Monday, November 17, 2008

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.

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."
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
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13 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

NneomaMD said...

So, why again, have we not heard from Asiwe since October?

Jennifer A. said...

I read the annual report. Did not know that SSS also disrupted Leadership, The Abuja Inquirer and burnt a part of AIT (at least they were suspected to do so).

One thing I know about Nigerians is that we do not understand our constitution or "the laws of the land." If we did, we would defend our rights.

But instead what I see is the lackadaisical attitude which many have, causing them to stand akimbo, or just sit back and relax.

I know Nigeria is still a young country, compared to the United States. But we need to start emulating how the U.S came to be a place where the people know their rights and act on it on a daily basis...a place where democracy is infallible.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian Editorial Yar'Adua vs Leadership newspaper offered advice that the President should put the Leadership matter behind him & call off his over-zealous aides and state officials who have been giving unsolicited info and harassing the editors of the Leadership newspaper. Ah! Are they (meaning Yardy & media) trying to bury bad news? There are hints everywhere you look but pls do not look up, a certain satellite might fall on you. Also what does the 2009 budget have to do with anything? I hope people old enough remembered sisi Amebo.

Unknown said...

Yar Adua don sick miss road. He has lost his focus chasing around his critics instead of working on his work, abi I lie?

Sherri said...

I have a forked tongue on this..
as much as i believe in the freedom of speech and the rule of law, I also know that the standard/quality of journalism in Nigeria is in desperate need of serious improvement.

i find the report in question very irresponsible and licentious.
you have to admit that the health of the president and his itinerary are and should be classified as a matter of national security hence printing rumors as facts merits an invitation from the sss. their method of hospitality is what bothers me.


@ Nneoma: My sista, me I no sabi. Ask, Yardy, or rather ask SSS.

@ Jaycee: That report is very disturbing. It would be a blessing if we had a better understanding of what our rights are, hopefully we will get there some day. There are human rights groups on the ground that from the looks of things are doing the best to defend human rights and educate the public. All one can do is support them in their efforts.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

@ Beauty: Funny you mention Amebo, she is actually n old friend of my moms. I just cracked up when I saw the mention.

Anyway, it does seem, like you suggest, that they are trying o bury bad news, which in turn confirms to those watching that something isn't right in his house. It could be his health, or of course it could be something else. I always encourage that people tell the truth to whatever extent they can. It is tactic used in Hollywood and Washington D.C. to mitigate scandal and rebrand images. I find it shocking that this President has not figured out that in this age, he has many tools that are quite transparent to rebrand his image and that of Nigeria instead of turning the country into a pariah-like nation.

God help Nigeria.

@ Lolade: So good to see you around these parts. When I read your comment, I couldn't help but think that maybe some babalawo told him his fortune and linked it in some way to journalists or people talking about him. What else could explain the irrational, in y view, behavior? It just doesn't make sense.

There are of course those that do not wish him well, but I think if he played his cards right, he would realize that he could turn things around with the right strategy and endear the people to him. I just wish people could understand that.

Anyway, how body? Sof'ly, sof'ly, make awon boys no come find you for Eko oh! lol!

@ Sherri: "you have to admit that the health of the president and his itinerary are and should be classified as a matter of national security hence printing rumors as facts merits an invitation from the sss."

I see where you are coming from but, unfortunately, I have to disagree with you.

A president's health is not a matter of national security. If that was the case, then everytime anyone reported that Yar'Adua had destabilizing gas, they could get thrown in jail for revealing state secrets.

Now, in my opinion, a President health can have national security implications, especially if that President's health is bad enough to impair his/her ability to fulfill responsibilities.

Thus, the only time Yar'Adua's health becomes a national security issue is when he is sick and dying, and thus the revelation of such could then be an invitation to those with violent motives to take action.

However, Yar'Adua has refused to admit that there is anything wrong with him, thus, if one is to take him at his word (or lack thereof), then any reports about his health, true or false, do not warrant national security status, thus making the recent activity by the police and SSS unwaranted. Furthermore, if his health has become a security issue (based on my reasoning above), Yardy is undoubtedly at fault for not squashing this problem by either addressing it or efficiently 'faking' it. He's been President for a year, this is the least of his problems as President of the Republic.

All that being said, whether Leadership maliciously lied about the President health or simply made a mistake makes no difference in light of the arrests. The Constitution protects them regardless. It also protects the aggrieved, in this case, Yardy, by giving him the right to take the newspaper to court. Nowhere does it sanction taking the journalists to a cell.

Sorry, Sherri, but unless you can point out to me where in the constitution or other laws of the land the President is allowed to throw journalists in jail, I'm going to have to stick to my analysis of the constitution and understanding of democracy in general. However, as I am one always looking to learn, please share more of your opinion, as that can only help expand all of our understanding and perspective. Thanks so much for stopping by.

[G@ttoGiallo] said...

You know something, Sol ? I definitely dislike SSS !!!

ababoypart2 said...

I kinda wondered why Focus Nigeria (my favorite AIT program) had stopped showing. Please don't tell me...Is this some sort of sick joke (excuse the pun).

What is really going on? Are we going to stand by and let this fly?

Waffarian said...

I am happy you have taken the time and effort to write this. There are so many things happening and I believe we all have to do our share for our country.

I begin to worry that people are getting tired about hearing about the same old issues...and that is exactly what the government hopes for. That it will tire us out and eventually we shall all just throw our hands in the air and shrug when our rights are being abused. As usual.

However, I want to implore everybody to keep taking part in these discussions, Let us do our part, no matter how little.

guerreiranigeriana said...

...this is revolting...i didn't have chance to read the report but just the post alone is disconcerting enough...i feel like ababoypart2...do we sit by and allow such fuckery to occur?!...and where are all the so-called human rights activist to plead on the behalf of these people expressing their freedom of speech?...something MUST be done!!!...*puts on thinking cap to figure out what*...

Jaja said...

I have been coming here and reading every time you post. I cant yet articulate what to make of this.

TheAfroBeat said...

Thanks for your continued coverage of the President's newfound police state. It is indeed sad/revolting/and every other adjective that has been thrown up on this. Baba Rule of Law has surrounded himself with the usual psycophants and together they are now on a mission to compensate for his ill-health with an irrational iron-hand that attempts to silence any assumed threats to his sickly administration.

From the RWB report:

"The record of the outgoing president Olusegun Obansajo is a poor one for press freedom with countless beatings of journalists or news vendors at the slightest pretext, newspapers seized from printers, and media bosses regularly imprisoned and charged with “sedition”.

Sounds all too familiar...

skornik-security said...

Inlightning post.
Will come back to read more.

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