Nigerian civil society activist: when silence is not golden


Many Nigerians are saying it   in murmurs , some were able to burst it out   at different fora. Inescapably a charge has been laid at the International   Court of Conscience -call it ICC   or better still the Court of Public Opinion that the civil society activists, pro-

 democracy leaders and sundry NGOs have been selective in their activism against undemocratic issues, injustice and   human rights violations.   While it is 'acceptable'   for some leaders to commit   fraud   or engage in corrupt practices ,against the people and get away with it , then it's a cacophony of voices and condemnations when this   same kind of undemocratic or corrupt practices   are witnessed   or even rumoured against   some other national institutions or persons. Is it selective amnesia or selective activism ?.

This pattern of behavior yet came to the fore with the recent Lagos Local government election which for many   Nigerians was   a test of the political integrity or the democratic credentials of the main opposition party-   the A C N whose   leadership have risen to the national consciousness   for mouthing   democratic ideals. Even though real evidence on ground attest to   the domineering and   dictatorial tendencies   of the leader and financier of the party   Bola Tinubu,be it at local intra party primaries or selection of   candidates for political positions, yet the AC N   and its leaders are still found at mountain tops hollering and preaching about democracy. Egged on by unsuspecting media     or   is it compromised media barons, legal luminaries and ''civil society entrepreneurs',   the   Tinubu brand of democracy   is   no doubt confounding   the saner society .

  By the various accounts   of voters , of election monitors, of news media, the   local   government election right from the Primaries was characterized by undemocratic practices and the election itself was marred by irregularities   such that one can say that Professor Maurice Iwu deserves a national apology for the various invectives poured on him while in office as INEC Chairman. Writing under LAGOS COUNCIL POLL ; a post mortem The Sun on October 30, 2011 reported: ''Not only that the election was characterized by voters apathy and low turn out, the voting process was also marred by a number of irregularities ranging from   lack of adequate materials and late arrival to ballot snatching and stuffing as well as other logistic   challenges……. However in most council areas where Sunday Sun monitored the election the performance of the umpire   in the overall conduct of the poll was less inspiring''

The Thisday of 27 October 2007 reported   under the headline'Post Election Protests Spread in Lagos,, ''Four days after the result of the chairmanship and councillorship elections were announced in Lagos state, a wide range of post election protests continued to break out by the day in different parts of the metropolis over alleged rigging and manipulation''    To   Fred Agbaje , Lagos constitutional lawyer:'' it was no election. I used to blame the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP)   for lack of internal democracy but that of the Action Congress of Nigeria Is worse.ACN is not a party What happened   on Saturday showed that people are dissatisfied with the party I wonder how   and where they got the figures they are laying claim to''   (Nigerian Tribune    Saturday 29 october,2011)

Yes the elections have come and gone but the singular question has been :How come the season of anomie from the usual avuncular pro democracy groups who are eager to demonise the national electoral   umpires -INEC , and the screaming headlines on how national elections have been corrupted or   manipulated?Then why have the Wole Soyinkas, the Femi Falanas, the Itse Sagays, the NBA   Presidents   former and present, the Odumakins, theTMGs of this world, who are eager to pontificate on how to conduct credible elections   suddenly got quiet even when most of them live in   Lagos   and the events   happened in their nose. One is almost sure that the National Publicity Secretary of AC N Alhaji Lai   Mohammed found it   difficult to spin this   disgraceful outing?

Firing the charge against human rights leaders, the   President of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACL )Dr Debo Adeniran ''accussed some pro- democracy and rights groups of compromise hence their failure to condemn the alleged manipulation of   the result. Only   biased   civil organization(sic)   were accredited to monitor the LG election and they can't release the outcome of their monitored election because of public outcry''( Nigeria Tribune of Saturday 29 October 2011)

  The charges filed before the   '' Court of conscience'' or Court of Public opinion   reads thus;

·        That you pro-democracy activists otherwise known and addressed as civil society   activists   particularly the Wole Soyinkas, the Femi Falanas, the Itse Sagays, the NBA   Presidents    past and present, the Odumakins, theTMGs   commit the offence of bias or   selective criticism   of breach of civil ,human   and democratic rights by condoning such breaches in some opposition controlled states particularly Lagos , Osun, Edo, Ekiti etc   while condemning such practices at other areas particularly   the   Federal level,thereby breaching the trust of Nigerian Populace

·        That you pro-democratic activists commit the offence of bias, aiding and abetting corruption, with the selective support of trial of corrupt public officers ,particularly   for keeping quiet over the allegations of breach of code of conduct , allegations of perjury committed by   Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu   financier     of   an   opposition party while celebrating and gloating on the trial of other public officers of other political affiliations

·          That you pro democratic activists   commit the offence of bias, aiding and abetting of breach of democratic principles when you support or keep quiet over the breach of judicial principles     when it benefits the opposition   as in the case of Justice Salami's conviviality with opposition parties during the pendency of suits concerning them in Osun ,Ekiti ,and Sokoto. That you however   cry blue murder when such breach of judicial principles are rumoured against other   judges

·        That you   prodemocracy activists   commit the offence of bias ,aiding and abetting of   breach of judicial principles when you   neglected or refused to warn Justice Salami not to seat over the Election Tribunal or constitute Election Tribunals during the pendency of a suit filed by the PDP Osun     challenging his competence to   constitute the panels on allegations of possible bias, whereof Justice Isa Salami indeed made himself Chairman of the panel in breach of judicial principles , whereas the   pro democratic activists   condemned the National Judicial Council   (NJC) for exercising its disciplinary powers   to suspend Salami during the pendency of   a suit   by against NJC.

·        That you   pro-democratic activists   look the other way and commit the offence of bias when   you   ignore incidence of lack of internal democracy   and breach of electoral principles in areas controlled by the opposition parties while crying foul when such   incidences occur with other political affiliations

·        That you pro democratic activist commit the offence of bias   ,aiding and abetting ,when you keep quiet over the poor performance of governing authorities in areas controlled by opposition parties   particularly the   A C N    controlled states of Lagos , Osun,Ekiti, Edo, Oyo, Ogun etc while you cry to high heavens in criticizing   governing authorities of other political affiliations

·        That you ,pro-democratic activists commit the offence of bias, aiding and abetting when you   look the other way and pretend not to see the looting of resources of Lagos state as alleged by ''the New Face of Lagos''   while you cry to high heaven of mere rumours in other states……..''

The court   is   now in session daily examining the allegations and Nigerians are watching what form of defence will be proffered by activists concerned.

  For starters,the Campaign for Democracy     otherwise known as CD seems prepared to offer   an alibi for its   loud silence on the Lagos election fiasco when   its President Dr Joe Okei Odumakin   in a statement quotes by the Nigerian Tribune( of Saturday 29 October 2011)   stated that her group '' did not issue   a statement because it did not monitor the election''she   was outside the country when the election was held    and   '' no member of CD monitored the exercise''. Convenient excuse   by otherwise active election monitor of national elections .

  Opinions are divided how we got to this situation where all centres of support or gate keepers of democracy has become compromised by what I have once   described as Tinubusiasis political virus. There is the theory of long term friendship and goodwill laundering backed with   financial lubrication enjoyed by the so called activists from the NADECO days from the political strong man of Lagos. This , pundits say, had weakened the firmament of pro-democracy   groups such that they no longer see or hear evil, if the matter concerns the interest of Tinubu.

Nonetheless, the people are waiting to see the emergence of   a new face of pro-democratic activism that are not held down to the apron string of local and international paymasters whose democratic credentials are suspect. Definitely there are times when silence is not golden!

By Tunde Adebanjia public affairs analyst writes from   Lagos