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Mailafia

Sir: Former Central Bank Deputy Governor, Obadiah Mailafia, certainly worked up a storm recently when he appeared on a radio programme and aired views that rankled both the Department of State Security and the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC). While the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, citing its controversial code, has since brought down its sledgehammer on the Abuja based radio station to the tune of N5 million, the Department of State Security subjected Mailafia to its infamous grilling. Of course, in continuation of the nightmarish problems it has so far caused Nigeria and Nigerians, insecurity was again behind the sledgehammer pounded on the radio station and Mailafia’s long hours with the DSS.

Since Nigeria`s security situation began to seriously deteriorate with Boko Haram launching full operations in just over a decade ago, Nigeria has tallied innumerable losses. Whether it is in lives so swiftly cut off, livelihoods swept away or infrastructure reduced to dust, the country has felt the full fury of rampaging criminal groups. The country’s security agencies have fought back at great cost. Young men and women who should be the future of Nigeria’s armed forces have been felled at their prime, thus plunging the future into a cloud of uncertainty.

However, one of the greatest yet most subtle achievements of the insecurity currently ravaging the country is the shrinking of Nigeria`s democratic space. Under the guise of national security, successive Nigerian governments have found justification for clamping down on the right Nigerians have to free speech. It is in that light that Mailafia’s travails and the pangs of the Abuja based radio station can be properly appreciated.

The NBC’s code which served as the plank upon which the N5 million fine was raised received a frosty reception from Nigerians at its introduction. Many predicted it to be the gag that would be clamped over Nigerian mouths. That prediction is proving true. The fine came as some sort of confirmation and many Nigerians have railed and rallied.

As the frustrations of living in Nigeria have continued to mount amidst increasing insecurity and rising cost of living, Nigerians more than ever have cause to ventilate their grievances, share their fears and demand better lives from those they have entrusted their affairs to. However, with each day that passes under the current administration, this freedom to ventilate, to express anger and frustration continues to receive new and carefully orchestrated blows.

It would seem that there is a well hatched plan to concretise the docility of Nigerians by taking away their ability to speak out at all. In what is an appalling irony, it would seem that the very institutions which ordinarily should be protecting the right of Nigerians are the ones wielding the cudgels to take those rights away. Life in Nigeria grows more difficult by the day. Most of these difficulties are manmade and with vigorous deliberations and discussions, common solutions may be found.

The Nigeria Broadcasting Commission and other state actors entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the space in which these discussions can be held must owe their allegiance only to the law which creates them and to Nigerians. Any contrary affiliation or action would be nothing short of a baleful betrayal.

• Kene Obiezu wrote from Abuja.


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