Ex-President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi-Okogie, has said Nigeria is gradually returning to the era of military dictatorship where there is disobedience to the rule of law.
Okogie, a former Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, decried the frequent disobedience to court orders by the regime led by the President Muhammadu Buhari.
Okogie’s comments are contained in a statement he sent to newsmen on Friday titled, ‘Corruption and Repression.’
He said, “The painful and sad reality we face is that we live in a country where leaders are very distant from the led. We need leaders who are neither blind to the suffering of the people nor deaf to their cries; leaders who listen to the people, leaders who have the courage to be humble, and who are therefore ready to admit that they are wrong when they are wrong.
“In a democracy, those who govern are chosen by the people to represent the people. And if they are to represent the people, they must listen to the people. Not only do true democrats listen, they also are not afraid of dissenting opinions. They do not arrogate to themselves the power to accuse, arrest, prosecute and convict. But can we candidly say we have democrats at the helm of affairs in this country at this point in time?
“How can we claim to live in a democracy when presidential spokespersons tell us the presidency is always right? It is important to remind our political leaders at the federal, state and local levels of government that they cannot enforce laws if they cannot obey the law.”
He added, “If the executive disobeys court rulings, and if it intimidates and humiliates the judiciary, then we are back to the era when a military junta made laws and interpreted them without any regard for fundamental human rights. We have returned to a sinful past when citizens could be abducted and locked up in detention without trial under the pretext of acting in the interest of national security.”
According to the retired bishop, repression of dissenting opinions was a major factor that led to the end of the First Republic.
“But Nigerians do not want military rule anymore. Having experienced two painful bouts of military dictatorship, two periods in Nigeria’s history when men in uniform, trained and paid to protect the land and its people, visited untold brutality on the civilian population, we all must resolve to be responsible for protecting democracy in this country,” he stated.
The Cardinal also recalled that it was during the military rule that Nigeria was plunged into an avoidable civil war. He said the war could have been avoided if political actors had adhered faithfully to democratic principles.
He added that their failure to do so provided opportunistic elements in the Nigerian military with an excuse for mass murder.
“Innocent lives were lost before and during that war. A month to the 50th anniversary of the end of that war, factors that led to the war are being reawakened. Our democracy is in danger because of corruption and dictatorship,” he said.
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