A member of Nigeria's National Assembly displayed a significant amount of self importance and lack of tact recently. Chinyere Igwe, a member of the House of Representatives (PDP, Rivers State), slapped a Sergeant-At-Arms that dared ask for his identification prior to allowing Igwe into the National Assembly Complex. The last time I heard of a similar incident, was when former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D, Georgia) punched a Capitol Police officer in the chest when he requested her identification in 2006. While McKinney argued at the time that the incident stemmed from racial profiling, one can only imagine what basis Igwe will assert for his (if ever), for his, as fellow blogger Akin calls it, "undignified" behavior.
What is abundantly clear, nonetheless, is that Igwe's physical assault of an individual for doing his job is indicative of larger social issues. It is not just politicians or those in power that display such callous ignorance and self-importance. When one thinks about it, this problem of assaulting/battering those considered to be of a lesser 'hierarchy' (be it due to age, sex, finances or whatever) is unfortunately far too common in Nigeria. Some do believe that they have a right to express their displeasure with a show of violence against the person of another. While I cannot condone the action of this member of the National Assembly (who also happens to be from my mother's state), it must be stated that Igwe's assault of that Sergeant-At-Arms is simply reflective of a larger problem.
Unfortunately, the Sergeant-At-Arms might not have the option of suing Igwe personally, but what would be a great statement by Igwe's peers would be censure him by some measure in accordance with any code of conduct or rules applicable to members of the National Assembly. Apparently, "Igwe risks being referred to the House of Representatives' Committee on Ethics and Privileges" and the Chairman of the House Committee on Police Affairs said the case would be referred to the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, for necessary action. Emeka Okere, the head of the Sergeant At Arms of the National Assembly detained Igwe shortly after the incident and later said,
"I have petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In every society, there are laws and the Member is a lawmaker who ought to know the importance of security, particularly at this period where we have received threats."If there is anyone who would understand the indignity of such treatment on the person of another human being, it would be Okere, whose daughter, Uzoma Okere, was brutally assaulted by military ratings in a scene captured on video in 2007. Being that Uzoma is battling the issue of assault and the sense of entitlement to assault others in a court of law, hopefully, Emeka Okere will do what is within his means to ensure that there are no repeats of such self-importance at the National Assembly.
This Igwe-slapping incident should spur an intellectual and emotional discussion on the issues it presents so as to lessen the chances of this happening to either a member of the Sergeant-At-Arms doing his/her duty or a househelp or other individual that might not receive similar media attention. Igwe, himself, should apologize for his actions and take up the cause of educating others about the need to be patient and not resort to violence against any person regardless of their social standing. Also, the people of Rivers State should take a closer look at who they send to represent them in the National Assembly because such behavior is unbecoming of a Representative meant to be a good reflection of his constituents and their interests.
Please read Imnakoya's take - Nigeria: Hon. Chinyere Igwe suffers from big-man syndrome
and Akin's Nigeria: A case of undignified self importance.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Confronting A Culture of Brutality and Injustice
- When Nigeria's Military Attack Citizens
- Turning Away from Democracy
- "Free Jonathan Elendu Now!"