…far more important is the threat posed by the dysfunctional nature of the Buhari administration. And this is where those who would pillory the PUNCH newspapers need pause for breath. For the threat in this case is not so much from the administration. But from the ease with which fifth columnists may, like lizards before yawning walls, leverage the cracks in the administration.


Despite the intense debates that have recently taken place around the notion, Nigeria is nothing like the dystopia so frightfully depicted by George Orwell in his book, 1984! Indeed, if anything, some who yearn for a better Nigeria might be willing to trade in some of the incompetence that has become the trademark of our governments for some of “Big Brother’s” efficiency. Our biggest let as an economy, today, is the slipshod way the country is run. Incompetence across major spheres of our lives is the biggest threat to lives and property, here.

Even, then, poorly-run government and all, Nigeria is not Enver Halil Hoxha’s Albania, either. And despite appearances to the contrary, our variant of the Sigurimi hasn’t started showing up in the dead of the night at dissidents’ residences. After which these disappear never to be heard from again. Nor have we started incarcerating those who differ from us in labour camps, where thousands are put to the gun for the flimsiest of excuses. We are not even close to modern-day Thailand, where the offence of lèse-majesté, the capricious manner in which it is defined, and heavy-handed punishments of which make nonsense of that country’s claim to being a democracy.

Thus, those who took umbrage at the recent characterisation by the PUNCH newspapers of the Buhari government as a threat to the commonweal’s claim to be a democracy do have a point. We were always a practice democracy. A work-in-progress, as it were. A pragmatic, longer-term view of the desirable economic, social, and political outcomes for this space was always going to be one that saw us gain on the straights, far more than we lose at the bends.

…the many shortcomings of the Buhari administration could then be understood as simply that. Errors. But only up to a point. For when the state security services err, they do so, as in the invasion of the court to effect Omoyele Sowore’s re-arrest…


Therefore, the many shortcomings of the Buhari administration could then be understood as simply that. Errors. But only up to a point. For when the state security services err, they do so, as in the invasion of the court to effect Omoyele Sowore’s re-arrest, not in the extent in which they infringe rights. But in the way they do so. Heavy-handed. Minatory. Designed to frighten all as behold such episodes. And in those aspects of our lived experiences, where rights have been completely unfurled, it is this that matters most. Not that the state could arrest anybody that it took a fancy to. But that it would do so with force so excessive as to dissuade others from the behaviour that the state takes exception to. And when the state is whimsical in those things that gets its dander up, misery of a totally different flavour than that accompanying economic mismanagement ensues.

This prospect worried George Orwell. And the resultant progress of a government brought into power on the euphoria of hopes of radical change, from the promise of El Dorado to the darkest pits of Hades he chronicles so well in the allegorical Animal Farm. Alas, the same concerns weigh on the minds of the PUNCH newspapers, today. Those who lived through the flowery hopes of the Great October Revolution in the Soviet Union, only to have it morph into the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin would have appreciated both points of view.

Up to a point, the First Lady has alerted the nation to the presence of different “rebel” columns in government. All the PUNCH newspapers has done is indicate the cracks in the walls of our democracy through which we may admit these weaknesses.


Unfortunately, not many of those who took exception to the PUNCH newspapers’ editorial have a working recollection of the old Soviet threat. For non-sympathisers of that worldview, consensus is that at this juncture in our country’s development, it is not so much that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Although it is. Or that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”.

Both these clichéd aphorisms matter. But far more important is the threat posed by the dysfunctional nature of the Buhari administration. And this is where those who would pillory the PUNCH newspapers need pause for breath. For the threat in this case is not so much from the administration. But from the ease with which fifth columnists may, like lizards before yawning walls, leverage the cracks in the administration. Up to a point, the First Lady has alerted the nation to the presence of different “rebel” columns in government. All the PUNCH newspapers has done is indicate the cracks in the walls of our democracy through which we may admit these weaknesses.

We do well to pay attention!

Uddin Ifeanyi, journalist manqué and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.