One of the most pathetic stories of governors and their personnels’ recklessness on our highways took place in 2007. When trigger-happy security personnel of Sullivian Chime, the then governor of Enugu state, opened fire and killed two among harmless students of Kogi State University, Anyigba, who were said to be peacefully protesting to call government’s attention to the spate of accidents that were claiming the lives of their colleagues on the Anyigba-Enugu road. Sadly, the case was swept under the carpet and families of the dead students have resorted to fate. But now that Sullivian Chime is no longer under any immunity, can any of our institutions call him to account for that malfeasance?

Through it all, ordinary Nigerians are the ones paying for the recklessness of public officials on the country’s highways. If they are not harassed or beaten by overzealous personnel, they are injured or killed because there are no strong institutions to curtail the excesses of these officials. This is why hell’s landlord wouldn’t mind telling citizens to go to hell. But, are we going to keep silent and watch those whose bills we pay continue to treat us like slaves in this social contract?

Ahmed Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja and can be reached on ahmedoluwasanjo@mail.com