More than any other time since the return of civil rule in 1999, there’s pressing need for the media and civil society groups to be up and doing by consistently keeping a tab on the Buhari administration. There are quite a plethora of reasons for this position.
For one, the personality and aura of invincibility and personality cult that surrounds the President’s persona is so powerful that it needs a third force as a counterbalancing moderating influence. This is important to guide government towards path of rectitude and to guard against excesses and totalitarian streak associated with leaders of Buhari’s hue – one that enjoys the overwhelming support and trust of the people; and whose unquestioned loyalty may breed dictatorship and abridgement of freedom. We have since witnessed this in distant and recent history, the most telling being the dictatorship of Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Buhari administration as it is now has enchanted and enthralled reason and may also have beclouded clear perspective and perspicacity of value judgment. There is also the fascination with Buhari himself as an upright, incorruptible human being not given to ordinary failings such as primitive accumulation, corruption, both moral and material. It is in reality the President’s bewitchment of reason that heightens the element of danger we should avoid as a nation: The idea that the President can not be wrong. It was at a point fashionable that Hitler could not be wrong given the strong hold on nation’s imagination, and his appeal to the youth.
The civil society is expected to moderate all of these processes for the good of the nation, by at every turn, pointing out what may be the excesses of the new government at the executive, legislative or judiciary levels.
They have been championing the interest of Nigerians for decades, and the historic role they played in the evolution of democracy can not be over-emphasised. In 1961, student activists went against Nigeria Defence Pact with Israel, stood against military rule and fervently championed the cause of human rights and press freedom. In some cases, they were imprisoned, persecuted and tortured as was the case with such civil society luminaries as Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransome Kuti, Chima Ubani, Olisa Agbakoba, Clement Nwankwo, Alao Aka Bashorun and others in the civil society movement.
As a newspaper, we are quick to point out that specifically, it was the same civil society organizations and the media that ensured that the military kept its word of leaving power. They in many ways facilitated this democracy, but unfortunately many of their leading lights had died such as Fawehinmi, Ransome –Kuti and Ubani, but more rueful is the decline it has suffered since 1999 when it achieved the objective of returning governance to civil rule.
There were stories of corruption and abuse of office and privileges, and some of them were co-opted into the system without the principles they were known for. It was painful the dereliction of their assigned role of monitoring governance that we have been witnessing since 1999, the best they did were things like fuel subsidy protest and election monitoring group.
Hallmark is of the view that now is the time they should be up and doing at this period of our democracy when there seems to be no opposition, given the formidable solidity of the ruling All Progressives Congress at all levels of governance. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may not be strong enough to provide the opposition we would need, so the onus rests on civil society and the media.