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RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Nigeria’s democracy in danger of collapse; anarchy looms

By News Express on 13/01/2016

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National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), which I am privileged to lead, recently addressed a press conference on the state of the nation. It is my pleasure to share with you the thoughts which I expressed on behalf HURIWA. Below is the text of my address:  

Gentlemen of the media, thank you for living up to your constitutional bidding as the national conscience and the voice of the oppressed and politically persecuted citizens. But the media must step up its investigative role as envisaged in section 22 of the constitution by not swallowing hook, line and sinker whatever tissues of propaganda dished out from the politically-tainted mouthpieces of public officials. Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution provides thus:

“The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”

Let me begin by narrating a Chinese satire of the elephant to bring out the destructive reach to which uninvestigated propaganda can go in shaping public perception, based on half-truths and outright falsehood, as we now witness with all manner of comical stories on the use to which the so-called security (not defence budget) vote has generated in Nigeria, which was specifically choreographed to create soft-landing for the current political bullying and deployment  of EFCC to harass, intimidate and physically detain top members of the political opposition in Nigeria with the aim of creating a one-party state in Nigeria. We can now see why even members of PDP are now running for federal/presidential protection; because they believe that it's only in APC that salvation from EFCC’s witch-hunt lies.  Unprincipled members of the PDP are jumping ship to APC. They have seen that even former political office-holders with massive allegations of crime, including those who organised dinner for N82 million has gained presidential cover because they are in APC. The media must rise! This Armageddon of media propaganda and trial must be stopped for proper anti-graft crusade to be waged. If Nigeria is pushed into becoming a one-party state and those with dissenting voices are chased around using EFCC, we will surely enthrone totalitarianism, and those with courage to speak out but are too scared of being persecuted in the media by EFCC will go underground. Nigeria will be worst for it because the next stage is for the FGN to go after independent media and genuine civil society stakeholders. And since Mr President said he can’t respect court orders and some persons are clapping, then we must be ready to live with full-fledged dictatorship.

We will go to the book titled 100 Common Chinese Idioms and Set Phrases to learn about this allegory of the elephants;

“A group of blind men gathered around an elephant, trying to find out what the creature looked like. One of them happened to touch one of the tusks, and said, an elephant is just like a turnip. Another touched one of the elephant’s ears, and said, it is like a big fan. One put his arms around one of the beast’s legs, and said it is like a column. One who happened to place his hands on the body of the elephant said it is like a wall. But the one who got hold of the tail said it is like a snake. They then fell to arguing with each other.”

The recent clampdown on top politicians belonging to the vibrant opposition PDP, including the illegal detention of its publicity scribe, Chief Olisa Metuh, is a serious threat to civil democracy. Because his detention-based on nebulous allegation of involvement in the so-called sharing of the arms vote – is undemocratic and unconstitutional. This dictatorial pattern of using the mass media to dish out soft tissues of lies and outright propaganda, just to score cheap publicity and corner the popular support of the largely un-investigative minds of Nigerian media audience, is reprehensible and totally condemnable and is hereby condemned, because it amounts to media persecution of political opponents of the Federal Government. Abduction of the national publicity secretary of the PDP and his detention for more than 48 hours is totally unacceptable. The attempt to silence opposition political voice is unwise and inimical to democracy and freedom of expression.

There is a widespread allegation that President Buhari is embarking on a political journey of vendetta, using the anti-graft mantra as a cover to unleash maximum civilian totalitarianism on Nigeria. Is history repeating itself so soon? From the book, Soldiers of Fortune, we are told how as a military commander, the then Maj-Gen Buhari disobeyed the presidential orders (of then civilian Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Shehu Shagari) to withdraw his troops. President Shagari used Buhari’s military superiors to compel him to withdraw the troops as directed. We all knew how the Shagari government was truncated and how some of the prominent political figures were physically and emotionally tortured. Indeed, we saw how attempt was made to bring back the then NPN’s influential political leader – Dr Umaru Dikko, in a crate – back from exile by the then military dictatorship of Maj-Gen Buhari. The book has the following story lines on what I made inference to:

The sub-chapter on page 7 in that book is titled, “Military Lions at the Civilian Gate” and it goes thus:

Apart from having to cope with political interference, Shagari also had to manage military egos. Relations between the Shagari government and some senior military officers such as Major-General Muhammadu Buhari became strained.”

Buhari was in charge of troops sent to Nigeria’s north-eastern border region in 1983, to prevent infiltration by armed rebels from the neighboring Republic of Chad. After his troops successfully cleared the Chadian rebels from the border area, the troops advance several kilometers into Chadian territory. The political hierarchy ordered Buhari to withdraw his troops, but he refused, arguing that the Chadian rebels would return to the area as soon as his troops departed. Buhari’s view was that it was futile to risk the lives of soldiers by confronting the rebels, only to withdraw and allow them to return once the objective had been achieved. Buhari was finally persuaded to withdraw after president Shagari enlisted Buhari’s superior officers, Lt-Generals Jalo and Wushishi, to order him to pull back. However, the incident caused Buhari to lose confidence in Shagari and thereafter he maintained a frosty distance from him. It also caused enough concern in government for the Transport Minister Umaru Dikko to place Buhari under surveillance. Dikko also put pressure on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-General Wushishi, to block Buhari’s posting to Lagos.”

Our recommendations

(1)  The war against corruption must comply with the constitution and only the courts of law should be allowed to exercise the judicial powers of the federation in line with Section 6. 

Section 36 (5) of the Constitution states as follows: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty;

Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that impose upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.

(2) EFCC must be made independent and free of all executive interferences. The public or nocturnal visit of the Acting Head of EFCC to the presidential villa while handling sensitive cases involving members of the political opposition is totally condemned, because the impression it creates is that of open political interference; and to think that the man heading the EFCC is in acting capacity creates further doubts on the integrity and credibility of the whole anti-graft process.

(3) The National Assembly members must stand up and use their constitutional powers to stop Nigeria from evolving into full-blown tyranny. Soon, the legislators would be attacked because of the fact that some independent voices are still being heard from the Red and Green chambers. Nigeria’s democracy is now in imminent danger of collapse and we may relapse into anarchy.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com

Source News Express

Posted 13/01/2016 6:01:24 PM

 

 

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