“Without freedom of mind and of association, man has no means to self-protection in our social order”, Harold Joseph Laski, the British political theorist, economist, author, and lecturer, wrote. We are compelled to quote Laski because of the political drama presently unfolding in Cross River State.
In a terse statement on Friday afternoon, November 7, 2014, the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party in the state, announced the suspension of 11 of her members; Goddy Jedy Agba, Sandy Onor, Venatius Ikem, James Tangban, Ubi Itam Ettah, Knut Ndoma-Egba, Tony Ngban, Ernest Irek, Godwin Igiri, Samuel Willie and Livinus Odigha, in circumstances the party claims are not unconnected with the role of the 11 in the just concluded ward congress of the party. Particularly, the party said those suspended worked against the interest of the party in the exercise and that after complaints were received by the party, its State Executive Council, SEC, “decided that they should be suspended forthwith”. Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba and House of Reps member, Chris Eta, were seemingly left out because, “We don’t have powers to suspend Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba and Rep. Chris Eta because they are members of the National Assembly; the (party’s) Constitution says so”, as state party chairman, John Okon, revealed.
The timing of this suspension is disturbing and seems contrived to cow imaginary enemies in a restless political onslaught being unleashed on our collective senses. Unfortunately for our political evolution, what this suspension targets, in the eyes of the common man, is a planned erosion of the rights of individuals to associate with each other.
Perhaps, those handing out the suspensions need to understand that the concept of freedom of association is widely acknowledged as a fundamental right in international law; it is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, proclaiming simply that “Everyone has the right of freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” This right we also believe is in Chapter 23, section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
While we may be ill-equipped to reverse the decision of the party, we are however equipped to warn that those orchestrating the ugly political events in our state must understand that the political window of opportunity that they enjoy cannot be exploited to the point where it threatens the peaceful nature of CRS. It will be political maturity expressed if the party begins to accept that it is not infallible and decisions reached can therefore not be absolute. Instead of selfishly heating up the system, her approach to the visible cracks within her ranks should be one that first accepts responsibility for a regime of reckless electoral impunity, which has perpetrated her leeches in office.
Again, we are of the opinion that were Cross River to have the luxury of a credible opposition party, the electorate would have concerned itself with giving the PDP in CRS a well deserved rest, away from government so that those who become the voted-in option will strive to take the right steps, not sometimes, but all the time.
Painfully, ours is a political system that thrives in confusion, lacks direction and shuns any articulate disposition that should in turn birth credible policies capable of closing the yawning gaps in all facets of our economy. Those who are interested in violently preserving or capturing political office, find out all too soon that since so much energy was negatively expended in arm twisting their way into office, not much energy is left for the critical art of governance. A middle course must be found in all of this political disagreement so that the alluvial plains for the destruction of our dear state will not find space among us.
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