BusinessDay

The Spirit of Democracy and its Enemies

Saturday 12 June was Democracy Day. It had this rather mournful and dreary feel about it. Most Nigerians did not feel that there was anything worth celebrating. Some youths went on a demonstration in our commercial city of Lagos. In a typical reflex action, well-armed police swooped on them with guns and dogs. The whole thing was over before it had actually begun.

A fortnight ago, the Federal Government suspended Twitter in Nigeria ostensibly because the social media group decided to censor General Buhari following threatening comments he had allegedly made against Ndigbo. According to some estimates, our economy stands to lose about N1.3 trillion annually from the Tweeter suspension – a staggering 10 percent of budget 2021.

The decision sends the wrong signals to the world. Millions of our youths deploy Twitter for their small social media-based businesses. Twitter is a vehicle for communication and self-expression for many of our citizens. Its suspension amounts to not only an assault on our democracy but also on the livelihoods of many who struggle against unbelievable odds.

As a social scientist, I always move around with a keen observer’s eye. I see immense suffering everywhere. There is hunger and poverty, heart-breaking misery, despair, hopelessness, and untold hardships. The miseries of young people whose futures have been mortgaged by cupidity and grand larceny.

Rumours have been rife that the next game-plan is to block off all social media outlets, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Internet, and mobile telephony in readiness for mass slaughter of innocent Nigerians. The smell of war hangs in the air with the thickness of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, and all the apostles of global jihad are rumoured to have pumped humongous sums to support the spread of sharia and imposition of Fulani hegemony by means of war throughout Nigeria. Those who resist will die. These agents of death see Nigeria as the gateway towards capturing the ultimate prize – our glorious continent itself.

This fear is rendered more palpable by allegations that the minister in charge of ICT and Digital Economy is an extremist terrorist sympathiser himself; judged by his Hitlerite, neo-Nazi fascist ranting and the venom-dripping bigotry that underpins his rhetoric. He is alleged to have been the principal influencer of the dastardly killing of an undergraduate at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi. The parents of the young man are still grieving for justice and recompense.

Extremist ideologies, I humbly submit, are the most formidable enemies of democracy and freedom.

Sadly, the outpourings from General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), do not edify. When asked why he was building a railway into Niger, he casually responded that he did not want to forget his kinsmen and women from across the border. Most of our people who live in borderline communities have relations across our national frontiers. Does that justify incurring loans on commercial terms from the Chinese to build railways into other people’s countries? Would that not amount to a treasonable felony?

Asked about the murderous activities of his Fulani kinsmen, General Buhari retorted that the only solution is to reclaim the grazing routes of the sixties. Never minding that our population has quadrupled since 1960 and that most of the idle ancestral lands are now being cultivated by virtue of an expanded population. The man is, regrettably, an unreconstructed dinosaur.

His rather dull prose last week was rife with dire warnings against secessionists. The obiter about Ndigbo being “a tiny dot in a circle” betrayed despicable contumely. His idiom was bellicose and vengeful – hardly the stuff of which statesmen are made.

On Tuesday 3rd June, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), representing the vast circle of rights and civil organisations in the old North, made a statement calling on the federal government to invoke the relevant statutes on self-determination extant in international treaties and conventions to allow Biafra to go. In a memorandum that was widely circulated to media groups, traditional rulers, and other key stakeholders, the coalition called for a “peaceful breakup of the country to allow Igbo citizens of the southern region to create the Biafra Republic”. They point out that the North, which is saddled with just too many challenges right now, has no appetite for another bloody civil war.

Astonishingly, they blame Ndigbo for the widespread drug addiction and other ills that afflict the Northern youths. They also blamed the Igbo people for benefitting from monopolistic economic behaviour, “despite their notoriety for disregard to every rule of decency and etiquette globally”. They warned that the North will no longer tolerate the killing of their kith and kin in Igbo land and that a peaceful separation is the only solution to these woes.

The Northern Coalition has never mentioned the atrocities of Boko Haram, herdsmen militias, and the murderous bandit terrorists in the Middle Belt and the South. They have never owned up to the fact that IPOB/ESN violence is a direct response to the infiltration of the primeval rainforest of Igbo land by shadowy terrorists. As for monopolies, the biggest beneficiary of a monopolistic economic stranglehold is certainly not an Igbo man.

Besides, when the CNG talks about “the North”, they include the Middle Belt, which is rather very patronising. If the North believes that Biafra is free to go, they cannot presume to keep the North as one monolithic bloc. The benighted peoples of the Middle Belt certainly do not intend to remain the bondslaves of the feudal North in perpetuity.

I am a democrat and an old-fashioned patriot. I would be sorry to see our country disintegrate. But I am also a realist. I know that there are no guarantees anywhere. Democracies, if truth be told, do not die because of violent interventions. They die because of daily acts of lawlessness and impunity. Because of extremism devoid of restraint and forbearance. Because of disloyalty to the nation by leaders and citizens.

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