A major event of last week will be significant in the life of this administration going forward because it marks the beginning of what may be an inglorious and ignominious end.
The #RevolutionNow protest organized by Mr. Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and former presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the 2019 general elections, is a fitting epitaph for a government yet to properly begin its second term.
It is instructive that a major nationwide protest is being organized against a government that has just won a second term – though still being contested at the tribunal – and still has four years to go. It speaks of the depth this government has plunged in public trust and acceptance, and strongly casts a big shadow of doubt over the outcome of the election which the President Muhammadu Buhari won.
No other president has suffered such indignity of rejection in victory and integrity deficit in the history of the nation. Not even late Umaru Yar’Adua, whose force of moral uprightness won so many admirers after he openly acknowledged the flawed nature of the election that brought him to power. Without doubt the tone may have been set by the RevolutionNow protest for what to expect in the course of the rest of this administration.
Some very critical issues have been thrown up by this protest which seems to have divided public opinion – distracting attention from the real and substantive matter – as well as government response to it. The critical issue is this: Does Sowore and the RevolutionNow project have the right under the constitution to protest? Are the policies of this government and the situation in the land not troubling enough to deserve and attract open protest from concerned citizens to express their outrage and grievances?
Since the coming of this government in 2015 on a massive public goodwill after defeating an incumbent president, every of its policies have been intended toward redefining the framework of our corporate existence as a nation on the terms of its Fulani ethnic extraction. Herdsmen have killed more people in peace time than at any other period in our history.
Government had proposed to forcibly acquire public land in all the states of the federation for the exclusive use of the Fulani herdsmen under the cattle colony, Ruga settlement and now control of inland water ways. The situation has become so bad that farmers across the country are no longer safe to engage in their occupation. Insecurity now pervades the nation.
Again, and for the first time under any administration – military or civil – all the security agencies in the country are held by one side of the country, thus creating the unambiguous impression that the government is up to some political mischief. To worsen matter, this government has breached all known principles of democracy and constitutionalism by disobeying court orders, invading homes of judges and even removing the Chief Justice of the nation without following due process, detaining opponents and critics without trial, and persecuting opponents on the basis of anti corruption fight, while turning a blind eye to his friends and political associates. This could not be the government of change the people bought into in 2015.
So, Sowore and the RevolutionNow protesters should be commended for taking the initiative and seizing the bull by the scruff of the neck because this nation is in mortal danger if nothing is done to stem the cascade into the abyss. This government is willingly leading the nation into perdition and all Nigerians of good will should join forces to stop it within the ambit of the law. This leads us to the protest proper and government’s response.
First, government action was militaristic, defensive, tepid and cowardly. It is surprising that government could be so aggressive and aggravated in its approach to the protest as if it was fighting an armed enemy. It is shocking that government would muster such heavy handedness against placard-wielding protesters when armed bandits are having a field day across the country.
In the same vein a pro-government protest has been going on against some international human rights agencies in Abuja for over a week with security agencies especially the police, looking the other way. If one protest is good under any guise, then another should be permitted also.
We condemn unequivocally, the manner Mr. Sowore was abducted by operatives of the DSS under the cover of the night without respecting his fundamental rights under the constitution. This is a sad reminder of our past which we thought had gone into the recesses of history. That it is an issue of discussion today is proof of how bad things have deteriorated under this administration.
To begin with, does Sowore have the right to protest under the law? Our answer is, yes. In a democracy, people are entitled to basic rights and these rights should be upheld totally by government. In 2014, candidate Buhari demonstrated against the government and even incited violence by declaring that baboons and dogs will be soaked in blood if the elections were rigged; he was not arrested.
Now like Soyinka said, it is an ominous feeling of déjà vu; we are moving toward an ignominious past, which incidentally Buhari epitomizes as military head of state, when he abrogated press and basic freedoms with the then Nigerian Security Organisation, NSO, the forerunner of DSS, maintaining special detention centres, and executive drug offenders retroactively. It is just 30 years ago and we can’t forget so soon.
We know where this is heading – a full blown dictatorship; and we also know how it will end. All dictators fall eventually and go into the rubbish heap of history and their memory forgotten like a bad dream. Dissent is an integral aspect of democracy and any attempt to stifle it would be counter-productive to the society.
Government is a representative of the people and we can question it about the affairs of governance and protest is part of it. What is happening is a reminder that we are still operating a quasi military democracy where the right of people can be trampled upon. However, there is also need to observe that rights are not absolute and should be exercised within the law.
This newspaper believes on the urgent need to deepen our democracy and calls on the leadership of the 9th National Assembly to initiate the process of further amending the constitution to remove contentious and conflicting areas of misinterpretation of the basic tenets of our democracy. It is the only way to sustain and preserve its future.