OP-ED Opinions 

National Security Or Barefaced Executive Tyranny? By Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa

“This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half”- George Orwell (Animal Farm).

National security means a lot to Nigeria but you wonder why when Nigeria has not been involved directly in any international Conflict situation. The glaring reason why Nigeria continues to spend so much on the defence budget and security votes is simply because Nigeria breathes heavily under its own internal torment. The domestic crisis has cost so much that could have contributed in other ways to governance and economic development in other regards.

Nigeria’s security concerns which cost her so much financially and uses up a lot of her resources are mainly the challenges of criminal law enforcement, separatist agitation, Boko Haram terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and also to include the new-found obsession of the government which is to clamp down on dissent. 

What constitutes a threat to national security can be so diverse and multiple in meaning that this very article can come under the scope of it. A threat to national security can be ambiguous in a way that a clearly unarmed protester could constitute enough concern for the deployment of military force.

The fright in this country today is if our national security is what is really still the concern of government or bare-faced tyranny the sort of which the military years stamped in our memories is what has begun reoccurring.

It seems the government or rather her favourite security apparatus for such affairs, the Department of State Services, has gone beyond the call of national security in her recent arrests to become a specialised agency that skims through content to identify that which it does not like publicised.

How unarmed protesters and activist constitute a security threat in a country which is already fighting insurgency, daily kidnap reports, armed violence and other such remains a mystery. 

The method used to quell the Monday, August 5, 2019 protest nationwide raises another concern for the Nigerian who cherishes liberty. In a country where our police have learnt to use such violence on protesters without public outrage, the culture of repression would stick and continue to spread. 

As at when the protest started, asides being named RevolutionNow, nothing else about the protest suggested from the appearance and conduct that they could be violent. They were dressed in uniform and carried placards. Not so mighty a number, but all the same were visited by police brutality.

Whilst the type of “revolution” intended is being watered down from the narratives of the “revolutionaries” to mean a peaceful protest to solicit national changes, on the day of the protest, even if they intended to carry out a revolution, the whole world saw that they were a tiny group that had only placards. Why the descent to the deployment of brutish force?

Adams Oshiomole, Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, has drawn the similarity between this protest and the actions of the French Government on the yellow-vests protesters. He, like others, failed to show how a group of not more than 100 people, who carried only placards could possibly threaten national security to the extent of being beaten and battered. 

The process of dehumanisation in Nigeria will soon be complete with public acceptance of such deployment of force. At worst, the dispersal of the protesting crowd was sufficient but the security apparatus insisted on arrests and use of brute force like pictures showed.

This is in contravention of established principles of human rights especially those of dignity of the human person protected by the constitution and international treaties to which Nigeria is signatory.

A classic scene of overkill, perhaps due to fear that the idea could catch on and the government is haunted by the burden of the possibility that it would be confronted by the rage reflected in the statistics of the national condition governed by world-class poverty and widespread dissatisfaction with the present leadership.

The continued trial of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a group that practises Shi’a Islam as opposed to mainstream Sunni Islam, is another low this regime. El-Zakzaky and his followers have been assaulted in grand scale, making one wonder what is really happening. 

The Shiite sect does not deserve the force with which government quells their agitation including the use of live arms and ammunitions, which has been outlawed by both past judicial authorities and international charter.

If Nigerian forces are deploying so much to keep national security, one must look at the victims of our quest to safeguard security and wonder who the government is really trying to secure because those who are meant to be secured are those we are not securing.

The concern of Nigerians should be heightened as in recent times, national security seems to be asking us for too much. Anyone who as much as holds a view can be behind bars in no time. 

Events that have occurred time and again under the Buhari administration have led to debates on their constitutionality ahead of anything else. Again and again, the alarm sounds that we are being led tyrannically.

The number of those, who have become casualties in a bid to protect national security is high. Are the actions of the Nigerian Government still predicated on the need to ensure national security or we have descended into an era of barefaced executive tyranny?

Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa is an activist and freelance journalist, who can be reached on [email protected]

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