The reprehensible arrest of PREMIUM TIMES reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, over the leak of the police interim report of the probe of the National Assembly invasion by the Department of State Security, DSS, has further shown Nigeria to be a country plagued by depressing occurrences. Ogundipe is being pressed by the Police to reveal his source of the leak, a request that is incongruous with global journalism standards.
Ironically, this development precedes the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s directive on the overhaul of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigeria Police notorious for abusing the rights of many citizens unlucky to have contacts with it. Little wonder, the announcement struggled to garner a few cheers, but overwhelmingly derided by the larger populace who would accept nothing less than a comprehensive overhaul of the Nigeria Police.
Moreover, Ogundipe’s detention and the alleged manhandling of PREMIUM TIMES’ Editor-in-Chief Muskiliu Mojeed by the police may have further worsened the widely reported poor human rights records of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. It is on record that more journalists have either been arrested or detained under the incumbent dispensation than was seen in those preceding it. Both the executive and the legislature have, so far, displayed intense energy to have the press under their armpits. The efforts by these government reactionary revisionists at gagging the press, and to blot out its revolutionary edge is atavistic.
Nothing more than a situation like this justifies the public perception that the regime is a ragtag band of unscrupulous adventurers travelling on a ship without a rudder. Every one among the voyagers has his finger on the button and could, whimsically, unlock the sluice gate not minding we all get swept off by the gush.
When it appears convenient for Presidency officials to justify police attack on opposition politicians, they simply say “the police are doing their job”, but at other times they labour to force–feed the citizens with the yarn that a behemoth overseeing the National Assembly is the puppeteer pulling the string that led the police, the DSS, the Army, and even Man ‘O’ War to embarrass the government. Is this another epic release from the stable of “Oloye Productions”, as Sen. Babafemi Ojudu, the Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President, would want us believe?
As Nigerians demand the unconditional release of Samuel Ogundipe, the political rulers are also reminded of the continued detention of Jones Abiri by the Department of State Security, DSS, for the past two years. Abiri, who is the publisher of ‘Weekly Source Magazine’, was only last week arraigned, by the security police, before an Abuja Chief Magistrate’s Court on a lone charge of criminal intimidation.
It is however troubling that since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1998, there appears an inordinate desperation by elected and appointed officers of government to surpass the inglorious records of past military dictatorships in the undermining of free press. The only difference has been the scale at which successive civilian administrations assail the press – a critical sine qua non of functional democracies. Politicians must be reminded that Nigeria is not a police state, but a constitutional democracy under which the citizens’ rights are guaranteed.
The obstinacy of the incumbent regime as regards free press tends to validate the proverbial saying that it is with intense effort that a diviner divines for one who is hard of hearing.
Meanwhile, the torrential rain won’t stop threatening to bring down the house, it is its owner who will double down on his efforts at protecting his abode. Nigerians journalists and, indeed, other progressive-minded citizens will not be weary of demanding justice, freedom, equity and free press.
Free Ogundipe, Free Abiri Now.