Phrank Shaibu, the Special Assistant on Public Communications to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 elections, has raised concerns over what he sees as an assault on freedom of speech and an exhibit of authoritarian tendencies by President Bola Tinubu. This comes after billboards with the message “All Eyes on The Judiciary” were ordered to be taken down by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON).
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Shaibu expressed his views on the matter, suggesting that the removal of these billboards signifies a disturbing trend. He pointed out that the incident adds weight to the argument that legal cases related to elections should be concluded before the inauguration of those whose victories are under question.
Drawing parallels, Shaibu criticized ARCON’s actions, likening them to the controversial practices of the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASAA), which has faced criticism for suppressing advertisements deemed unfavorable by the state government.
The statement highlighted the contrast between Tinubu’s democratic claims and his recent actions, branding him an “intolerant authoritarian” post-election. Shaibu noted the irony of Tinubu advocating for democracy while allegedly curbing Nigerians’ fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.
“The basic principle of social justice is about the people,” Shaibu argued, emphasizing that the billboards’ message was innocuous and the reaction disproportionate. He questioned how a simple statement like “All Eyes on the Judiciary” could be construed as a threat to society.
As the controversy surrounding the billboards continues, Shaibu contended that the focus should be on upholding the principles of justice and the rule of law. He remarked, “Even if they pull down the billboards, they can never stop all eyes from being on the judiciary at this historic time.”
The unfolding situation sheds light on the delicate balance between freedom of expression and political messaging in Nigeria’s evolving political landscape, with Shaibu’s statement underscoring the broader implications of the billboard removal and its potential impact on the nation’s democratic values.