The apex socio-cultural organisation of the Ijaw nation, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to order the release of Hon Farah Dagogo.
Dagogo, a federal lawmaker representing Degema/Bonny in the House of Representatives, was reportedly arrested on Wike’s order for allegedly disrupting the screening of governorship aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Port Harcourt.
He was said to have been arrested alongside others and ordered to be remanded in police custody by a magistrate’s court in the state.
The Rivers State governor had earlier declared Dagogo wanted “for hiring cultists to attack the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) secretariat in Port Harcourt”.
But reacting in a statement titled “Arrest of Hon Farah Dagogo: Political Persecution of An Ijaw Son”, the Ijaw National Congress through its President, Professor Benjamin Okaba, on Saturday, called for his immediate release from incarceration within 48 hours in the interest of peace, justice and fairness, insisting that the charges levelled against him (Dagogo) were bailable.
Okaba in the statement said: “We wish to condemn, in most unequivocal terms, that Hon. Farah Dagogo’s continued detention without conviction in a court of law is a clear violation of his fundamental human rights.
“The illegal arrest and detention of Hon. Farah Dagogo, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is an orchestrated design by Governor Wike’s administration to persecute the Ijaws who are resolved to come together to contest the governorship of Rivers State. May we ask: when did the constitutionally guaranteed right to contest an election become a crime?
“As a former Minister of State in the President Goodluck Jonathan-led federal administration, did the then Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, who had become an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, threaten or ever arrest and illegally detained Governor Wike even though they were at loggerheads? When did Rivers State become the private empire of Governor Wike that indigenes need permission from him to decide their individual political future?
“The INC is particularly miffed at the trumped-up charges against Hon. Farah Dagogo that he hired cultists to disrupt the PDP screening exercise, which was presided over by his governor-colleague, Senator Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.
“Did Governor Diri ever call him (Governor Wike) that their lives were under threat on account of the invading cultists? Did the well-fortified security apparatus of Governor Diri call for security reinforcement because of Governor Wike’s imaginary marauding cultists?
“What on earth justifies this premeditated political onslaught against Hon. Farah Dagogo and the Rivers Ijaws? Was the mission essentially to deny him screening so that he would not have a chance to contest the governorship election against other opponents?
“We wish to remind Governor Wike that Hon. Farah Dagogo is as eminently qualified as any other Rivers man or woman to contest for the office of governor on the platform of the PDP. As nobody is denying Governor Wike his right to vie for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he too should refrain from scuttling the rights of others to aspire to any elective office in the country, including the office of governor of Rivers State.
“By his current shenanigans, Governor Wike has exposed his pangs to underscore his disdain for an Ijaw successor in Rivers State. We now know that this has been his secret agenda. But let the historic contributions of the Ijaw people to the creation of old Rivers State not be lost on Governor Wike.
“Governor Wike should be reminded that the beauty of democracy underscores free contest and not an imposition. He is not an emperor and, therefore, cannot single-handedly dictate a successor against globally accepted democratic tenets.
“As a sitting governor, who is exiting office in 2023 after his constitutional two tenures, his politics of succession must be seen to be all-inclusive and not designed overtly or covertly to exclude Ijaw interest in Rivers State.
“We have it on good authority that Hon. Farah Dagogo’s health has deteriorated as a result of his ordeal in the hands of Governor Wike. He is said to be suffering from chest and stomach complications. Let Governor Wike realise that the Ijaw nation is watching. Nothing should happen to Hon. Farah Dagogo.
“The INC, hereby, demands the immediate release of Hon. Farah Dagogo from incarceration within 48 hours. As a lawyer, Governor Wike knows that his trumped-up charges against Hon. Farah Dagogo are bailable. If Governor Wike thinks he has legitimate charges to convict him, he should allow the due process of the law to take its legitimate course. Release Hon. Farah Dagogo in the interest of peace, justice and fairness, to enable him to pursue his political ambition, to which he is constitutionally entitled.”