The Governorship Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, has protested the meeting arranged between his archrival and All Progressives Congress (APC) Candidate, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu, and Lagos civil servants, which ended up in officials scampering for bags of branded rice.
Agbaje also blasted the APC for sending police and thugs to bar a “Free Lagos” Press Conference slated for the Lagos Airport Hotel in Ikeja.
“It is the mother of all ironies that on the same day that APC organised an illegal meeting for its candidate, it was sending a combined team of cops and hoodlums to dislodge an event organised by bonafide Nigerian citizens,” Agbaje noted.
Planned for Thursday afternoon, the meeting with Sanwoolu quickly turned into a melee as the gathered Lagos officials threw caution to the wind, storming lorry loads of rice contained in bags that bore the APC logo.
Agbaje said APC designed Sanwoolu’s rice gift to bury 20 years in which Lagos officials had been treated like trash and subjected to sordid conditions like nepotism, over-taxation, denial of promotion, delayed promotions and deprivation of leave and end-of-year bonuses.
According to Agbaje, who spoke in a Press Statement by his Spokesman, Felix Oboagwina, Sanwoolu gesture violated civil service decorum and neutrality.
His words: “We find the invitation and the rice gift appalling, opportunistic and illegal. In a political contest of the nature in which Sanwoolu and the rest of us are involved, he has been offered an undue advantage. An uneven playing field has been created. And this is condemnable and contemptible.
“The gesture goes against Nigeria’s bureaucratic statutes that forbid civil servants romancing politics. For crying out loud, there are still regulations preventing civil servants from involving in politics. That invitation and the rice gifts is a violation of those extant rules.”
He posited that civil servants who maintained a neutrality and refused to show up for the meeting stood the grave danger of being marked down for discrimination, intimidation and witch-hunting.
According to him, it was to maintain neutrality and decorum that soldiers and police were similarly barred from involvement in politics, and politicians prevented from campaigning in uniformed personnel’s barracks and formations.
“It is a shame to see civil servants struggling and hurting themselves just to get a small bag of Sanwoolu rice, but it is even more shameful to subject the crop of Nigeria’s middle-class to such an indignity,” Agbaje said.
On police and thugs aborting the event organised by the “Orange Movement for a Free Lagos State,” Agbaje said the cancellation violated the fundamental rights of the citizens to associate and hold opinions, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
The event ran under the theme, “Setting Lagos Free from Bourdillon Bondage, #OtogeLagos.”
“It is an assault on Freedom of Speech. And every day, we witness the frontiers of Nigerians’ freedom being eroded by a privileged minority that takes special delight in subjecting citizens to impunity and corruption,” Agbaje lamented. “APC further assaulted our collective freedom by Thursday’s order to police to bar an event where Nigerians wanted planned to legitimately express themselves. We roundly condemn APC for this. And we call upon all Nigerians and the international community to condemn this high-handed and draconian clampdown.”
The press conference was organised by a group known as “Orange Movement for a Free Lagos State” with the theme, “Setting Lagos free from Bourdillon Bondage, #OtogeLagos.”
Agbaje particularly lamented that police aligned with thugs to disperse the Free Lagos event.
“It is scandalous and a serious cause for concern that under the APC regime, a joint collaboration between police and hoodlums has been forged against the Nigerian citizen,” he lamented. “Thuggery and violence have been turned into state policy.”