ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Ijaw National Congress (INC) has flayed the arrest, ‘kangaroo’ arraignment and detention of a prominent Ijaw son and member representing Degema-Bonny Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr Farah Dagogo, on the orders of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
The condemnation is contained in a statement on Saturday by the INC President, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, wherein the apex Ijaw body lamented the continued detention of Dagogo without conviction in a court of law.
The body said the development was a clear violation of his fundamental human rights.
It said the illegal arrest and detention of Dagogo, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was an alleged orchestrated design by the Wike administration to persecute the Ijaws who were resolved to come together to contest the governorship of Rivers State.
The INC said: “May we ask: when did the constitutionally guaranteed right to contest an election become a crime?
“As a former Minister of State in the President Goodluck Jonathan-led federal administration, did the then Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, who had become an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, threatened or ever arrested and illegally detained Governor Wike even though they were at loggerheads?
“When did Rivers State become the private empire of Governor Wike that indigenes need permission from him to decide their individual political future? The INC is particularly miffed at the trumped up charges against Hon. Farah Dagogo that he hired cultists to disrupt the PDP screening exercise, which was presided over by his governor-colleague, Senator Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.
“Did Governor Diri ever call him (Governor Wike) that their lives were under threat on account of the invading cultists? Did the well-fortified security apparatus of Governor Diri call for security reinforcement because of Governor Wike’s imaginary marauding cultists? What on earth justifies this premeditated political onslaught against Dagogo and the Rivers Ijaws? Was the mission essentially to deny him screening so that he would not have a chance to contest the governorship election against other opponents?”
The Ijaw Congress reminded Governor Wike that Dagogo is as eminently qualified as any other Rivers man or woman to contest for the office of governor on the platform of the PDP.
It said nobody was denying Wike his right to vie for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria hence he too should refrain from scuttling the rights of others to aspire to any elective office in the country, including the office of governor of Rivers State.
The statement further said: “By his current shenanigans, Governor Wike has exposed his pangs to underscore his disdain for an Ijaw successor in Rivers State. We now know that this has been his secret agenda. But let the historic contributions of Ijaw people to the creation of old Rivers State not be lost on Wike.
“Governor Wike should be reminded that the beauty of democracy underscores free contest and not imposition. He is not an emperor and, therefore, cannot single-handedly dictate a successor against globally accepted democratic tenets.
“As a sitting governor, who is exiting office in 2023 after his constitutional two tenures, his politics of succession must be seen to be all inclusive and not designed overtly or covertly to exclude Ijaw interest in Rivers State.
“We have it on good authority that Dagogo’s health has deteriorated as a result of his ordeal in the hands of Wike. He is said to be suffering from chest and stomach complications. Let Governor Wike realise that the Ijaw nation is watching. Nothing should happen to Dagogo.”
The INC, therefore, demanded the immediate release of Dagogo from incarceration within 48 hours, rationalising that as a lawyer, Wike knew that his trumped up charges against Dagogo were bailable.
The group added: “If Governor Wike thinks he has legitimate charges to convict him, he should allow the due process of the law to take its legitimate course.
“Release Hon. Farah Dagogo in the interest of peace, justice and fairness, to enable him to pursue his political ambition, to which he is constitutionally entitled.”