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June 12: On This Day In History

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At last, June 12 has been recognized as Nigeria’s Democracy Day. President Muhammadu Buhari has done great for the bold step to proclaim the day a Democracy Day and for honouring late Chief Moshood K.O. Abiola with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the highest honour in the land, on June 6, 2018.
While honouring Abiola and declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, Buhari averred that while it was not possible to go back into the past, it was necessary to recognize that a wrong was done and that Nigerians would no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.
He maintained that his government’s decision to recognize June 12 as Democracy Day and honouring Abiola with the highest honour in the land were in the national interest and urged all Nigerians to accept it in good faith. According to him, the intention of his administration was to bury the negative side of it and celebrate the positive side of the day the nation overcame all divisions such as ethnicity and religious sentiments.
By that proclamation, President Buhari put June 12 in its proper position. It is a peculiar achievement that distinguishes his administration from others before him.  Any time June 12 is celebrated as Democracy Day, Buhari’s name will be mentioned as one who made it happen and it will, of course, be written in gold.
The National Assembly, NASS, also deserves commendation for giving the legal backing to June 12 as Democracy Day, to be observed for the first time this year.  The action of NASS shows that they appreciate the sacrifices and contributions made by the media and pro-democracy groups who put their lives on the line and others who laid down their lives to enthrone the democracy and liberty we are enjoying today in our country.
Most importantly, Nigerian journalists deserve to be applauded as well as members of NADECO and other pro-democracy groups for the five years of a titanic battle they put up with the Nigerian military for the revalidation of June 12 and the enthronement of democracy.
June 12, 1993, was a day Nigerians trooped out in large number to their various polling units nationwide to cast their votes for Chief  Abiola, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).  It was also a day Nigerians overcame divisions and shunned ethnicity and religious bias which have been the bane of Nigerian politics to vote for Abiola and his running mate, Amb. Babagana Kingibe, even though they were Muslims. In fact, in that election, Abiola defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa from Kano State, who was the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC). Abiola also defeated Tofa in Kano, his home State.
Rather than celebrate and appreciate the feat recorded by the Nigerian electorate, the military, led by General Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the election which local and international observers, including Center for Democratic  Studies (CDS) headed by Prof Omo Omoruye, described as the most credible, freest and fairest in the history of elections in Nigeria. By that act, General Babangida created an unprecedented crisis that would have consumed Nigeria.
Unable to stomach such insult at the nation, and after being in the political wilderness for many years under his tortuous and elongated transition programme, fearless Nigerian journalists and pro-democracy activists battled the military to revalidate the election and enthrone democracy.
The military was fought to a standstill for five years, dislodged and sent to the barracks where they naturally belong and democracy enthroned. As a result of the heat, General Babangida hurriedly stepped aside. The heat also consumed General Sani Abacha and suffocated him to death as well as General Abubakar who quickly retreated and handed over power to a democratic government on May 29, 1999.
Sadly, Chief Abiola,  the symbol of that struggle, and his wife, Chief (Mrs) Kudirat Abiola, fondly called “Mama Democracy”, lost their lives. Chief Abiola died in military detention; his wife was assassinated in Lagos on June 4, 1996, allegedly by Abacha’s strike force. It was a black day for many Nigerians who saw her death as a big blow to the June 12 activism.
Chief Alfred Rewane, a multimillionaire, an associate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and chief financier of  the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), was also murdered in cold blood in his home in Ikeja, Lagos, allegedly by the same strike force (Abacha’s killer squad) set up to checkmate the pro-democracy  groups and agitators.
Mr Chima Ubani, a former Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), died in a motor accident on his way to Borno State to join the Nigeria Labour Congress’ (NLC) in a planned protest. At the Lagos protest, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, almost lost one of his eyes. He was choked and almost suffocated from teargas released on protesters by the police.
Chief Alex Ibru, the late publisher of the Guardian newspaper, survived several assassination attempts by the strike force. As a result, many pro-democracy agitators like Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Prof Wole Soyinka, Lt General Alani Akinrinade and others relocated abroad to continue the struggle. Prof Soyinka established “Radio Kudirat” abroad to campaign and attack the military, in the fashion of “Radio Biafra”.
Many Nigerians were detained, jailed and killed. Some died while demonstrating against the annulment of June 12 while others died while travelling to their various homes to escape the so-called bombing of targeted cities, including Abuja as being propagated by Babangida’s spokesmen and mischief makers.
Blood and tears flowed in the land.  Some notable pro-democracy media houses were proscribed by the military. A few went underground and practised gorilla journalism. The military was confused and in disarray. It was the most turbulent times in Nigeria.
In fact, it was an era of national madness. The military was mad at the civilians and vice versa. Hell was let loosed  The annulment of June 12 turned out to be the greatest crime and injustice the Nigerian military committed against the land and its people since the attainment of nationhood in 1960.
All these show that May 29 did not come on a platter of gold. It came through struggles, blood, tears and sweats of the June 12 agitators and pro-democracy groups. Without June 12 there wouldn’t have been May 29. Thus, June 12 begat May 29. Therefore, June 12 is the real Democracy Day, not May 29.
What happened on May 29, 1999, was a mere call on Nigerians by General Abubakar that the meal prepared by June 12 was ready for consumption. Just as late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and his compatriots fought our colonial masters to achieve independence for Nigeria, so Nigerians fought the military to achieve democracy for their nation.
When President Buhari declared June 12 as the new Democracy Day, many Nigerians mocked him. They claimed it was a fraud and gimmick; others said it was to woo the South West electorate to vote him in the 2019 general election. Some said that May 29 Democracy Day and hand over remain sacrosanct and unequivocal.
Those who made these statements were either unaware or hobnobbing with Abacha’s government at the time, otherwise, they wouldn’t have uttered such statements. If they had participated in that struggle, they would have understood what pro-June 12 activists went through to actualise the mandate.
In all, June 12 is a day of national liberation. It brought pains and calamities to the Abiola family and indeed many Nigerians. Besides the death of Abiola and his wife, his business empire crumbled. It was the price the family and other activists had to pay to move Nigeria forward. Therefore, as the day is observed, the supreme sacrifice made, not only by the but by other Nigerians, must not be forgotten.
Ogbuehi, a journalist and a former June 12 activist, wrote from Eagle Island, PH.

 

Ike Ogbuehi

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Hate Speech Emanates From Hate Agenda, Policy

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Now, the hate speech debate has added to the number of debates in the country; such as the fading rural and urban grazing areas (RUGA), restructuring, etc. The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recently introduced a bill which seeks to establish a Federal Government Agency to check and regulate hate speech in the country and the matter is generating hot debate across the country. Majority of Nigerians have spoken against the bill.
The bill prescribed death by hanging as maximum punishment for certain categories of offenders. Other categories of offenders are liable to 10 years jail term or payment of N10 million fine. The offenders are those who use their tongues, or publish, produce, present, provide, play, distribute or direct performance of any written or visual that stir up ethnic hatred, hostility, violence or cause the death of fellow Nigerians.
The bill is sponsored by the Deputy Senate Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi. The proposed bill is an assault on democracy and democracy loving people of Nigeria. It is an affront to those who risk their lives to fight for the enthronement of democracy and liberty in Nigeria. It is childish, unconstitutional and undemocratic. The bill is barbarous, obnoxious, draconian, horrendous and totally unacceptable to Nigerians. It is sacrilegious and condemnable. The freedom of speech as enshrined in section 39 (3) in the Nigerian Constitution is sacrosanct.
I think the sponsor of the bill is ignorant of what democracy entails. Perhaps he does not know that the best baby of democracy is the freedom of speech. That democracy allows all people to speak their minds at all times, whether it is hate or love, sense or nonsense, criticism or praise, condemnation or commendation. That as the creator allows all human beings, rich or poor, educated and uneducated etc to co-exist and co-habit, so does democracy. May be, he is not aware that the law of defamation, slander, libel etc takes care of hate speech and all that. He may not know, that there is right to refute and needs for apology. Besides all that, we have the Nigerian Communication Act and Cyber Crime Act. Are these not enough to take care of hate speech, if enforced?
I am sure Senator Abdullahi is not alone in this diabolic hate speech bill. There are people behind him and they have ulterior motives. They know their plans and what they want to achieve in 2023. So, they want to make all of us dumb now before the time. So that when they start displaying their barbaric political acrobatics in 2023, we will be watching them like dumb people without uttering a word as nobody would want to be hanged or pay 10 million naira fine. But for sure their plans will fail.
Nigerians feel circumvented and betrayed that the National Assembly which is the heart of democracy and major representatives of the people should be in the forefront of those attempting to murder the freedom speech, the finest baby of democracy. Unhallowed hate speech bill (freedom of speech) now lying in the hallowed Red Chamber waiting to be murdered is against democracy and the people of Nigeria. It is to muzzle and deprive Nigerians their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech. It is sad that this is happening in the 8th Senate, under Buhari and the APC government. Something we did not experience in 16 years of PDP rule, not even under the military governments of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha; and not also under the June 12 madness. Why is it happening now under Buhari’s democracy? Could this be the resurrection of Decree Nos. 2 and 4? Is that our expectation in this “Next Level”?
Now, what law will the senate make for those who promote hate agenda and those who execute hate policy in the country? Because through hate agenda and policy that hate speech emanates. Without hate agenda and policy there will be no hate speech. What do you expect when people from a section of the country speaks, behaves and act as if they own the country. What do you expect when people from section of the country kill Nigerians with impunity. What do you expect when a leader who should see himself as a father and leader of all, sees himself as a father and leader of a section of the country and packaged juicy and sensitive positions for them. Will these not generate anger and hate speech?
It started when the Fulani herdsmen began to behave as if they own the country and killed Nigerians any how that people reminded them that they immigrated from Senegambia in the 1880s. Could that be hate speech? Tongue is not wicked until it is provoked. My people say if a masquerade over displays, harasses and intimidates people at the dancing arena, people will be compelled to display ordinary tree with which it was carved as a masquerade. This is where hate speech comes in. So, if the Senate is looking for people to hang, they should direct their search toward the murderous Fulani herdsmen. There are also many arrested Boko Haram and bandit murderers, let them hang them first, before looking for mere provoked hate speakers.
More so, how do people feel when a section of the country produced the President of the country, the Senate President, the Senate Leader, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the Attorney General and Minister Of Justice. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Accountant General of the Federation, the Chief of Staff to the President, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Inspector General of Police, Minister of Defence, the Comptrollers-General of Customs, Immigrations, Prisons and National Security Adviser.
Others were the Heads of DSS, NIA, DIA, NNPC, DPR, NPA, FAAN, NCAA, NDIC, NRC, PENCOM, AMCON, NUC, NEMA, NSPM, BPE, NBC, UBEC, NPHDA, NHIS, FERMA, NPHDA, TETFUND, NTDA, NAICON, INEC, EFCC, NTA, FRCN etc. Will these lopsided appointments in favour of a section of the country generate love speech or hate speech? If every section of the country is treated well and equal, there will be no hate speech.
It is the ethnic agenda and policy such as this that promotes hatred and hate speech in the country. I, therefore, urge the Senate to make a law to checkmate lopsided appointments in Nigeria. If the president of Nigeria is from the North, the Senate president should come from the South, if the Chief Justice of Nigeria is from the South, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should come from the North; If the Chief of Army staff is from the North, the Inspector General of Police should come from the South and so on. The balanced position will make people happy and stop hate speech in the county.
Lest I forget, President Muhammadu Buhari recently raised alarm that the trillions of naira budgeted for the constituency projects across the country in the past 10 years have no reflection on the people and the constituencies they represent. Thus, the Senate should enact a law by hanging for any senator, other legislators and public office holders who involve in extortion and embezzlement of public funds and in the process impoverish his fellow Nigerians to die by hanging. This is more important to me and Nigerians than mere hate speech. What is hate speech?
Ogbuehi, a journalist and pro-democracy activist, wrote in from Eagle Island, Port Harcourt.

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Sale-Of-State Syndrome

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Not many Nigerian elite became aware when Nigerian politics became a gangsterist affair and what accounted for that peculiar feature, and whose interest such development was meant to serve. Similarly, not many Nigerians had an opportunity to read an online posting by The Times, April 9, 2008. Its title was: The New Scramble for Africa Begins: Modern Imperialism on the Resource-Rich Continent will be less Benign than old Colonialism. Its author was one Matthew Parris, making reference to “Black gangster governments” emerging under the guise of democracy.
It is quite unfortunate that the docile and myopic nature of the Nigerian masses should be exploited to such an extent that people can be induced to sell and enslave themselves. For example, how many people took note or reflected on the following statement of a governor: “Anything that will promote the interest of Rivers State is what I will do. You can be my sister state, if you want to take what belongs to Rivers State, I will not agree. I will not sell Rivers State”. (The Tide 25/11/19 – page 39).
With reference to the controversies over the recent elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, there was a phone call from a Kenyan research fellows, saying that what is happening in Nigeria is “not an exclusively Nigerian affair”. He did not want to go for. Knowing him for his level of articulateness and deep degree of perception, it was not difficult to grasp the message of the Kenyan diplomat.
Commenting on the same recent elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, made statements that Nigerians should think about seriously. He said “President Buhari by now ought to have summoned his service chiefs and ordered a presidential investigation into the violence and observed infractions in the elections, including the deployment of a police helicopter to teargas voters”. He went on to add that “it is clear that he is more interested in the survival of the APC than the survival of democracy”.
The aforementioned online posting of April 19, 2008, did talk about “raping” of African countries by self-interested Asian or Western powers” who sponsor “Black gangster governments”. While such foreign powers do not need to administer or visit the territory, the strategy is to “buy your own gang” and “give it support munitions, bribes and protection to keep the roads and airports open”. What is the vital issue at stake? Matthew Parris said it is oil!
The fact that allocation of oil blocks in Nigeria is shrouded in secrecy and chicanery also goes with the fact that those given such allocations merely become rent collectors. Without the technical wherewithal, they sell the allocations to foreign partners, who should rightly be called buccaneers perhaps, these foreign buccaneers or middlemen, are those who “buy and sponsor Black gangster governments”, for their own business purposes.
The perennial state of instability, insecurity, corruption and social injustices involved in a “do-or-die” system of politics and governance, may not be unconnected with the Matthew Parris theory of “Black gangster governments”. If that is not the case, then why is democracy being subverted and undermined under the guise of election? Why are the security and armed forces involved in the way they are in electoral process?
While there are many glib talks and explanations about the unstable state of developing countries, not much is known about foreign influences fuelling such state of instability. If no other fact can be pointed out, the issue of arms proliferation can suffice to support the theory of foreign collaboration.
Common weapons used by heartless economic interests to maintain the status quo include arms, money, power, intimidation, violence, corruption, poverty, mendacity, hypocrisy etc.
Unfortunately, members of the security and armed forces, wittingly or unwittingly become participants or partners in this sad mission. It is a well-known fact that global capitalism operates at its worst in the oil and gas sector, of which Nigeria is a playing field. When the military handed over power to civilian politicians in 1999, details of the constitution were not made open.
The fact that elected members of the National Assembly were showered with lots of money as allowances and benefits, was meant to provide a safe landing for the military and their collaborators. It is also a fact that a major part of oil block allocations was done by the military and more in favour of their collaborators. Therefore, there is a close relationship between oil politics and the military, such that who holds power matters a lot.
We cannot deny the fact that it takes gangsterism to subvert and dethrone a democracy in such a nasty way that elections can become a warfare. Why are voters being intimidated, bought over with money or burnt alive because of what party they belong? Obviously, there is more to the gangsterist nature of Nigerian politics than what meets the4 eyes.
Not only voters are being subjected to anti-democratic assaults, but efforts are being deliberately made to expand and consolidate power, just like PDP once boasted that it would remain in power for 50 years without being dislodged. Is that democracy?

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Basic Education: Using PR To Address Challenges

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It is a privilege to talk with Public Relations Officers of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) from all over the country.  This National Training session is very important because it has the capacity to enhance the quality of basic education in the country.
It is instructive that the 2019 Public Relations Training is holding in Rivers State. This is because Rivers State is the centre of rapid development in the country. Therefore, the gathering of basic education public relations officers means that they will directly interact with the development process of Rivers State.
I take this opportunity to welcome you to Rivers State, the home of Mr. Projects, Nigeria’s Best Performing Governor. You must have noticed that Rivers is a huge construction site.
UBEC And SUBEBs Public Relations Officers Are Important
Public Relations Officers of UBEC and SUBEBs are key players in the quest to resolving the out- of-school children challenge facing the country.  Fundamentally,  proactive information dissemination to convince parents to allow their children access basic education is important.  This is in view of the fact that basic education is free.
•This entails effective use of traditional and new media. However, each public relations officer must use the right media that will be most effective for his state. But in view of the strata of society being targeted, I suggest local broadcast media and the new media. For the broadcast media, messages should be sent across to parents through indigenous languages.
In cases where finance is available, the public relations officers should work with the Local Government Education Authorities (LGEA) to engage in direct outreach programmes, which will involve meeting religious leaders, community-based groups, women groups and comparative groups in the drive to attract children to school.
•Retention Of Kids In School
Even when the out-of-school children are attracted to school, the next challenge is to retain them in their classes. Here again, public relations officers of UBEC and SUBEBs remain critical partners with other stakeholders.
I believe that the PR Departments of UBEC and SUBEBs should be strengthened to provide positive information on the beautiful things that happen in schools – the improving quality of learning, the free feeding programme (where it exists) and the advantages of good education.
PR personnel must not allow purveyors of negative information discourage children from going to school and giving parents reasons why children should not go to school.  Such negative information comes from sensationalism.  If there is a challenge at a public school, these negative information traders blow it out of proportion.
While we seek better educational facilities, we must always seek intelligent and honest ways of promoting the public basic education system. You can achieve this by promoting outstanding teachers and very brilliant pupils in different schools across different states.
•Advocacy To Attract Stakeholder Participation In Basic Education Across Communities
We have all agreed that government alone cannot drive basic education.  There are limited resources with competing needs. We are also aware that several schools across the country that require attention cannot be reached by the Federal and State Governments.
This is where the participation of community stakeholders is vital.  Public relations officers in different states working with other SUBEB and LGEA officials should identify privileged Nigerians in different communities and prevail on them to invest in basic education schools.
There are privileged Nigerians who can build classroom blocks, boreholes, writing materials, classroom furniture and feeding for children.  These investments ought to be done in line with the capacity of the investing stakeholders.
For the investing stakeholders, they would have their names crested on the areas of their investments.  In addition, UBEC and SUBEB should also initiate awards and halls of fame to recognize these stakeholders and encourage others to key in.
•Education Remains The Key To National Revival
As public relations practitioners, always bear in mind that you are at the most important rung of the developmental ladder of the country. This means that you must remain dedicated.
As it stands today, education is the only way for the country to commence its journey to greatness. In this march to greatness, education plays a key role and the basic education sector is even more important.  That is why public relations officers of UBEC and SUBEBs must engage the process and all stakeholders to ensure that our people appreciate the importance of basic education.
•Education Beyond Politics
As we work to develop the basic education sector, we must bear in mind that education is beyond politics.  Every Nigerian child, irrespective of the political leaning of his/her parents, should be able to access education
Therefore, public relations officers working for UBEC and SUBEBs must place the society above political considerations.  If they do this, they will earn the confidence of parents and improve the enrollment figures in our public basic schools.
Building Networks To Achieve Collective Goals
This is why this meeting should be applauded.  Beyond the training that PR personnel will get is the opportunity to interact and build networks for the development of the basic education sector.
Though the challenges faced may differ from state to state, public relations officials have the platform to peer review and compare notes. This way, they can tap into diverse experiences and better their operational capacity. In the long run, the country stands to benefit. The basic education sector would be enriched and our country would naturally be on the path to growth.
Nwakaudu is the Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media. He made the above remarks at the 2019 PR Training for UBEC and SUBEB Public Relations Officers from the 36 States and FCT in Port Harcourt, yesterday.

 

By: Simeon Nwakaudu

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