Democracy is freedom; freedom to exist and to exercise the full catalogue of natural rights.
The quality of democracy in an ordered system is assessed by the quantity and level of freedom the citizens enjoy.
Any type of government – military, fascist or totalitarian – can deliver services of material nature to its citizens; building hospitals, schools, roads and providing other social amenities. But not all types of government can allow citizens be citizens — not subjects or minions.
This is where democracy stands out. The office of the citizen is a critical one in a real democracy as legitimacy resides with the people, and they accord it to whichever government that deserves it.
Also, the government exists because of the people. When citizens live in fear and are wary of raising their voices against the establishment, democracy is in manacles.
Joseph Stalin was a brutal Soviet dictator. Though he transformed the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from an agrarian state to an industrial hub and even strengthened the military might of the country, making it a rival superpower to the United States; he is most remembered for being an executioner and violator.
People will remember more how you treated them than what you did for them. It is true that the late Sani Abacha, through the Petroleum Trust Fund, invested in building roads and other infrastructure across the country, but today, the memory of him is that of sorrow, tears and blood. When citizens in their homes are abducted in the dead of the night and thrown into the pits of silence by security agencies for raising their voices and for doing their bounden duty of holding the government to account, totalitarianism reigns.
Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said last Thursday that “there cannot be real democracy without the freedom of the press”. But I doubt if he understood the weight of his statement, considering how the actions of the administration he serves run antithetical to this aphorism.
No one is spared. Journalists are hounded and intimidated. Activists are pursued and imprisoned. Citizens are threatened and attacked.
Omoyele Sowore, publisher of SaharaReporters, was abducted by the Department of State Services and sectioned in a hovel. Locked up and shut out without justification.
The secret police say he “planned to violently overthrow the government through a protest; he planned to join forces with the Shiite group to bring down the government; he planned to mislead the public to overthrow the government, and that he formed an alliance with Nnamdi Kanu to launch attacks on Nigeria and topple the government”. It is enervating that we are at this curve.
It is now the norm for security agencies to arrest citizens and rustle-up farcical charges to keep them silenced. “Threat to national security” is the defence, however vacuous, for this violation.
No matter how long it takes, some Nigerians will not glide by until Sowore is released unconditionally.
Ohimai Amaize (Mr Fix Nigeria), anchor and creator of Kakaaki Social; a popular novel programme on Africa Independent Television now suspended, had to flee the country after potent threats to his life by agents of the state for only doing his job. He now lives in exile.
Abubakar Idris, better known as Dadiyata, was abducted in his home by men suspected to be security agents, and since this incident, there had been no word of his whereabouts. But why is the Buhari administration dutiful in making political prisoners and exiles?
Former President, Goodluck Jonathan, with all his flaws, did not keep a single political prisoner.
This was despite the insults and defamation he suffered from even the likes of Nasir el-Rufai, who today is highly sensitive to criticism and brooks no opposition.
Why is the government resolute in creating fear and breaking citizens to become mutes – if they cannot be its mouthpiece? Why does the government harass and arrest journalists, activists, citizens but pardon and beg bandits with monetary inducements?
Is violence the only pidgin the government understands? History is unkind to “strong men”.
If the strong man in Aso Villa cares; he should glean some lessons from the ashes of other strong men long gone.