By Edidiong Udobia
Days now, the unfortunate incident between some security operatives attached to the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Onofiok Luke and a certain medical practitioner, Dr. David Udo, which allegedly occurred on June 25, 2016, has been the buzz on the social media. For some unknown reasons, the incident was left unresolved, and, after a period of obscurity, has found its way back to the public space. Since the incident resurfaced following the recent letter by Dr. Udo’s lawyer to Speaker Luke, I have carefully followed the various commentaries that have ensued. Sadly, most commentators have given their judgment without recourse to the principles of fair hearing.
Dr. Udo, through his lawyer, has told his own side of the story. From my findings, the doctor’s story, as reported by Sahara Reporters, is not a true reflection of the said incident. With common sense alone, anyone can see some of the screaming lies in the report. For instance, a part of the report reads; “He added that the victim observed that the Speaker was seated at the back of the vehicle bearing the insignia, apparently instructing his security escorts, who are officers of the State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigeria Police Force, to clear the road for the Speaker to pass”.
By, “the vehicle bearing the insignia”, I take it that the report is referring to the Speaker’s official car. Well, here is what we should know about the said car; it has highly tinted glasses. Road Safety UAE founder, Thomas Edelmann says, “High levels of tinting mean that whoever is inside the vehicle can do anything without being noticed, such as using a mobile phone”. So, the question is, how did the said victim observe “that the Speaker was seated at the back of the vehicle…apparently instructing his security escorts…to clear the road”? If he claims he saw through the tinted glasses, then he did not only get very close to the Speaker’s official car but also painstakingly peeped through the glass. In my experience, that is the only way to see through a tinted glass car. Or, maybe, the Speaker actually opened the car door and started dishing out instructions to the security operatives. That is the only other way the doctor could have seen the Speaker. Both scenarios are most unlikely.
Again, according to the doctor’s report, “fierce- looking mobile policeman emerged from the Toyota Hilux van which led two other vehicles” in the Speaker’s convoy. The same report also claims that Dr. Udo later learnt from his wife that after beating him up and leaving for dead, an SSS operative went and entered the Speaker’s official car and they left. “Our client was informed by his wife on the 26th June 2016 at about 12:00 PM at Emmanuel General Hospital Eket where he was rushed to that when the said SSS operative in your convoy thought that he had died, he left our client and opened the front door of the very insignia- bearing vehicle you were seated in, the vehicle and others in your convoy zoomed off and left our client to his fate.”
So, in other words, the victim saw a “fierce-looking” policeman drop from the escort vehicle but the victim’s wife saw SSS operative enter the Speaker’s official vehicle before they zoomed off? Wehdon sir (apologies to Falz). Let’s get two things clear; first, if a motorcade is caught in a traffic jam, it is usually the security operatives in the escort vehicles who go out to clear the road and not the security detail in the main vehicle. Secondly, except in cases of serious emergencies, the main vehicle in a motorcade, the Speaker’s car in this instance, is closed and guarded especially while on the road and nobody steps out of it for any purpose. Moreover, the main essence of having two or more escort vehicles in a motorcade is to shield the main vehicle from both ends. So, the claim that anybody from the Speaker’s vehicle came out and took part in the incident when there were enough security operatives in the escort vehicles to handle the traffic issue, is outright lie. This lie is further exposed by the claim that the person who stepped out of the official car was a DSS operative. Those who understand elementary security protocols for VIP know that men of the DSS don’t seat in the official vehicle with the VIP but police orderlies. Even the Governor does not sit with SSS personnel in his vehicle but with a police orderly. In simple term, the doctor’s report is anything but accurate.
Having clarified some of the inaccuracies in the doctor’s report, let’s go to the next thing – the Onofiok Luke we know. There is an Ibibio adage that says; “A character is like a pregnancy; no matter how it is hidden, it will still reveal itself”. The man, Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Onofiok Luke has been with us all his life. We have seen the good, the bad and his ugly side. When it comes to the public, Onofiok Luke is an open book and we have all read the book cover to cover. Almost everything that there is to say and write about Onofiok Luke has been said and written so I will not bore you with another long essay on him. However, it is only fair that we juxtapose the Onofiok Luke that we know with the one in the doctor’s report.
From my findings, Mr. Speaker’s attention was in June 2016 drawn to a Facebook post made by Dr. David Udo in which the doctor wrote that a suspected personnel of the DSS attached to the Speaker had assaulted him. As it is the Speaker’s character, he immediately sourced for Dr Udo’s phone number and placed a call on him as rightly captured in the doctor’s report. In the conversation, the Speaker explained to the doctor that he was not aware of the incidence which the doctor said had happened and that he could not have allowed anybody to harass him or any other citizen on his behalf. Barr. Onofiok Luke however profusely apologised to Dr. Udo and then proposed to see him in person. Dr Udo himself said during the phone call that he knew the Speaker and that he knows he (the Speaker) could never have authorised an attack on him. It was in that conversation that Dr Udo mentioned that he and Speaker Luke had a common friend in Mr Leo Umanah. It was then that the Speaker asked Mr Umanah to visit the doctor and further convey his apologies and ascertain the situation.
I have also reliably gathered that when the Speaker spoke again with Dr Udo, he asked for his medical bills, and up till today, there has not been a communication to the Speaker on what the bill was. In fact, in a subsequent communication, Dr Udo told the Speaker to forget about everything and that all was fine since the Speaker had apologised to him. I hate to sound sycophantic, but from my personal relationship with him, I can boldly say that this is the Onofiok Luke I know. Surprisingly, this part of the conversation was conspicuously missing in the doctor’s report.
Another part of the report reads; “You pointedly told him over the phone that you did not know that our client was a medical practitioner. You told our client that you thought that he was ‘one of those hooligans’.” Well, I have it on good authority that the Speaker at no point in his conversation with Dr Udo said he thought the man was ‘one of those hooligans’. This is not a phrase he could ever employ in describing anybody of whatsoever social status. He never said he did not know David Udo was not a medical practitioner. Medical practitioner or not, Barr Onofiok Luke that we know, holds everybody in high regard and has NEVER, and will NEVER, authorise the harassment of a fellow human being. Also, the question of seeking to know the identity of the security detail who allegedly harassed Dr Udo did not arise at any point in that conversation.
Like I earlier noted, this issue could have long been resolved and laid to rest but for reasons best known to Dr. Udo. Besides, if for any reason, he later decided to take up the matter again, Dr Udo has every means of reaching the Speaker, means including a phone call or the same means adopted by his lawyer to transmit an ultimatum. Unfortunately, this is the age of Internet where people can no longer resolve any issue without the social media. Nowadays, even married couple will rather choose to resolve their marital issues on the social media than at home. Very unfortunate. But be it as it may, Dr. Udo’s smear campaign against Onofiok Luke is just one among many others, which have ended in futility. It’s another misfired shot at a time-tested reputation. The ultimatum by his lawyer is laughable. To the best of my knowledge, the Speaker had long apologized to Dr. Udo on behalf of the security men, and which the doctor had gracefully accepted. The Speaker further offered to foot the doctor’s medical bills, which the later politely rebuffed.
Finally, we should not forget that security agencies such as the Police and DSS are independent institutions with their own modus operandi, which is some cases, are very unconventional. We are not oblivion of the fact that most times, these security aides do the things they do without the knowledge and express permission of their boss. While admitting the fact that a VIP should take some level of responsibility for the actions of his security personnels, we must always learn to separate facts and truths from half-truths and outright lies before passing judgment. And, when it comes to brutality and the Nigerian security agencies, we should be sentimental in our judgments. The Onofiok Luke that we know is not a saint, but is definitely, not the one in Dr. Udo’s report. I don’t know about you, but I give that credit.
On the very last note, let me advise the doctor to go to court and seek redress, although every smart lawyer can tell how this case has no oomph especially considering Nigeria’s statute of limitation.