One good thing about democracy is that it sees reality as many-sided. It is not a one way traffic. Democracy thieves in a market of ideas where everybody is free to express his or her own opinion, no matter how stupid it may may look like. That is what makes society strong and virile.
Democracy is like the Hegelian logic where the clash between thesis and antithesis will produce synthesis, which will in turn bring forth a new thesis, to continue the process. Thus, democracy is an on going process. It is not a finished product.
In democracy, there is no absolute truth, and there is no absolute reality. There is no one particular way of viewing things, but variety of ways. It is open-ended.
The advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 has given many people in the country the leverage, the impetus to freely express their views on various issues affecting the nation, without fear of being arrested, molested or intimidated, which marks the difference between constitutional democracy and military dictatorship.
However, within the past few weeks, there appears to be some serious threats to this much-cherished freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. This could be attested to from the recent arrests and detention of some opposition activists, based on some trumped up allegations.
First, is the case of Deji Adeyanju, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and unrepentant critic of the Buhari administration. He is currently languishing in a prison custody over a crime said to had been committed about nineteen years ago and which had earlier been tried and disposed off in a law court.
Adeyanju was charged for complicity in a series of murders committed in the year 2000. He was then charged before a Kano High Court between 2005 and 2009, which following the trial, discharged and acquitted him.
But perhaps because Adeyanju had become thorn in the flesh, a critical opponent of the present administration, in December last year, that murder case was resurrected. He was then arrested and detained for five days, before being arraigned in a Magistrate Court in Kano on December 13, 2018.
While the Magistrate Court said that it had no power to try the case, it however ordered that Adeyanju be kept in prison custody till February 6, this year. The implication therefore, is that the government has succeeded in keeping the man out of circulation, and he would no longer be around to criticise the administration.
Then, there is the case of Dino Melaye, a vocal and controversial senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, who the Nigeria Police Force claimed to have crossed its path.
Early this year, and for eight long days, the police had laid siege in Melaye’s home over unsubstantiated allegations and vowed not to leave the house until the man surrendered to them. But the Senator had refused to show up, claiming that he had information that the Inspector General of Police had plans to poison him.
When finally the man could no longer withstand the power of the police, he surrendered, and was promptly arrested. Ever since, Melaye has been in the custody of the police, even when he was said to have suddenly fallen sick in hands of the police and was immediately rushed to an hospital.
And just last weekend, the Nigerian Army laid siege in both the Maiduguri and Abuja offices of the Daily Trust Newspapers, took some of their editors away, as well as some of their computers and other gadgets.
The Army said they took the action because the Newspaper had published some sensitive stories injurious to their operations against the Boko Haram insurgency. It was after many Nigerians had cried foul, that the Army decided to vacate Newspaper premises.
These are no cheering news. They are nothing to be celebrated. The muscling of vocal voices cannot make our society to grow. There must be criticisms, there must be divergent of opinions, different people seeing things differently, which is a necessary ingredient of democracy.
The current spate of arrests and detention of critics and opposition elements are ominous signs that there is danger ahead. It shows that the administration is becoming impatient or intolerable of criticism.
But there is no way society can grow if there are no criticisms, if everybody continues to see things the same way. There must be disagreements, and there must be divergent of opinions.