The Growing Ranks Of Political Detainees In Nigeria- A Case For Circumspection
Gentlemen of the media, we thank you for living up to your constitutional bidding as the national conscience and the voice of the oppressed but politically persecuted citizens but the media must step up her 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 mouth pieces 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 defense 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 WITCHHUNT LIES. PDP UNPRINCIPLED MEMBERS ARE JUMPING SHIP TO APC BECAUSE 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 OVER JUST WHAT DUMMIES ARE DISHED OUT TO THEM. THIS ARMAGEDDON OF MEDIA PROPAGANDA AND TRIAL MUST BE STOPPED SO PROPER ANTI GRAFT CRUSADE IS 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 AND 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 FLEDGE 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 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.”
Gentlemen of the media, the recent clamp down on top politicians belonging to the only vibrant opposition party in Nigeria- PDP including the illegal detention of the publicly scribe of the PDP CHIEF OLISA METUH is a serious threats 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 and 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 uninvestigative 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 and the people to silence PDP or political opposition in Nigeria by the abduction by EFCC of the national publicity secretary 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 were told how as a military commander the then MAJOR GENERAL BUHARI disobeyed the Presidential orders to withdraw his troops as directed by the civilian C.In.C not until the then PRESIDENT SHAGARI used BUHARI'S military seniors to compel him to withdraw troops and we all knew how the SHAGARI government was truncated and how some of the prominent political figures were physically and emotionally tortured and 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 and by the then military dictatorship of MAJOR GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI. The book aforementioned 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 OFFICER S SUCH AS MAJOR-GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI BECAME STRAINED”.
_”BUHARI WAS IN CHARGE 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 PRESSURE THE CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF, LT-GENERAL WUSHISHI, TO BLOCK BUHARI'S POSTED TO LAGOS.”_
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
(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 whilst 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 must stand up and use their constitutional powers to stop Nigeria from evolving into full blown tyranny because 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. We thank you for listening.
OUR OBJECTIVES ARE;
To deploy the members' creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizens resident within Nigeria;
To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;
To attend International Workshops and Seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights.
To conduct periodic studies on ways, means and strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;
To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and
To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be by transparent mass participation strategies.
***Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko is the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.