Olakunle Abimbola


LIBERAL dictatorship — a violent contradiction in terms, right?

Yet, that appears what some lobbies are trying to impose, post-#EndSARS protests that tragically miscarried, kissing bare anarchy.

Dateline October 12, and The Nation outed with this headline: “Banire, Utomi, Falana, others slam Fed Govt for ‘dictatorship’”.  That news report captured the take of Concerned Professionals (CP) on the #EndSARS aftermaths.

To be sure, different lobbies in a democracy, can push their legal and legitimate rights to dub the sitting order whatever they like.  It’s all about participatory democracy; the right to free speech and the clash between citizen and state rights.

Do citizens have rights?  Absolutely, though no right is absolute.  Still, let’s be clear: these rights subsist from the harshest of dictatorships to the freest of democracies.  Citizen right is simply the spice of the modern state; and the vanguard for those rights are critical to any democracy.

But do states too have rights?  Definitely.  Indeed, a 1949 UN document, named Draft Declaration on Rights and Duties of States, which the International Law Commission adopted and submitted to the General Assembly, itemized the rights and duties of states.

Article 2 of that document spoke of the basic right to govern: “Every state has the right to exercise jurisdiction over its territory and over all persons and things therein, subject to the immunities recognized by international law”.

That right is rooted in the pristine social contract: by which the people conceptually agreed to forego part of their rights, in exchange for common security and safety, guaranteed by the state and its ruling agency, the government.

But Article 6 also insisted the state must, as duty, respect and uphold its citizens’ rights: “Every state has the duty to treat all persons under its jurisdiction with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.

So, every polity (indeed, every democracy), boasts that taut and delicate tension, which balance must not snap: between the right of the state to exercise its legal powers; and the right of the citizens to uphold their legitimate freedoms.

It’s dictatorship, if it snaps to the government’s side.  It’s anarchy, if it snaps the people’s way.  Neither is desirable — and #EndSARS was living proof!

To be fair, you must credit the liberal movement — lawyers, jurists, the progressive media, rights advocacy groups and even international rights organizations — as the historic vanguard for the survival of democracy.  They are the palladium that holds these rights as the democratic holy grail; and would go to any length to defend it — admirable!

Which shows why this movement would ideologically, even if near-uncritically, gravitate towards protests like #EndSARS.  Indeed, Police brutality is such a brazen and unapologetic assault on citizen rights that it must be condemned.

But support for the right cause is one thing.  Using that agenda to block putative wrongs, even from good intentions, is another.

Therein then lies Ripples’ departure from CP, in its bid to stonewall legitimate probes into the dirty underbelly of the #EndSARS protests.  By that it, rather arrogantly, beatifies crass sentiments as the manifest good.  It is nothing but holy fraud.

But don’t get it twisted: the liberal phalanx is right to insist on transparency and openness of whatever probe the government is launching.  They are right to disagree with — and even challenge, at superior courts — the legal propriety of a court handing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) the power to freeze citizens’ accounts, pending investigations.

They are also within their constitutional rights to raise hell over passport seizures, of citizens that contributed to the success of free, legal and legitimate protests.  Again, aside from raising hell in the press, they can approach the courts to challenge — and overturn — those actions.

However, they can’t — and mustn’t — wholesale canonize their own preferences as rights groups, but demonize, wholesale, the other side; not on the basis of facts and rigour but on frothing and fraudulent sentiments.  The government also has rights!

That, however, appears the rally of CP and media allies, carefully passed as progressive thinking.  It is not.

On the contrary, it’s a looming liberal dictatorship, as bad as government dictatorship.  Both are undemocratic tendencies that must be decried, despite the liberal lobby’s puritanical play to the gallery.

For starters, if lobbies and individuals earn due praise for driving free, legal and legitimate protests, what stops them from earning due blame, for that critical juncture, where it all went awry?  Didn’t the good saying say the road to hell was paved with good intentions?

That is the long-and-short of the present CP rally, cloaked as manifest public good, sure to snare the unwary.  First, is the ubiquitous apologia, that #EndSARS’ end- criminality was the work of so-called hoodlums.  That could well be true.

But if there were no #EndSARS protests, would there have been any follow-up criminality?  If the protesters had not balked at the curfew, at the Lekki toll gate, would there have been the military shootings, and the so-called “massacre”, real or phoney, for which there are desperate, but fruitless, efforts to gather non-existent body bags?

Indeed, if the protesters had called off their action in sensible time, would latter-day anarchists have forced the curfew in the first instance?  Why this dishonourable efforts to de-link #EndSARS from its chaotic aftermath?

Why, the CP even used DJ Switch to illustrate its gaseous grandstand, claiming her reported case of Canada “asylum” was forcing “youths” to flee their country — rich!

To be sure DJ (S)witch is the guilty soul that bales when no one pursues her — no one, except the witchery of her wild social media posts, that later fuelled tens of real deaths!  She can scam external lobbies, ever ready to believe the worst about her country.  But can she scam her troubled conscience?

It’s even getting more interesting that a Twitter user, Bayo Adedosu, has reportedly offered our puritanical and revolutionary “youth” N1 million to provide evidence of a “Lekki massacre”!  Over to DJ Switch in her Canada “asylum”!

It’s an abject failure of character that fiery youths, who would drag their country to the straight-and-narrow, pathetically buckled with brazen lies, on a massacre that was not. It speaks to the deep darkness of their soul that every celebrity they pronounced killed, at that e-massacre, has resurrected!

Let all involved in the #EndSARS debacle be fairly probed.  Let the innocent walk free.  Let the guilty carry the can.  By that, justice is served. Fending off fair probes does no one any good.

Older CP members should counsel their younger charges to walk their talk.  That would be better than erecting yet other barriers of lies, simply because you could manipulate the media.  It’s the tragic making of liberal dictatorship, which ruins all!