Speaking ‘Treason’ Fluently—Wale Adebanwi

Now that the cacophony of voices over the Channels TV incident has given way to other problems, we might as well engage in the luxury of looking back and rethinking the import of the saga that robbed the state security apparatus of whatever was left of its prudence. For an apparatus whose masters would rue their backstage role since the collapse of General Sani Abacha’s tyranny and military rule in general, the Channels incident seemed to have offered a major opportunity to remind errant Nigerians that the securocracy of the martial years was not dead. Our ‘friends’ invaded the Channels newsroom and held some officials hostage, even after the station had retracted its story - on the President’s ‘impending resignation’ - and apologised. wale-adebanwi.jpg

Securocrats everywhere in the world are enemies of civil liberties. They impose a system in which security concerns, defined and imposed by a clique of security oligarchs - usually within the military and the intelligence community, supported by some state-political operators – dictate and determine state actions. 

For securocrats, liberty counts for little, if it counts at all. And where enemies do not exist, securocrats create or imagine them. Since the creation of the Special Branch in the 1960s and the elaboration of this in the post-Murtala Muhammed era with the creation of the National Security Organisation, NSO, securocrats have been gaining in strength in Nigeria. Particularly since General Muhammadu Buhari and his partner-in-terror, Tunde Idiagbon, when Mr. Rafindadi imposed a climate of fear on Nigeria, things have not been the same for the otherwise freedom-loving people that Nigerians are.

In the Buhari-Idiagbon months, state-protected terrorists clamped people into jail for mouthing liberty. During General Ibrahim Babangida’s long, dark years, the sadists wanted to abolish our collective right to civilised choice. They also reigned with impunity under General Sani Abacha, symbolised by that specie of violence and medieval terror called Major Hamza Al-Mustapha - who the core canvassers against freedom and human dignity are now working hard to snatch from the sanctions of the law. The securocrats did not work too hard in the Obasanjo years, because, apart from the fact that their core was not politically linked to the abhorrent and abhorring president, Obasanjo himself constituted sufficient danger to human liberty to be helped along by other similarly inclined creatures.

But they were always lurking in the corner, waiting for their opportunity to pounce. The securocrats are again championing their perverse view of how this society should be run. Liberty, they have always resolved, is dangerous to human society. These medieval puppets have imposed their take on things in this country for many decades, they are about to resume their bigoted push for the enslavement of the human spirit. 

They are coming back to power in Abuja. If they are not stopped, someday soon, we would not be allowed to pronounce the name of the President without permission. What is worrisome is that securocrats do not need the permission of the President to seize the government and squeeze our collective liberty. They only need the enabling environment; they need a political class that is crass and craven; a ruling party that condones their excesses until its key members become the victims.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party hierarchy, more than any other institution, has given these characters their greatest room to roam. No doubt, the leadership of the PDP has always constituted an embarrassment to Nigeria. 

At a point, it had a leader who tried to speak measured truth to presidential power, but even this was too much for the irremediable former president to bear. Let us face it, intellectually speaking, the PDP was exhausted even before it was created. The logic that necessitated, nurtures and sustains the party is the self-same logic that has made Nigeria a racial embarrassment. Which is why, in the middle of the Channels affair, it rankled that even the PDP surpassed itself in triteness by describing the gross professional error committed by Channels as ‘treason’. The PDP would not allow the technical securocrats to outdo its clumsy leadership in the business of ‘protecting’ the President and the state.

Let us be clear about it, the freedom to speak one’s mind and reflect the minds of others in public, and even make mistakes on these counts, represent a threat to securocrats and their patrons in the PDP. Securocrats have always hated democratic control over their actions and activities. And there is no party that is better placed to oblige them in this perverse position than the PDP. Therefore, Channels was by no means their real target, despite the cheap error committed by that otherwise sober station. Our collective freedom is what securocrats loathe. 

Yet, there is nothing, let no mistake be made about this, that separates our freedom from the freedom of those who are in power today, whether in the party or in the government. Anyone who wants elementary lessons in this should not ask former President Obasanjo, but need only read about his ordeal under Abacha and his general public misconduct before and after the fact.
As if to confirm what is abroad, a newspaper recently reported that wire-tapping of even officials of government is the order of the day in Abuja now. We are told that securocrats believe that some government officials are behind the ‘leaks’ – what leaks, for goodness sake! – experienced in recent times. So, in addition to oaths of secrecy, the officials are being monitored.

The actions of the securocrats are premised on the unconstrained mistrust of the media as a vehicle for the ventilation of public opinion and arena of civil liberties. As vehicle and arena, the media can make mistakes, but there are sufficient safeguards in the law to attend to this. But the securocrats would abrogate not only the possibility of error – which can be subsequently corrected – but punish it outside the prescriptions of the same law they pretend to uphold. If we allow a surveillance state to be re-created and sustained by medieval reasoning, in the middle of all the other limitations of the Nigerian state, then we will be back where escaped from – the state of error and terror that forced Sani Abacha into permanent condemnation in the annals of history. 

Eventually the securocrats would hold even President Umar Yar’Adua hostage. It is, therefore, incumbent upon an enlightened president to stop the securocracy that is being encouraged and promoted by his party - which the intelligence community cynically enjoys. When you allow securocracy to reign as president, you encourage securocrats to hold you hostage, as they did General Buhari. President Yar’Adua would do well to stop the putative securocrats lurking around the Villa now.
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