The threat to shut down government - The Sun

By The Citizen

The uproar that greeted the threat by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to shut down government in Nigeria is yet to abate. Each day brings protests against the leading opposition party's directive to its federal lawmakers to block executive bills, the 2014 budget and the screening of service chiefs and ministerial nominees. The APC is insisting that until sanity returns to Rivers State, its order will subsist. The PDP and the Presidency, however, directed the law enforcement agencies to 'take seriously all statements aimed at inciting violence and disturbing the peace.'

Constructive engagement is good for democracy, which thrives on opposition. It is the soil in which democracies establish their roots and firmness. But, when an opposition party calls out its members to resort to self-help just because it wants to get the government's attention on any issue, the result may not be far from anarchy. It is a trifle too much that the nation's leading opposition party is instructing its members to take the law into their own hands. As much as our democracy needs vibrant opposition lest tyranny takes over, we think the APC directive crossed the boundary of constructive criticism. Although filibustering, generally, might be a legitimate obstructive tactic for delaying or preventing the passage of legislation, its use by the APC at the time that the polity is already heated is dangerous. It is inciting and not at all in the national interest.

The party's order to its federal lawmakers borders on sedition and subversion of the constitution. Sedition is an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful government authority and tending to cause the disruption of governance. This is a dangerous turn of events that must be discouraged.

For a party that wants to take over the reins of government from the ruling PDP, issuing of inciting statements capable of worsening an already bad situation is quite unbecoming. The opposition party cannot claim to be striving to do better than the present administration by aiming a fatal shot at the smooth conduct of government business.

The crisis in Rivers State is worrisome and disappointing to every right-thinking Nigerian, but we know that starting another crisis in another tier of government will not solve the problem. What the APC has done is like starting a fire to put out another. It will certainly compound the problems of the country.

For instance, not confirming the appointments of the new security chiefs would have left the Army, Navy and the Air Force without heads. With the security challenges ravaging the country, leaving our armed forces without commanders would be courting further trouble and risking the lives and property of innocent Nigerians who are probably not members of the PDP or APC. It is, therefore, good that   APC Senators have decided to put the national interest above partisan politics and loyalty.

Again, the budget of a nation is its livewire and it ought not to be toyed with. It affects both the poor and the rich. It is the bedrock of the national economy. Blocking its passage would cripple the country. Everything and everybody would suffer including the National Assembly and its lawmakers. There would be no funds to pay the salaries of workers. Every tier of government would suffer, just because the opposition party is vexed with happenings in one state of the federation.

At the risk of repeating what we already know, it is necessary to state   that Nigeria can only move forward and assume its proper place in the comity of nations when it has peace and stability. We, therefore, frown at anything that will put our hard-earned democracy in jeopardy, such as the APC directive to its federal legislators. It was an untoward order, capable of ruining the reputation of the country's biggest opposition party and risking our democracy.

Constructive criticism is one of the things that define opposition in a democracy. This should guide the APC as it grows as a party. The party must not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is to build a stronger polity.

We wish to remind Nigerian politicians that the platform for their free speech and unfettered expression is the democracy we currently enjoy. Therefore, even in their anger at what they think is wrong, they must be sensitive to the import and implication of their actions and utterances. We enjoin them to put national interest above partisan politics. Nigeria is bigger than partisan considerations and the protection of the interest of the ordinary Nigerian should remain paramount.

Nevertheless, the Presidency should be more responsive to the demands of the opposition. It should not wait to be arm-twisted before doing what is right.