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Opinion

The Regression Towards Dictatorship In Nigeria

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By Tochukwu Ezukanma

President Buhari’s war on corruption struck a responsive chord in Nigerian minds because corruption has, for long, been the bane of Nigeria. It convoluted our value system and rendered every institution dysfunctional, and portends to unravel the social fabric of the Nigerian society. A successful war against corruption in Nigeria will nudge the country towards a renaissance and herald her joining the ranks of the prosperous nations of the world. So, we enthusiastically supported his determined assault on this national malady. Just, as we were ready to vote for him, even, if, “he presented a NEPA bill for his certificate”, we celebrated his anti-corruption fight, even, if, it breached the law.

Many Nigerians saw his administration’s disobedience to the law as a necessary evil in the fight against corruption. They felt that the subordination of justice to order, while undemocratic, was tolerable extremism in a laudable crusade against this most hideous national monster. After all, had earlier German political philosophy and jurisprudence not subordinated justice to order? And had that most famous Black American leader, Martin Luther King Jr., not distinguished between kinds of extremism, when he wrote, “the question is not whether we (are) extremists but what kind of extremists we (are)” – a logical parallel – to Barry Goldwater’s famous proclamation, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”.
Analogously, we thought that extremism in extirpation of corruption is no vice.

However, with time, it crystallized to Nigerians that Buhari’s defiance to court orders were not motivated by the public good. They were natural penchants of an inveterate dictator. By four years into his presidency, his dictatorial bent was rattling the institutional moorings of Nigerian democracy: the independence of the judiciary was compromised; freedom of the press and free speech, stifled; peaceful protesters, arrested and detained indefinitely; and the authority of the legislature, weakened. Evidently, in perceptible gradations, the country is regressing towards a dictatorship.

The unconstitutional replacement of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, with Ibrahim Mohammed paved the way for the emasculation of judiciary independence. Onnoghen put up a despicable defense because he came to equity with unclean hands. His hands were soiled by glaring acts of corruption, including feigned amnesia: he “forgot” to include a significant portion of his assets in his assets declaration. According to legal experts and other observers, the new Chief Justice, Ibrahim Mohammed, is unqualified for the job and totally, clueless; he can only function as a malleable tool of the presidency. Not surprisingly, the travesties of justice recently emanating from the courts, especially, in election petition cases have been repulsively evident.

Disappointed by unfulfilled electoral promises, and roiled by encompassing economic misery, more and more Nigerians are driven to protest against the government. Despite the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerians to peaceful protests, the Buhari administration suppresses peaceful protests. On August 3 2019, the Directorate State Security (DSS) arrested Omoyele Sowore. His only “crime” was planning to lead his group known as “Revolution Now” on a peaceful protest. Paradoxically, he was charged for treason. In its distastefully colorful parlances, the DSS accused him of “threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country” and calling for a revolution – “forceful overthrow of government”. He remains in jail, even, after perfecting his bail conditions. To call a planned peaceful protest a revolution because the protesters gathered under the auspices of “Revolution Now” is nauseatingly disingenuous. The word revolution in this context is hyperbolic; to define it literally, as forceful overthrow of a government is Machiavellian humbug.

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With the increasing Machiavellianism – unscrupulous despotism – of the Buhari administration, we are witnessing increasing repression of the press (harassment and arrests of journalists) across the country. For example, a journalist, Agba Jalingo, for writing an article accusing Governor Benedict Ayade and the Cross River Micro Finance Bank of corruption, was arrested and charged for treason and disturbing the peace. He has remained in jail since August 22nd, 2019. And the security detail of Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo beat up a photojournalist, Abayomi Adeshida, and damaged his professional camera. In the words of the journalist, “I was shocked when the DSS started beating me for no reason. They tore off my accreditation tag, and dragged me on the floor while hitting and kicking me”. He was hospitalized.

In his inexplicable ingratiation of the president, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, scandalized Nigerians by stating the willingness of the senate to grant all the president’s requests. He said, “Any request that comes from Mr. President is a request that will make Nigeria a better place …and the senate will act expeditiously to” grant his request. It was a statement that impugned the independence of the senate. It cast the senate as an obsequious institution willing to pander to the whims and caprices of the president. Constitutionally, the senate is a formidable bulwark against presidential excesses.

The social media provides a superb forum for the governed to express, and the governing to appreciate, the prevailing moods and sentiments of the masses. If the Nigerian political class is committed to democracy and its attendant sensitivity and responsiveness to the legitimate aspirations of the people, it would have been enthused by the social media. But consumed in their cupidity and sordid ambitions and totally unconcerned with the plight and yearnings of the people they were elected to serve; the Nigerian power elite are weary of the social media. This is because it provides unparalleled spaciousness for free speech.
Uncensored, it gives voice to even the dregs of the society and places no one, irrespective of his status, above criticism and censure. It allows even the forgotten destitute, at the bottom of the economic ladder, to take swipes and haul insults at the rich, famous and powerful. In addition, it is a potent instrument for mobilization and coordination of mass protests. It is a redoubtable safeguard against despotism, and all forms of abuse of power. Not surprisingly, the Buhari administration wants to gag the social media. It is angling for legislative enablement to muzzle the social media.

The attacks on free speech and the whittling down of the independence of the judiciary and legislature reinforce Buhari’s dictatorial powers. However, his dictatorship will remain circumscribed by that bastion of free speech, the social media. It will take a successful suppression of the social media to complete Buhari’s dictatorial grip on Nigeria.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can reach him via [email protected]

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kelvin Agbogidi

    December 2, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    It is both regression, depression and suppression to dictatorship

  2. Kelvin Okeoghene David

    December 2, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    It is both regression, depression and suppression to dictatorship

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Opinion

Nagode Aisha Buhari For Punching Garba Shehu, Mamman Daura’s Shoe Shiner

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aisha buhari

By Churchill Okonkwo

Aisha Buhari has proven herself before now as an amazon and woman of courage and character. When in October 2016 President Buhari said Aisha “belongs to my kitchen, and my living room and the other room”, a good percentage of Nigerians (men and women) lambasted him for demeaning and derogating women. In response, President Buhari stubbornly maintained that his wife belongs in the kitchen even in the face of national outcry. He added that Aisha should stay out of politics.

Unfortunately for President Buhari and the people around him who claim to be speaking on his behalf even without his knowledge, Aisha has stayed in politics and has fired again. This time, she has accused her husband’s nephew, Mamman Daura, of giving out orders for the scrapping of the office of the First Lady. In the allegation, Aisha accused her husband’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, of ordering for the scraping the office of the First Lady without the President’s knowledge. By this statement, Aisha Buhari is clearly saying that Garba Shehu is shining Mamman Daura’s shoes.

By speaking up on the cabal that hijacked her husband’s administration, again, Aisha Buhari is demonstrating an act of rare courage that encapsulates the theme of the 2017 International Women’s day “Women in the Changing World of Work. Aisha Buhari remains a model for Nigerian girls and women. For daring to voice the genuine concern of most Nigerians, Aisha Buhari should be seen and celebrated by Nigerian women (as well as men) as a symbol of courage.

In this latest sucker punch, Aisha Buhari stated that even with the scaping of the office of the First Lady by Shehu Garba and the real powers behind Buhari, she has raised funds to run her humanitarian programs. Aisha Buhari is building momentum for the effective implementation of the goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; ensuring inclusive and quality education for all, promoting lifelong learning and celebrating extraordinary women.

I am particularly thrilled by the power and stubborn determination exhibited by Aisha when on his return in October, he publicised and cleared the air on the many rumors that took over social media on some incidents in Aso Rock. Aisha Buhari, thus, did the job that Shehu Garba is paid to do.

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Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina, who ordinarily should know better, have been celebrating imprisonment of press freedom in Nigeria. The media team of the Nigerian Presidency is grossly incompetent and has been displaying a blurred vision. Vision blurred by intellectual dullness and moral depravity.

This was clearly on display from the allegations Aisha Buhari leveled against Garba Shehu whom she accused of attempting to sack her media crew and getting them suspended for doing their job. Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina who recently claimed that millions of Nigerians do not care about Omoyele Sowore’s illegal detention have brought more shame and disgrace to the President and the office of the President they are paid to manage. Shameful.

As Aisha Buhari, rightly pointed out, “in saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers.” But no, Shehu Garba will not resign.

The culture of affirmation as opposed to challenge being displayed by the likes of Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina is disturbing and by some measures, offensive. Be it laziness or narcissism, there is little excuse for obviously well paid and well-educated professionals to relax into tired inertia. They deceive themselves and those around them that Nigeria is being moved in the right direction by this administration. Thus, the future of Nigeria is being threatened by sloppy thinking as superstitious nonsense spread its tentacles.

Aisha’s sucker punch of Shehu Garba as a person with not just intellectual dullness but one that also has intellectual dishonesty should be worrying to all supporters of President Buhari, myself inclusive.

To paraphrase Cyril Connolly, Garba Shehu with all his talents has now condemned himself to second-rate thought and the degrading job of shinning Mamman Daura’s Shoes. He has shown himself to be intellectually lazy and shallow: peddling ignorance as an actual governing alternative. It is very interesting watching Garba Shehu descend to the lowest level of a sycophant shining Daura’s shoes in other to keep his job.

Thank you, again, Aisha for being courageous in exposing the dangerous men that are endangering Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy.

Nagode Aisha!

@Churchillnnobi

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editor thereof.

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Opinion

Who Advises Aisha Buhari – The Angry Matron Of The Villa?

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Aisha Buhari

By Fredrick Nwabufo

Jane Appleton Pierce, the wife of Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States, is perhaps, most remembered as the ‘’calamity first lady’’. She spent her years working against the political ambition of her husband. And when he eventually became president she still did not let up.

Is Aisha Buhari ‘’calamity first lady’’? Really, I ask because she appears to reveal all the dirty and soiled undergarments of the villa to the chagrin of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In October, in the heat of the controversy effectuated by an interview granted by Fatima Mamman Daura, daughter of the ‘’cabal honcho’’ to sully Aisha, I expressed concern regarding the knotty problem the first lady was dealing with at the villa.

To me, it was clear Mamman Daura’s daughter leaked the video recording of Aisha in her most distressed state to embarrass her.

Also, I considered it duplicitous that the ‘’cabal’’ was in conflict with the first lady and at the same time cozying up to the president and huddling in his kitchen.

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I had asked: Can the cabal love the president more than his wife? Can they be for the president but against his wife? Does loyalty not come with full compliments? Is disloyalty to the wife of the president, loyalty to the president?

I believe the president and his wife share intimacy by dint of marriage. She is naturally his biggest influencer; whispering sweet ‘’nothings and somethings’’ in his ear during pillow talk.

But as a matter of fact, Aisha is now coming off as an angry black first lady. Her concerns as regards her family affairs, may or may not be genuine, but she has become catty in handling them.

The office of the first lady is a pivotal one. It should bring the zing to the administration. It should be that ‘’soft and cuddly touch’’ of the administration. The office should also be the staunchest promoter of the government and not an outlet for exhibiting hypocritical tigritude.

At the weekend, the first lady accused presidential aides of not ‘’defending the government’’ enough.

According to her, ‘’aides are supposed to take action against the offenders, or to take action or to take charge or be in control, or caution people, they keep mute. But when it comes to unnecessary things, people will start talking from the presidency.”

I find this amusing. Aisha herself has been the biggest demarketer of the administration. I will give instances.

In May, the first lady ridiculed the N500 billion social investment programme initiated by her husband’s government. She said it failed in the north.

Hear her: “I was expecting the N500bn to be utilised in different methods in the north for the aim to be achieved. I don’t know the method they used, but most of the northern states do not get it. My state does not get it.’’

In October, 2016, Aisha said she might not support Buhari’s re-election — that he is a titular head being puppeteered by three people – the cabal.

In November at the National Islamic Council meeting in Abuja, she spared no verbal attack for anyone, cutting down every organ and institution of government with her tongue.

But is it the place of the first lady to reprimand aides appointed by the president in the open? Do they report to her? Were they appointed by her?

I am really concerned. Does Aisha really know how government functions? Beyond her criticisms of the administration, which I must say resonate with me as a critic, she appears to be classically ignorant of the operations of government.

Really, Aisha has shaped up to be that lady of the manor who commands obedience by heckling, cursing and caterwauling.

I saw through the veneer of her hypocrisy when she spoke in support of the draconian social media bill. According to her, the first family ought to be protected from the irritations of social media.

She even reprimanded Lai Mohammed, minister of information, in public for not taking action on those she conceived to be offenders on social media. It was clear to me that her attacks, even on the administration, were for an insular end – not that she loved the people.

I advise Aisha, the matron of the villa, to take lessons in grace, temperance and carriage from Michelle Obama, former first lady of the US.

She could also choose to see a role model in the late Mariam Babangida.

  • Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editor thereof.

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Opinion

The Open Society Endangered ― Wole Soyinka

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Wole Soyinka

(Being a talk delivered at the UN World Anti-Corruption Day, Abuja, Dec. 9. 2019)

Present here, I fully expect, is the youth contingent of this undertaking. We are still within the United Nations designated Year of the Child, and that makes youth involvement doubly appropriate as an integral part of our encounter.

This is not a mere sentiment. As some of you here may recall, I have referred to my set on occasion as the Wasted Generation.

I recall that this led to some members of the generation after mine referring to theirs as the Lost Generation. It all happened during a lecture, and the speaker’s comment went thus: “Professor Soyinka does not know how lucky he is. His generation has been merely wasted, ours is lost.” I do not know if that speaker was right, or I was, or maybe both were.

Frankly, I am not even sure which is worse – to be lost or to be wasted. All I am certain of is –moral endangerment, the degradation of moral sensibilities in the vulnerable sector of any society, however, defined. That impressionable sector is always at risk wherever abnormalities become accepted as the norm, and the jettisoning of moral restraints is lauded, through example, as the basis of routine existence.

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If I may use a notorious example, can anyone of us have failed to remark how the phenomenon of cultism has penetrated downwards, lower and lower in generational infiltration until we now read of it even in some elite primary schools?

Children may not find themselves in situations where they can actually engage in corrupt practices, but they grow up eventually into that stage, and if they have been raised in an environment where adults are exposed as corrupt, even expelled from their positions of status, only to return to their home base, to be lauded by their communities, received with pomp and pageantry and garlanded with chieftaincy titles, it requires no special exercise of the imagination to project what the future holds for overall society.

The principle of “catch them young” is one that pervades most spheres of human activity, so it’s all a question of who does the “catching”. If we are serious and convinced about a foundational principle of social conduct, then we obviously cannot leave others to do the catching.

One of the most telling exercises I have indulged in my creative career was one which evolved from my activities in the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. We initiated a youth item called “The Vision of the Child”. This consisted of members of that yet undefined generation being set a theme for creative interpretation –in painting, essay and even poetic forms. We encouraged them to let their imagination roam free in all directions.

One such theme that I set them was “The Thousand And One Faces of Corruption”. The results were remarkable. If anyone thought that children even at the ‘innocent’ age downwards from thirteen or fourteen all the way down to seven or six, do not know what ‘corruption’ means, how it works, how it affects their lives and their families, they should see some of those visual and literary compositions, talk to their authors and artists, and ask the latter to explain some of the seemingly abstruse images they create.

You would be thoroughly chastened. For example, even I had not thought of dragging Sambisa forest into the geography of corruption, being too preoccupied with the horror of that outrage in itself. They did, albeit inspired by an earlier thematic imposition – THE ROAD TO SAMBISA. This is how it all begins – read their submissions – with corruption overwhelming even basic social and governance responsibilities.

Mr Magu, the chairman of EFCC happened on that exhibition and was sufficiently struck as to request that it tour the nation. We were more than willing. Some of his staff visited the exhibition at Freedom Park and went into preliminaries with our young collaborators. That was – how many years ago? More ruefully, will that exhibition ever travel beyond its present confines?

Since then, that initiative has metamorphosed into an even more elaborate movement with the name Corruption Busters – launched in Lekki in December 2017. I was able to attend just the beginning of the event but, from the evidence of the video recording, the Vice-President threw himself most vigorously into that initiative.

So did a couple of supportive foreign embassies Since then, however, that movement appears to have gone into recession – but I may be wrong. I would be curious to see if they participated in the Walk from EFCC to this venue this morning. If not, Mr Magu, you and I have a problem!

The coincidence of global affirmations of past agreements on social conduct such as the ongoing celebration of the Convention on the Rights of Children, the World Anti-Corruption Day which is today, reinforced by the World Human Rights Day on Tuesday, tomorrow, should be exploited to the fullest, not merely to involve that generation in a progressive seizure of society and humanity, but also to compel adults to see both themselves and the society they have created through the eyes of children, obtain a glimpse of how that generation itself views and assesses the conduct and values of their parents, uncles, aunts, chiefs, their ministers, even their priests and supposed moral exemplars.

Youth participation takes multiple forms, even where the youths are not physically present. Images are useful ‘take-away’ teachers. The venue of this encounter could have been festooned with the results from that – or similar –exhibitions, or other related exercises that represent minds yet under formation.

If you must take on corruption, which runs 24/7 all-year-round, then we must be alert to all opportunities to propagate the counter-gospel 24/7 all year round, with bonus ‘opportunity targets’ – to borrow from military parlances – such as the mentioned triple notations on the UN calendar. Do some of us sometimes perhaps appear obsessed by this problem? Of course.

Long before any government ever thought it to make it its business, hundreds and thousands of Nigerian individuals in their fields of activities have tackled it head-on with all attendant risk. The choice was to ‘join them or fight them’. How many here are old enough to have heard of the civilian Anti-Bribery League headed by the owner – I hopefully recollect — of Lisabi Mills in Yaba? Or later, of the government’s short-lived initiative, the X-Squad with offices in 5(?) Milverton Street, Ikoyi?

Somehow or the other it takes on the intensity of a personal battle, for which agonizing setbacks, such as the assassination of the late Bola Ige, a personal friend, but also Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of this nation, only serve as a further spur. Only the cynical fail to accept that it is a contest that transcends politics, partisanship and even governance, which, in this particular instance, has sunk in recent times to its lowest ebb.

Corruption triggers off numerous collateral activities in institutional conduct and governmental interface with the citizenry, confrontation with its effects is thus plainly transformational.

This means that, for any corruption degraded society, it should be nothing less than revolutionary in approach – call it by that or any other word, it is still a revolutionary undertaking. Revolution Now? Or Soon? Later or Whenever? An anti-corruption focus is surely integral to any revolutionary agenda, often it constitutes its very trigger – checks any society you wish – from Cuba through China to Egypt or Myanmar.

Corruption is hardly ever omitted in the list of indictments that justify that very undertaking called a revolution. Thus, anti-corruption activism is a conscious, revolutionary offensive that aims at the transformation of the totality of the social phenomena. Those agencies, or governments that permit themselves to be terrified by the word had better learn to live with it.

Even governments sometimes pride themselves with claims that they have revolutionized this or that facet of society or indeed, of governance itself., meaning that such a government embarks on a drastic self-transformation in both form and practice. So much, in general terms.

Now we turn our spotlight more specifically on that agency that appears to consider the word treasonable. Has anyone been following recent testimonies in the media by those who have entered the dungeons of the state security agency and lived to tell the tale?

What has emerged in these past few days is that the very agency that recently desecrated the sanctum of justice is itself charged with corruption. It is publicly claimed that extortion has become commonplace, inflicted on helpless citizens, some of whom lack a voice, or influential contacts, unlike the yet ongoing instance of a former media publisher and presidential candidate.

Corruption can only be fought and degraded, if not entirely destroyed, within the reality of an open society. And an open society is built and sustained on the freedom of expression.

And here comes the complement to that assault. We need only veer laterally and consider a recent – perhaps merely fortuitous act of – partnership by another governance installation – the legislative houses.

We must thank the DSS for impressing on us the same obligatory call to interrogate any proposition that curtails that right of free expression, even where camouflaged under the rubric of Hate Speech. Or Fake news. Both, we all agree are not only harmful but cowardly and despicable.

However, combine these recent sample offerings from the two institutional within the context of an Open Society and where do we find ourselves? Let me repeat: a legislature proposes nothing less than capital punishment for what it deems Hate speech.

First, are we really prepared to take on the awful responsibility of telling our children that the rational response to any kind of social outrage is to kill? Does that truly reflect the ascent of humanity from instinctive animal predatoriness? Let us take a moment to follow the trajectory of what amounts to nothing less than a vicious cycle.

This very setting in which we are assembled, Aso Rock, could not be more appropriate for charting the perilous waters into which this nation is being plunged. So, here goes, a reconstruction that should by no means be considered a worst-case scenario.

Society does not operate in virtual reality. We exist palpably. The structure that is constitutionally empowered to determine what is denounced as

Hate or Toxic Speech is rendered ineffectual daily through acts of executive condescension and disdain from the peak of governance. The seal of desecration was finally planted on the institution of law, the sole legitimate adjudicator, by an agency that now stands accused of violating the very principles that this agency, the EFCC and its sister ICPC, were set up to uphold.

Is it excessive to consider the possibility that other potential accusers of that security agency are locked up in dungeons, some forgotten for upwards three to four years? Kindly check the media for testimonies of those who have recently been discharged from or discovered in DSS custody after years in their hellholes.

How would the DSS now respond, given the protection of this ready-to-kill Bill on Hate? Obviously, with a complaint of Hate Attack by the accusers, punishable by death. The agency proceeds to arrest the newspaper staff and the accusers. The case goes to hearing. The judge sets a date and grants the accusers bail.

What happens next? The agency under accusation invades the court, scatters everyone, pounces on the recently bailed ‘felon’ and drags him off struggling desperately for life and liberty. That, I repeat, is not a worst-case scenario, nor is it far-fetched. The blueprint is out in the public domain.

The anti-corruption offensive, on which we are hopefully sincerely engaged, is meaningless without complete openness and without the total liberty of every citizen, subject only to constraints imposed under the law.

It is, therefore, most heart-warming that civil society is waking up to its responsibilities and has called strongly for an apology to the nation from the so-called Directorate of State Services.

We must proceed further. We need from the DSS a list of all its current detainees, their names, addresses and records of confinement. I see no security issue fulfilled in keeping such names secret. Why is any citizen reduced to paying 50,000 Naira to bribe an officer to procure a cellphone, just to let his family know that he is alive but immured in a dungeon?

The right to information must be exercised comprehensively and most certainly in favour of citizen liberty, in conformity to that third United Nations notation – Human Rights – that it has designated for tomorrow. So perhaps something positive will be extracted from this collective violation that this nation has recently undergone.

With that foregoing, Greetings on my own behalf, and on behalf of – shall we call them? – the anxious generation, on this World’s Anti-Corruption Day. Let this morning’s overture, the symbolic walk from the designated citadel of ethical transformation to this venue be absorbed as a walk to freedom within a corruption-free air for those forgotten Nigerians in illegal captivity.

A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, wrote Nelson Mandela, a victim of a vicious system called apartheid. We do not labour under apartheid terror, so let us shorten that walk and open up society by giving voice to the voiceless, and presence to the absent, held under our very noses under inhuman conditions, forced to pay for the privilege of reminding the rest of us, in approximate freedom, that they still exist. In short, let us embrace the liberating, transformative spirit of — if not exactly Revolution Now – then at least, maybe — Liberation Now?

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