PROFESSOR Udenta Udenta has flayed unfavorable disposition of security agencies to protests by aggrieved Nigerians during presidential inauguration on May 29 , warning that any negative response to protest during inauguration by security agencies would an infringement on the fundamental human rights of citizens.
Undenta,a pioneer National Secretary of the defunct Alliance for Democracy,AD, particularly picked holes on some comments attributed to heads of security agencies ahead of the inauguration.
The renowned scholar spoke on Thursday, on the sideline of a public presentation of a book,
titled:“ Media and Nigeria’s Constitutional Democracy: Threats, Constraints and Resilience”, organized by the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, in Abuja.
The book co-authored by Paul Obi, Taye Obateru and Sami Amadi was reviewed by a communication consultant and Deputy Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies, Baze University, Abuja, Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi and launched by Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed.
According to Udenta,the remarks being made by security chiefs over the inauguration ceremony were attempt to shut down democratic conversation.
Recall that the federal government had said security will be reinforced at Eagle Square, the designated venue for the May 29 presidential inauguration, as well as in its surrounding areas.
Udenta said: “In two or three days times, there will be inauguration. The Inspector General of Police is already speaking, the Director General, Department of State Service (DSS) is speaking, the military are also speaking. However, my sense of it is that they are shutting down democratic conversation and we should not allow that. While you’re going to swear people in, you should equally allow those that want to protest do that peacefully, legitimately constitutionally.
“If you have your security perimeter, within which you don’t expect anybody except invited guests and those with clearance, outside the perimeter, thousands, if possible millions of Nigerians are permitted to gather with their placards and protest. That is part of democracy. The media is a fundamental cadre for protecting democratic infrastructure and governance. The moment you tear it down, democracy vanishes, and authoritarianism becomes the order of the day.
“The behavior of National Broadcasting Commission, and even behaviour of the president-elect media team is abhorrent at this stage, that’s why I want to repeat, as people will be sworn in on May 29, millions of Nigerians have rights to protests wherever they are as long as they don’t have arms and are doing it peacefully, as the law provides.”
The don, therefore, suggested that “the media should cover any protest robustly with intensity, like the way they will cover the swearing-in. So whoever want to protest or have counter-protest can do that within their rights.
“I feel hurt when I hear people who handles the security talk with so much anger as if people are going to topple the democratic system which is not going to happen. The right to protest is provided for in law,”he added.
Speaking, IGP Usman Baba Alkali, who cautioned journalists against circulating fake news and hate speeches, declared the police readiness for the inauguration ceremony.
The IGP, represented by the Force Public relations officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, also emphasized the need for journalists to fact check their stories before publishing, while adhering to journalism ethics in their reportage.
“We should be mindful of the excessiveness of our reportage and engage in constructive criticism”, he stated.
Also speaking at the event,the Bauchi State Governor,Bala Mohammed,lauded the role played by the Nigerian Media in building democratic culture, institutions and practices in the discharge of its constitutional responsibility.
Speaking through his Special Adviser, on Media and Publicity, Mukhtar Gidado, Mohammed thanked the organizers, authors and editors of the book for a well researched scholarly endeavor which he said has a direct and practical bearing on media development and democracy .
He, however, lamented that the current debate in Nigeria regarding the place of the media in Nigeria’s democratic transformation and consolidation relate to the role of the media in empowering civic spaces and strengthening democratic governance and the challenges the media face in engaging in such undertakings .
Co-author of the book, Paul Obi, stressed the need for the press to be allowed to operate with the constitutional provisions.
He said:”What we need to do is to ensure that those right are not breach or limited and it should work within our constitutional framework and any aspect that prevent media from performing constitutional rights,we should raised alarm,”