Freedom of speech and the constructive criticism of government and office aspirants -

Freedom of speech and the constructive criticism of government and office aspirants

Constructive criticism of government and office aspirants is something which keeps the true essence of democracy alive in a country

Supporting one’s country’s policies and performing civil duties are some of the ways of keeping our country on the path of prosperity and development while keeping track of government activities, questioning the integrity of individuals aspiring to political offices being vigilant about them and highlighting loopholes in policies are also needed in a democracy.

In our country, we have people with different ideologies — some criticise the government policies and some support them, while others remain at the top of it appreciating the good policies and highlighting the drawbacks to improving governance. Also during campaigns for election, many Nigerians will have different opinions about the person they want to lead the country.

It’s common nowadays to see society divided into segments each with a different perspective about the policies undertaken by their governments or about who should be their leader; it is something which keeps the true essence of democracy alive. There are many instances in the past of governance and society improving because of the positive, sometimes thorough criticism by some people or groups of them. These examples give democracies around the world a chance of improving the quality of governance and hence create a better society.

In recent years in Nigeria, there has been a gradual change in the perspective of the people regarding their governments. Some of these changes tend to thrift towards ethnic and religious biases or political affiliations. While some of them are a very good sign of a progressive society where freedom of speech flourishes, some of them are quite worrying too especially when religion, political affiliations and ethnicism form the main point of these criticisms and not the general good of the nation. There is a common notion among some citizens that criticising a leader from their own religion or tribe or party is probably wrong and they should never allow anyone to exercise their freedom of speech to criticise any government policy or aspiring political candidate that they belong to their party, tribe or that has earned their loyalty. Depriving people of exercising their freedom as citizens including freedom of expression is a grave violation of human rights no matter the motive. No one is above criticism no matter how anointed they are or the good track record they have. In 2015, many people voted for Buhari because he had a seemingly good track record of fighting corruption and an austere lifestyle, a perfect antidote to the corrupt PDP ruling party at that time. But today, such people live in grave regrets as Buhari’s regime turns out to be not only the most corrupt but also the most difficult for most Nigerian masses to cope with due to immense suffering and poverty.

This idea which is significant in numbers needs to be thoroughly assessed. Chances might be there that some of the criticism may not be on the right note, but many of them if they are considered carefully can be helpful in the real-time assessment of the needs and expectations of the people from the government. Unfortunately, there is a decline in these voices nowadays because of the constant threats and abuses heaped on those who have different opinions or interests from the rest of the people or the majority.

People should realise that it is not the driving force of praise and overwhelming support which keeps the wheels of a government moving but also the steering force of people’s participation and criticism which keep a check on government and individual interests, and modify them if they fail to meet the expectations of society as a whole. It should be kept in mind that the power vested in the hands of people in a democracy is not only utilised for blindly praising the government or political candidates, no matter how seemingly good they are or perform but it should be used as an aid, to advise and correct the government whenever required so that the efficiency and quality of governance and public office holders is maintained.

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