A word against political recklessness
IN a recent statement, the Department of State Services (DSS) issued what may be regarded as a warning to the Nigerian political elite. Specifically, the DSS expressed concern about the increasing tendency for politicians to make statements that were provocative, inciting and capable of creating political instability. While some politicians have criticized the statement as an attempt to silence the opposition, many well-meaning Nigerians see it as a timely reminder to politicians that politics must be played with decorum and due consideration for the national interest.
There is, no doubt, that there has been a sharp increase in the intensity of political activities and debate. This, of course, is to be expected, given the re-alignment of political forces, the emergence of a major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the fact that major elections are due within the next 12 months. As elections draw near, political activities, naturally, dominate the air; politicians become more vocal and, in many cases, they even become more reckless. This pattern has begun to re-emerge. The APC, which has become the dominant opposition, seems to want to assert its identity by constantly imposing its views on the consciousness of the public. It is, therefore, not surprising that most of the reckless and inciting statements that prompted the warning by the DSS, were made by functionaries of that party.
The Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has made it a habit of threatening fire and brimstone whenever he expresses disagreement with aspects of Federal Government policies; Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Deputy National Secretary of the party has, in the same vain, called on the people to rise against the Federal Government. One of the Governors of the APC, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, recently called on his people to defend themselves against the police since, according to him, the Federal Government had failed to defend them. Speaking along the same line, one of the national leaders of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, also called on the people of Rivers State to defend themselves against the oppression of the police and Federal Government. Also inciting is the insistence by Sam Nda-Isaiah that $10.8 billion of Government fund was stolen, even when the appropriate Government agency had explained otherwise.
In all, the APC seems to be calling for insurrection and chaos in the country, and this is buttressed by the alarming prospects of the party's directive to its members in the National Assembly to consider blocking the passage of the 2014 Budge, confirmation of Service Chiefs and Ministerial Nominees as well as other important elements of governance, for which legislative assent is required. If this threat is carried out, the country may witness the shutdown of governance, the consequences of which no one can predict. Indeed, such a move would give signals that the Nigerian political class has learnt nothing and has no capacity to build on the experiences of the past. This is why it is important to remind the political class that Nigeria's democracy is just one and a half decades old and may not have the resilience to withstand the battering which politicians, in their desperate and visionless ambitions, are throwing at it.
Our democracy was won at a great cost. Out of the 54 years of our sovereign existence, we spent about 30 years under military rule. It is a prize, which we must not allow to slip out of our hands because of the thoughtless actions and greed of a few. We have a responsibility, therefore, to remind out politicians that democracy is a golden opportunity for good governance, freedom and life more abundant for all. One of its major components, which our politicians are enjoying and, unfortunately, abusing, is the freedom of speech. That freedom comes with a great deal of responsibilities and expectations. It is not a license to libel, slander, defame, incite and subvert. It is a solemn privilege, particularly, for those who have been given the opportunity to lead.
Another important point to make is that government is a composite of the Executive, the Legislature, Judiciary, the political parties and the Media. Although, there is a separation of powers, all these components have a common mandate to ensure good governance and the survival of democracy. None of these components should act or behave in the illusion that if the system becomes unstable or collapses, it can escape its consequences. Let all our politicians, particularly those who are given to flippant and irresponsible utterances, recognize that they will not escape the consequences, if they incite violence and chaos. It is, therefore, important for all politicians and political parties to manage their aspirations with due deference to the larger goal of the survival of democracy and the stability of the Nigerian nation.
Professor Godwin Sogolo wrote from Abuja.