Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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!"

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Anonymous said...

again. another example of the overbloated feeling of importance some nigerian politicians have -

PS- Are we still expecting sthng on the Halliburton probe, or has it gone the way of all things in Nigeria?

NaijaBabe said...

This is rubbish
This is the nonsense that we do, coming from our foolish sense of superiority. If the Seargent didnt do his job, we would complain that he didnt.
Why do things have to be this way with Nigerians? Its appaulling

NneomaMD said...

you are right, the problem is systemic. igwe's conduct, as we speak, is being repeated in Nigerian homes both on the continent and elsewhere. there is this attitude that if you pose some seniority over a person, you also have the permission to physically assault them as well. overt public blunders such as that of igwe and the Okere saga would be avoided if we addressed the everyday infractions that go either unchecked or in some cases encouraged. Everyday examples include the rampant abuse of house-help and staff, physical abuse of youth and those in lower positions, which occurs in the public (markets, on the roads, etc.), sexual harassment of women in offices, etc. this is a task that would be fitting for the ministry in charge of women and children's the way, did you hear the the UN recently voted to create an agency dedicated women and women's rights. not sure if te offended party here was a woman, but if issues such as these were brought to an international light and in the context of a women's rights issue, it may get some shine time.

Uju said...

"dont you know who I am???"

"Am I your mate??"

"idiooooot, I pay your salary!!!"

its the typical naija superiority power complex!! siggggggh

Seyi said...

@Uju, "superiority power complex" - spot on!

And this is what happens in the larger Nigerian society. I have seen people 'slap' their drivers, housemaids etc all because "na me dey pay your salary".

In a civilised society Hon. Chinyere would have been suspended from the Parliament immediately, and the case referred to the Police. Such acts are just not acceptable under any circumstance. I'm sure his wife is regularly subjected to such abuse.

Dojaa said...

It is so sad that some Nigerians are constantly feeling important, I think it has a lot to do with how they were brought up, my father always said to us " you are not better than anyone and no one is better than you", that has given a world view that makes me respect all the people i meet and I also expect them to respect me. It should work both ways.

Beauty said...

We know that there are VIPs who are to be respected, but today, all manner of people claim to be VIP and on getting to the airport, you see them demanding respect from airport security officers, threatening to remove the officer from his job,” all animals are equal but some more equal than others is a reason to admit a problem but we must be careful not to paint the whole country stupid. That would be accepting District-9 as fact rather than SF. Chinyere Igwe is but one of the many sad facets of Nigeria that we should perhaps try to educate rather than just crucify him. Ps. Mandatory jail time for assaulting/battering is good education.

Kene said...

The bigger problem is one of ignorance. When the majority of a nations populace have no understanding of their fundamental human rights, they become vulnerable to abuse.
Every developed society is able to hold its elected officials accountable because they have an understanding of their rights and they know that your position does not make you a higher citizen than the man on the street.
Read my blog on "What every Nigerian Should Know"

io said...

no be today wey we don dey brush person for road wey we go come down slap am join say him wan spoil our car although na on top roadside wey him suppose dey waka we carry car go met am.

abuse of our fellow citizens is common, once we sense and think we are better than anyone we treat them as crap. its the same reason we look down on someone because they dont speak vernacular aka english as good as we do.

Anonymous said...

I have said this somewhere else b4 and I will say it again. Nigerian's problem is no minimum wage. If all types of job was making the same money or afford the same comfortable life style we wil not have this sort of nonsense. secondly I think that officer should sue that rep guy. because its all about the cheddahs. by the time the man collects like five million from him becos of his stupidity...infact I dont knwo why our society is not a 'sue-ing' one. All dis nonsense would not have been happening in the first place.

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