The abduction of Mr. Ebere Wabara, Associate Editor of The Sun from his Surulere home in Lagos, by policemen from Abia state command has sent a clear message to the civilised world that the Nigerian politicians have not learnt anything from history despite the ongoing 15 years of uninterrupted democracy. Wabara, a veteran journalist, who is also the Special Assistant, Media, to former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, was detained briefly at the Aguda police station in Lagos before he was transferred to Abia state to be charged with sedition.
Expectedly, reactions have greeted the police’s action, which is a failure to move away from the anti-democratic legal practices that characterized military regimes, where indiscriminate arrests and prolonged detentions were the order of the day. The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) have expressed disappointment at the forceful arrest and detention of Wabara. The NUJ, in a press release signed by its National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, condemned Wabara’s arrest and detention. The union regretted that the government of Abia state had openly shown its bias in this case.
He said that the NUJ “vehemently protest and repudiate the actions of the government of Abia state and authorities who make a mockery of freedom of expression and commitments to pluralism and democracy when they encourage a culture of impunity and lawlessness against the media.
The NGE noted that it “was completely stupefied at the conduct of the Abia state police, which has decided to exhume a colonial law from our statute book at a time like this. It tends to indicate that while the rest of the country is moving forward, the police in Abia are marooned in an inglorious past. It called for the immediate release of Wabara, and that if he needs to answer any question, it should be done according to civil and decent norms. NGE called on President Goodluck Jonathan, the Inspector General of Police and other well-meaning Nigerians to intervene, and ensure that sanity prevails.
The narration from Adanna, Wabara’s wife, paints a pathetic picture of an invasion that would be condemned in any civilsed society. Her husband had gone downstairs form their home around 6.30am that morning to take something from his car. Shortly after that she heard him shout and so ran downstairs. To her great surprise she saw her husband being roughened by about eight men who introduced themselves as policemen.
They said Wabara should follow them to Umuahia, and that there was a petition against him for sedition. They took the family back into the house. One of them brought an I.D. Card showing that he was a policeman. They searched the family bedroom, collected Wabara’s laptop and telephone. Wabara was taken to Sholoki police station in Aguda, Surulere, and then later to Oyingbo Police Station, both in Lagos.
The Sun Publishing Limited, employers of Wabara, sees his arrest obviously on the orders of the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Adamu Ibrahim, and perhaps under the instruction of the state governor, Chief T. A. Orji, as a regression and throwback to the dark days of military dictatorship when might was right, and the strong trampled on the weak.
We are on the same page with all the voices of reason that have risen against the colonial action unfolding in Abia. We see Wabara’s harassment as an attack on the media. In all civilised world the law of sedition have been discarded. If any person, no matter how highly placed, feels uncomfortable with a publication he should go to court. Abia state government and Abia state police should do the same.