I read with ominous concern, alarm and great worry, the report indicating that the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, stopped the crew of African Independent Television, from covering his official activities, purely on account of documentaries aired by AIT in the course of the just concluded Presidential campaigns.
This is totally unacceptable, unpalatable and dictatorial. It has no place in our new Nigeria. Indeed under and by virtue of section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, every person, including AIT, has a right to freedom of expression and the press. This is restated in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Furthermore, it is contrary to section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, which prohibits discrimination and preferential treatment. AIT cannot be subjected to any treatment to which other news media are not subjected to.
This is not to endorse the actions of AIT, but such actions must be dealt with in a manner prescribed by law. This decision is draconian and dictatorial, throwing us back to the very dark days of 1984, when the same Buhari gagged the press and threw journalists into jail. This decision is contrary to the manifesto of the All Progressive Congress, it is contrary to the campaign promises of Buhari himself and it is contrary to the laws of Nigeria and the minimum expectations of human development.
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In particular, section 22 of the 1999 Constitution demands the press to hold government accountable to the people. How can the press do that, if they are subjected to such Stone Age rule and barrack practice of press guillotine? How can a president elect chose which media outfit he will allow to cover his official engagements? It is recalled most vividly that the Nation newspaper, TV Continental and not a few of Nigeria’s Online media, human rights activists, lawyers (including myself) subjected President Goodluck Jonathan to rigours of scrutiny and strident criticisms, but he did not cultivate the habit of denying any media outfit access to cover his events.
His last presidential media chat was attended by the editor of Premium Times, a frontline Online medium that was very critical of the Jonathan administration at the time. In his presentation at Chatam House in London, Buhari specifically gave an express undertaking to the whole world, that he had totally repented from his past dictatorial tendencies and that he would not subject Nigeria to any of his past Undemocratic practices. Yet he has now taken us back to his 1984 years of dictatorship.
If Buhari has issues with any news item aired by AIT, the option open to him in a democratic dispensation, that he openly declared to defend, is to approach the court to vindicate himself. It will be too bad for Nigeria, if the President elect has harboured any form of revenge and unforgiving spirit, from the presidential campaigns and he is using such to deal with the people of Nigeria. The APC and the President elect are duty bound to respect their campaign promises and indeed the Constitution and other laws of Nigeria.
The president elect has too many issues to deal with in Nigeria presently, than to carry over his wounds from the campaigns. Nigerians are waiting for his cabinet and his blue print for tackling the blackout that we are currently subjected to. Indeed, we are waiting for the president elect to unravel and bring out the trillions of Naira stacked away by so many greedy people, for our common good and development. I urge the president elect to rescind his decision immediately by opening his activities to the AIT crew.