Agba Jalingo: Before We Rush to Crucifixion
By Olawale Olaleye
A recent picture of a critic and activist, Agba Jalingo, in handcuffs had sparked deserving outrage by members of the public, who thought he was a victim of abuse of power.
Although I do not know him to be a journalist except that he belongs to the human rights community, that’s not exactly the point, because anyone being unjustly treated deserve the support of all well-meaning people in the human community, which is where I stand.
However, I’ve been slow to speaking, because I have a brother, friend and professional colleague in the Cross River State Government, whom I reckoned should know as much and should have stood against such abuse of power, more so to one from the human rights family.
For me, therefore, it behooved logic to inquire about the truth. At least, what’s in the public space is the assumption of persecution, because a certain a young man criticised the government and demanded accountability. There’s no law that says such an individual should be treated like a common criminal.
But upon inquiry, what I gleaned was beyond the news doing the rounds. What’s between the governor, Professor Ben Ayade and Jalingo is purely a personal battle. While one is playing on public emotions, the other is leveraging the privileges of his office, albeit under the guise of the rule of law.
But here is the point, how many people knew that the governor and Jalingo had been close friends for a very long time? How many people knew that Jalingo was allegedly on a steady pay through the imprest of one of the governor’s aides, a gesture allegedly extended to another staff of his (Jalingo)?
How many people knew that Jalingo allegedly got steady contracts from the government including allegedly supplying the ambulance on the governor’s convoy? There was also the story of how the governor allegedly availed Jalingo and his wife some money for an IVF procedure.
Sometime back when Jalingo reportedly slumped in his office, how many people knew that the governor allegedly sent someone to check him up with money to take care of his hospital bill?
Thus, when a relationship gets to that station, it’s on a different level altogether. It is easier for either of the parties to slander and blackmail each other, hiding under extraneous pretexts since many things would have changed hands.
Even those who heeded the wise saying and feasted with the devil with a very long spoon still get smacked whenever the devil is on rampage, how much more the one sitting just across the table in a seemingly friendly atmosphere? The venom penetrates effortlessly.
Owing to their relationship and all that had changed hands, it is easy for the governor to allege blackmail and a deliberate attempt to slander his government. Jalingo was alleged to have directly accused the governor of theft without as much building any safety into these accusations. He even challenged Ayade to arrest him. Well, he’s been arrested now.
Yet, he has no proofs, as it is evident now. His attacks were also said to have begun when the governor allegedly declined patronising him shortly after his re-election.
Truth be told, I would have handled it differently if I were the governor, because whichever way this ends, he too would not go unscathed. His image is already under attacks and how he approaches the matter going forward would determine how many more plummeting come his way.
But I think rather than castigate the governor and continue to vilify him for choosing to test the strength of the law, even if manipulated, mediation would be more like it. People should seek to intervene by appealing to the governor to consider his friendship with Jalingo and not allow him suffer more.
Honestly, outside of this approach, I don’t see how Jalingo would prevail in this matter. Who does business with government without records by the government? Who collects regular money from government without signing for it or being profiled? All these would be put out when push comes to shove and would justify the allegation that this was nothing but sheer blackmail.
Therefore, rather than attack the governor and compound Jalingo’s case, let people of means intervene and seek amicable settlement between the two. That, I think, is the most sensible thing to do now. At least, the governor might be disposed to this idea.