Democracy is a widespread people's participatory system of government that runs deep into citizens ’consciousness with the freedom it promises and hits back to the cord of human preservation against oppression and human right violations. By its very intention, democracy leaves the human race with an attempt at bettering and reshaping the world until politicians stepped into the equation, society is then flung to the wall and a new meaning is introduced in the balance, now politics soils democracy to the point that democracy, especially as it is practiced in Nigeria has been reduced to just about ‘who gets what, when and how’. The ethos of the system as a people-oriented model of governance has suffered ruthless scandal in the hands of African leaders.
Nigeria has had an uninterrupted democratic dispensation for 22 years and at all levels of governance, power has moved from one political party to the other, especially between the two major political parties - the APC and the PDP. The strength of character and the normative leadership quotient of the Nigerian leaders have been stretched and put to a validity test within the aforementioned years. The ideals of democracy have not been realized as sheer contempt has reigned unabated in the management of the country’s affairs. The result is an abysmal failure as the actors of the political power play in Nigeria are drenched in the machination of prodigal licentiousness.
Nigeria just celebrated another democracy day on June 12, 2021 - a day adjudged in history as the true symbol of democracy in Nigeria following the June 1993 election that was pronounced as the most free and fairest election of all in the history of Nigeria. On the 6th of June, 2018, eight (8) days after May 29, 2018 had been celebrated as Democracy Day, the President Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria declared June 12 as the new democracy day. This act came after a long public outcry that Chief Moshood Abiola, who won the General Election in June 12, should be honored as the hero of Nigerian democracy.
While the APC government of Buhari received a lot of commendation on the aforementioned, here is where I find the contradiction in the policies of this government. The APC government since its ascension to power has stood against the most critical tenet of democratic principles which are the fundamental rights of the Nigerian citizens to express themselves, assemble freely and protest against draconian government policies as guarantee by the 1999 Constitution as amended. The measure of intolerance of the Buhari-led administration has cast Nigerian democracy to the international community as an aberration of some sort, despite the fact that the APC in 2014 campaigned vigorously to uphold democracy and its principles.
By the administration’s constant threat to media houses and the incessant clampdown on their operations through the National Broadcasting Commission, the constitutional rights of the press as provided for in section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as amended is stifled. The NBC, in most occasions under this regime steps outside the confines of the powers provided for it in its Act to threaten sanctions to media houses even those not resident in the Nigerian soil. We witnessed this during the 2020 Endsars Protest when the military was deployed by the Lagos State governor to shoot at peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate. CNN covered the event and made a documentary which the government through the minister of information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed made reckless statement against the foreign media and accusing them of aiding the youth in their demands for a regime change.
Given the lack of systems and methods of the Nigerian government in managing Nigerian’s huge ethnic diversity under the watch of Buhari, the youthful dominated population index, the global speed of communication and information technology has proven to be a huge milestone for this current administration to attain in that the open grazing scheme so much craved for and sought by it has since become abstruse and obsolete. Moreso, the sheer lack of respect for human rights has taken a holocaust dimension as this regime had utterly failed to appraise the issues and address them effectively. The lingering crisis between herders and farmers for example has remained unaddressed even when the people’s right to life as guaranteed in the constitution is no longer assured in real life when the very issue still remains one of the greatest security threat in Nigeria. This government openly opposed the Asaba Declaration citing the rights of freedom of movement of Nigerian as a reason for such.
By every means possible, this government has made sure it puts Nigerians under a cage of muteness. Under its antics, two (2) bills against hate speech was sponsored at the National Assembly one of which was to make the penalty for noncompliance death by hanging. Huge fines have been slammed against countless television and radio stations across Nigeria on account of criticizing the government. It is quite ironical and hypocritical of this government to call for the celebration of Democracy Day on June 12 when it unleashed(es) brutality on citizens and organizations that do not agree with the government policies and its general mode of governance. A government that plays such double standards cannot inspire confidence in its people. A government that threatens it’s people with war and highhandedness has either lost it or has no strategy to heal itself from within.
Just recently, the government of Nigeria suspended Twitter – a micro-blogging site from operations in Nigeria because president Buhari’s twit was deleted. A twit wherein the president deployed genocidal threats and insensitive utterances that went against Twitter policy. By the aforesaid act, the president shut out over 200 million Nigerians from the usage of Twitter to express themselves thereby violating their rights as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. In the same month, this government celebrated Democracy Day and the president made a long speech to commemorate the event. This could well be interpreted to mean the government is working at cross-purpose with itself. In one breath, the government is treading on fire and brimstone and in another grasp, celebrating democracy. How confused can you be mutating under incongruent prescription, cherry-picking illegality.
The United States has condemned the continuous suspension of Twitter adding that such action ‘has no place in a democracy.’ That, ‘freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are convival to a prosperous and secure democratic society.’ The European Union, Britain, Ireland and Canada have made similar statements against the continuous suspension of same in Nigeria. The Nigerian government under Buhari is unperturbed as the minister for information is still busy issuing threats that other social media blogging sites must register with the Nigerian government or risk being banned from operations in Nigeria. That democracy is under threat in Nigeria is unfortunate, that the international community is pissed off and the government barely cares about that pains an ugly scenario of a brutal regime has vested on its citizens as well as disregard for her foreign counterparts.
The President at an interview some days back informed the nation that the Endsars Protest of last year was actually orchestrated by the youths to remove him from office by unlawful means. A protest that had a clear objective, with a proposal sent to government wherein it responded to the nation’s demand to end SARS. That interview gave discerning Nigerians an insight into the president’s mindset. It’s disheartening and a spectacular display of ignorance to hold such an unfortunate view that the exercise of the fundamental rights of citizens provided for in the constitution is now a ploy to remove a sitting president from office. With the aforementioned expression, it is inferable that much more than the action of the Lagos State Government, the presidency has a hand in the shooting of innocent Nigerians at the Lekki tollgate on the 20th of October 2020 during the Endsars protest.
Not only is the Nigerian President unprepared for leadership, he is also ignorant of processes and the constitutional framework of citizens’ engagement in governance in the exercise of human rights. The global trend today is that the creation of the internet has expanded the right to human communication and once that right is inalienable, it cannot be withdrawn because freedom of expression is a non-derogable right that cannot even be negotiated. Dictatorial leaders like Buhari cannot tolerate the peoples’ use of the internet to negotiate their space in a country like Nigeria. One of the reasons the internet was invented is to pull down oppression and expand the frontiers of human communication such that the access to information and the platforms for human interactions remains unlimited. With this very viral quality of the internet, every empire, kingdom and government of the world today as we know it is heavily reliant on the internet which in turn dictates the pace of world affairs. The Nigerian government which has majority of its leaders, from the old generation, finds it extremely difficult play a catch up with its youthful and energetic population, hence the constant jittery that the youth plan to remove the president from office by unlawful means.
Nigerians must be free to exercise their fundamental rights as that is the only succor left for them having been led poorly to live low quality lives and impoverished in ways that keep the average Nigerian gloomy and distraught. The government had better come to terms with the truth that the daily clampdown on the citizens cannot deter them from the expression of their fundamental rights. The brutal and draconian approach of the government will continue to meet fierce resistance as the citizens are emboldened to ask questions until government finds an explanation to us and how so that since independence, Nigeria is yet to fix basic amenities for her populace and drive the economy towards a prosperous lot where all and sundry will find a reason to raise their voice to the dream and reality of freedom.
The thought that we have become the veterans of creative suffering as the bane of ethnicity ravages the totem of our common unity. Nigerians are asking why tribalism is dictating the face of our existence. Why criminals are pardoned and treated with kid-gloves just because of the premise of their geography and tribal lushness. Why inequality and unfairness reign in the land that swore to protect all under the umbrella of equity and justice. Why a tribe threatens another with death and the government stands in the middle of this tongue-tied. Why the government deploys the Army against one tribe as it beckons for secession and plays politics with the rest of us, confusing herself around the issues it should deal with forthrightly.
We must find the answers to these questions to leap up the oasis of freedom. The faith of our unity will not leave this trial until the verdict of justice is made clear. This conversation will not die as much as we live and the generation after us will make the demands if we fail to make meaning out of this strange union that seemed to have defied even its own solutions.
I shall go to Rabbi again.