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Nigeria’s democratic backsliding

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Democratic Nigeria

By Aminu Ali

Freedom of speech is one of the cardinal pillars of democracy and an accelerator of transition to democratic consolidation.

But in Nigeria, free speech is routinely being threatened.

For instance, the incessant and flagrant clampdown on activists, journalists and preachers who are bold enough to call out the downright incompetence, impunity and cluelessness of those who lead them is quite alarming.

Some of them are being harassed and intimidated, others are detained for several months without trial or are being denied bail even after securing an order from a court of competent jurisdiction.

Freedom of expression, rights to lawful assembly and peaceful protest are inalienable as they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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But while pro-government protesters are given the freedom to conduct their rallies, those oppose to its unpopular policies are being suppressed using state security apparatuses.

As Rosa Luxemburg aptly argues “freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party…. is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters.”

An unrepentant fascist

As Buhari’s government intensifies its efforts to gag dissent, concerns about the shrinking of civic space and heightened risk of democratic regression are becoming more and more pronounced. This is evident in the scale of public outrage that trailed the illegal detention of the organizers of the #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowere and Bakare Mandate.

When civil rights are denied, accountability in governance is well-nigh impossible and, consequently, politics of irresponsibility prevails and the nation plunges into dictatorship.

Therefore, Nigerians need to be more vigilant in averting the seeming erosion of civic space and subversion of democratic norms. If we remain acquiescent, despondent or complacent in the face of ceaseless assaults on our civil rights, our rulers will become bolder in wrecking the ideals upon which democracy is built.

In 1983, Major General Buhari (as he was then known) overthrew a democratically elected government.

The military government he formed became notorious for promulgation of draconian and repressive laws, such as the infamous Decree 4, which criminalized dissent.

Nigerians forgave his heinous act and elected him as their civilian president.

Alas, the brazen violations of civil and democratic rights and the wanton disregard for the rule of law under Buhari’s watch give Nigerians the impression that he is an unrepentant fascist.

The overt endorsement of the Social Media Bill by the APC-led government is also a manifestation of its anti-democratic posture. In his inaugural speech in May 29, 2015 president Buhari acknowledged the role played by the social media in securing his election victory.

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Surprisingly, however, the government he leads is now unwilling to tolerate the censure his predecessor was subjected to by the same media he praised not quite long ago!

Rule of law under threat

Selective obedience to court order is now a commonplace in Nigeria. Governments swiftly obey orders that suit them while ignoring those that do not.

For example, when the Code of Conduct Tribunal granted an order to President Buhari to suspend the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, he happily implemented the order.

But when courts ordered for the release of Sowere and the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, El-zakzaky, the same government has blatantly refused to comply!

What this means is that the State has now become a promoter of lawlessness.

The principle of separation of power is increasingly being threatened.

The legislature has been compromised; it is a bunch of yes boys of the Presidency.

Executive bills are being passed by lawmakers without robust debates and, worse still, sometimes even before they are privy to its content.

In essence, the legislature is seemingly a mere rubber stamp.

The judiciary is also not spared: intimidation of judges, disregard for court order and desecration of court are the order of the day. When the independence of these organs is undermined through whatever means, executive recklessness prevails.

Sham elections

The integrity of our electoral process is rapidly diminishing.

As I argued elsewhere, “voter suppression, ballot snatching and stuffing, vote-buying, violence, militarization of polls, among other forms of irregularities and malpractices, have become the defining features of our elections.”

The outcome of polls is not determined by popular vote. Consequently, elections no longer provide opportunities for the electorate to humiliate leaders who have under-performed.

In other words, those who have performed abysmally can secure reelection as long as they have control over security agents and possess money to hire thugs and buy votes.

Politics of brinksmanship is pervasive in Nigeria, largely because holding political offices is the most lucrative occupation, as holders have unfettered access to public purses.

And since we have no viable system of accountability, they brazenly plunder our collective patrimony, often without any serious consequences.

Therefore, struggles to capture and retain political office become a do or die affair.

More worrisomely, this politics of brinksmanship has made democratic consolidation difficult and, worse still, is aggravating democratic backsliding.

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From the foregoing analyses, one thing is very clear: Nigeria is experiencing what Nancy Bermeo calls democratic backsliding. This is driven by abuse of civil and democratic rights; disregard for the rule of law; weakened independence of the legislature and judiciary; decline in the integrity of electoral process and politics of brinksmanship; poor management of the country’s economy and imposition of unpopular/anti-poor policies, which makes the democracy unbeneficial to the toiling Nigerians.

The dwindling living condition of Nigerians, which is occasioned by imposition of neo-liberal and anti-poor policies, has become horrible.

Withdrawal of subsidies, devaluation of naira, increase in taxes and their attendant consequences on the cost of living, declined investments in social services – such as education, health, portable water and electricity – have not only denied us the dividend of democracy but have deepened the crises that pose existential threat to the country’s corporate existence.

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Nigeria is gradually getting enmeshed in debt crisis.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), 50% of the country’s revenue goes to debt servicing.

Also, a Premium Times investigation shows that a quarter of the 2020 budget will go to debt servicing.

Yet, Nigerian government has continued to borrow.

It’s unthinkable that while the government claims that it has recovered looted funds, blocked leakages and expanded our revenue base, it has continued to borrow money to carry out its obligations. One of the terrible consequences of this over borrowing is that the county is left with little resources to invest in the provision of essential social services.

From the foregoing analyses, one thing is very clear: Nigeria is experiencing what Nancy Bermeo calls democratic backsliding. This is driven by abuse of civil and democratic rights; disregard for the rule of law; weakened independence of the legislature and judiciary; decline in the integrity of electoral process and politics of brinksmanship; poor management of the country’s economy and imposition of unpopular/anti-poor policies, which makes the democracy unbeneficial to the toiling Nigerians.

Aminu Ali wrote from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via email aminuali@yahoo.com

 

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Headlines

Kano Focus is hiring

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Kano Focus

Kano Focus, the most trusted local journalism site in Kano state, Nigeria is expanding its team to serve its audiences better.

We are therefore seeking for enterprising, experienced, and ethical candidates to fill the following vacancies:

Title: Editor

Type: Full time

Contract: 1 year (Renewable)

Location: Kano

Responsibilities

The Editor manages a small team of journalists for the production of multimedia content for Kano Focus and its social media platforms.

S/he is aware of and accepts that the demands of online journalism may often need flexibility and working outside normal office hours in order to meet deadlines or to deal with evolving situations.

The Editor’s key responsibilities are to coordinate, plan, and guide content production, develop and maintain high professional standards and ensure quality content, as well as motivate team members to think of how to do things better.

Requirements

The right candidate must demonstrate proven editorial judgment, ability to adapt content across different platforms, experience in planning and directing news coverage, thorough knowledge of the local media environmental, as well as an excellent command of the English language.

Title: Video Journalist

Type: Full time

Contract: 1 year (Renewable)

Location: Kano

Responsibilities

The video journalist is responsible for the production of video content for Kano Focus and its social media platforms.

S/he is aware of and accepts that the demands of online journalism may often need flexibility and working outside normal office hours in order to meet deadlines or to deal with evolving situations.

The video journalist’s key responsibilities are to shoot and edit video and audio materials for use across multiple platforms, and create engaging social media content in form of video, audio, and graphics.

Requirements

The right candidate must demonstrate an excellent track recording in video and audio recording and shooting, thorough understanding of social media content production, as well as expertise in the production of graphics, pictures, and audio, for specific social media platforms.

Title: Office Manager

Type: Full time

Contract: 1 year (Renewable)

Location: Kano

Responsibilities

The Office Manager is responsible for managing the finances and administration of the Kano Focus office.

S/he is responsible for contract management, handling official correspondences, daily financial administration, petty cash management, equipment procurement and maintenance, as well as routine maintenance of office security and hygiene.

Requirements

The right candidate must demonstrate good communication and presentation skills, fluency in English language, experience in financial bookkeeping, as well as proficiency in MS Word, Excel and basic accounting software.

Application

Eligible candidates should send an application letter and CV to info@kanofocus.com by July 20, 2020.

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Kano COVID-19 cases fall to 187

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COVID-19 Update

Mukhtar Yahya Usman

The Kano Ministy of Health says 187 persons are currently infected with COVID-19 in the state.

Kano Focus reports that the ministry tweeted on Monday evening that no new case was recorded from 128 results received on Monday.

Also no patients were discharged.

Statistics from the ministry show that Kano state has so far tested 14,448 persons out of which 1,268 turned out positive.

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However, 1,029 have been discharged while 52 have died.

Meanwhile, the total number of Nigerians infected with COVID-19 has risen to 17, 458 on Monday according to the Nigeria Center for Disease and Control (NCDC).

The NCDC said 29,286 Nigerian residents had tested positive to the virus but 11,828 have been discharged while 654 have died.

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Court jails man 14 years for raping 8 year old girl

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No Rape

Nasiru Yusuf

A Kano state High Court has sentenced one Abdullahi Idris to 14 years imprisonment for raping an 8 years old girl.

Kano Focus reports that the presiding judge, Khadija Sulaiman also directed the convict to pay N50,000 damages to the victim.

Idris, a resident of Sharada in Kano Metropolis had on August 29, 2015 raped an eight year old girl in an uncompleted building.

The offence according to the prosecution counsel Zainab Bala Sani contradicted section 283 of the Penal Code.

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The judge passed the sentence after the prosecution counsels Zainab Bala Sani and Maryam Muhammad Jibrin presented four witnesses while the convict defended himself.

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