The Nigerian political arena became tense in the last week of year 2014 as both the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Army issued terse warnings to politicians to watch their utterances. To cap the edifice, President Jonathan also flashed the yellow card threatening to deal with trouble-makers in 2015. Sequel to the warnings, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, a key opposition figure and spokesman of the All People’s Congress (APC), raised the alarm that security agents were making moves to arrest him.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) wishes to caution the major dramatis personae (the Presidency, the ruling party, the opposition, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police) on the need to observe decorum, adopt civilized behavior, respect the rule of law and strictly adhere to the principles of democracy. These are the only ways to avoid throwing Nigeria into chaos before, during and after the 2015 general elections.
The Nigerian Police is reminded that it belongs to the Nigerian people and not to any political party. We frown upon ugly incidents in the past in which the police stood akimbo as hooligans attacked members of the opposition or acts of connivance in which policemen protected members of the ruling party as they commited acts of impunity. The only way the Nigerian Police can build confidence in the people is not only by remaining neutral but by being seen to be transparently impartial.
In particular, we warn the Nigerian Police and other security agencies not to toy with the idea of arresting or detaining members of the opposition on flimsy excuses and trumped-up charges. The arrest of Alhaji Lai Muhammed during the Osun State gubernatorial election was in bad taste. It was an assault on free speech.
The arrest of the spokesperson of the opposition implies the gagging of the opposition. That is the road to perdition, dictatorship and totalitarianism. It must never happen again. Nigerians are restless at the moment and the whole country can be likened to the hen which perches on a rope: neither the rope nor the hen can be stable. It was the intimidation of the opposition members by law enforcement agencies which brought down the First and Second Republics.
Members of the opposition are also cautioned to remember we have no other country besides Nigeria. What matters is our dear country, Nigeria. Efforts aimed at securing change of leadership and political control must therefore be made with due regard for maintaining peaceful coexistence, law and order. The opposition should refrain from character assassination or do or die politics. Nigerians cannot be fooled by those who build castles in the air. The opposition will be held accountable for promises made to Nigerians.
MURIC appeals to the Nigerian Army to stay out of politics. This is the only way to retain its integrity. Politicking is unprofessional for any military institution and the Nigerian Army should not be portrayed as the military wing of the ruling party. In addition, involvement of the Nigerian military will be an unnecessary and debilitating distraction in the war against insurgents.
We take exception to the Presidency’s warning to deal with trouble-makers in 2015. By tying 2015 as a specific date to his warning, the Presidency has turned on the red signal regarding the 2015 elections. This is an unnecessary tension-rousing statement and it has already started creating tension in the political circle.
MURIC requests clarification from Mr. President: who are the trouble-makers? Is it members of other political parties who have legitimate cause to issue statements to the general public or members of Boko Haram who are detonating bombs, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians?
We advise President Jonathan to develop the stomach for opposing ideas and criticism as these constitute the mirror through which a true leader can see himself, assess and improve upon his own performance. Mr. President must bravely face the truth and start seeing his critics as his best friends. On the contrary, Nigeria’s leader must beware of sycophants and praise-singers because such people are faulty barometers for feeling the pulse of society.
President Jonathan recently said that Nigerians would praise him after leaving office. We disagree with this pattern of assessing leaders. A leader’s assessment sheet is always there long before he leaves office. He sees both the accolades and the condemnations while still in office. Mr. President himself recently admitted that he often received good and bad pieces of advice. We counsel the president to critically and objectively separate the wheat from the chaff at all times.
Finally, MURIC charges opposition parties not to be intimidated by the threat to deal with trouble-makers. They must not relent in their resolve to strengthen democracy in the country, to promote free speech and to liberate the jamaaheer (poor masses). We appeal to the rest of civil society to rise to the occasion as Nigeria crawls towards the 2015 polls.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)