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SOWORE: What’s at stake?

sowore free speech

While campaigning for the Presidency, Muhammadu Buhari described press freedom as a “sound democratic ideal”. However, after a tumultuous first term and well into the second, his adherence to that phrase has been quite the contrary.

In September 2018, a journalist Jones Abiri was finally released on bail after spending two years in custody without trial. The government said it did nothing wrong in detaining Mr Abiri.

Fast forward to 2019 and the situation has not gone any better. Earlier in June the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) suspended the broadcast licenses of African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower both belonging to Daar Communications. According to NBC, both houses had become unprofessional in their operations and thus their licenses were suspended.

In the same Month, the State Security Service declared a crackdown on some social media users who were in the habit of sharing materials which the department dimmed were threatening the peace and stability of the nation.

Journalism, Tv and Radio, and social media are avenues of public discourse. Social media especially has become the center of debate where people are free to air their views without fair of being silenced or intimidated.

Since Nigeria’s cybercrime act was voted into law in May 2015 authorities have harassed and charged at least five bloggers for criticizing politicians through social media.

This is at the root of what holds these three together – their criticisms of Buhari and his government. The exact thing the president cannot bare to handle.

In 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, John Oyegun and others gathered to protest against the Goodluck Jonathan led government who they said was playing politics with Boko Haram.

The protest tagged ‘Salvation Rally’, was aimed at drawing global attention to what the opposition party described as deliberate hijack of the Nigeria police and other security agencies by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

During the protest their voices were heard. After the protest everyone went their way. Days later no one was arrested. It was a democratic ideal.

The context Buhari had to express his freedom of speech is now being retracted from his political adversaries as the case of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters shows.

The medium said Sowore’s “arrest and detention are not unconnected to #RevolutionNow, a series of planned protests against bad governance in Nigeria scheduled for August 5, 2019.”

The constitution of Nigeria protects the right to freedom of expression. Any restriction of it has to be justified under the law without silencing individuals for political convenience. Buhari must preserve the rights he enjoyed before gaining power.

One cannot but ask why Buhari and his cohorts are so swift to act against civilians simply demanding good governance but slow and indecisive against terror men pillaging and killing.

What’s truly at stake here is our rights and freedom and Buhari does not seem to care overriding them for political expediency!

Can you disagree with your government and still have your head intact or will it roll off as soon as you mutter any word of disproval?

Nigerians should consider this if they truly wish to live in a free society.