The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has declared Kazeem Afegbua, media adviser to former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, wanted, raising concerns over clampdown on free speech by President Muhammadu Buhari government as 2019 general elections draws near.
Afegbua had on Sunday released an authorized statement, in which the former Nigerian leader asked Mr. Buhari not to seek reelection in 2019 in the interest of the country.
The IGP ordered the arrest of Afegbua in a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, on Monday.
The statement reads, “The IGP has ordered the arrest of Kashim Afegbua for making false statements, defamation of character and for an act capable of instigating public disturbance throughout the country.
“He is therefore declared wanted by the Nigeria Police Force and should report at the nearest police station anywhere he is in the country.”
There had been confusion on Sunday over two statements purportedly written by the former military dictator.However, Mr. Babangida told THISDAY Sunday night that the statement which Mr. Afegbua signed on his behalf still stands.
Babangida had in the statement advised Nigerians to do away with analogue leaders and embrace those of the digital age, adding that it was time new breed of young leaders emerged.
The statement partly read, “In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29, 2019, and collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country.
“While offering this advice, I speak as a stakeholder, former President, concerned Nigerian and a patriot who desires to see new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running.
“While saying this also, I do not intend to deny President Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for, but there comes a time in the life of a nation, when personal ambition should not override national interest.”
Babangida said the All Progressives Congress had failed to honour its many campaign promises, saying he was tempted to ask the ruling party to present Nigerians with the evidence of “change.”
The order for Afegbua’s arrest is worrisome and seen by watchers as attempt by the unpopular government of the day to muffle free speech.
Recall that in 2012, Mr. Buhari had, while receiving members of his former party, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in Kaduna said, “If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’
He had lost the 2011 presidential election to former president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Despite the inflammatory statement, nobody ordered his arrest. It is on record that in spite all manner of things that were said against Jonathan, he never ordered the arrest of anybody, neither did he hold anybody as political prisoner throughout his six years as president.
But the story is different under the Buhari government, which has shown in few cases, utter disregard for democratic tenets and rule of law.
Former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki is being held since December 2015 without trial. Same goes for Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. He has been in the custody of the Nigerian military since December, 2015 without trial, notwithstanding reports of failing health.