Sir Tonye Okio, a noted critic of President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State, has been arrested.
According to publicly available information, Mr. Okio was arrested on Saturday April 28, by officials of the Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) of the Nigeria Police and summarily taken to Yenagoa, where he is being detained in solitary confinement over his comments --- comments deemed critical of poor governance, corruption, and the hubris and excesses of government officials.
On Facebook and other social media, Tonye Okio wrote extensively about the need for moderation, accountability, and the human and infrastructural development of the country.
He was also very active on the Ijaw Nation Forum (a forum for Ijaw worldwide) where he championed the plight of the downtrodden and vigorously condemned the searing poverty and underdevelopment of the Niger Delta.
What brought him to the attention of the Police, the State Security Service (SSS) and other security and intelligence services, was his constant but honest criticism of President Jonathan and Governor Dickson.
That he is from the same region/state with the President did not dissuade him from speaking the truth, or be less critical of wrongs and the rut that has come to characterize his home state and country.
In addition to being a torn on the flesh of the President, many see his arrest as part of the “house-cleaning exercise” by the Goodluck Jonathan camp. This argument is plausible because Mr. Okio is an ally of Governor Timipre Sylva. In today’s Bayelsa State, many known allies and supporters of Chief Sylva are being persecuted.
According to the information found on the pages of the Nigerian Current website, this is the chronology of events as they happened:
- On Saturday, October 26, about 15 men, including plain-clothes Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) officials and those attached to the Police Mobile Force (otherwise known as kill-and-go Police), invaded the Abuja residence of Tonye Okio in three vehicles (one Prado Jeep and two Police Escort vans) and forcefully seized him. Thereafter, they took his iPad and the mobile phones of himself and his younger sister;
- After getting their target, he was taken to the headquarters of the Abuja Command of the Nigeria Police. He stayed with his abductors who claimed they were trying to arrange a flight to take him to Yenagoa via Port Harcourt International Airport.
- When the flight arrangement failed, the police decided to take Tonye by road. They left Abuja about 4:00 pm Saturday and arrived Yenagoa about 1:00 am on Sunday, October 27. He was taken straight to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Nigeria Police where he is being detained illegally;
- The Police authorities claim that Tonye Okio will be charged for allegedly writing on his Facebook page recently that an unnamed South-South Governor was recently caught in the US with 5 million USD. Tonye denies the charge;
- Since his detention, Sir Okio has been denied access to visitors. Police sources say they have been given stern instructions by the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner Hillary Opara, to deny that Tonye Okio is at the State CID;
- In addition to the regular police that man the gates of the State CID, the surroundings have been taken over by Mobile Police men, numbering about 10, apparently because of the high value detainee;
In the recent past, Professor Okey Ndibe, a noted public intellectual was detained in Nigeria for doing what democracy, decency and patriotism demands of him. Since Okey Ndibe was first harassed, many critics and public intellectuals have been warned to desist in their criticism of President Jonathan and his administration.
We also know this to be the case in Bayelsa State where Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, Jonathan’s surrogate and apologist, have been harassing and tormenting critics and opponents. This is a state where everyone must toe the line. Dissension is not allowed. Critics and criticism are not welcomed.
President Jonathan and Governor Henry Dickson must stop this idea that “You are either for us or against us.” Persecuting and prosecuting critics must stop. Sending “attack dogs” after opponents must stop. Investigating and spreading lies against perceived opponents and critics must also stop. In other words, private and public witch-hunting by government and its agents must stop.
If Tonye Okio abridged the law, then, charge and prosecute him before a legally constituted court of law. Even so, the rule of law must not be personalized. We are however confident – very confident -- that he is being intimidated and terrorized because of his politics.
Power is fleeting, it is transient. It is therefore futile and reckless to get drunk on power. And so we call on President Jonathan and Governor Dickson to commence the immediate release of Sir Tonye Okio. If law abiding citizens like Mr. Okio are being harassed and illegally detained, then, no one can be safe from the tyranny and ruthlessness of the state and or federal government.
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters