Atiku Knocks Tinubu For ‘Dictatorial Tendency’ Over Removal Of ‘All Eyes On The Judiciary’ Billboards

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The billboards on Monday surfaced in the Federal Capital Territory, drawing attention to the judges handling the Presidential Election Petitions on the need for them to uphold justice.

Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the 2023 presidential election, has described the destruction of billboards which put up adverts that read, “All Eyes on The Judiciary” as evidence of President Bola Tinubu’s authoritarianism and assault on freedom of speech.

The billboards on Monday surfaced in the Federal Capital Territory, drawing attention to the judges handling the Presidential Election Petitions on the need for them to uphold justice.

Pictures of the billboards spotted at several parts of Abuja were posted on the microblogging platform, X, formerly known as Twitter. 

Officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) were on Tuesday sighted removing messages mounted on the billboards at strategic places in Abuja.

The billboards were sponsored by Diaspora’s For Good Governance with an inscription simply stating: “All eyes on the election tribunal.”

The Director-General of Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Olalekan Fadolapo, has queried the agency’s Director of Regulations over his approval of the advert.

Mr. Olalekan, in the query, noted that the advert “is a clear blackmail against the Nigerian Judiciary and the Honourable Justices of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.”

Stating that the advert is capable of instigating public unrest and breach of public peace, Olalekan said all advertisements that promotes a cause or idea capable of inciting national interest should first be brought to the Director General for review prior to presentation to the Advertising Standards Panel.

The Director General ordered the Director of Regulations to explain why disciplinary actions should not be taken against him for dereliction of duty and asked that his reply should get to his office before the end of Tuesday.

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.

The billboards have been pulled down, prompting mixed reactions from the public.

However, Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communications, Phrank Shaibu, in his reaction on Tuesday, said the entire incident reinforced the argument that election cases in court ought to be completed before beneficiaries of questionable elections are inaugurated.

Shaibu in the statement asked how a message like “All Eyes on the Judiciary” would translate to a threat to society, adding that 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 place adverts which the Lagos State government deemed “unfavourable”.

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.

The statement reads in part, “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.

“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.” 

“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.

“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,” it added. 

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