The Kogi State-born political activist and member of the PDP, Austin Usman Okai is a man among men imbued with positive attitude and dedication to shape democracy in Kogi State, Nigeria and across the globe. He is an indispensable advocate of good governance. He is a no-nonsense soldier of democracy.
Comrade Okai Austin Usman has become the strongest voice of opposition today in Kogi State and a national People’s Democratic Party (PDP) youth frontier. The usual fashion and style of life Austin lives makes it clear: sitting idle is not an option particularly when democracy is indeed under threat – but we also have momentum. He opened our eyes to gory divisions, insensitivity on on the part of those at the helm of affairs, in a way many people had never seen before.
As a passionate democracy advocates, Austin resolves to use pen and paper, online blogs, (social) media to give voice to the voiceless, making heard those who cannot speak. This singular painstaking efforts forces everyone including Kogi State Government to act sometimes unknowingly, unwillingly.
The first thing Austin achieved is a credible and free flow of information between governments, and the public characterized by incessant incarcerations. First, he published a fact-based verifiable report on media which sparked circumspect argument / debate on policy options of , Alhaji Yaya Bello APC led administration, secondly on the public trust in politics that democracy relies on. Kogi government at a certain point had no option but to be accountable to the electorate. Because the syndicate system mounted by Austin to have first-hand information and make it public before the appropriate authority could fathom it is a mystery yet to be unravelled.
From round table talk to town hall meetings and village square, Comrade Austin initiated regular, open and often times empathetic communications with the public to win their solidarity for what were fairly severe anti-people policy. His advocacy against man’s inhumanity to man, gory demonstration of insensitivity on the part of the government continue to inspire kogites in diaspora and at the home front democracy to serve as a strong reminder that every citizen can stand up against bad governance , ridiculous mass retrenchment under the guise of Staff Verification Exercise or screening and diversion of public fund to finance projects incapable of addressing direct primary needs of the masses.
There comes a time in Kogi State that it became the trade mark of Alhaji Yaya Bello APC led government to clamp down on dissenting voices.
“ I wonder how many times we will have to organise protests to free people who have been arrested for speaking against this government” :
Austin Okai was first arrested in 2017 by security operatives believed to be from the Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS. Mr. Okai was seized by the police in a Hitler Gestapo-style raid in Abuja, handed him over to the Kogi State Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Afterwards, In February 2017, he was arraigned before Kogi High Court and Magistrate Court for allegedly inciting workers against the state government.
On 11 April 2017, Austin was arraigned at a Magistrate Court in Lokoja on charges of falsely accusing the government of buying cars worth $12m, bla, bla bla. His arrest was condemned by many and they took to social media to call for his release with the hashtags #FreeAustinOkai and #IStandWithAustinOkai.
The blogger was , no doubt, embroiled in fierce battles with his aides, some of whom have issued open threats to him. In the words of Usman Okai Austin ” arrest me and thousands of my kinds Will spring up”. Okai is one keg out of a very big jug containing many of his likes. On 12 April 1917, Ocho Baba Ripples Nigeria succinctly puts ;
“Usman Okai Austin is … a man with an indomitable courage, an opposition figure in the struggle for good governance and citizenship engagement not minding his modus operandi.”
“Unfortunately, the State by their actions and inaction’s has succeeded in binding him with a cause all well-meaning Kogites are yearning for. He is now a necessary evil.”
“Love him or hate him, his mode of advocacy has been notorious on the social media with a blow by blow detail and account of every action undertaken by the leadership of Kogi State Government since inauguration in January 2016.”
On the 20 April 2017, Usman Ogbo, once wrote “… with sincere but unsolicited advice… intimidation and continuous detention of Usman Okai Austin is rather misdirected and unwarranted. This is because If a man hit his toe and fell, he should not look at where he fell, but the spot he hit his toe to know the actual object that caused the accident.”
“ Practically speaking, government should free Austin and search within … . Austin is certainly not the issue but good governance. He is paying the price on behalf of those within and outside the government who are genuinely aggrieved and not satisfied with the performance of the government so far but are afraid to speak out at least for now. The government needs him like other critics to objectively point at errors for corrections.”
Austin was also arrested by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Friday February 22nd 2019, in Lokoja, Kogi State. He was detained and held without charge.
“We want to state clearly that nothing must happen to our brother Comrade Usman. He has not committed any offence against Kogi State, against the Governor or against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also want to remind Governor Bello that criticising the government is not an offence against the law. He must equally remember that the actors of today can become the victims of tomorrow”, said Atoye Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC) and many other Civil Rights Group
It is a big potential threat for politicians, who have military ambitions inside-out to win an election into any political office. Such a leader will not hesitate to clampdown on the likes of Okai’s outspokenness and revelation on the alleged activities of, and political shenanigans of the leader. It is also a big danger for a man or woman from military background to have political ambitions. The merging of civilian skills with military virtues does not help the likelihood of future democratic consolidation. This birthed leaders born with “murutus” impetus whose political set goal is anti-people. In fact , it ushers in inhumane leaders, turning dynamic security reforms against the masses it is expected to protect. This indeed is totally a direct assault on our democratic order. It is as a result this kind of draconian leaders hard-won democratic rights are being swept aside through threatening statements, power of incumbency, policies initiated and implemented without opposition input, elections becomes selections and incarcerations here and there. Essential freedoms are eroded talkless of an attempt to voice out 30%, 20% or non-payment of workers salaries, areas and pensioners entitlement. Nevertheless, Austin Usman Okai has come, he has seen and has conquered.
No seed ever planted in the right path with a large heart can grow in vain. On every failure , there is a seed of success. Austin is more than a conqueror because God is his defender. Austin’s recent appointment as a global citizen comes as a rude shock to his traducers. Comrade Usman Austin Okai is honoured with an appointment letter into the UN Economic and Social Council in Africa, ECOSOC. Comrade Okai was carefully selected to represent Nigeria, Africa at the frontiers of the UN council to pursue further seamless humanitarian services, that is related to economic, social, environmental issues. What a rare feat!
Attai Stephen is a public commentator and writes from Abuja
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