Eternal vigilance as the price of liberty (a political meditation)

The above words were uttered by someone from those countries that have a huge tradition of fighting to keep liberty alive. This means that even there, they have to remain vigilant, lest their liberty be stolen from them.

The nature of liberty is that it is a perishable commodity, so you have to restock your supplies of it frequently. If you don’t, you begin to lose your liberty; and a free society can thus turn overnight into a closed society.

That was how Germany in the NAZI era was able to elect Hitler and become a dictatorship overnight, where the furher could murder 6 million Jews freely, without Germany batting an eyelid.

Who are the guardians that must be eternally vigilant to keep the fires of liberty burning eternally, morning after morning? The media is one of them. The people are the other.

The media is a platform where you could -rightfully or wrongfully- attack any government agenda, point out anything disturbing you about society, and check people who do bad things because those people are the most likely to want to extinguish the fire of liberty. So, it goes that the free press must be protected and it must be kept democratic. That means, there must be little barrier to entry.

Those societies where entry into media is regulated by licenses are actually witnessing the loose or tight restraint of a guardian of liberty. The government which is an institution that naturally would not want much liberty in the country -because of the classified things they do routinely as part of their business -must be forced by the people to lose its hold of the media and not stifle it to death with regulations.

They have their job to do to defend the state, but the upholders of liberty have theirs, which is to defend the freedoms of the people.

The internet is a media platform that the government will naturally want to regulate because it is currently the most democratic platform around. Anyone can start a blog or a Facebook page or a Twitter hashtag and publish something that powerful forces would rather prefer hidden.

So, the government is always trying to draw up new legislation to reign in the internet, that baby that they create, but always end up fighting.

If the guardians of liberty fall asleep even for a moment , the regulators  come out of the cracks in the walls and take and immediately begin to institute changes that would turn the society into a different one from the one the guardians left as they entered their ill-advised sleep, and they would have to do a lot of work undoing the harm that has been done in their sleep.

So, that is why even though it is a natural thing to relax, if you love liberty, you must eschew relaxation and embrace vigilance- that is sleeping with one eye open. That is why newspapers work a little more, sometimes even during holidays. Because the job of securing liberty is a job that isn’t complete until the journalist reports to his boss the people, the same way a secret service agent would report intelligence to the government.

The state and the people need each other. They are two poles in a symbiotic relationship with each other. The people need the state to organize them -because without organization there would be anarchy- while the state needs the people to remain relevant.

The Place Of The Press

The press or media should naturally be with the people, because their number one responsibility is to guard the freedoms of the people from the natural encroachment of the state and any private elements that may want to stifle liberty.

But sometimes you have government owning news organs. Well that is a necessary imperfection of the press. The only way the people can counter this is for them to make sure there is enough variety in the news for the government not to be the only media voice heard.

Technology is in this wise a great ally of the people, because it is what renews the vitality of the press and deepens its democracy. From town criers you had books, then papers, then radios, and then television and then cable and then blogs and the internet.

Who knows what would come next. Perhaps brain-based mass communications technology where one wouldn’t even need to type on one’s laptop, but rather they  just use a devise – perhaps a micro chip- that enables them to broadcast communication signals from their brain which is then received by a targeted audience.

Mass Communication Marches On

It would appear that in spite of the attempts to stifle mass communication over the centuries of human existence by dictatorial leaders, technology has repeatedly freed liberty from any chains – whether laws or new counter communication technology, or fear – that have been designed to chain it,.

Today, there are internet forums where technology has granted the power of anonymity to people who would have shied away from having their say. But because technology allows them to post their views without showing their picture or user name, they feel very free, and sometimes this irks the government.

Mind you, this is not to say that the governments are necessarily against liberty in principle, but the things they have to do to keep the state going sometimes requires some secrecy. But unfortunately for them, it is the job of those who guard the fires of liberty to be anti-secret.

It is the job of the press to report their findings to the people, and the job of the people to be interested in finding out what the press has to report. This is just as it is the job of the secret service agents and other government officials like civil servants to provide intelligence reports to those who lead the government for necessary information and decisions to be taken.

So, research to boost mass communications technology and interest in discovering what the press have to say are two ways that the fires of liberty can be kept burning.

In the case of research to develop new mass communications technology, the people are fortunate that government has taken a driving seat, even though it would seem that is only because it will make their bosses whom they always want to overthrow, the people happier and more occupied, thereby making their job of rendering service to the people easier. Another reason is because communications technology would make the government relevant in the life of the people, giving them one more reason to justify their existence.

So in the area of mass communications technology development, the people and the press have a great and unlikely ally in the government whom they are actually guarding liberty from.

However, in the area of interest in discovering what the press actually has to report, the people have to continue doing it day after day, because no one will help them do it. Luckily, the press itself, to remain relevant is always thinking of ways to make what it presents more interesting to the people. But whether interesting or not, the people really have no choice but to scrutinize the messages of the press day after day, because eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Agenda for Prof. Peter Onyekwere Ebigbo who was recently elected into International Council For Torture Victims

We congratulate Prof. Peter Onyekwere Ebigbo, who was recently elected to the International Council for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in Copenhagen, Denmark – the first black African to achieve that feat. We expect him to look homewards a lot during his tenure which will last from now to 2019.

There is a lot of torture in Africa, and if he can get African governments to outlaw torture, it will go a long way to civilize our society.

He shouldn’t just look at rehabilitating victims of torture, but also at preventing torture from occurring in the first place. Prof. Onyekwere Ebigbo should start a campaign to encourage African governments to introduce more humane methods of interrogation, as torture is something that we should phase out.

Sir, we don’t want you just sitting behind your desk somewhere in Copenhagen with a lot of important papers to sign all day. Rather, we want you to go to the capitals of Africa, to meet African leaders to persuade them to join in the fight against torture. If Mary Slessor could write her name in the history books by bringing the killing of twins to an end, then you could also do the same with the campaign against torture we have outlined above.

Sir, this is your chance, seize the day.

The Republican Establishment Should Negotiate With Trump, Not Fight Him

 

‘President Donald Trump of the United States, POTUS.’ That phrase if uttered in certain parts of the Republican establishment, would send shivers down the spines of many. It would send them into paroxysms of grief concerning an event that has not yet happened. It would make many conservatives have nightmares where they can be heard screaming the aloud, the words ‘Trump! Trump! No! Trump!’, while at the same they sob in their sleep.

And when they are awake, should you dare to utter the phrase ‘Donald Trump, next president’; some country club-like gentlemen would feel like folding up their shirt sleeves and giving you a sucker punch. But that phrase which is currently is a dream of many that is very likely to become reality come November this year. To borrow the Game of Thrones phrase ‘Winter Is Coming’ to the Republican establishment.

Why does the Republican establishment feel so uneasy about Donald Trump? He is everything they are not. He has never held any public office before, unlike former Governor Jeb Bush, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich, just to mention a few. One of the rites of joining the Republican establishment is that one would be expected to have held some previous political post or the other, before being taken seriously in attempting the highest post of all – the US presidency.

Even one of the noblest politicians to come from the Republican Party’s stables, Abraham Lincoln held several political offices before he ran for president. But here is a man who has spent most of his life as a businessman suddenly leading the field and becoming the presidential front-runner of the Republican Party. That must be rankling to a lot of people right now.

Added to that, Donald Trump cannot be classified as your everyday conservative. He is too pro-abortion, to secular, to pragmatic to be pigeonholed as a conservative. And the Republican Party is ‘supposed to be the home of conservatives’. Either you are a fiscal conservative or you are a social conservative. If you are a social conservative, you are expected to be very much opposed to abortion and a woman’s right to choose (even if she is raped). But instead Donald Trump is seen by many Republican politicians as representing the ‘loser liberal values of New York’, that stronghold of liberalism.

If you are a fiscal conservative, you are supposed to be for Small Government like Ronald Reagan. That is, you are supposed to favor yuge and champion hikes in government spending, but only in military industrial complex issues. You are expected to favour tax cuts and huge cuts in funding of welfare projects. But here is Frontrunner Donald shouting that the war in Syria should be outsourced to Russia,  and that America isn’t meant to be the global Policeman, spending fortunes running military bases in  Japan and South Korea.

Here is a Donald Trump berating establishment hero and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for not raising taxes to tackle a $2.2 billion deficit and fund schools and roads in Wisconsin. That departure from Republican orthodoxy by their uncontrollable frontrunner must be sending sweat beads of worry down the faces of many in the Republican establishment right now.

So, what caused the rise of Trump? For many years, the handwriting has been on the wall for the establishment but they purposely looked away from it. The Republican grassroots initially communicated its displeasure at what the establishment was doing in Washington by firing a warning shot, called the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Party was ostensibly aimed at Democratic President Barak Obama and his

The Tea Party was ostensibly aimed at Democratic President Barak Obama and his neoliberal policies, but it was a subtle signal to the Republican establishment that,  ‘Hey we are not happy with what’s going on, and we are losing confidence in your ability to make the required difference’. Instead of doing some soul-searching following the emergence of the Tea Partiers, the Republican establishment decided to try and domesticate the Tea Party, and hate its ambassador on Capitol Hill, Ted Cruz.

It was tolerated, rather than listened to, and allowed to die a natural death without so much as a lesson being learnt. The establishment never sat down and said, ‘Hey, why did our grassroots have to form a Tea Party when they already had a Republican Party’? They instead characterized the Tea Part as a trend that would soon fade. And fade it did, only for a more uncontrollable force to emerge from its ashes.

That force is not begging to be listened to but is claiming the right to dictate what must happen, and the Republican Establishment doesn’t like that one bit. But sadly, the grassroots seem to have decided that they would stick to this new force of Trump Republicanism, cutting off the establishment – and the establishment just hasn’t been able to believe that they have been cut off from guiding the future of their Grand Old Party.

For so long the Republican establishment didn’t face up to reality. Instead they buried their heads under the sand. They chose to deal with Trump the same way they dealt with the Tea Party, believing that if they ignored him , he would go away. They and their cadet branch in the right wing media spent the first few months of Trump’s candidacy cracking dry jokes at his expense and speculating about when he would ‘eventually drop out’. By the time they realized that the Donald and the Republican grassroots meant business, it was too late for them. The Donald had won a Republican primary.

The establishment then sat up with a start and began to organize what they have termed the ’Never Trump’ Movement. But disappointingly for them, although they have succeeded in slowing Trump’s momentum, they have not killed it. As far as stopping Trump is concerned, they started the real battle to late. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney have all tried to lead brave cavalry charges against the phalanx that is the  Trump campaign but have failed to break it.

The Anti-Trump movement is a waste of time. They lack unity of purpose (other than the broad aim of stopping Trump) and central coordination; and there is little willingness of candidates to surrender their presidential ambitions and support a central candidate. Billionaire businessmen involved in politics like the Koch Brothers and Michael Bloomberg that would have come with funds and resources have looked at the movement with the critical eyes of businessmen and seen this.

It is now time for the establishment in Washington to stop fighting Trump, and instead negotiate with him. Trump is a dealmaker that has called severally for the Republican Party to unite. That is a signal that he is open to making deals that would see the establishment not totally cut off from power.

The establishment should create a foothold in the Trump presidency, by negotiating for the positions of Vice President and a few strong cabinet positions. That way, they ensure that they have a voice in the coming Trump presidency – should he beat Hillary Clinton – and a living hope that they would survive.

Grazing areas for Nigeria’s herdsmen must be Federally Owned (to enhance security for the herdsmen and quell local suspicions)

In the past few months we have seen a multiplication of bloody clashes and tensions between Fulani herdsmen and farmers from various parts of the country. These parts include the South South, South East, South West and the Middle Belt/North Central.

One of the bloodiest clashes is the one that happened recently in the town of Agatu in Benue State, where hundreds of people were reportedly killed and thousands displaced from their homes. But the violence is not restricted to that place.

A kingdom in Delta State lost its monarch when he was kidnapped and murdered by suspected herdsmen. In the South West the same fate almost met Olu Falae, a traditional ruler and politician of Yoruba stock. The story is not much different in the South East, as the people of Nsukka and other areas have claimed that their farmlands have been attacked, their youth killed or maimed and their women raped.

All this has led to a huge outcry and accusations that President Buhari , who is not just a Fulani man, but reportedly one of the Grand Patrons of the Fulani cattle breeders association is biased towards them – that, that was the reason for the silence of the Federal Government in recent times in light of the killings of locals by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Perhapse to dispell those insinuations, President Buhari, through his minister for agriculture Audu Ogbe, has announced that Federal Government has mapped out grazing areas where the Fulani herdsmen would be restricted to.

Nigerians have been told that in 24 months no cows will be seen roaming about in any part of the country.

That announcement has been widely welcomed, but if not handled well the implementation could backfire and lead to greater crises.

This is because the Fulani herdsmen are held with great suspicion by many in other parts of the country, rightly or wrongly. A lot of people believe that the whole crises is fuelled by an attempt by the Fulani to take over the country and with time, appoint traditional rulers of their own in every zone.

The herdsmen are even accused of forming a whole new ethnic group in Plateau State for the same purpose. If amid such speculation, the ownership papers of grazing land is handed over to the herdsmen when the government finally launches the grazing lands project, it will create a lot of controversy in the land.

That is why the ownership of the grazing areas must remain in the hands of the Federal Government – the same way military barracks in the country are owned by the Federal Government.

Not adhering to this may open President Muhammadu Buhari to political risks as it would create a perception that the president is furthering territory-grabbing by his ethnic group at the expense of national interest.

The Federal ownership of grazing lands will serve as additional protection for the Fulani herdsmen. Research has shown that the presence of Federally owned barracks all over the country has protected guests of local communities during times of inter-ethnic tensions.

For instance, the Hausa community in various parts of the country have been known to seek and find adequate refuge in Federal barracks during times of ethnic tension. That has sometimes been more helpful than having to swarm the motor parks and then still face risks on their way out of the troubled area.

Of course the same level of protection from harm given in the barracks should be provided for the Fulani herdsmen in the Federal owned grazing areas. That way, the agelong tension between the Fulani herdsmen and locals can be brought to an end, and the Fulani herdsmen can face their business of cattle rearing without being accused of attempting to occupy and take over the lands of other people for ethnic purposes.

NB: The only way the herdsmen may own grazing land in a way that will be acceptable to the local populations is if they employ the strategy of ranching. That way they buy the land with their own money; and it must be emphasized that the Fulani herdsman has every right to buy landed property from any part of the country, just like the Igbos and every other ethnic groups who buy land from outside their indigenous zones.

This approach may even be better than the grazing lands approach, because it will completely isolate President Buhari from any accusations of preferential treatment towards his ethnic group and it will open the business of the herdsmen to greater commercial potential.

According to government officials, the herdsmen are still very reluctant to abandon their nomadic culture. but so were the cowboys of the United Staes before they fully embraced ranching, and today they are the better for it.