By Joe Okei Odumakin
Today is my birthday – but it is one birthday with a difference!
Birthdays usually call for celebrations. They are occasions for merriment, thanksgiving, and reliving of fond memories.
They are also occasions for sober reflection and stock-taking.
For me, this year’s birthday is one with a huge difference from previous ones.
What with Yinka on the other side of eternity, the very first since we fused together as husband and wife?
And how can we make merry in an atmosphere of vicious clampdown on fundamental human rights like never before?
How can we wine and dine when our democratic rights are under vicious assault by a supposed civilian democratic government?
What memories do we have today other than that of the failed attempt at crating Umaru Dikko from the UK into Nigeria?
The only difference being that while the kidnap of Umaru Dikko failed, that of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu succeeded!
The controversy surrounding the alleged international abduction or kidnapping of Kanu is an embarrassment to right-thinking Nigerians.
In the past under the Abacha junta, this country was treated by the international community as a pariah with all the embarrassment, discomfiture and loss of esteem suffered by Nigerians. We must NEVER tread that ignoble path again.
We also must not relapse under military jackboots because this is a democracy brought about by great sacrifice in lives, limbs, and personal comforts and conveniences.
We are a country under law. Fundamental rights must be respected. The Constitution that gives government its powers also accords the people their rights and privileges.
It is not acceptable for government to claim its own powers under the Constitution while abridging those of the people freely given under the same Constitution.
Protests are an intrinsic part of democracy – except this is not a democracy!
The vicious violation of the rights of Chief Sunday Igboho, whose house was raided without a search warrant, belong in a banana republic.
The wanton destruction of lives and property of a citizen that has not been found guilty of a crime by a court of competent jurisdiction is alien to democratic norms.
It is also anatemma to the rule of law.
In the midst of this chaotic disorder, the National Assembly is also attempting to alter the Electoral Act (Sec 50 (2)) on Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 with an attempt to remove electronic transmission of vote making it discretionary.
In light of the foregoing, we demand the following:
1. That the rights of citizens to protest must be respected by government.
2. That thorough investigation be made into the alleged death of a girl in the vicinity of the Ojota rally of Saturday.
3. That all those arrested be released forthwith and unconditionally.
4. That government should respond to allegations that Kanu was kidnapped/abducted from a foreign country against international law and conventions.
5. That the said Kanu should be deemed innocent until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction.
6. That he should be given fair hearing conducted in the open and his health must not be impaired or compromised throughout the period of his trial.
7. Government should stop hunting Igboho who is only exercising his rights to protest bad governance. Instead, government should focus its attention on combating the insurgency ravaging the country.
8. That all citizens should exercise their fundamental right within the ambit of the law without resort to violence or wanton destruction of life and properties as this is inimical to our progress as a nation.
9. Citizens should desist from wanton destruction of government institutions( Police Stations, INEC, Prisons etc) as he who comes to equity must come with a clean hand. We must support our law enforcement in carrying out their legitimate duties not destroy their lives and properties, they have families too and are entitled to dignity and decency that we all seek. Every law enforcement that carry out extra judicial killings should be brought to book accordingly.
10. That the purported amendment on the Electoral Act must make electronic transmission a mandatory requirement and not discretionary. Section 50(2) of the intended amendment must be couched properly as the sanctity of our vote is the highest expressions of democratic norms.
Finally, government must rededicate itself to respecting the fundamental rights of the people as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, which it swore to protect.
My birthday today is a birthday with a difference, so it shall be celebrated with a difference as well.
It is my first birthday since the passage of my friend, comrade, soulmate and husband, YO.
I will therefore further immerse myself in the ideals that YO and I held dear.
These are the ideals of Justice, Fairness, and Equity.
Join me in hoisting aloft this banner on this auspicious occasion.
Happy birthday to us all as we do!
Joe Okei Odumakin.
President, Centre for Change.