REACTING to the widespread backlash of public opinion against its on-going bid to try the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN.), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for allegedly operating foreign accounts while in office between 1999 and 2007, the Code of Conduct Tribunal has striven hard to defend its impartiality and integrity. In a statement on Monday, the spokesperson of the Tribunal, Iyabo Akinwale, said “The case of ex-Governor Asiwaju Tinubu started in May 2007 before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The case was only put on hold because investigation was going on”. Of course, this explanation only raised more suspicions as regards the Tribunals’ real motives. Why single out Tinubu for seeming persecution when at least 14 other governors, including Goodluck Jonathan, had initially been accused of the same alleged offence?How could the Tribunal justify isolation of Tinubu’s case for trial over four years after his exit from office and at a time when he has clearly emerged as the frontline leader of the country’s foremost and fastest growing opposition party, the ACN? Could the ruling P.D.P claim disinterest in the case given the widely acknowledged role of Tinubu in his party’s emphatic success in dislodging the PDP from power in the South West in the last election? How could the prosecuting authorities rationalize the obviously choreographed and selective release of information on the case to a section of the media for sensational use designed to prejudice public opinion against Tinubu before trial? Even if we were inclined to give the Code of Conduct Tribunal the benefit of the doubt on this issue, the lawlessness and high handedness of the police in forcibly disallowing scores of ACN supporters from entering Abuja, a day before the commencement of the trial on Wednesday, offers indisputable proof that the entire trial is politically motivated. It is difficult to disagree with thecontention of the ACN. National Publicity Secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed that the detention in Lokoja of twenty eight buses conveying party supporters to Abuja to show solidarity for their leader was “a blatant misuse of state power against the opposition”. The attempt by the police to justify its action sounded hollow, ridiculous and unconvincing. According to the FCT Police Commissioner, Michael Zuokumor, “We heard that over 100 ACN members were coming into Abuja to demonstrate and cause confusion. If Tinubu is coming for any case, it does not warrant any demonstration, more so, by such a large number of persons, so we tried to stop them”. Now, what was the source of the information on which the police acted and how reliable was the intelligence? Was the police aware that it could have been misled by partisan informants to prevent Tinubu from enjoying the psychological support of his party members? Did the police discover any arms, ammunition or other dangerous weapons on the vehicles and persons it illegally detained in Lokoja? How then did it reach the conclusion that their mission was to disturb the public peace? Not only did the police breach the freedom of association and movement of the affected persons, it assaulted their dignity and self esteem. It is ironical that security agencies that cannot prevent suicide bombers from wreaking havoc in Abuja at will, could stop innocent citizens from travelling to their federal capital for perfectly legitimate reasons. They deprived the travelers two fundamental rights: freedom of movement and freedom of association. This is the kind of misapplication of time, energy and attention by security agencies that in itself is a grave source of danger to national security.
•Culled from THE NATION Newspaper