Saturday 30 November 2013

Nigeria: How Humanity Lost Oshiomhole and Gained a Widow

The global theatre of local events
The Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, a one-time trader unionist took the opportunity to visit the streets of his entire to chase away street traders as per the law of the land. [Wikipedia]
One encounter became the theatre of a video recording where a widow in flailing and very pitiable supplication appealed to the humanity and consideration of the governor, but he ignored her. [Sahara Reporters - YouTube]
Just so cruel
To compound her humiliation and denigration with the knowledge of her somewhat dire or desperate circumstances, the governor in full strut of princely omnipotence flippantly told her to, “Go and die”, as her wares were grabbed by the egregious thuggery of the law enforcement agents that accompanied the governor.
We can all appreciate that the Edo State Government wants to rid the streets of hawkers, and they have identified that they are an accident risk, but in a case of giving the dog a bad name to justify harming it; stret hawkers have been maligned as thieves, vermin and obstructions to the free flow of traffic. [Edo State Government]
What the government has not identified in their assailing on the underprivileged who subsist on chance encounter of custom for their livelihood is alternative, affordable, safe and subsidised hawking areas or premises they can move these people into, if they really want to address a menace. [Edo State Government]
Cart before the horse
In 2009, these street traders were given a two-day ultimatum to clear off the streets as if there would be no social consequence for legitimising destitution in the name of beautifying and cleaning up the main city centres.
One can posit that the real menace of theft, obstruction and crime will increase if people do not have the means to earn a livelihood in the absence of jobs, have affordable places to trade, have the absence of welfare support or have no new or sponsored means of alternative engagement of their skills and idle labour.
It beggars belief that a man who cut his teeth on labour and trade unionist activity will now be the nemesis of the underprivileged, and that is a great shame.
The act of street trading is a crime that should be stopped. According to section 53(1c) of the State Environment Waste Management Board regulation of 2006, any individual who sets up a stall or a trading spot in an unauthorized area has committed an offence which is punishable in the court of law and for those street traders who specialize in the sales of audio and visual compact discs, who blare their music as a way of advertising their goods, section 51(1) states that no equipment or facility capable of producing noise above 85 decibels should be used by any individual for more than four hours a day, this makes them also liable to the law. [Edo State Government]
Breaking laws through law enforcement
Now, if street trading has been criminalised and such persons have been identified as committing an offence, the law requires that the offender be punished in a court of law.
It is understood that the Governor as the chief law officer of the state should be seen to uphold the law, but nothing in that video demonstrates that he was doing anything of the sort.
The widow had her goods confiscated and the Governor could be heard saying she should not be taken away; by inference the widow was not going to be charged to court.
Now, as the Executive Governor, it is possible that the governor had arrogated to himself the powers of a court and in that encounter constituted a kangaroo court to be the judge and the jury of the woman. Thereby exercising the power to proscribe, to excoriate and to punish, but that would add the licence of egregious impunity to the immunity from prosecution the governor already enjoys as a constitutional right when in office.
One engagement did suggest in our discussion on Twitter that the widow was deploying the fallacy of argumentum ad misericordiam, the appeal to pity, but if this issue did end up in court, the mitigation pleas to the judge will deploy this fallacy to temper justice with mercy.
Regret is not apology
We should be human beings first before we find the weak to sacrifice on the altar of proving potency and ability to rule with an iron fist.
Adams Oshiomhole, by design and for the opportunity went on a public law enforcement raid of the street traders to make an example of someone, but providence and circumstance of the person of a widow, her pleadings, his intemperance, the recording and the viral reach of the event as he stood as unconstitutional judge seems to have backfired.
He has expressed regret at his choice of words, but that does not constitute an apology to the woman he treated with the most reprehensible disdain. Even criminals, but in this case, until charged, she was still a suspect, have rights and the least that can be expected of a person in authority like the governor is to treat any Nigerian citizen, no matter how lowly with respect, dignity and courtesy – that is just basic humanity. [DailyPost]
How revolutions are triggered
Many viewers of that video were touched by the plight of the widow and were utterly repulsed by the lack of comportment of the governor that she might well be helped by funds being raised for her cause – there is no saying that she might become a figurehead against the egregious abuse of power and privilege of the Nigerian ruling class. [Nigerian Tribune]
The Arab Spring was set off by the mistreatment of Mohammed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, the list of injustices in Nigeria is piling up, and no one can tell which of the many documented flagrant abuses would become the catalyst for a national insurrection that could usher in a Bastille moment in Nigeria. [Wikipedia] [Wikipedia]
Consider the human consequences of making bad laws
Yes, the law must be upheld, but when it affects people, enacting laws and enforcing them without consideration for the social consequences of the law is at first atrocious and then heartlessly lacking in vision, foresight, compassion or humanity.
On the balance of what appeals to our humanity as opposed to the atmospherics of environmental comfort and conduciveness, I am with the widow for an apology, adequate redress, prompt restitution and effective rehabilitation. Then for a broader plan to help alleviate the sufferings of street hawkers by offering them affordable, safe and accessible places to ply their trade.

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