Fred Itua, Abuja
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, at the weekend, accused President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of deliberate muzzling of the opposition.
This is as he also indicted the administration of going after judicial officers, citing the recent night invasion of homes of some judges as a clear evidence of executive interference.
Ekweremadu spoke at a lecture entitled: “African Politics: The Dynamics and Lesson”, delivered at the House of Commons, Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK).
He explained how the Supreme Court saved Nigeria and its democracy, when it held that the decision of a party in its national convention is final and binding.
His words: “Lately, the Supreme Court of Nigeria saved democracy in the country in its judgment on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) crisis when it held that the decision of a party in its national convention is final and binding.”
“Also, after the PDP lost election in Nigeria in 2015, the APC-led government ran riot and began to indict, arrest, investigate, and detain its opponents and individual enemies. The judiciary was its major roadblock,” Ekweremadu said.
He also decried the widespread coercion of the press, civil society, the judiciary, and parliaments by some African leaders, whom he said have no regard for their oaths of office and constitutional limits of their powers.
The former Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regretted that “outside Nigeria, South Africa, and a few others, most African parliaments are largely caged and often reduced to rubber stamps and appendages of the executive.”
He cited the case of Cameroon where the constitution had been severally amended to keep 84 years old President Paul Biya in power since November 1982 as well as Uganda where the parliament recently voted to remove the constitutional age limit to elongate the tenure of 73 years old President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office for about 30 years.
He, however, commended the judiciary for critical interventions to save democracy in Nigeria’s intra-party dispute as well as the Gambian, Kenyan and Liberian presidential elections.
“In response to its frustration, the houses of judges were embarrassingly raided at midnight and judicial officers humiliated by security agencies working for the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
“Such executive lawlessness must be condemned in strongest terms and must not be allowed to find a sanctuary in African politics,” Ekweremadu added.
Ekweremadu also deplored the harassment of social media users, online bloggers and publishers in parts of Africa, such as Nigeria, noting also that efforts to enact an Act to regulate Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) is unhealthy for democracy.
Ekweremadu further decried nepotism by African leaders: “Contrary to the oaths, what we see is blatant nepotism, cronyism, and tribalism. The ethnic groups of the heads of state are mostly favoured in appointments, opportunities, and provision of infrastructure.”
“This has given rise to the feelings of alienation and agitations as championed by several pro-Biafra groups,” he added.