- Posted by Edith Ohaja
- On July 6, 2019
- 125 Comments
Why are so many people afraid of speaking out against evil and injustice in Nigeria? Why are we so averse to questioning authority? I think the answers are not far to find.
Outspoken people are often hated and vilified. They are easily branded as money-hungry, popularity-seekers and trouble makers. True, there are those who loudly declaim against societal vices and aberrations to gain relevance and then turn around to defend same once the pay is right. Presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, and lawyer, Festus Keyamo, who are notorious as staunch defenders of the Buhari dictatorship readily come to mind in this respect.
However, not all outspoken people are priming for a payday. There are those who remain loyal to what they feel is right even when it cannot attract monetary gain. Reno Omokri, ex-aide on new media to former President Goodluck Jonathan, is a good example. He continues to defend the Jonathan adminstration with facts and figures against the unending blame game of the Buhari regime and has been championing the cause of the release of Christian teenager Leah Sharibu. Sharibu has been held in captivity by Boko Haram since February 2018 after her school mates whom she was abducted with were set free because she refused to renounce her faith. Omokri has been conducting a one-man global campaign to secure her release.
People who are not afraid to speak up stir up the hornet’s nest against those in power and this may disrupt their corrupt enrichment and other unsavoury schemes. When attempts to buy their silence fail, they are sometimes framed and maligned. And where they are within the domain of the ruler, they are hounded and subjected to diverse kinds of persecution. In fact, the tentacles of tyrants often go beyond their borders to deal with such people as seen in the case of Saudi dissident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi government operatives in Turkey, where he was living in exile, on October 2, 2018.
Also, I think that critical and forthright people are hated because they serve as the conscience of others. They make people uncomfortable by confronting them with their misdeeds and demanding a turnaround. This is why the Buhari administration has been systematically silencing the opposition in the country by locking up vocal figures like the former PDP publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, for extended periods, or harassing them with interminable EFCC and police cases, as with the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose and Senator Dino Melaye.We must jettison the fear of speaking out if we would bring positive change in society. Click To Tweet
Yet, however much Buhari is denounced openly or privately for his fascist administration, we tend to observe similar high-handedness in our public and private institutions, homes, etc. Activist Deji Adeyanju is presently raising awareness about the incarceration of a lecturer and five students of Madonna University by the police at the instigation of the university authorities for criticisms they made on social media. Another case he’s working on concerns the refusal of the University of Port Harcourt to release the results of hundreds of students (who ought to have been graduated) due to late registration, despite a court order that it should.
(Related: 7 Lessons On How Not To Live: The Story Of Abner -I)
Similarly, two days ago, I attempted unsuccessfully to get a head of department at UNN to lift a punitive measure imposed on a student on the basis of a retroactive order. I posited that equity and common sense tell us that it’s unfair to make a rule and then insist that it should have retroactive effect. Yet, the HOD was adamant, claiming that the student exhibited recalcitrant behaviour by asking questions about the order in which his colleagues’ works were forwarded to the external examiner. The student had complained that although he submitted his work many months before, it had not been sent to the external examiner while the works of others who submitted much later than himself had been despatched.
I was dumbfounded! How can this be seen as evidence of recalcitrance? Does a student not have the right to make such an inquiry when it is known that such works are supposed to be sent in the order that they are submitted? There can only be two explanations: the student’s work had been mistakenly overlooked, in which case an apology and assurance of immediate rectification would be in order or something underhand was going on, which would explain the hostility elicited by the inquiry.
This is part of the reason why we are where we are (no apologies to VP Osinbanjo). At every level of society, people in power take unilateral action for self-serving reasons, bend the rules and intimidate those around into silence. And because they would rather spend time and energy punishing “recalcitrance” than doing the right thing and submitting to accountability checks, the system continues to decay.
If such things are happening in universities which ought to be pace setters in charting society’s course and training the next generation, is it any wonder that students’ unions, academic staff unions and the elite in the wider society who are products of these universities are notably absent in the feeble opposition to Buhari’s administration? Is it any wonder then that Buhari is disobeying court orders, misusing government funds to serve sectional interests, labelling every criticism as hate speech and sending the security agencies against their sources and ignoring regular face-to-face with the press. He sees himself as above the law and the people who should call him to order are either bowing down in worship or they’re hibernating.
We are fostering a culture of silence in the face of evil, a culture of “I don’t want to be a scapegoat”, a culture of sycophancy for pecuniary gain and a culture that worsens the moral degradation in society and perpetuates autocratic behaviour by those in positions of authority.Those who keep silent when rulers do wrong are complicit in their misrule. #quote Click To Tweet
I strongly believe that assertiveness should be encouraged in Nigeria today. We should inculcate it in our children and wards, rather than instill fear of punishment and social disapproval in them. At home, at school, in the church and in the wider society, people should be brave enough to ask questions and get clarifications, they should be able to air their views and speak against what is wrong and they should have the courage to stand their ground in the face of intimidation.
(Related: Response to Pastor Kumuyi’s “Do Not Attack Leaders” Sermon)
I am not calling for the provoking of unnecessary arguments, disrespect and rebellion. As a Christian, I stand for the truth and fair-minded expressiveness. I do,not endorse rascality and the carrying out of hatchet jobs on people in authority as sections of the media, celebrities and the elite did under the Jonathan adminstration to make the country ungovernable and install “change”, which “change” has proven to be an unmitigated disaster that has not only led to destitution, unparalleled insecurity and erosion of checks and balances in government, but has placed the country on a keg of gun powder.
Those who practised subversion against that administration are today playing deaf and dumb or speaking in a sporadic and wussy manner. The media, which we depended upon during the military regime, have either grown too comfortable with the years of democracy or they have been compromised into practising self-censorship. Very few of them are courageously asking the government hard questions and reporting its misdeeds.The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke Click To Tweet
The alarming direction the Buhari administration is taking (relentlessly pursuing its Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda) calls for sustained and forceful, critical bombardment from first, the media, followed by influential citizens, and then the rest of us. Activists like Deji Adeyanju, who has been repeatedly detained by this government, and his Concerned Citizens’ Network cannot fight this battle alone. We all need to deliver ourselves from fear of what the tyrant in power may do and stand for our rights. Otherwise, we may not only be consumed by the conflagration the Buhari administration wants to ignite with its Ruga settlement plan (God forbid!), we will also suffer the judgment of history.
Whatever we do, we should always do it prayerfully and without malice, knowing that our God is the Almighty and He has the final say.
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