By Dr John Abhuere, FNIM, Director, Centre for Child Care and Youth Development Abuja.
Since the first presidential media chat by president Mohammadu Buhari, there had been plethora of comments and reactions.The most debated aspect of the chat has been the reaction of Mr President to continued stay in detention of Kanu and Dasuki after being granted bail by the court . To critics it is a travesty of democracy and inimical to democratic growth. A good example of such observation is the Nation’s editorial of 7 January 2016 on the presidential media chat which among others advised Mr President to be more circumspect and diplomatic in future. The paper cited Mr President’s reaction to question on court order on Dasuki and kalu and budget proposal for cars by the National Assembly as as its areas of great concern.
This writer is ever for democracy. Consequently any concern for respect for human right, court orders and cordial inter sectoral relationship will always be appreciated by him. However he watched the chat and did not see harm in the president’s response. So let us all be circumspect about what we support with democratic principles and the survival of our country in the face of unending impunity lest we throw the baby out with the bath water.
There is nothing wrong with preaching democratic ideals but it must be balanced with operational reality. It seems to me a trivialization of serious issues when we make cheap appeal to tenets of democracy to advance such cause as corruption, subversive activities etc. To the best of my knowledge, the citizens concerned were not arbitrarily arrested. There is the challenge of ensuring that they do not jump bail after the court order.
The fear is that if we go about the old way paying lip service to issues of impunity and corruption, democracy itself will be imperiled and socio – economic development of the of the country would continue to be severely stalled. These evils are hurtful to society at large and democracy in particular and in dealing we must bear Justice for all, harmony and progress of society in mind. We cannot pretend not to know today that the Nigerian space has been badly fouled and polluted for long now.
This appears to be the time of redress. Any one suspected to have contributed to breaking the democratic norms and public trust or threaten the stability of society must not be invited to democratic tea party or decorated with democratic garlands until such a person is fully cleared. In other words, in the present circumstances of a nation sinking in the ocean of corruption, profligacy, poor management of resources and sectarian/ ethnic instigated and driven crisis, national interest of survival should be above all other considerations.
Thus the editorial and other reactions which were obviously informed by democratic values and which sought to deepen democratic culture are good but we have to be careful not to rob ‘Peter to pay Paul’ or destroy or arrest the growth and development of our society . For a number of reasons, these claims to Democracy do not go down well with me because they seem to me as unserious approach to the task at hand.
I am not in support of any form of dictatorship but there comes a time when a people decide to do things right. The result of the 2015 presidential election is indicative of a collective resolve to get things right by confronting our problems head on. In the present circumstance of our country the president reaction during the chat was appropriate while appeal to democratic norms is a source of distraction and encouragement of evil way. In any case democracy does not permit lawlessness.
There is every need for caution. Democracy is a sweet lovely word with strong appeal and deep emotions. In today’s world almost everyone likes to be called a democrat or identified with democracy. Besides, the right to freedom of some citizens and powers of some institutions are involved. One can easily be misconstrued. However at the risk of being called ugly names I wish to ask aloud: which is more important – individual / corporate interest or national interest? Which one should give way? For me the collective national is more important and superior to the individual interest. The right of one person must stop at the beginning of another man’s own and society must find the best practical way to things in check.
Against this consideration three factors are of importance in appreciating Mr President’s reactions to the relevant questions raised by the journalists viz: a country with a long history of impunity and wasteful spending, the exigency of failing economy, poverty, unemployment and mass suffering and the imperative of nation building and save guarding its cherished values and institutions. Should we allow the oozing atmosphere to continue without purification, the failing economy to slide on without a wedge or check and the warped values to subsist without cleansing or reforms?
For the avoidance of doubt Democracy is not about kleptocracy, mob rule or disrespect for law and order and accountability or the cornering of the good things of life by a few elites as has been the vogue for some time now in Nigeria. It is essentially about good governance, fair play and justice for all. As hinted earlier, Democracy itself is in great danger if not protected from such evils as corruption, anarchy, subversive activities etc.