The Punch’s 9th August editorial: “Citizens must defend democratic rights”, speaks eloquently to the state of siege which reigns under the supposedly democratic regime of Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and its APC government. This regime’s intolerance for dissenting views is matched only by its unending flow of deceit, corruption and burdening of the masses with ever increasing hardship.
Claiming to represent change when it came to power in 2015, and fronting an anti-corruption campaign, APC in power has been the most corrupt in Nigeria’s history. Claiming that it will make life better for the masses, APC in government has continuously increased electricity tariffs, fuel pump price, VAT, bank charges, stamp duty and tenancy taxes.
That is why the government is uncomfortable when people present alternatives, speaking truth to power. A demonstration of this is the sharp increase in fine for “hate speech” (which is loosely defined to cover critical positions against government officials) from N500,000 to N5m.
Nigeria Info 99.3FM has been penalised by the Nigeria Broadcast Corporation, using this new code, for “providing its platform to be used to promote unverifiable and inciting views that can incite crime, public disorder,”. This was after Dr Mailafia Obadia, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria made remarks that government officials considered “insulting” on the mismanagement of the crisis in Southern Kaduna where not less than 178 people have been killed in communal clashes since the beginning of the year.
Despite its pitiable governance records, the regime takes severe exception to being insulted. Three people were arrested in Katsina, the president’s home state in May, for insulting Maj-Gen. Buhari. These included a 70-year old man! Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini and his wife have also been detained because Idakpini dared criticize Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, the chief of army staff, over shoddy treatment of soldiers fighting Boko Haram in the north-east.
Journalists have not been spared the ire of the authoritarian regime as shown with the big stick applied on Nigeria Info. But the big stick used is not only fine. Reporters sans Frontiers say, “Nigeria is now one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists”. They are “often spied on, attacked, arbitrarily arrested or even killed.”
One of the journalists killed was Alex Ogbu a member of the SWL. The police shot him in January while covering a protest of Shi’ites demanding the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzakky, their leader who has been held for five years despite several court orders for his release. They tried to cover up this gruesome deed, saying Ogbu fell and hit his head on a sharp object, until an autopsy tore their lies to bits.
The regime’s penchant for repression is not limited to the federal level or to APC governments in the states. Afterall there is really no difference between the two parties of the bosses i.e. APC and PDP, as we can see with the upcoming Edo state gubernatorial elections where the candidate of APC was that of PDP four years ago and that for PDP became governor under the APC flag!
Prof Ben Ayade of Cross River state had Agba Jalingo, a journalist and member of the AAC arrested on trumped up charges for daring to expose massive corruption by the state government. He was released on bail only after national and international outcry. Even bloggers are not spared. Mr Yahaya Usman was arrested by the Niger state government in July, for not disclosing the source of “official secrets” he published on his blog.
Freedom of conscience to profess any or no faith is no less under attack from the repressive machinery of the regime. Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a 22-year old Kano musician was arrested in March after his family house was burnt down because of views he expressed on WhatsApp which some considered blasphemous. He has since then been tried by a Sharia court and sentenced to death by hanging. Mubarak Bala, a 36-year old Kaduna-based lawyer and president of Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN) has been in detention since his arrest in April for expressing atheistic views.
The heavy hand of the regime on protesters have not ceased either. In contravention of a court ruling that its disruption of the Coalition for Revolution’s #RevolutionNow nationwide protest last year was “illegal, oppressive, undemocratic and unconstitutional”, it still ordered a crackdown on protesters marking the #RevolutionNow launch anniversary, this year. 107 CORE activists were arrested across the country.
The regime’s regular recourse to dictatorial means are signs of its moral and political weakness. It is meant to cower us into slavish acceptance penury, hunger and perpetual insecurity that has become the state of working-class people’s lives. We must not accept this. Its totalitarian might cannot reign supreme. We must deepen our resistance, defend our rights, and fight for system change to establish a working people’s democracy.
by Baba AYE