Arbitrary arrest, big blow to speech freedom

Sir: If before now, you needed any more evidence to accept that Nigeria has lost all pretence to democracy under President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling government, then look no further, the arrest of Tanko Yakassai popularly known as Dawisu, who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and media aide (now sacked by the way) to the Governor of Kano State Abdullahi Ganduje, offers that poignant evidence and reminder.

The whereabouts of Dawisu was first declared unknown, following his criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari over his inept handling of the security situation, asking Buhari to resign if he does not have solution to the prevailing security situation. But it was not until Saturday morning that it was confirmed that the Department of State Security Services (DSS) had arrested and conveyed him from Kano to Abuja in a Gestapo style arrest that is only a sordid reminder of the dark days of military dictatorship.

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So, here is what is disturbing. Dawisu was arrested for only expressing his constitutional right to free speech and demanding accountability from a government that has a responsibility to secure the people. The other one is that, if Dawisu, who is a prominent member of the APC and erstwhile aide to the governor, can be arrested in such arbitrary manner, then one may need no further clarification on whether Nigeria has lost all pretence to democracy.

The right to free speech is not just constitutional, it is a God-given right that will never and has never been at the discretion of the state. It is the reason you will too often hear them say in the United States of America, that everyone is endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights (cannot be taken away), among these rights is liberty and one of the most fundamental expression of liberty is the freedom of speech, the right to hold an opinion and impart idea. Sadly, what we have seen consistently under President Buhari’s government, just like in the case of Dawisu is that rather than guarantee the right of the people to free speech, there is abuse, violation and deliberate effort to criminalise dissent and intimidate (using brute force) those who demand better of their own government. For me, this can never be democracy; it is far from it, what is presently playing out under Buhari is borderline absolutism – an idea that is completely alien to true democracy.

Everyone should be worried, isn’t it scandalous, that after the government has failed to protect us, it is now doing everything to suppress and take away our right to express our dissatisfaction, if the right to expression is taken from us, what then is left of our humanity? 

If there is anything I have come to know about democracy, it is the fact that the power of the people will always trump those of the people in power, as with any other time in history, time will tell again.
Seun Awogbenle

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