Nigeria's history is marred by repeated military dictatorships and regimes that ruled the country for many years. Every regime was characterized by suppressed political debate. Supporters of the dictatorships were rewarded with wealth and important positions, while opponents where publicly and politically isolated and some, like Dele Giwa, were also killed because they were considered dangerous. With the return to democracy, there is now a slow-growing interest in the Nigerian public for political issues and debate - factors crucial to the creation of a veritable Nigerian democratic system. Unfortunately, President Yar'Adua's party, the Peoples Democratic Party or PDP, is instead sowing seeds of propaganda in the media by alleging plots to topple Yar'Adua's administration. The PDP is even accusing opposition parties (which are part of a group called Nigerians for Democracy (NUD)) of
"working in concert with some foreign entities who are hell bent on creating instability in Nigeria in order to play down the growing influence of Nigeria in regional and international affairs..."
"a purposeful and result-oriented administration that will yield tangible and visible benefits for all Nigerians."However, Yar'Adua fails to benefit the people if he sits by and watches his party make unqualified accusations against the opposition. Additionally, Yar'Adua's act of firing Nigeria's Chief of Defense Staff, the head of the Army and Navy further validates the accusations made by his party, and spells a collaborative effort to weaken the opposition and thereby weaken Nigerian democracy. This is almost as bad as Mugabe's thugs beating up Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Tsvangrai, earlier this year. Except in the case, the beating is not physical.
While the PDP's claims could of course be legitimate, their allegations remain mere rhetoric unless they provide clear and concrete evidence of their accusations against the opposition. As they claim to be a party of the rule of law, they should have known that allegations without evidence could amount to libel which is obviously punishable by the law. The PDP should also remember that Nigeria is a country with enough instability. Lack of security reigns supreme from Lagos, to the Niger Delta, and to the North. People are afraid to drive at night not only because of the horrible conditions of the roads but becasue they could also be ambushed by armed attackers. Therefore, informing the populace that there are coup plots and treasonous attempts to destabilize the country do not help Nigerians in any way shape or form.
These actions only serve to create an environment of fear in the hopes of endearing the populace to the PDP. There are better ways to achieve such endearment and affection, though. The PDP has been in power for 3 terms and needs to actually tackle problems such as healthcare, wages for striking teachers, the creation of jobs for graduating students and of course, better electricity supply to the populace. The achievement of those goals would serve the party better and prevent it from resorting to what seems like cheap diversionary tricks to throw Nigerians off the reality which is that we all have to work harder at improving the nation.
I hope Nigerians will not fall prey to such fear mongering tactics and I strongly encourage Yar'Adua to put a lid on such destructive behavior by his party and others. But, I wonder if he can. Nevertheless, I have to hope that he can deter a repeat of such action because sanctioning this unnecessary behavior by his the PDP will be the clear beginning of a return to the Abacha era when Nigerians lived in fear and abstained from political debate or discourse. How ironic it is that we may be seeing the return to suppression in Nigeria, but this time in a democratic regime.