Hon. Onyemachi Mrakpor represents Aniocha North/Aniocha South/ Oshimili Federal Consistency of Delta State in the House of Representatives. Mrakpor, who was allegedly assaulted by the aides of the Controller General of Prisons at the gate of the National Assembly complex, recently, tells Damilola Oyedele why justice must be done in the case. Excerpts:
Have you taken any steps to seek redress on the alleged assault on you by the Prisons Controller General’s aides?
I have already sued for N4.4 billion and the case has been assigned to the Federal High Court, Kuje. We are waiting for hearing date and notices have been served. I have also visited the Inspector General of Police to let him know that I was a bit disappointed that the police, after about one month, is yet to charge the case to court. He was not also very happy about it and immediately he sent for the CP in charge of the FCT to find out what has been the cause of the delay. I intend to follow this case logically and constitutionally, too. So when I checked back, the IG said he had had briefing from the FCT commissioner, and they were doing one or two administrative things. There are certain rules guiding some establishments in going to court, and so they are waiting to hear from their legal department on the best approach.
I just think that if this happened to me as a member of the House of Representatives and the persons concerned are treating me like a nobody, it means that it is really horrible for the Nigerian woman out there. I had also wondered if I was as irresponsible as the Deputy Controller General portrayed that day, when he got down from his car and started banging on my vehicle before the Inspector came from the other side to slap me. What would have happened if I had also ordered my orderly who was in the car, or if I had also jumped down and ordered my orderly to slap the Deputy Controller General back? My orderly was armed; the Inspector of Prisons was armed. Supposing I did not have some restraints, if I had behaved like the man and our orderlies went into gun exchange and somebody had dropped dead, would it have taken one month for the person to be arrested? So I am still waiting for the police to charge the case to court but, like I said, I have sued.
Has the Controller General of Prisons reached out to you personally in any form of apology, even though he apologised at the hearing?
No, I want us to get it right. The apology that we heard from the Controller General of Prisons, Ikpendu, that day was not an apology to me per say. When he told the hearing that he had confirmed that his men assaulted me, a member asked him why he did not verify that before going to press to accuse me of lying. That was when he said he was sorry. So he apologised for saying I lied, and for saying the House lied before confirming the assault. But since that day, the day of the public hearing, nobody has reached me. They didn’t bother about me; they just think it is one bloody woman. But I heard from my colleagues that they have been going from one person to the other reaching out to my colleagues, that they should not allow the House report to see the light of the day.
I appreciate the House; the House rose up immediately to condemn the assault on my person. But Nigerian Prisons should know that beyond the House, I am a woman, I have an identity, I am a married woman, I am educated, I know what an insult is, I know my rights. So beyond the House, God standing by me, I can fight for myself and fight for the Nigerian woman. In Nigeria we are treated like second class, we are treated like people less than human beings and most times I cannot fathom why. The womb bore the President, the womb bore the husband, the womb bore the son, the womb bore the brother, but it is disregarded as if she does not have any meaning to the society.
At the hearing, there was argument as to whether or not you were slapped or pushed. What exactly happened?
Yes, I was slapped but people consider slap to be sideways or frontal. It was a ‘frontal’ slap in my face and my glasses fell. I had wound down the glass, brought my head out to look, because I was thinking there was a dent on their vehicle and that was when the Inspector came. So it was frontal because it was my face that was directly to his face, saying why are you banging on my vehicle, and I just heard this gbam, “you prostitute, don’t you know a convoy.” So it was frontal on my glasses and that was what the man, the sergeant at arms, was trying to describe.
The only person that reached out to me was the Inspector of Prisons who slapped me, Idaa (SIP Odeh Idaa). A colleague of mine who is his representative met me in the chambers and said Idaa’s family came to him, pleading because the House announced that he should be sacked. And I said to my colleague that I didn’t like that Idaa lied there, at the hearing.
He said he was sorry that he lied because he was scared. I said, well, if he has now come to confirm that he actually slapped me, he should go to the newspapers and say he did it, and he went to two newspapers and apologised.
I told my colleague that when that portion of the House’s decision is to be debated, I believe that whatever is due to Idaa is also due to the man who sent Idaa. If the man, Idaa, was seated in the vehicle until the Deputy Controller General got down, came to my vehicle, tried to forcefully pull the driver out of the vehicle, banging on the vehicle; it would have been somehow for Idaa to just sit down and act like nothing was happening.
Remember my orderly was harassed for just sitting down, for not doing anything. So it was the Deputy Controller General’s action that made Idaa to come down from his vehicle to slap me. So whatever recommendation is due Idaa should be applied to the Deputy Controller. The Deputy Controller General at his level is supposed to be more civil and be able to control himself.
He is not a police officer, he is not the traffic warden, it is not his office so he didn’t have any reason whatsoever to come down to do that. If he had anything to say, he had an orderly in his car, he should have asked the orderly to instruct the policemen at the gate to inspect my vehicle, if he had any suspicions about it.
Are you disappointed that it took the House, where you are a member, sometime to be done with the investigations and to lay the report?
Two things delayed the report; one, the major actor in the whole drama, Kangiwa (Deputy Controller), decided to absent himself on the day of the public hearing. And thereafter he went threatening if the House adopted that report without hearing from him, he was going to sue.
And the House leadership decided that the best thing to do was to pick another date to hear him and that has been done. But immediately after that we had a challenge of the returned budget. Also the considerations of House reports are presided over by the deputy speaker, but he was also mandated to head the budget harmonisation committee, so he was engaged in that period.
Many would say as a Christian you are expected to forgive and forget this matter. How would you respond to that?
Yes, many have asked me that question, they say, “You are a television evangelist, you preach forgiveness, are you not going to forgive?” and I say, yes, of course, I will. There are two things about forgiveness; I don’t bear grudges against any of them, I have forgiven them. But what I need to establish is that you don’t just treat somebody like the person does not exist. I have been treated like I do not exist and I want to let them know that I do exist, that is basically what I am driving at.
By the grace of God, I have been in active politics since 1999, I have held different positions and I have contested elections. I have gone through the Delta State House of Assembly for two terms and now I am here. I have never, and I don’t subscribe to having my people beat up somebody but I am quick to pick up anybody who is against me, have the police pick the person up. I like to obey the law. If for whatever reasons, maybe in the course of my contesting elections or suddenly you just pick at me, I write a petition to the police, saying, please, investigate this person. I don’t take laws into my hands.
There was one issue in my community, I quickly petitioned the police in the area that was responsible. The police came in, got the people arrested and after about one or two weeks, they came back to say they were sorry and that they were going to be of good behaviour. I would have said, oh, I am a lawmaker, everybody go, begin to beat everybody you see on the street, I don’t want to be lawless and I don’t like lawlessness.
So back to the question, yes, I have forgiven, but I don’t even know who I am forgiving, nobody has asked me for forgiveness. So the man who came banging on my vehicle, that assaulted me, called me all sorts of names, the controller and everybody, nobody has asked for forgiveness. Like I said, the Controller General, Epkendu, asked the House for forgiveness for saying that the House lied. So they are two different things. From the moment we finished with the public hearing they went to their different ways, not even a phone call. So the word of God says, “forgive those who sinned against you so that your Father would forgive you, so when you ask your Father He would forgive you”.
If I sinned against you now and say oh Lord, I have sinned against my sister, Lord, forgive me, my sister, I am sorry. But if I say to you, “who are you?” Somehow for the benefit of others, you might just want to say I am somebody. And I think that is the stage where we are now.
This would be quiet discouraging for so many women; tomorrow a woman is coming back from the market and another person decides to brutalise her.
She will just go home quietly saying, “if they could slap a lawmaker and nothing came out of it and nobody even told her sorry, who am I?” So I need to correct that. Women are dying in silence and it would continue if we do not speak out like this.