Danger Signals From Incoming Buhari Government

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union of May 1, 2015

Prometheus Bound is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Aeschylus. The protagonist, Prometheus, is a Titan, who, against the wishes of the gods, gives fire to humanity. For this rebellious act, Prometheus is chained and condemned to perpetual punishment.

Prometheus Unbound, a lyrical drama by Percy Bysshe Shelley, concerns itself with the torments this Greek mythological figure is going through. Hence, the supportive elements of Zeus, the god who is instrumental to the plight of Prometheus, abandoned him. He falls from power, necessitating the release of Prometheus.

It looks like this Greek tragedy is about replicating itself in Nigeria. Earlier in the week, the media fed Nigerians with the story of the banning and unbanning of African Independent Television from covering the activities of the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari .

According to the story, the President-elect would not want AIT around him because of security and family concerns. The station aired some documentaries that appeared to be in bad taste and against Buhari during the 2015 presidential campaign.

The President-elect’s spokesman, Garuba Shehu, asserted, “The Buharis have decided that they would have to resolve some issues relating to issues of standard and ethics. We will be talking with them to try and resolve the matter but for now, the station has been asked to stay aside.”

My first reaction to this was, who determines the issue of ethics and standards for the broadcast media? Is it Garba Shehu? Is it Buhari? Definitely not. If AIT has infringed on the right of any individual, there are established bodies that should call the station to order. There are other legal ways of seeking redress.

But some Buhari supporters would hear none of this. As far as they are concerned, AIT committed sacrilege by airing the documentaries against Buhari. They went to the social media to lampoon those who condemned the so-called ban.

Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion. Buhari’s supporters have also aired their views denigrating critics of their principal. Some even called for the crucifixion of  AIT and whoever is supporting them. If we have to follow their parameters, it then means that they too should be crucified.

To show that the action against AIT is repulsive, Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress, spoke against it. The party’s spokesman, Lai Mohammed, noted, “There must be repercussions, within the realms of the law, for media organisations which have wantonly breached the code of ethics of the journalism profession and turned themselves to partisans instead of professionals. But such repercussions will not include barring any accredited media organisation from covering the activities of the President-elect.”

Truth is, Nigeria has gone beyond jackboot democracy. Buhari could do what he was accused of doing now when he was the military Head of State. Then he promulgated Decree 4 which he used to hound and harass journalists.

Not anymore. Today, he is a democrat and should truly remain so. Happily, he appears to be listening to wise counsel now. His denial that he didn’t authorise the ‘fatwa’ on AIT is a testimony to this fact. The President-elect was reported on Wednesday to have said that he was not consulted before the ban on AIT was placed. He reportedly instructed his staff to steer clear of the media and allow his media team to handle all press affairs.

Before the AIT saga, he had said he would order a probe into the $20bn said to be missing from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation account. Is the President-elect saying he does not believe in the audit report by the respected PriceWaterhouseCoopers? Or are there other things to this NNPC accounts that we do not know?

The way the APC and the incoming government are going prompted the Federal Executive Council to accuse them of attempting to force Jonathan and his cabinet to abdicate office before the May 29th handover date. They warned that the magnanimity of the President should not be taken for cowardice.

It is good to hear that the President-elect said he was not on a mission to witch-hunt anybody.  He should maintain his words and endeavour to remain focused on the task of delivering dividends of democracy to Nigerians. He should strengthen our public institutions and refrain from personal vendetta.

When he assumes office, he should remain the father of all and the President of all. If he does not, he will see agitation greater than what happened in the Niger Delta when the late Umaru Yar’Adua was the President. Already, the old Eastern region has begun fresh agitation for resource control. In a meeting in Port Harcourt last Monday, the group known as the Lower Niger Congress demanded the restoration of the 1885 map of Nigeria with emphasis on the right of the people to own their land and resources.

At the gathering, a prominent Ijaw activist, Ankio Briggs, said, “Nigeria is oppressive in outlook and repressive in words. I do not believe that God created Nigeria, because Nigeria is confused. We are too educated to be oppressed. We are not a conquered people. They have done us a great favour by pushing (Goodluck) Jonathan out.”

The APC doesn’t seem to realise the dangers ahead. Now, they squabble over sharing of juicy offices. Some groups want the Senate presidency. Some want to have the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Some want petroleum ministry. In all these, nobody reckons with the South-East and the South-South.

It serves these two zones right you might say. They voted massively for President Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party. Now, the PDP is the opposition party. But it will be a grave mistake if the APC thinks it can do it without the South-East and the South-South.

Ultimately, it will appear as if the media and other oppressed of the society are in for a rough time, but the truth is that no one can bind Prometheus forever. One day, the superior gods will untie him from his seeming perennial shackles.

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