Tuesday, June 22, 2021 9:50 pm
By Richard Akinnola
Section 22 of the 1999 constitution asks you and l to hold the government accountable. When l do this, l don’t act malafide. I’m not in opposition to anyone. I just express my views. Sometimes, there are things l do behind the scene to assist the government but can’t be brought into public domain. But l think it’s only fair to use the same yardstick we use in tackling Jonathan, with the current government. Since I’m a non state actor, I’m free as the air.
Having given that preamble, let me go to the meat of this post.
l had stated it here in the past but for the benefit of new friends and followers, l need to restate it. I don’t know how old you were late 1985 and 1987.
On August 27, 1985, the gap-tooth General, Ibrahim Babamasi Babangida, overthrew the government of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and detained him for close to 18 months. For those period, some of us stringently campaigned for the release of the ousted Head of State and this was without prejudice to the fact that General Buhari ruled with an iron fist, with the promulgation of Detention of persons(state security) Decree 2 of 1984 and Public Officers(protection against false accusation) Decree 4 of 1984. With Decree 4, publishing of truth which embarrassed the government was an offence under Decree 4. Many Nigerians were also unjustly detained under Decree 2 and we fought against this draconian rule till it was overthrown by the deceptive Babangida.
Despite the dictatorship of the Buhari junta, that did not stop me and others from criticizing Babangida over the unjust incarceration of Buhari and our campaign for his release. Why? Because fighting against human rights injustice is non discriminatory, irrespective of the victim.
It was the fight against Buhari’s incarceration, among other human rights abuses, that prompted some of us to establish the first human rights body in the country, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) on October 15, 1987. The same way the FREE FEMI ABORISADE campaign birthed the Committee for the Defence of human rights(CDHR).
I have to give this background for the benefit of some latter day defenders of Buhari and his government, who believe he and his government cannot be wrong. I don’t criticize just for the fun of it. On this page, l had praised the government where, in my estimation, it needs be praised. But each time l post any criticism and his supporters, some of whom have taken residence on my wall to prove to their principals how they are “tackling” me, l just chuckle and l wonder, where were they 36 years ago when l was battling Babangida over the incarceration of their new found hero?
You are free to support anything that attracts your fancy, just as I’m free to criticize where l feel necessary. If and when l get into government, feel free to criticize me and hold me accountable as enunciated in section 22.
This is in accordance with the position of court of appeal in 1982 when it stated inter alia:
“The decision of the founding fathers of this present Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech must include freedom to criticize, should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided by the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism. Where a writer exceeds the bounds, there should be a resort to the law of libel where the plaintiff must be of necessity put his character and reputation in issue. Criticism is indispensable in a free society” – See Arthur Nwankwo v. The State (1985) 6 NCLR 228.