The Convener of the Big Tent, Professor Pat Utomi, says the Labour party has been prevented from using any of the public facilities in Delta state to host its rally on Monday.
Utomi, in an international press conference to call for a global action against those who abuse public trust, decried growing incivility among Nigerian governors who deny opposition politicians the opportunity to campaign in their states.
He said the scheduled Monday, January 9 rally by Mr Peter Obi and the Labour Party in Asaba Delta State has come under threat following attempts by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration to frustrate it.
According to him, the experience of many who understand the essence of democracy and who are participating in current elections suggest a significant level of a collapse of civility, growing fascism and polarization of the country by politicians unwilling or unable to focus on the issue.
Describing governors and agents of the State who disallow access to public facilities to punish opposition ‘enemies of democracy’ working against the interest of citizens on whose behalf they hold the facilities, Utomi said he was moved to speak up from the “Office of the Citizen”, the most important in the country.
“I come to you today, not as a partisan politician or an academic and social scientist… I come as a citizen. That of the citizen is the most important office of the land in a Democracy,” he said.
The Professor of Economics noted that since “our return to democracy, a “consortium of scholars and pollsters from us and across Africa have been polling and surveying attitudes regarding democracy and elections in Africa. They have offered us longitudinal data on the disposition of society to political life.
“Sadly, the data showed continuous declining confidence in Nigeria’s democratic order. This trend may only possibly be reversed by the new excitement of the Obedient movement, which led to surge in voter registration, up to 13 million new voters for the 2023 elections.”
Speaking further, he said his experience with the campaign of 2023 though marked by the sense of hope from excitement about the organic push of the Obi/Datti movement, is that there has been a drastic decline in civility on the part of many politicians and a crystallization of cleavage to paint that Nigeria could be getting pushed into a class war that could destabilize its sub-region “and push us into anarchy. We must move to reduce incivility in our democracy.”
Citing a classic example in preventing the opposition from using public venues for rallies, destroying posters and billboards of the opposition and intimidating Landlords from letting outbuilding for the opposition, he said the most scandalous is Delta State.
According to him, Churches and Traditional rulers are scared of a vindictive government that might punish them for availing of their facilities. “They describe the State Government as so vindictive they could not risk allowing the opposition to use their facilities.
“This compares so poorly to my experience campaigning in 2007 when a governor from an opposing party thought our cars could not survive the roads and gave us the use of SUVs from government House or even the experience of the 1960’s when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief H.O Davies would go out to campaign for their two different parties and in the evening one would drive up to the home of the other and pick him up to go to play tennis and have a glass of beer after.”