Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 election and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has said the destruction of billboards which put up adverts that read, “All Eyes on The Judiciary” was clear evidence of President Bola Tinubu’s authoritarianism and assault on freedom of speech.
Atiku in a statement by his special assistant on Public Communications Phrank Shaibu, said this while reacting to the directive by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) to pull down all billboards carrying the advert across Nigeria.
ARCON also dissolved the Advertising Standard Panel which is the statutory panel under the Council charged with the duty of ensuring that advertisements conform to the prevailing laws of the Federation as well as the Code of advertising ethics of the advertising profession.
Shaibu said the entire incident reinforced the argument that election cases in court ought to be completed before beneficiaries of questionable elections are inaugurated.
He further wondered how a message like : “All Eyes on the Judiciary” would translate to a threat to society.
“The basic principle of social justice is about the people. The advertisers of the bill boards only did what the norm is in civilized climes. It was the agents working to impress an interest that read meanings to that innocuous advert. Otherwise, it is a basic principle that eyes must be on the wheel of justice. Eyes must naturally be on the wheel of justice because when justice is delivered, it must be ‘seen’ to have been just! In any case, both Tinubu and the APC are before the same court. It is curious how they find this particular message upsetting. Anyway, even if they pull down the billboards, they can never stop all eyes from being on the judiciary at this historic time.”
He said ARCON had already begun acting like the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA) which had built a reputation of denying Nigerians the right to carry adverts which the Lagos State government deemed “unfavourable”.
Atiku’s aide said, “Tinubu has, once again, put his dictatorial tendency on public display. How has a simple message that says “all eyes are on the judiciary” suddenly become offensive? This is a clear case of abuse of office and reinforces the argument that court cases ought to be concluded before inauguration so that beneficiaries of fraudulent elections would not be able to manipulate the system in their favour.
“Billboards are used in displaying educational messages. Is there any offence in alerting Nigerians to the fact that all eyes should indeed be on the judiciary? In any case, is there any Nigerian that does not know that the judiciary is hearing the case challenging Tinubu’s fraudulent victory? Even the justices themselves are aware that all eyes are on them because of the historic assignment that they are saddled with. If Tinubu had nothing to hide, why would he be afraid of such a message?
“Nigerians can now see what the people of Lagos have been facing all these years where LASAA denies the opposition the use of billboards just to please their master. It has become so bad that Tinubu’s son is the one that has exclusive rights to billboards on the Lekki axis. Who can forget that the company where Tinubu’s son enjoys commanding heights admitted to turning off the billboard lights during the #ENDSARS protests? And the only ridiculous explanation for such a dastardly act is that it wasn’t in bad faith.”
Shaibu said it was ironic that Tinubu claimed to be a democrat and even boasted of funding the June 12 struggle only for him to transform into an intolerant authoritarian after the election.
Atiku’s aide added that it was hypocritical for the same man to be championing democracy in Niger while at the same time denying Nigerians the most basic form of democracy which includes freedom of speech and expression. He needs to be reminded that charity begins at home.
He said the statement at the Senate screening by Dele Alake, that ‘social media would be regulated soon’ was just another evidence that Tinubu had no regard for democratic norms.
Shaibu added, “While we keep calling on the judiciary to restore the mandate of the people, we cannot but ask the citizens to be vigilant as the corn-man tries to undermine our democracy. Having failed in his last 70 days in office, which has increased Nigeria’s inflation and destroyed the value of the naira, systematically denied Nigerians the right to protest or go on strike. “Under the watch of this administration, inflation had climbed to an 18-year high.”
“He wants to regulate social media so that his failures would not be amplified. You can’t flog Nigerians, and expect them not to cry. This will never happen.”