RESTRUCTURING: HURIWA urges presidency to be tolerant of opinions:

By Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)
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“The near anarchic responses constantly oozing out from the media desk of the current presidency in Abuja Nigeria always attacking persons with a difference of positions on certain national issues is totally aantithetical to constitutional democracy which thrives on exercise of the freedoms of expression; free speech and must encourage and stimulate the people to participate actively in the governance of the nation state.”

With the above assertions, the prominent civil Rights advocacy group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has tasked president Muhammadu Buhari to listen carefully to the patriotic and sound counsel made to his government on a platter of gold by Nigeria’s erstwhile chief of Defence staff General Alexander Ogomudia (rtd) concerning the need for a constructive implementation of reform measures to restructure the Nigerian state.

HURIWA said the government at the centre should be grateful to such open minded and courageous former top flight military and security officers for speaking out and contributing to constructive debates rather than take him on as if to say it has become a crime for retired military chiefs to express their opinions within the bounds of the law. "For distinguishing himself as a charismatic patriot and speaking out his mind with the best of intentions, it is immoral and disrespectful for the Media official of President to condemn the exercise of the right to freedom of expression by the erstwhile military General. There are many others who retired as top Generals that have gone into their shells and are not concerned about engaging in constructive national debate for nationbuilding purposes but are simply watching developments from one side of their eyes whilst within themselves they nurse bottled up angst over the deteriorating state of insecurity in Nigeria. Government should appreciate those who take out their time to speak out."

HURIWA has also asked the president to direct his media aides to show respect to the erstwhile chief of Defence staff in both his military career which culminated in him becoming a top ranking service chief without blemish just as the Rights group stated that leaders in any constitutional democracy all around the world achieve more objectives for the overall good of the people by doing a lot of listening and taking into account what is good and useful rather than to constantly become cantankerous and intolerant of divergent opinions coming from the citizenry.

“We take strong exception to the persistent bellicose responses emanating from the desk of the media team of Mr. President, an office that is sustained by the public and at public costs. The Nigerian constitution in several relevant sections which we will cite below clearly stated that president Muhammadu Buhari holds his high office in trust for the good people of Nigeria who are the real owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria. The sections to be cited below also clearly stated that those in government must by all means encourage the participation of the people in the running of government. It is therefore unacceptable that the media office of Mr. President has become the unethical attack dog of the holder of the highest office in the land. Mr President is the father of the nation for the remaining period he would spend in this last term in office and must not operate under any mindset of a regional overlord of his geopolitical region or birth nor is he to assume the ignominious role of a religious bigot. Nigerian President must at all times be the Statesman that the voters voted him to be”.

Section 14 states: “(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. (2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that: (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority; (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government: and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”

HURIWA reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that there is no crime in what the former Service Chief has said regarding restructuring because section 39 states: “(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions: Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for, any purpose whatsoever. (3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society - (a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure. of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or (b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.”

HURIWA said also that it is not incorrect that there is no a general breakdown of Law and order even as insecurity of lives and property of Nigerians has been severely compromised by the inability of the law enforcement agencies to check the growing spate of kidnappings and violent attacks by armed bandits.

HURIWArecalled that General Ogomudia, had in his the keynote address at the Good Governance Lecture organized by the Catholic Church of Warri’s Justice Development and Peace Commission, warned that the continued suppression of the agitations for the restructuring of the country could lead to a violent breakup of the country.

He urged those opposed to restructuring to borrow a leaf from the break-up of Yugoslavia and Sudan, saying that “even in Spain the Catalonians want to break away and that in Britain, Scotland seeks autonomy.”

HURIWA lamented however that rather than listen to the wise counsel made put of genuine patriotism, media office of the Presidency on Sunday negatively reacted to comments credited to a former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Alexander Ogomudia (rtd.), who had said that “Nigeria may be restructured violently.”

HURIWA recalled that the Presidency said democracy, not violence, was the known constitutional means of bringing any type of change in the polity just as the Presidency’s reaction was contained in a statement signed by Presidential spokesperson, Mr Garba Shehu in which he stated thus: “This vituperation, coming from a former military chief speaks volumes about the mindset of groups of citizens who have yet to accept democracy as a form of government.It is very important to stress that we, as a nation, are a constitutional democracy and changes to the country in structure, its systems, policy and politics must abide by the norms of democracy, otherwise they would be extrajudicial and therefore unconstitutional. This system has subsisted, uninterrupted, for upward of 20 years and still going, and the country’s law courts, with its armed forces are primed at all times to defend it, using all means that are lawful.”

HURIWA however faulted this reaction as negative and thoughtless just as the Rights group reminded the Federal government that the current Nigerian Constitution even recognizes the People as the owners of the Sovereignty which confers the powers on the people to determine whether to change and restructure the current dysfunctional structure put in place hurriedly by the military Generals under the watch of General Sani Abacha the then military tyrant with an overwhelming dominance of Moslem Northern officers who ensured that the political and economic structuring as stipulated in the military's choreographed constitution inherently favoured the North. The Constitution correctly recognizes the authority of the Nigerian people in some constitutional forms to determine how best to restructure the Country because nothing is cast in stone just as the Rights group reminds the President that even the Constitution of the United States of America that is over 300 years had undergone major amendments to bring it up to speed with the demands of the greatest percentage of the people. HURIWA also stated that there is nothing wrong in cautioning the government to allow for constructive restructuring to avoid violent restructuring because according to the Rights group a universally acknowledged maxim states that if peaceful change is not legislated into law then violence may spring up. The Rights group said the erstwhile Chief of Defence staff did not call for violence but only sounded a note of warning aboutthe LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE OF A FAILURE TO PERMIT PEACEFUL AGITATION FOR RESTRUCTURING. HURIWA has therefore recommended further capacity building exposures in any Nigerian top rated federal Universities and on the job training to be conducted by media professors for the top Presidential media aides so they can learn to inteprete correctly the positions expressed by Nigerians on how the nation can attain good governance.