The fallout from the Leadership's "Yar'Adua Sick Again" article continues.
Apparently, "[i]n keeping with his commitment to upholding the rule of law at all times," Nigeria's President, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, had publishers and editors from the Leadership paper arrested. They were arrested by the police less than 24 hours after they had been interrogated by the SSS who in the recent past, shut down and arrested the journalists at Channels TV in September, arrested Nigerian political bloggers Jonathan Elendu (who cannot leave Nigeria) and Emeka Asiwe (who has not been heard from since his arrest in October).
Prior to the arrests, the editors and journalists at Leadership Newspaper were interrogated by the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, who 'invited' them to police headquarters in Abuja. The journalists were then also 'invited' by the SSS, which reports directly to the President, for further interrogation over the course of several days.
IS NIGERIA A POLICE STATE?
It is curious that a President who fashioned himself around a "rule of law" mantra upon entering office a year ago, now has the Police and his security agents at the SSS, interrogating and arresting journalists over a story that has nothing to do with national security but merely his health. This action by the administration is simply one of many that suggests that Nigeria is not a democracy and not even pretending to be. In truly democratic nations, when journalists make mistakes, they retract their errors, provide public apologies and are then dragged to court to defend defamation challenges when the publication's error negatively impacted an individual/organizations character and maybe livelihood. Considering the fact that Yar'Adua threatened to sue the newspaper already, and apparently has that option, these arrests are an unnecessary show of undemocratic force.
Reacting to the arrests, Festus Keyamo, a lawyer in lagos, aptly said,
"[This is] the latest ... intolerability displayed by President Umaru Yar’Adua's administration towards the Press.
Not long ago, we witnessed the unjust closure of Channels T.V, ... [t]he recent arrest and detention of Jonathan Elendu and [Emeka] Emmanuel Asiwe, both on-line journalists, is still fresh in our memory.
Their offence(s) have not been made known. They were not charged to court...[and] a popular programme on A.I.T, ... Focus Nigeria, has been proscribed by the Federal Government.[sic]
The irresistible conclusion we can draw is that the Yar’Adua administration has refused to be an Open Regime where the flow of information is always guaranteed, leading to all kinds of speculations by the Press."THIS IS 'RULE OF LAW' DEMOCRACY
Yar'Adua's draconian measures are also unconstitutional. The freedom of the press is a guaranteed right and it applies even when the press makes mistakes. None of this would have been necessary if, as I have suggested in the past, the President simply gave the public the truth (or some version of it) about his health condition. Then, the press would not have to do its job and search for information on that topic and of course, the administration would not be so defensive about the issue.
But, apparently in a "rule of law" democracy, the press can be shackled, citizen journalists like Elendu and Asiwe can be made to disappear and constitutional and human rights can be infringed upon with abandon. Hopefully, Nigerians did not sign up for that type of democracy and will encourage Yar'Adua to rethink his recent undemocratic actions for the betterment of Nigeria and the people.
Please read Reporters Without Borders 2008 Annual Report on Nigeria. Apparently, Leadership Newspaper is a constant target by the SSS and Yar'Adua administration. Very disturbing...
UPDATE: Nigeria's federal government is now charging 4 journalists over the Leadership article. Please read the report at Reporters Without Borders.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Yar'Adua To Sue Nigerian Newspaper
- Channels TV Shut Down By Yar'Adua
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Yar'Adua's Mysterious Health
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime
- Nigerian Blogger Arrested