The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has raised the alarm that the Jonathan Administration is steadily descending into despotism with a brazen assault on the freedom of expression and the press, the use of national institutions against perceived enemies and a growing inclination to denigrate opposition leaders.
”The Jonathan Administration is anchored on a Transformation Agenda. But the only transformation that we can see is the one from a democratically-elected President to an Emperor, a despot,” the party said in a statement in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
”If the President is not prevailed upon to change course, Nigeria may be in for another season of anomie, reminiscent of the days of the maximum ruler who took the country to the brink before his sudden demise,” it said.
ACN said that the way President Jonathan is handling his political disagreement with a member of his party, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, has portrayed him as a leader who is willing to jettison democratic ideals and principles on the altar of personal ambition.
The party wondered why national institutions have to be bastardized and compromised just to get at a political enemy, specifically citing the role being played by the Ministry of Aviation, its parastatals like the NCAA, NAMA and FAAN, as well as the EFCC and the police, among others, in the presidency’s clash with the Gov. Amaechi.
”Like we said before, we are not perturbed by what is happening in the PDP. Our main concern is the fact that the party’s internal crisis is overheating the polity and threatening the country’s hard-won democracy. After the theatrics of the aviation agencies and their parent ministry, the EFCC has suddenly realized that the cost of the Rivers State’s plane was inflated by US$10 million while the police have sacked the Secretariat of Obio-Akpro local government in Rivers. The question is: Who gave the orders for the police to sack the Secretariat, and in the process take sides with the President in the political disagreement with the Governor?
”Which are the other national institutions that will be drafted into this scorched-earth campaign against a perceived non-conformist party member? If the President can go to this length against his own party man, what will he do against the opposition? Why is it that a democratically-elected President cannot be challenged by anyone, whether or not he is a member of his party?” it queried.
ACN also expressed concerns at the growing propensity of the administration to stifle the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, citing the report by the media rights group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), on the occasion of this year’s World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, as a global testimony to the worsening record of the administration as far as press freedom is concerned.
”According to the CPJ, Nigeria has become one of the worst countries in the world for deadly, unpunished violence against the press. Nigeria and Somalia are also the only African nations listed on the CPJ’s 2013 impunity ranking. Yet, the government has not relented in its attacks against the media: Gestapo-style arrest of Leadership journalists; Fines slammed on Liberty Radio in Kaduna over a listener’s opinion on the so-called Good Governance Tour; Arrest of two journalists of the Kaduna-based Al Mizan newspaper and the ban on a documentary on poverty in Nigeria, just to mention a few.
”Also, the ferocity with which the Jonathan Administration went after a former minister of education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, for claiming that President Jonathan frittered away the 67 billion dollars in foreign reserves which she said President Olusegun Obasanjo left behind in 2007; and the fate that befell NEMA spokesman Yushau Shuaib for daring to criticize the lopsided appointments in parastatals under the Ministry of Finance, are glaring actions of an Administration that is bent on stifling Freedom of Expression.
”These anti-democratic measures will worsen as the 2015 elections approach. Therefore, all lovers of democracy must join us in speaking out against the Jonathan Administration’s descent into despotism. This is the only way to prevent a President’s desperation for power from torpedoing our country’s democracy. After all, a critical benchmark of a democratic society is the existence of a vibrant, free and independent media that will give the citizenry a platform to freely and vigorously debate current issues,” the party said