It was a great relief for the Nigerian workers and other lovers of democracy when the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, on Wednesday disclosed that those who attacked the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Joe Ajaero, in Owerri, Imo State capital, on November 1 had finally been arrested.
Ribadu’s revelation apparently placated the workers and prompted them to suspend their nationwide strike.
Despite Ajaero’s obvious act of indiscretion by organising protest few days to governorship election in the state, those who organised his torture ought to be treated as enemies of democracy and be prosecuted.
But rather than arresting the attackers and putting them on trial, the agents of government, including Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, whose personal aide has been fingered to be behind several attacks on opposition elements in the state, had initially justified the attack on Ajaero.
According to the labour leaders, the most annoying reaction came from the presidency through the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, who in his characteristic manner of making provocative, inflammatory and toxic comments, claimed that Ajaero’s error of judgment led to the life-threatening assault.
In their reactions, the unions argued that only individuals who encourage government to sponsor hooliganism and lawlessness to achieve a predetermined result can claim that an error of judgment by the president of the NLC should attract life-threatening assault by thugs and touts.
Onanuga further demonstrated the mischief common among those who found themselves in the corridors of power when he claimed that the Commissioner of Police in Imo State under whose watch the incident happened, had been transferred out of the state.
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Kayode Egbetokun, while announcing the transfer, had made it clear that it was to ensure neutrality in the governorship election and not because of the allegation made against him.
The IG, rather than arresting, parading and prosecuting the suspects identified by the labour leaders, also resorted to the government’s characteristic manner of burying sensitive matters under the carpet by claiming that he had ordered investigation.
It is unfortunate that the federal government waited until the labour unions inflicted colossal loss on the economy in a nationwide strike before rising to its constitutional responsibility of arresting those that attacked the leader of peaceful demonstrators in a democracy.