The shocking news of the brutal beating and stripping of a female councillor and Leader of the Legislative Council, Mrs Cynthia Nwala within the premises of Etche Local Government Council in Rivers State early in the week, has gripped the attention of many on social media as well as mainstream media. Mrs Nwala who was said to have been involved in an altercation rooted in a power tussle with some of her fellow councillors was shown in photos with her clothes torn, exposing her body. Although not much detail has been provided as to what actually transpired, it is disturbing that in this age, such gutter fights can take place within a local government premises and a ranking female who works in that place could be beaten up that way, her car smashed and her clothes torn in such humiliating way. We cannot imagine what would be the fate of a junior female staff if she wittingly or otherwise, offends a powerful male in that place.
The police if they are not already involved, must get to the bottom of the matter as the act of beating anyone on a whim, is a gross violation of the victims basic rights.
We also call on the gallant Civil Society Community in Rivers State (and the entire Niger Delta )which has time and again braved the dangers of acting in the public interest, taking grave risks to life and limb in a political space that is acknowledged as primitive and alien to civil conduct expected in a democracy. Rivers State, in view of its cave style political culture has sadly been labelled the open sore of the Niger Delta since the return of party politics in 1999. Nothing apparently is too vile to be contemplated when politicians struggle over turf.
For decent society, the incident is a depressing reminder of our lots with democratic practice in a terrain where no rules matter.
We therefor urge all to put aside their questions, misgivings and general angst over the unimpressive manner in which the vast majority of politicians in the state conduct themselves. Living and acting solely in furtherance of self interest, desperate pursuit of self enrichment at the expense of both their constituents and the interest of democratic development. These politicians daily upset the sensibilities of decent citizens by their crudity and violent dispositions, even in simple matters where dialogue would suffice and hurt nerves calmed. This latest brutal fight and the dehumanisation of the female councillor is one more scene in a saga of shame that is 22 years old.
Yet, as distasteful as the conduct of the vast majority of these politicians and our abhorrence of this, we cannot afford to look away on the excuse that these persons act unfailing only selfishly and should be left to their fate. For we know that in truth, whenever such violence occurs and we look away, we simply embolden those characters who do not belong to decent society to be empowered to add more victims to their tray of violence. By this we slow down the growth of democratic practice which we all know is the greatest assurance of sustainable life for all. To knowingly empower the violent, is unimaginable wrong doing. We cannot afford to strengthen those who do wrong, as this diminishes us all.
We call on a coalition of civil society actors in Rivers State in particular, including the Federation of Female Lawyers FIDA, Civil Liberties Organisation and other committed CSOs, to get involved, to work together to investigate the incident, working with the Police authorities and the Etche Council leadership. In this way, we would send a clear message to those still steeped in violent political culture that such conduct is unacceptable and those guilty of the violence must be made to feel the full weight of the law.