Perhaps one of the most horrifying news in today’s Nigeria, besides the barbaric decimation of innocent citizens by overly coddled terrorist organisations running amok across the country, is the continuous incarceration of journalist, Agba Jalingo. Agba remains in captivity solely on the executive order of Governor Ben Ayade for rightly demanding that the governor comes clean on the N500m microfinance bank funds that mysteriously disappeared under the governor’s watch.
Agba’s arbitrary incarceration is loudly endorsed by the same timid state House of Assembly that hastily embraced a fraudulent superhighway project that was designed to plunge several generations of Cross Riverians into a deep pool of debt and slavery for a sustained period of 180 years – approximately two centuries! It comes as no surprise, therefore, that not a single member of the House of Assembly has called out the governor for his incessant abuse of power.
The political class in Cross River, with special emphasis on members of the House of Assembly, have all looked the other way and even revel in Agba’s perceived predicament owing to his desire to consistently insist on accountability and transparency from all political office holders in the state.
Governor Ayade’s metamorphosis from a senator into a full-blown dictator remains an inscrutable mystery. His phantom belief that those who elected him into office are without the competence to ask him crucial questions about the decisions he makes on their behalf is unacceptable and a gross abuse of his powers as governor. I have extensively written elsewhere that those who abhor public scrutiny are unfit to make themselves available for election into public offices.
Agba Jalingo’s detention on the direct order of Ben Ayade symbolises the incarceration of all Cross Riverians. The governor is sending an unequivocal message to the Cross River electorates, laced with unmitigated impudence, that he is the emperor of the state and therefore should not be questioned.
As I write, roads, public schools, hospitals and other infrastructures in Cross River State are in total shambles with the governor clearly unwilling to resuscitate them. In spite of this, the Ayade regime readily mobilises to arrest critics of his regime across Nigerian cities, drive them by road to Calabar, and then claim afterwards that they were arrested by the Federal Government, as though federal high court divisions are non-existent in the different Nigerian cities where these critics are arrested.
So the question is: why is it that the governor goes to any length and at the expense of Cross Riverians in his determination to arbitrarily arrest his critics but unwilling to show a similar determination when it comes to giving life to infrastructures in the state?
The conspiracy against Agba Jalingo became even clearer when Justice Simon Amobeda, who has long recused himself from Agba’s case, reportedly refused to release his case file to the Chief Judge for re-assignment and subsequently travelled with it during his holiday in a bid to keep the journalist in perpetual captivity. Impunity has never been this bold, this daring!
So, dear reader, as you go about your work and business, always remember that a journalist and activist, Agba Jalingo, has been held in captivity since August 22, 2019 by Governor Ben Ayade of Peoples Democratic Party for demanding accountability, transparency and good governance for the people of Cross River State.
Elias Ozikpu is an activist and a professional playwright, novelist, essayist and polemicist