Wole Soyinka: uniformed staff’s animal conduct must end

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Nigerians have prescribed everything from a legal battle to dismissal for some naval ratings who beat and stripped naked a lady motorist for allegedly failing to give way to the siren-blaring veh icle bearing their boss in Lagos traffic on Monday.

Even the boss, identified as Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade, has not been spared as many commentators have asked that the naval chief be dismissed from service for the barbaric act.

In the best move yet in support of the lady, Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola was shown in a photograph used by several local newspapers Friday receiving the lady, Miss Uzoma Okere, and calling the attack ”despicable”.

According to media reports, six armed naval ratings pounced on Okere, beat her to a stupor and stripped her naked for allegedly failing to quickly get her car off the road as the convoy bearing the naval boss approached.

Though a naval spokesman had earlier said the lady ‘provoked’ the officers by snatching a horsewhip from one of them, a video of the attack, surreptitiously recorded by a bystander, had shown that the claim was a lie.

The private Punch newspaper, which broke the news of the attack and has been spearheading the call for justice for the lady, Friday published grainy clips from the video, showing the lady being brutalised.

Daughter of RTD Colonel

Ironically, the lady is the daughter of a retired Army Colonel, who is said to be currently serving as the Sergeant-At-Arms of the National Assembly.

The Senate has already queried the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Isaiah Ibr ahim, over the incident, while a number of human rights organisations, women’s groups and ordinary citizens have taken up the case.

One of such groups, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), descri bed the assault as unjust, inhuman, degrading and ”a direct violation of the fundamental rights of the victim to life, dignity of her person, fair hea ring and freedom of movement”, among others.

Abominable conduct

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka has also added his voice, saying: ”If that Admiral is not prosecuted, civil organisations will institute actions against him .. This abominable kind of conduct has got to stop. The animal conduct on the part of our uniformed services must end,” he was quoted as saying.

The reactions of ordinary Nigerians were most telling, as reported Friday by the Punch.

One Sunday Oderinlo, in a short reaction entitled ”This, in a democracy”, wrote: ”How do undisciplined, uncultured thugs get into positions of authority? The rule of law and due process of President Umaru Yar’Adua has been put to test on separate occasions, first by the aides of Imo State Governor Ikedi Ohakim, and now by the ratings of Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade…It’s a shame in a supposedly free society.”

Aides of Governor Ohakim also reportedly assaulted a lady motorist in Lagos recently for the same reason that she did not give way fast enough as the convoy of the Governor approached.

Another commentator, Okeyomi, wrote ”Women in Nigeria should stage a protest to force the authorities to prosecute Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade, who supervised his unruly ratings as they rough-handled a defenceless woman.”

President Yar’Adua

Governor Fashola has been quoted as saying he would bring the issue to the attention of President Yar’Adua.

The Nigerian Navy was said to have ordered an investigation into the incident, saying: ”We need to hear from the other side.”

Such incidents are all too common in Nigeria, especially in the days of military rule, as public office holders and military men waltzing through the gridlock in Lagos damage vehicles and beat up those they feel did not move fast enough to give way to their convoys.

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