The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu of Nigeria has decried the widespread coercion of the press, civil society, the judiciary, and parliaments by some African leaders.
According to him, the leaders had no regard for their oaths of office and constitutional limits of their powers
Mr. Uche Anichukwu, Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of the Senate, said on Saturday that Ekweremadu made his position known in a lecture, “African Politics: The Dynamics and Lesson”, which he delivered at the House of Commons, Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK).
Ekweremadu warned that democracy would be imperilled and transmute to civilian dictatorship without respect for key institutions of democracy.
The former Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS Parliament), regretted that “outside Nigeria, South Africa, and a few others, most African parliaments are largely caged and often reduced to rubber stamps and appendages of the executive”.
He cited the case of Cameroon where the constitution had been severally amended to keep 84 years old President Paul Biya in power since November 1982.
He also referred to Uganda where the parliament recently voted to remove the constitutional age limit to elongate the tenure of 73 years old President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office for about 30 years.
He, however, commended the judiciary for critical interventions to save democracy in Nigeria’s intra-party dispute as well as the Gambian, Kenyan and Liberian presidential elections.
“The Judiciary is not only the last hope of the common man in Africa, but also the prized hope of democracy, rule of law, human rights, equity, and justice.
“Take away an independent judiciary and what you have left is crude dictatorship.
“Lately, the Supreme Court of Nigeria saved democracy in the country in its judgment on the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, crisis when it held that the decision of a party in its national convention is final and binding.
“Also, after the PDP lost election in Nigeria in 2015, the APC-led government ran riot and began to indict, arrest, investigate, and detain its opponents and individual enemies. The judiciary was its major roadblock.
“In response to its frustration, the houses of judges were embarrassingly raided at midnight and judicial officers humiliated by security agencies working for the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Such executive lawlessness must be condemned in strongest terms and must not be allowed to find a sanctuary in African politics,” Ekweremadu added.
Ekweremadu also deplored the harassment of social media users, online bloggers and publishers in parts of Africa.
He also noted that effort to enact an Act to regulate Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) was unhealthy for democracy.
He said: “It is even quite hypocritical that former opposition leaders and parties rise to power, but only to turn round, determined to break and burn the very ladder with which they climbed into power”.
Ekweremadu identified refusal of many presidents to do justice to all manner of people, and not allow private interest to influence official decision as a present threat to democracy in the continent.
“Contrary to the oaths, what we see is blatant nepotism, cronyism, and tribalism. The ethnic groups of the heads of state are mostly favoured in appointments, opportunities, and provision of infrastructure.’’
He flayed the “emasculation of the English-speaking part of Cameroon under President Biya and the alleged favouritism towards the Zulus by President Jacob Zuma in South Africa’’ and urged African leaders to be all embracing.
Speaking, the chief host of the event and Member of the UK Parliament, Rt. Hon Keith Vaz, described the event as the first of its kind, stressing that Africa was looking up to Nigeria to show leadership.
On his part, the President, Enugu Diapora, UK and Ireland, Prof. Joe Ukemenam, assured that the Nigerian diaspora community was willing to lend support to Africa.