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Jonathan, ACN Battle Shifts to Press Freedom, Amaechi
« on: May 07, 2013, 05:24:17 PM »
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has expressed concern over what it has described as the federal government's worsening descent into despotism and assault on the freedom of expression.

But in a swift reaction, the presidency dismissed the opposition party's statement, saying that it represented yet another attempt by ACN and its spokesman to stand the truth on its head and indulge in the politics of abuse.

ACN alleged that the manner in which President Goodluck Jonathan was handling his political disagreement with a member of his party, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state was overheating the polity.

In a statement issued Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, ACN cautioned that if the president was not prevailed upon to change course, Nigeria may be in for another season of anomie, reminiscent of the days of autocratic rule.

"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," it said.

It added that the Jonathan administration was steadily descending into despotism with a brazen assault on the freedom of expression through the use of national institutions against perceived enemies and a growing inclination to denigrate opposition leaders.

On the issue of the face-off between Amaechi and some federal government agencies, ACN said it was unfair to deploy the apparatus of government against a perceived political opponent.

The party said the way the president had handled his political disagreement with Amaechi had portrayed him as a leader who was willing to jettison democratic ideals and principles on the altar of personal ambition.

The party wondered why national institutions have to be bastardised and compromised just to get at a political enemy.

It cited the role being played by the Ministry of Aviation, its parastatals like the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the police, among others, in the presidency's clash with the governor.

"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 stated that while it was not perturbed by what was 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."

The party said it is curious that EFCC suddenly realised that the cost of the Rivers State's aircraft was inflated to the tune of $10 million while the police have sacked the secretariat of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area 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 concern 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 3, as a global testimony of the worsening record of the administration.

"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: The 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 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 criticise the lopsided appointments in parastatals under the Ministry of Finance, are glaring actions of an administration that is bent on stifling the 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," the party said.

But in a swift reaction, the presidency dismissed ACN's statement, saying that it represented yet another attempt by the party and its spokesman to stand the truth on its head and indulge in the politics of abuse.

In a statement by the president's Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, the presidency said: "The latest press statement by Lai Mohammed of the ACN, in which he claims, wrongly as always, that the Jonathan administration is descending into despotism, represents yet another attempt by the ACN and its spokesperson to stand the truth on its head and indulge in the politics of abuse.

They should not be allowed to get away with their perfidy."

Abati stressed that Jonathan was a democratically elected leader who runs a people-oriented, "inclusive and progressive government. Under his watch, Nigeria's democracy has been consolidated; the scope for human freedoms has been further expanded and there is respect for due process and the rule of law.

"Ordinary Nigerians appreciate the fact that they have a president who is humane, disciplined and focused."

The presidents' spokesman wondered if Mohammed understood the meaning of the word, despotism, "or is he just throwing the word around for onomatopoetic effect?"

He said Mohammed and his sponsors were in fact beneficiaries of the openness and freedom that the Jonathan administration promotes, adding, "The paradox is that those who do not allow freedom and equality in their own party or backyard, those who are well known as self-proclaimed godfathers and closet despots, are the same ones who are now quick to accuse others of despotism.

"The ACN should start by removing the log in its eyes. President Jonathan is not a despot. ACN is the real abode of budding despots in Nigeria."

Abati noted that the transformation agenda, which Mohammed tried to pooh-pooh, was a well thought-out blueprint on the basis of which the administration continues to serve the interests of the people and move the country forward.

"The evidence of the Jonathan administration's achievements is visible in many aspects of Nigerian lives and society: from agriculture, to aviation, the economy, job creation, power, industry, trade and investment, transportation and others.

"No amount of name-calling or partisan criticism will distract the government's attention, just in case the ACN assumes that its persistent distortion of the facts will achieve that objective.

"The ACN's allegation that there is a disagreement between the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi is also wrong-headed and mischievous.

"Governor Amaechi has publicly stated that this particular allegation is a piece of fiction created by certain persons and the media. We insist that President Jonathan is not engaged in any quarrel or dispute with Governor Amaechi.

"And it is wrong to use the matter of the aircraft that was grounded by the aviation authorities to concoct stories of persecution."

He said the aviation authorities involved have offered reasons publicly why they took their decision with regard to the unlicensed aircraft, which in any case is an asset of the state, not the governor's personal property. "The president has nothing to do with that incident," Abati added.

On the allegation of stifling press freedom, Abati said: "The ACN claims that there is a growing propensity to stifle the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which the ACN quoted, is not a comment on government-media relations in Nigeria.

"This administration sees the media as a strategic partner in the business of nation-building. The government not only enjoys a robust relationship with the media, it continues to encourage the freedom of expression and of the press."

He accused the ACN spokesman of trying to substantiate "his dubious claim by seeking to build something on nothing. He tries in vain.

"The truth is that the Nigerian media is pluralistic, vibrant, independent and free; it has grown in scope, size and in terms of the freedom to practise under this administration."

Abati called on all lovers of democracy to join in reminding the ACN and its spokespersons that they cannot pull down the administration with mere spittle because Nigeria's democracy is strong and solid, noting that "the man at the helm of affairs is a democrat and progressive leader."


Adewale Odubiyi
Owner, Nigeria Oil & Gas Forum

Nigeria Oil & Gas Forum

Jonathan, ACN Battle Shifts to Press Freedom, Amaechi
« on: May 07, 2013, 05:24:17 PM »

 

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