The threat by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to demolish the New People’s Democratic Party’s (New PDP) Headquarters in Abuja may well be an exemplifier of a seeming trend towards official intolerance of the opposition in any form. Viewed against some antecedents involving the breakaway faction of the PDP, the actions and utterances of some public officials in recent times connote more than a mere insistence on the rule of law. Rather, they suggest an evolving hidden agenda, to emasculate government’s perceived enemies. The only way to disabuse the mind of the public in this regard is for government to check the excess of its officials and stop the emerging trend. The ‘official sin’ of the New PDP, according to Senator Bala Muhammed, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), who ordered the demolition, was that the party’s faction allegedly violated the Abuja master plan by converting the said building into a party secretariat, whose original plan was for residential purposes. The action, in the judgment of the minister, contravened the Land Use Act and would not be tolerated. The sudden awakening of the FCT minister adds troubling twists to the saga. Given the distortions that have apparently been brought to bear on the master plan of Abuja, the source of his new inspiration for urban renewal cannot but provoke genuine concerns. Ironically, his new-found energy is targeted at legally acquired private properties that his ministry and the police are supposed to dutifully protect. As a party, the PDP is not an ardent respecter of the rule of law. Its invocation of the rule, therefore, naturally triggers suspicion of Nigerians who feel that such proclamation should be taken with a pinch of salt. The party has a penchant for seeking to kill an ant with a sledge hammer, and for not coming to equity with clean hands. The question is whether the demolition threat against the secretariat of the New PDP has anything to do with the violation of the Land Use Act, as claimed. Is the threat not connected with the internal crises rocking the party, which have split it into the old and the new PDPs? Notably, the party had before the threat embarked on unlawful security surveillance and disruptions of lawful meetings of the splinter group on several occasions, most notably at the Adamawa State Governor’s Lodge and Kano, a property belonging to the Kano State governor in Abuja. A Divisional Police Officer in Abuja had the effrontery to badge into a meeting of the governors, ordering them to discontinue and vacate the venue, failing which he would deploy maximum force to stop them. This itself smacks of indecency and official recklessness, with grave implications for democratic stability. The fact that these are happening under a supposedly democratic government is dangerously worrisome. If unchecked, such executive high-handedness poses grave danger to the delivery of democracy in all ramifications; particularly the fundamental human rights of Nigerians. The extremism of the government in dealing with its political enemies, real or imagined, infringes on the rights to freedom of association and assembly. It could also degenerate to anarchy, and complicate the already parlous state of national security. That this new phase of political intolerance is being funded by taxpayers’ money makes it all the more vexatious, as evident in the fact that the principal actors in this ugly orchestration are all in the employ of the Federal Government. The Nigeria Police and the FCDA are particularly blameworthy. The FCT minister, with the active connivance of the police would appear to be the arrowhead of the current onslaught against perceived detractors of government. The minister and all those involved in these democratic assaults need to be reminded that the FCT belongs to all Nigerians, irrespective of political and ideological inclinations. Its status must be kept federal and sacrosanct in all ramifications. President Jonathan also needs to call his officials to order. It is most unlikely that these travesties are taking place without the tacit or express knowledge of the government. The only way he can claim otherwise is by taking concrete steps to stop the degeneration. So far, by pretending not to know, or by looking the other way, the President has not acted gracefully on this matter. The time to do so is now bearing in mind that Nigerians have in the past successfully resisted attempts to enthrone fascism in the country. Source: The Guardian
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