‘The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of truth’-Bill Clinton.
The above quote gets me petrified anytime I read it, knowing that my name is Ayekooto- the truthful Bird that the world hates. I do not fool myself that my survival is hinged on preventing full blown tyranny from thriving because there is little hope for a truth peddler in a world full of tyrants. The great American orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglas once said that ‘The limit of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those who they oppose’ and we have seen this in so many examples around the world, Mandela fighting apartheid with his endurance in a prison situated on a remote Island, the Butterflies (Mirabal sisters) of Dominican republic who endured suffering and martyrdom just so that the generation after them can taste freedom, the great MKO Abiola, who choose to be in prison to defend his mandate and heralded Nigeria into a democratic dawn and recently, we have Stephen Kefason, Dadiyata, Agba Jalingo, all whose truth has rattled tyrants and have turned them to prisoners of conscience.
I find it hard to understand that in today’s world, leaders are not in tune with the reality that power is transient and that in a democracy people should strive hard to be leaders and not dictators. The present reality in Nigeria shows that we have a long way to go as regards leadership; our elected representatives are not tolerant of opposing voices and criticism. It has become a norm for the government at all levels to arrest opposition members, activists and journalists with the claim that they are purveyors of fake news and intend to disrupt the peace of the state. Everyone seems to walk on eggshells in Nigeria presently as security agencies are deployed to threaten and coerce opposition voices into silence. The separation of powers which ought to be a main feature in democracy is as good as dead because the judiciary and legislative arms have been pocketed by the executive arm of government in the country. The only time Nigeria has witnessed this type of dark cloud of oppression was in the time of the Military dictator called General Sani Abacha and everyone has fear that the looming rainfall might be another deluge for the country’s human rights abuse.
The ruling party in Nigeria is a collection of politicians who tag themselves as progressives but these same set of people seem to act like the opposite of what they call each other. The retrogression that Nigeria has suffered in the last four years is one that is very glaring. How can we have politicians who claim to be progressives and have absolutely no respect for human rights and court orders? At the federal level, we have seen a gross abuse of human rights perpetrated by the military in connivance with federal government and a state governor; no matter how long the issue of Shiites is swept under the rug, one day it will be a case that will rope in all the political actors in Hague. A progressive is meant to be someone that favors social reforms and not one that stifles or is out to kill it. Nigerian politicians just seem to take up titles without having a hint of what it means, if ever Dictionary writers were to sue people for ascribing wrong words to the political movement, all Nigerian politicians will be in jail.
Now, let’s go back to the names mentioned in the first paragraph, which are Stephen Kefason, Dadiyata and Agba Jalingo. These are young men who have opposed the imposition of tyranny in a democratic system. Stephen Kefason was picked up for his posts on social media which a particular governor claims was inciting and capable of disturbing public peace in his state, he has been arrested and imprisoned without bail for over 139 days. One is quick to wonder what offence a social critic might have committed just by posting information on social media to the extent that he is treated like a prisoner of war. Permit me to inform you that the same governor that has ordered the arrest and imprisonment of Stephen Kefasons is the same person who was responsible for overheating the Nigerian polity during the reign of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014-15. In one of his tweets, he claimed that the President had hired snipers as assassins and that he was on the list of those who had been chosen for elimination, this particular person walks a free man and was rewarded with a gubernatorial win in the 2015 elections but his so called progressive mind cannot tolerate critics of his own style of governance. This same governor of the state prosecuting Stephen Kefason was quoted in the last elections in 2019 as threatening foreign election observers by stating that ‘they will return to the country in body bags’, if this type of statement isn’t inciting during a period that was tense and overheated then I wonder what is. Those who must go to equity must come with clean hands, so kindly tell me why a person who is frivolous with his own expressions seeks for punitive actions against his own critics?
There is no way I will discuss Dadiyata’s issue without trying to bring in the last election in Kano state, a state in Northern Nigeria. If ever there was an election that made a mockery of democracy, it was the elections conducted in Kano this 2019. Dadiyata was a member of the opposition party that was robbed of its mandate and he was very critical of the ruling party. Dadiyata felt disappointed with the conduct of the electoral umpires in the state and the role that the federal government played. He was critical of the tyrannical nature of the present leadership in Nigeria. Like Aminu Kano, a revolutionary in Northern politics, Dadiyata is loved by the masses in Kano and as such was seen as a threat by the ruling party. His criticism of government at any level was always nerve wrecking for anyone at the receiving end because he was convincing and articulate- Dadiyata’s fame and revolutionary outlook to things was considered a huge threat to the feudalists in the Northern region of Nigeria and on the 1st of August around 1am he was abducted while trying to lock the gate of his premises. Dadiyata is a lecturer at the federal university Dutsinma, Katsina state and up till this moment his where about is not known. Dadiyata is a Nigerian citizen and no matter his offence or political leaning has a right to live and to be protected, how can a citizen get missing in a country that has intelligence officers and policemen without anyone having a clue as regards where he is- it has been rumored in certain quarters that he is in the DSS custody.
Now let’s touch on the main reason why I wrote this piece, I wrote this article because Nigeria is in a dire situation. The Government at the helms of affairs seems to have no respect for the rule of law and the opposition party seems to be so lackluster in its ability to play opposition politics. In every democracy, the job of the opposition party is to amplify the voice of the people but that is not the case in Nigeria presently. As I stated in a previous paragraph, separation of powers is almost dead in Nigeria as the Judiciary and legislative arms of Government have been pocketed, it also seems like the opposition party that claims to be democratic in nature has lost its strength as regards tackling the government of day as it concerns bad policies and violation of human rights. The dearth of ideology in Nigerian politics makes the people and masses the losers in this democratic dispensation as it seems both parties are hell bent on turning Nigerians to slaves. How else can one explain that a governor from the opposition party in Cross River has also adopted the style of the retrogressive self styled progressives to the extent that a journalist named Agba Jalingo who exposed the theft of huge sums from the state treasury has been arrested and charged to court for treason. A look at the charge sheet of his case will only make the sanest mind smile and imagine how Nigerians elected clowns into public offices. The pain for me is that the person of the Governor of that state ought to be a professor; you can imagine a Professor charged with leadership in a democratic system ruling with iron fist and trampling on the rights of citizens. Right thinking people in his political party that consists of democrats have condemned his moves and actions of arresting journalist but this tyrant in power has refused to listen, however the pain for me is the fact that the leadership of the opposition party that consists of democrats is yet to reach out to him and advice him to desist from acts of tyranny. How can the people trust an opposition party that cannot caution a sitting governor? If a political party in opposition cannot set an example for the people as regards leadership, how do you expect such people to entrust you with power? This situation leaves Nigeria in a precarious situation as it seems like we have no alternative to the present administration which seems to have no respect for our rights as citizens.
Finally, let me state that the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny and all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to sit idly and do nothing. We are in a defining period where the wheat will be separated from the shaft as regards politics and sycophancy might soon become the order of the day if thinkers fail to act at the right time. We cannot excuse tyranny for the sake of partisan politics; tyranny is like fire in a forest that burns all in its path, we have to speak up despite our political leanings and for the sake of posterity. If Nigeria sinks and all goes to anarchy, we all will be cursed by the next generation for not standing for the truth; we will be blamed for being cowards and not enduring the pains that comes with being an objective critic. It is time for all right thinking Nigerians to wake up to the clarion call and stand against the oppression and imprisonment of opposition voices and Journalist. Agba Jalingo is not just a person as we speak, he is a symbol of what happens when tyranny is out to destroy truth and we all must not keep quiet while he endures the pains and sufferings mete out to him for standing on the core of what makes him a journalist. If we abandon Agba Jalingo to bare his travails alone, we have abandoned the love for truthful representation of facts in every news medium and this means that we have all submitted to the callous hand of tyranny.