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Activists storm PDP secretariat, protest action of party’s govs in stifling free speech

A coalition of activists has frowned at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for failing to condemn “executive tyranny” of some of its governors it accused of stifling free speech.

The group said it was unfortunate that the PDP which regularly condemns the “lawlessness” of the ruling party at the centre, cannot do same against some of its governors harassing journalists, and perpetrating other human rights violations.

The coalition stated this in a letter to the party chairman, Uche Secondus, and submitted to the party’s national secretariat in Abuja on Friday.

In the letter the group said that “the rising intolerance and disturbing cases of human rights violations, in some states where your party members presently hold sway” was disturbing.

The activists, therefore, urged the PDP and other opposition parties to speak against this tide.

They specifically condemned the arrest and detention of Agba Jalingo, a journalist, and Michael Itok, a bank marketer with Prudential Microfinance Bank, by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, respectively.

While Jalingo is currently standing trial for charges of treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross River State Government, Itok has been kept in prison custody for supposedly publishing “damaging and annoying” articles on Facebook against the governor of Akwa-Ibom.

The activists said in their letter to the PDP chairman, “It is unfortunate that as the leading opposition party which regularly condemns the lawlessness of the ruling party at the centre, some of your governors, specifically Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, have chosen the odious path of intolerance while embarking on coercive campaigns of arrest and arbitrary detention of social critics and political activists, perceived as enemies for being critical of their governments.”

Describing the actions of the governors as executive tyranny, the activists said the acts were gross violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims as guaranteed under Sections 39 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“We make bold to say that the kitchen of leadership is not meant for those who cannot stand the test and heat of public criticism. At every level, leaders must develop the capacity to respond to criticisms with facts and figures to set the records straight,” added.

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According to the convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, “acts like this cannot be tolerated in a constitutional democracy. The reason why we came here is to prevail on the national chairman to call the two governors to order, especially that of Agba Jalingo is very worrisome, because a secret trial has been proposed for him.

“We are here to also say journalism is not a crime and cannot be criminalised under a democracy. We are aware that when freedom of speech is criminalised in a democracy, we have reached rock bottom.”

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