The opposition All Progressives Congress is gripped by political fever following the gale of impeachments blowing against its governors coupled with the negative international image that it has sympathy for Boko Haram insurgents
| By Olu Ojewale | Aug. 4, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THESE are not happy times for the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. The party, which was riding high last year after five governors from the ruling Peoples Democratic, PDP, had joined its rank, appears to be losing its bearing. In less than two months, the party has lost two states to the ruling party and is at the verge of losing a third. The woe of the APC seems to have been heralded with the defeat of Governor Kayode Fayemi in the gubernatorial election held in Ekiti State on June 21. Fayemi’s loss to Ayo Fayose, former governor of the State, has been a big blow to the party. Even after Fayemi had initially conceded victory to his opponent, the party is still insisting that the election was not free and fair as adjudged by international observers.
While the party was still busy threatening fire and brimstone, over Ekiti, Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, was impeached and removed from office by the state House of Assembly on Tuesday, July 15. The political hurricane has now moved to Nasarawa State, where Tanko Al-Makura is most likely to lose his seat as governor of the state. There are also fears that the impeachment gale would also sweep through Edo and Rivers states where PDP members of the two houses of assembly are at loggerheads with the APC governors.
Fearing for the worst, leaders of the APC have taken their discomfiture to the public. Muhammadu Buhari, retired major-general and former head of state, has clearly brought to light the party’s fears ahead of the general elections slated for next year. On Monday, July 21, the APC presidential hopeful warned that the nation’s democracy was being endangered by the gale of impeachments in the country and pointed an accusing finger at President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he said, is the mastermind.
In his statement, Buhari appealed to Jonathan to stop the impeachment process which, he said, could spell doom for the country. He warned: “Whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan is behind the gale of impeachments or the utilisation of the desperate tactics to suffocate the opposition and turn Nigeria into a one-party state, what cannot be denied is that they are happening under his watch, and he cannot pretend not to know, since that will be akin to hiding behind one finger. In my capacity as a former head of state, rather than a politician, I have spoken to President Jonathan in private over these issues but indications are that the strategy has not yielded positive fruits.”
Buhari, who said his warning transcended being an opposition leader, raised the alarm because he could not fold his arms while things were allowed to get out of hand. “I cannot, just because I am an opposition politician, fail to do what is expected of me as a former head of state to help rescue our nation in times of great trouble and palpable uncertainty. History will not be kind to me if I sit back while things turn bad, just so that no one will accuse me of partisanship,” he said. The APC boss also pointed out that he needed to speak out because posterity would not forgive him if he did otherwise. “I can say, in all sincerity, that I have seen it all, as an ordinary citizen, a military officer, a state governor, a minister, a head of state, a man who has occupied many sensitive posts and a politician. I have been a close participant and a witness to Nigeria’s political history since independence in 1960. Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian president declare war on his own country as we are seeing now.
“Never before have I seen a Nigerian president deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian president utilise the commonwealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics. Our nation has suffered serious consequences in the past for egregious acts that are not even close to what we are seeing now. It is time to pull the brakes.”
Jonathan, however, described the allegations by Buhari as unwarranted and totally uncharitable. In a statement by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, the president noted that Buhari had sadly moved away from the patriotic and statesmanlike position he recently adopted on national security to become an “unbridled political partisan.”
He said it was unfortunate that instead of the APC working to put its house in order and resolve its leadership crisis, Buhari and the party leadership have resorted to blaming the president for their woes. While describing the fate that had befallen the APC as self-inflicted, Jonathan said he had never, in his acts or utterances, recommended or promoted violence as a tool of political negotiation. Besides, he pointed out that the president does not have the constitutional power to intervene in the affairs of the state and that President Jonathan would never arrogate such powers to himself or seek “to exert any nefarious and unconstitutional influence on state assemblies in Adamawa, Nasarawa or anywhere else in order to secure undue political advantage for his party as General Buhari unjustifiably alleges.
“President Jonathan remains true to his declaration that no political ambition of his is worth the life of a single Nigerian. The President has definitely not declared war on his own country or deployed federal institutions in the service of partisan interests as General Buhari falsely claims. Neither has he been using the commonwealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, as the formerhead of state inexcusably asserts.”
In an apparent reference to Buhari’s government ill-fated effort to repatriate the late Umaru Dikko, second republic politician and former minister of transport, from Britain in 1984, Abati said President Jonathan had never at any time ordered that any Nigerian be kidnapped or be crated and “forcefully transported in violation of decent norms of governance. We, therefore, urge General Buhari to tarry a while, ponder over his own antecedents and do a reality check as to whether he has the moral right to be so carelessly sanctimonious,” adding: “It may well be time to pull the brakes, as Gen. Buhari says in his statement, but it is he and others who have resorted to idle ‘scapegoating’ and blaming President Jonathan for their self-inflected political troubles ,who need to stop their inexcusable partisanship and show greater regard for the truth, democracy, constitutionalism, the rule of law, peace, security and the well-being of the nation.”
The PDP added its voice to the altercations on Tuesday, when Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the party, alleged that the APC was on a destructive march. Metuh asked the party and its leaders to look inward rather than point accusing fingers at the ruling party for their woes. “For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP has never been involved in any impeachment process and we wish to publicly urge our members in all the state Houses of Assembly to tread with caution and be guided by due process and the rule of law in the execution of their legislative duties,” he said.
The PDP spokesman noted with disdain that the leaders of the APC had taken turns, in quick succession, in vicious condemnation of the leadership of the country and accused the party of pursuing dubious agenda aimed at truncating the nation’s hard earned democracy. He also alleged that a catalogue of events involving the politicians and their political party indicated that they were the real causative agents of the issues they had been accusing the federal government and the PDP of.
He said that just a few months ago, the APC was basking in the euphoria of their merger as well as their alleged dominance of the Nigerian political space and saw nothing wrong in the democratic institutions and the processes. Metuh said that it was therefore hypocritical that the same APC had turned around in condemnation simply because, according to him, the party was currently suffering what he described as a self-inflicted reversal of fortune. “While it is simplistic for the APC to harp on perceived infractions or failings of the PDP, they conveniently ignore the fact that their actions and inactions pose the greatest threat to democracy,” he said.
Apart from this, he alleged that the APC and its leaders had also committed enormous efforts in fanning the ambers of violence and division among Nigerians with the aim of destabilizing the PDP-led Federal Government, weaken the institutions and truncate the nation’s democracy.
Metuh said: “Nigerians are very much aware that the APC and its leaders have been at the centre of actions and utterances that have, in no small measure, been promoting hatred, violence and division in the polity. These are the very acts that embolden insurgency and pave the way for the ignoble design of the APC which is to overheat the system, weaken the foundation of our nationhood, all in desperation for power. Sustained vitriolic attacks and campaign of calumny against the legislature, the very citadel of democracy and the will of the people at the national and state levels, is at the top of this APC destabilisation programme.”
However, Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the APC, said it was wrong to say that the leaders of the party had been engaging in destructive criticisms and that their statements were inflammatory. Mohammed asked Nigerians to put statements made by the APC leaders side by side with those made by Edwin Clark and Mujaheed Asari-Dokunbo and “then let the world know who is not for peace.
“Anybody who reads Buhari’s statement would know that this is a statesman speaking. He said impeachment and threat of impeachments were not being followed constitutionally and that the PDP is using money to impeach governors. Like the case of Adamawa, the former governor (Murtala Nyako) was not personally served the impeachment notice and the acting chief judge, who restrained the State House of Assembly from going ahead with the impeachment, was the one who also set up the panel without vacating the order. In Edo State, the PDP offered our members N75m to defect and they refused. This is what they are using the missing monies for and we have said that the monies were missing before, but the government said no,” Mohammed said.
The APC spokesman accused the government of corruption and stealing Nigeria’s money to prosecute next year’s elections. “Nigerians still want to know what happened to the missing $20bn oil money; Nigerians want to know how come 300,000 barrels of our crude oil go missing every day; Nigerians want to know what happened to the subsidy fraud scam, let them publish the details of the Malabu oil scandal.”
The APC blackmail does not deter members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly who have insisted that there is no going back on their effort to remove the state governor. The legislators said they would not enter into any negotiation over the impeachment notice already served on the governor. They also said they would embark on a protest in Lafia, the state capital, on Monday, July 21, against interference in the impeachment process by traditional rulers in the state.
Traditional rulers in Lafia, including Mustapa Agwai, the emir of Lafia, had, on Thursday, July 17, promised to initiate a peace move between the governor and the lawmakers. But Baba Ibaku, chairman of the House committee on information and security, said the impeachment procedure was still on course.
Buhari and Mohammed are not the only leaders of the APC who have accused President Jonathan and the ruling PDP of having their hands in the woes of their party in recent times. On Sunday, July 20, Bola Tinubu, one of the national leaders of the party, alleged that President Jonathan’s request before the National Assembly for $1 billion (about N165 billion) on Thursday, July 17, to fight insurgency in the North- East,was not meant for fighting terrorism, as the government had wanted everyone to believe, but to wage war against the opposition and ultimately scuttle democracy. In a statement released in Lagos, Tinubu said: “If only our spendthrift President attacked terrorism with the daring by which he assaults democracy and our common sense, there would be no need for any expenditure. Boko Haram would have been vanquished many yesterdays ago. Yet, Boko Haram continues stalking us because the President would rather play tricks than govern as a statesman. The bottom line is that the only thing remotely military about this massive request is that it serves to camouflage a sinister aim. The man seeks to bolster the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, electoral war chest on the backs of the victims of terror and on the heaviness of our collective fear of the terrorist’s threat. In cloaking the request as part of the battle against terror, he believes no one will have the courage to object and this will enable him to get away with what should not be gotten away,” Tinubu said.
The APC leader alleged that Jonathan would not use the money in tackling terror, but for next year’s elections. “In reality, this loan will be used to buy the election and pay for the intimidation of the opposition and the electorate. Most of it will go into the PDP coffers. The portion which finds its way into the Armed Forces and security agencies will be used to purchase their services in suppressing all those who are not PDP. The loan will not be to fight terrorism. It will be to fight a legitimate dissent.
“Thus, the President’s request should be rejected categorically, for he seeks not to use the money to construct a safe haven for the people. He seeks the money to build a casket for democracy,” he said.
The bravado of the APC leader is not likely to help the party. Apart from the threats of impeachment, the PDP seems to have been handed a potent weapon recently to nail the main opposition party. The PDP’s persistent and unconfirmed accusation against the APC’s involvement in Boko Haram insurgency was given a new impetus by Alexander Nekrassov, a Russian international political commentator and former senior advisor to the Russian government, who tagged the APC and its leadership as “Muslim extremists.” Nekrassov, who is also a Russian military analyst, in his critical editorial opinion, published by Al Jazeera News, revealed that Russia was concerned that Boko Haram insurgency might be politically motivated and identified the APC as the main benefactor.
“The interesting angle on the crisis in Nigeria is that it is seen in Moscow as a political conflict rather than a religious one, even though the country is equally split between Muslims and Christians. As the thinking in Moscow goes, if it was a classic “religious war”, then Boko Haram would not have been indiscriminate in murdering both Muslims and Christians,” Nekrassov said. The analyst noted that Buhari, a prominent leader of the APC, had once been accused of inciting a violent uprising after losing the 2011 presidential election.
To him, the political gain to the incessant attacks by the Boko Haram sect lay in the fact that people were constantly reminded that there was still no trace of the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls but, according to him, a kidnapping of such magnitude was intended to demean the President Jonathan-led government “because selling the girls for around $20 each was not really going to enrich Boko Haram. So, this was more of a slap on the face of the government in power that could only benefit the opposition.” But that notwithstanding, Nekrassov said: “all things considered, Jonathan’s regime is still a better option than a coalition of the Muslim extremists that is shaping up now with an aim to win next year’s elections.”
In a swift reaction to the Russian’s editorial, Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, warned the PDP administration against demonising the APC before Nigerians. In a statement released on Sunday, July 21, in Abuja, Abubakar described as dangerous the attempts by the PDP-led government to polarise the country along faulty lines in order to score cheap political points.
Abubakar alleged that Nekrassov’s sponsored allegations by the PDP administration would not help the country. He pointed out that no responsible government would seek to create divisions, suspicion and animosity among the citizenry by linking opposition leaders with terrorist activities or accusing them of harbouring extremists. He also said that it was regrettable that the PDP, through Metuh had officially and publicly labelled the APC the “Islamic Brotherhood Party of Nigeria” and the “Janjaweed Party.”
“The APC is a party for all Nigerians, irrespective of their religious, ethnic or regional identities. Let no one get confused. The APC is the party to stop the looting of the treasury. We will thoroughly investigate and uncover whatever is missing of the alleged $50 billion stolen from the sale of crude oil. We are going to stop the government-backed theft of crude oil, which swings between the daily averages of 100,000 to 300,000 barrels a day. APC is the party to create jobs and end joblessness,” Abubakar said.
Indeed, Mike Omeri, coordinator, Joint Information Centre for Security, about two weeks ago, said some undisclosed politicians had been arrested and were being interrogated in connection with the wave of insecurity in the North after some items recovered from suspected members of the Boko Haram sect had implicated them. Unconfirmed reports have linked some members of the APC with the arrest.
Although President Jonathan was yet to openly accuse the APC of links with Boko Haram, it is common knowledge that some members of the ruling PDP have labelled the opposition as the sponsors of the insurgents. One of them is Femi Fani-Kayode, a former APC member, who recently defected back to the PDP. In a virulent attack on the party, he accused some top members of the opposition party of being sympathetic to the cause of Boko Haram.
Musiliu Obanikoro, minister of state for defence, is another PDP leader who tends to believe that the APC has been fuelling the Boko Haram insurgency. “Without sounding like a broken record, Nigerians needed no soothsayers or the international community to tell us what we already know that the seeds of these extreme religious sentiments that gave rise to Boko Haram insurgency were fuelled and nurtured by some overtly ambitious politicians, who have found a comfortable nest in the opposition camp. However, we have been vindicated, but we won’t stop at that. We are working very hard to stamp out this insurgency. All we are doing is to clean up the mess created by them and their friends, who have sympathies for Boko Haram. To now turn it into politics and try to get political mileage out of it is not fair to the people of this country,” Obanikoro said in an interview.
But Joe Igbokwe, publicity secretary for the APC in Lagos State, feels that the accusations were all part of the ruling party’s antics to cling to power. “It seems that the harassment of the opposition, Boko Haram insurgency, and impeachment of governors are all geared towards 2015 presidential elections,” he said, adding “the ruling party is only making political gains out of the issue of Boko Haram by labelling the opposition party as the sponsor of the dreaded sect because every right thinking Nigerian knows the genesis of Boko Haram.
“The late National Security Adviser to the president, General Patrick Azazi, told the world that Boko Haram and the overwhelming state of insecurity in Nigeria are products of PDP’s infighting and struggle for power. What happened to the independence day bombing which introduced the evil of bombing in Abuja? Even when MEND claimed responsibility for the bombing, the president claimed that it was carried out by his Northern enemies. We dare ask: what happened to the investigation on that incidence?
“Ordinarily, I would not intervene on this stupid tag, which the PDP and its supporters feel will win them the sympathy of the same Nigerians they have raped and bestially decimated in nearly 16 years of corrupt and visionless government. What makes a so-called Muslim party? Is it a party created for Muslims? If so, why is there a large number of Christians in our great party?” Igbokwe said.
He also pointed out that the fact that John Odigie-Oyegun, the national chairman, as well as many other prominent members of the party are Christians, has belied the Muslim tag given to the APC by its critics. “Come to think of it, how come that at this age and time, PDP is more interested in dividing Nigerians into Christian and Muslim tendencies after it had failed to use the enormous resources Nigeria has made in the last 15 and half years to make Nigeria liveable for both Christians and Muslims?
“In a religiously heterogeneous society as ours, it is disheartening that a ruling party will spend its energies, not in bettering the worsening lives of Nigerians but in stealing and inciting Christians that it is stealing for them. What a shame! Are our collapsed educational system, health sectors courtesies of PDP’s thieving government, benefiting Christians more than Muslims? I can go on and on and on to enlist the shameful failures of the PDP. Indeed, Senator John McCain summed it when he dismissed the Jonathan PDP government as non-existing. Senator Hilary Clinton summed it up when she said the Jonathan government is riddled with corruption and lack of clue. I won’t waste time refuting a nonsense that is not rooted in reason and logic. But I would tell Nigerians that the APC is a party for Christians, Muslims and traditionalists. We have no limits to membership and we do not believe that leadership is by deception, as the PDP believes,” Igbokwe said.
With the gale of impeachments blowing across the political landscape, it appears that the APC states are not going to find things easy at their leaders had envisaged. Members of the Assembly of the two main political parties are already at loggerheads in Edo State with reports that former PDP members were returning to the party. The same scenario is said to be going on in Kwara and Adamawa States, the ground seems to be sinking under APC’s feet. For instance, since he was removed from office on Monday, July 7, Nyako, has not been seen in the public. Reports said he might have fled from the country fearing arrest for the allegation he made in the memo accusing the president of carrying out genocide against the North in the government’s ongoing war against terror.
Of recent, the APC has cried out that the PDP was planning to remove the governors of Edo, Rivers, Kwara and Borno states after that of Nasarawa State. However, with the allegation that the APC has sympathy for Boko Haram insurgents, it appears that that accusation could spell a major problem for the party and its chances in next year’s general elections.
The report of the Russian analyst, is likely to be a big blow on the electoral chances of the APC, which has been fending off accusations of its links with Boko Haram for many months. It could also mean that the $1.2million it paid to foreign public relations advisers, including Burson-Marsteller in London and the Prime Policy Group in Washington to ‘help peel off its Boko Haram tag’ is nothing but a waste. For the fledgling party, the Nekrassov report could also mean that the party has already lost a significant percentage of its international supporters ahead of the 2015 general elections. Just as the Russian warned in his article, the APC, it appears “is facing a mountain to climb” in the 2015 presidential election. So, who or what would save the APC now? God alone knows.