Lai Muhammed

By Hamid Hendrix

Freedom without responsibility continues to pose a great challenge to the realization of the full potentials of our democratic dispensation and it is rather unfortunate that foremost beneficiaries of such liberty are too often also the major culprits. Though measures have been taken to curb the excesses of abusers of civil liberties it is obvious that the more needs to be done to safeguard public interest.

One area where this menace continues to rear its ugly head is in the rowdy ranks of human rights advocacy groups which were once credited with facilitating the successful liberation of several African nations from the scourge of oppressive military regimes but are now becoming misfits in democratic settings due to loss of focus and desperation to remain relevant.

Rather than shifting their attention from the initial agenda of campaigning for democracy to the equally relevant aspects of ensuring free and fair elections and dividends of democracy, several of the advocacy groups have been overtaken by pecuniary impulses that turned them into rentable rabble-rousers, willingly lending themselves to the begrudged and disgruntled elements. Such groups end up mired in miscellaneous advocacy of discordant diatribes as they drift into charlatanism under the counterfeit canopy of human rights advocacy.

A typical example of such mischievous misadventures masquerading as human rights advocates is the recent statement issued by Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) claiming that “under the President’s nose a minister allegedly mismanaged N2 billion from the National Broadcasting Commission for digitisation of broadcasting but till now both the minister of information and DG of NBC are walking the corridors of power free.”

This single sentence of spurious speculation casting unsubstantiated aspersions on the unblemished reputation of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Malam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and attempting to discredit the highly–rated successful switch over to digital broadcasting (DS0) in Nigeria was purported to be an exercise in human rights advocacy ! Incredulously, this fabricated defamation was an isolated insertion lacking relevance or corroboration in a libellous list of politically-motivated wild allegations against the person and administration of President Muhammadu Buhari contrived by one Emmanuel Onwubiko, coordinator of the so-called human rights group.

It is manifestly outlandish to portray the deliberate misrepresentation of the nationally acclaimed resuscitation and diligent implementation of the previously paralysed DSO project and callous assassination of the character of the two government functionaries responsible for such an achievement as a human rights infringement, just as it is absurd to smear the hitch-free scheduled switch over to digital broadcasting across the country with the brush of “mismanagement” of a bogus two billion naira. These malicious distortions of verifiable facts amount to gross violations of the principle of public accountability, which is a fundamental right of citizens in a democracy.

To set the records straight, it is worth recalling that the DSO was formally launched in Jos, Plateau State, in April 2016, followed by the FCT, Ilorin, Kaduna, Enugu and Osogbo while the process of installation of equipment for the roll out in Gombe and Delta states have reached advanced stages. The NBC expects to achieve DSO roll out in 12 states soon. This impressive performance was the outcome of zealous commitment of Minister Lai Mohammed and NBC DG Modibbo Kawu to break the four-year jinx that stalled the project prior to the debut of the Buhari Administration’s change agenda.

For HURIWA to single out this glorious chapter in the remarkable record of progress in the nation’s broadcast industry for a vicious vendetta is a pathetic pointer to the ulterior motives that have hijacked the group and falsified its declared mission. In fact, a cursory review of its recent outings reveals a revolting surrender to the most ridiculous and irrational advocacies imaginable, such as campaigning against the ban on production of the much abused codeine cough syrups because it has “led to great financial misfortunes for over 30 legitimate pharmaceutical companies,” urging the Federal Government “not to stop expectant women and nursing mothers from participating in National Youth Service Corps (NYSC),” appealing to “ the government of the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on Nigeria” and dismissing the terrorist classification of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB “ as a charade and a plot to initiate violent crackdown on the members of this substantially unarmed and peaceful group”.

Even the EFCC has dismissed the occasional anti-corruption posturing of HURIWA as “ethnic and political agenda by some mischief makers masquerading as human rights writers” in one of its rebuttals of the pseudo human rights advocacy group’s capricious campaigns. This was also endorsed by Emmanuel Otairu of the Centre for International and Strategy Studies, Abuja whose article titled “HURIWA As IPOB’s NGO Arm” in The Nation edition of September 18, 2017 concluded that it was “ a tool for extortion, paid activism, ethnic propaganda mouthpiece and most recently a terror organization’s NGO arm”. The steadily expanding coverage of the DSO in Nigeria under the diligent implementation of Information Minister Lai Mohammed and DG NBC Ishaq Modibbo Kawu has surely switched off anomalous advocacy groups like HURIWA along with analogue noise.

-HAMID HENDRIX is a communications writer in Abuja