President Buhari

There is a growing atmosphere of fear in the country, as  a  cloud of intimidation gathers to threaten the fundamental human rights of Nigerians under the current administration. The truth may not be stranger than fiction on this score with regard to the current dispensation as there is something fatally atavistic about the administration which brings frightening images of the past.

In his first outing as military Head of State, President Muhammadu Buhari ran a draconian administration anchored on abridgments of fundamental freedoms of Nigerians, which found its dangerous unpredictability and threat in Decrees 4 and 2 of 1984. These two decrees gave the government wide powers to detain dissidents and Nigerians with opposing voice indefinitely and to define what constitute national security.

Thirty years after the climate of fear imposed on the nation by his administration, the country has again found itself in the same bind, despite claims by Buhari that he is now a democrat. At the Chatham House in London in the heat of the 2015 presidential campaigns, Buhari told the international community that he had become a democrat

It is our considered view that no administration since the return of democracy in 1999 has assaulted democracy and the rule of law as much as this administration. The range of its sins against due process and constitutionality is as wide as it is sweeping from scant disregard for court judgments to zero tolerance for dissent.

Many Nigerians – high and lowly – have been held illegally beyond what the constitution says and without respect for court pronouncements for their release. A classic case in point is the indefinite detentions of Messrs Sabo Dasuki , the former National Security Adviser to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, and Shiite leader in the country, El- Zakzaky. The duo have been held indefinitely in spite of the fact that a court of competent jurisdiction had granted them bail.

Recently, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who was a former presidential candidate organised a peaceful protest nationwide to voice out angst at the parlous state of affairs in the country. He was arrested for calling for revolution, and charged for treason and money laundering. As laughable as this absurd theatre is, the administration has since refused to release him despite court judgment to that effect. Instead, it has resorted to intimidation of the judge who granted Sowore bail.

It is ironic that an administration that came to power under the wings of press freedom and free speech has turned around to launch a vitriolic attack on the same vehicle that propelled it to power. This newspaper has observed that the allergy to criticism no matter how constructive , this administration has displayed is so high that it has rent attack dogs, especially in blogosphere to malign and smear the reputations of critics , no matter how benign. This is tragic, and certainly does not do the country any good.

It is frightening that the current political actors at federal and state levels have adopted intimidation and harassment of critical voices as a state policy. They tend to equate criticism of their official misdemeanour with national or state security. This is a dangerous confusion, seen as an attempt to escape accountability.

No state has displayed such abuse and arrogance of power as much as Cross River State, where the governor, Ben Ayade tends to equate himself with the state itself in a manner of Louis XIV of France. The governor conducts himself as an emperor and presides over the state like an absolute monarch who views criticism as treason.

Recently, a lawyer from Cross River state who resides in Abuja, and has been a noted critic of Ayade’s style of governance was arrested in Abuja and taken to Calabar on charges of treason. The deconstruction is that any criticism of the governor is treasonable, yet we live in a democracy.

Agba Jalingo, a journalist from the state who documents what he termed malfeasances of Ayade’s administration was arrested and now languishes in prison. He recently released a statement from prison, saying that “dictatorship has never defeated a determined people.” Not too long ago, another journalist was arrested in Akwa Ibom for criticising the governor.

The case of the journalist Jones Abiri is well known. He spent up to two years in DSS detention for plying his trade. His sin, he documented official abuses. This is indeed, a dangerous time for journalists and critics of the current men of power in the country.ook authored by him and presented in Abuja two years ago with the government represented. However, the DSS later said that their action was to save him from attacks.

Just last week, Dr. Chido Onuma, was arrested at the Nnanmdi Azikiwe, Airport Abuja on his return from Spain, for wearing a T-shirt with Biafra inscriptions: We are all Biafrans, which is the title of a b

What this newspaper finds exasperating is the odium and venom displayed by the administration even towards well meaning voices whose criticism is meant to give direction and sense of purpose to administration. General Danjuma and former president OlusegunObasanjo have been routinely attacked among other Nigerians for their benign criticism of the way the ship of the state is being steered.

We are of the view that administration comes and goes, history takes note and records the legacies; this fact should be a constant in the mind of this administration. It is not too late to change direction and govern with dignity and respect for the constitution and rule of law.

It should begin to see criticism as a tonic for improvement, and not as adversarial platform of enemies.

There is a need for the Buhari administration to live up to the statement that he is a born again democrat. The current attitude of harassment of dissent and disrespect for court judgments is not in the long run, in his best interest.

The president should be remembered for building institutions and not destroying the evedn fragile ones in place.