Communique issued at the end of the Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference 2019 on the theme: Reviving Popular Action for Democracy and Freedom in Nigeria

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Communique issued at the end of the Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference 2019 on the theme: Reviving Popular Action for Democracy and Freedom in Nigeria

PREAMBLE

The Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) in partnership with African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized the 2019 Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, on Tuesday December 17, 2019.

The Inaugural Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference held on December 13, 2018, at the National Press Centre, Abuja, in the buildup to the General Elections of 2019. The Abuja Conference was also convened by Social Action in collaboration with African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) for democracy activists to examine the state of the pro-democracy movement since the 1990s. The 2018 Conference brought together veterans of the pro-democracy movement and younger activists and served as a platform for inter-generational dialogue on the movement for democracy in Nigeria, and the state of the nation.

The Nigeria Pro-Democracy Conference, 2019 was a platform for pro-democracy activists, social justice advocates and organic scholars in Nigeria to examine the democratic practices in Nigeria since 1999 and discuss options for positive civic engagement in politics as a way of promoting popular power and enthroning a representative and accountable government in Nigeria. It was chaired by Professor Anthony Kila, Director of the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS). More than 200 participants from several groups, including pro- democracy, human rights, civil society, media and students’ union attended the 2019 conference.

State of the Nation

The conference reviewed the state of the nation noting that after twenty years of civil rule not much has changed. There were interventions by several organizations. The conference observed that the dominant political forces cannot, as they are, offer the change that Nigeria needs. It stated that politics has become more of a war game played by gangsters who have divided the country into enclaves of domination, ruled through banditry and brigandage and that together, the mainstream parties and their exponents move Nigeria and Nigerians closer and closer to the abyss.

The conference noted that more people are living in extreme poverty in Nigeria than in any other country in the world, according to data produced by the Brookings Institution; that over a million Nigerians are living in IDP camps as a result of violent conflicts and that as a cause and consequence of the crisis, the country is witnessing a the massively polarised public sphere with discourses often clouded with ethnic, religious and other sectional colourations.

It was the view of the conference that the government of the day disregards the rule of law and disobeys court orders with impunity. The conference highlighted the plight of civil society actors and journalists who have been arrested and held in detention in violation of court orders.

The conference agreed on the imperative of civic intervention of the pan-Nigerian character reminiscent of the 1990s pro-democracy movement.

OBSERVATIONS

The keynote speech, “The Anti-Politics of Buhari Administration” was delivered by Professor Sylvester Odion Akhaine of the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University. The speech noted that our democratic process has been purged of virtually all its democratic content; the legislature has become a rubber stamp; the judiciary is intimidated and peopled by political appointees without merit but programmed to do the will of the executive. With the capturing of the other arms of government, the executive has been transformed, in all objective sense, into a despot.

After a panel discussion on the keynote address and interventions by participants, the conference made the following observations:

  1. Nigeria is fast sliding into a fascist
  2. We are confronted with a government which has no regard for the rule of
  3. Court orders are being disobeyed with Journalists and activists are arrested and detained indiscriminately.
  4. Sahara Reporters publisher, Omowole Sowore, Olawale Bakare, former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, among others, remain in detention despite court orders for their release. We also have journalists like Agba Jalingo and Jones Abiri who are facing terrorism charges for simply doing their These are all testimonies to the shrinking of media and civil space in the country.
  5. The government proposed social media bill and hate speech bill are aimed at curtailing the freedom of expression of
  6. Even though the country now houses the highest number of poor people in the world, there is a bill called finance bill passed by the National Assembly awaiting the president’s assent. The essence of the bill is to force everyone, including the mass of unemployed Nigerians to pay more taxes. According to the bill, if you have no Tax ID, you can’t have a bank The government has also increased VAT, introduced POS charges, all of which are aimed at further impoverishing Nigerians to make more money available for the elite to loot. The minimum wage has yet to be implemented.
  7. In addition to several billions of dollars that it has borrowed, the government is now seeking to borrow another $30 billion while the bulk of the 2019 budget is to be borrowed. This is an attempt to plunge Nigeria into a debt crisis and leave heavy debt burden on future
  8. It has become obvious that the Buhari government has no solution to the country’s economic and social problems. The despotic approach it deploys is only a decoy to take people’s attention away from the real issues of its
  9. Part of the challenge facing the pro-democracy movement is that unlike during the military regime when we had a vibrant civil society, when it was us against the military, we are facing a different challenge today. Politicians have succeeded in dividing us along ethnic and religious
  • All key appointments in the country are now in the hands of one region in total disregard for the constitution and the principle of federal

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The current battle to reclaim Nigeria is complex. We need an alliance of forces that would lead to the formation of a radical pan-Nigerian organization, taking into consideration the nuances of the Nigerian
  2. We must answer the question of the structure of the Nigerian
  3. We must all, as lovers of freedom and people who have the interest of the nation at heart, start organising to ensure that our democratic rights are
  4. We must all begin to act, to organise in our different localities to stop the encroaching fascism. We must not rest until journalists, activists and other individuals jailed are
  5. No matter the differences we have, we must decide on a few things: accountability of those in power, regardless of who is in power. We must ensure that the right of minorities is protected and that our freedoms are
  6. We must revive and restructure pro-democracy organisations and use them to make our voices heard and sustain the tempo of our
  7. The pro-democracy movement should stand in solidarity with student unions across the country in order to strengthen their activism. We should also stand strongly against the victimization of student union activists in our various universities.

CONCLUSION

Participants agreed that the pro-democracy conference should be held at least once every year as a rallying point for activists and citizen across the country to continue to uphold the tenets of democracy.

The conference called for the immediate and unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare, Agba Jalingo and other journalists and activists being detained in defiance of court orders.

It called on the judiciary and legislature to show commitment to country’s democracy. The judiciary should restore its independence while the legislature must always demonstrate commitment to the tenets of democracy by holding the executive accountable.

It condemned the proposed social media bill and hate speech bill which it said are aimed at curtailing the freedom of expression of Nigerians.

Signed:

Dr Isaac ‘Asume’ Osuoka Dr Chido Onumah Auwal Ibrahim Musa
Social Action AFRICMIL (Rafsanjani) CISLAC
     
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