The prevailing political atmosphere in the country is palpably unhealthy and signposts danger for its frail democracy, write Shola Oyeyipo and Ojo M. Maduekwe
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) are on the verge of setting Nigeria on fire – the first by its actions and the other, through its utterances.
On its part, the PDP has begun an allegedly orchestrated clampdown on some APC-controlled states to regain what before the season of defection started were states controlled by the PDP. The APC in retaliation has engaged in a smear campaign, paying little attention to important national issues, so as to bringing down the PDP.
Two legitimate instruments being used illegitimately by the PDP in its alleged clampdown are the ballot and impeachment. At the last count, Ekiti and Adamawa States have both had a taste of these two instruments respectively.
In the last Ekiti gubernatorial election, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the APC was defeated by PDP’s Ayo Fayose, in what was described by both local and international observers as “a free and fair election”.
The APC in its characteristic manner of never finding anything good with the PDP-controlled federal government has gone to the electoral tribunal to challenge the militarisation of the process that led up to the election but does not appear eager to challenge the results, since observers agree the electorate rejected the party.
National publicity secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said recently after the inaugural meeting of the national working committee (NWC) of the party in Abuja that the APC would go to court.
“APC has decided to challenge in court some constitutional breaches as part of efforts to prevent a recurrence of what happened in Ekiti. These include the militarisation of the process, and harassment and intimidation of citizens, especially those in opposition.
“We encourage our leaders and supporters, who were arrested, harassed and intimidated, to seek the enforcement of their rights. Election is a process, and whatever happens on the voting day is only an integral part of that process. What happens before, during and after the voting day completes the process,” Mohammed said.
Buoyed by the Ekiti victory, the PDP is alleged to be taking its election machinery and ‘winning formula’ to other parts of the country, especially the South-west APC states given its significance. First is Osun whose governorship election comes up on August 9. When that is done, the party is said to be looking at Oyo and Lagos at next year’s gubernatorial election.
For the rest of APC states not in the South-west which the PDP intends to further poach before 2015, the ruling party is alleged to have set the impeachment instrument rolling so that come next year, the coast would be clear for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election, not minding that the public perception of his image is rather discouraging.
The House of Assembly members in Nasarawa, Rivers, Edo and Imo are said to being prodded by the PDP to impeach their governors. Already, following immediately after Adamawa State whose governor, Murtala Nyako has been impeached, the Nasarawa assembly has also served Governor Tanko Al-Makura an impeachment notice.
The PDP’s action has been called so many things from being a rape on democracy to being described as stealing the people’s mandate through the backdoor. One thing is clear – the PDP would likely stop at nothing until the APC-controlled states come under their umbrella.
That includes going on the offensive and using the vocabulary of the opposition. It was the Ekiti State governor-elect, Ayo Fayose, the man who is in charge of the PDP’s poaching campaign in the South-west, who riddled the APC’s self-touted change as having ‘no human face.’
“The change the opposition preached has left our people worse than they met us. It is crystal clear now that their change has no human face. Our people are ready to go back to the path of progress; they are ready to leave darkness for light. My overwhelming victory is a testimony to the fact that our people have rejected APC and their deceit.”
From their own angle, the APC would stop at nothing until the image of the PDP is badly damaged to the point that the electorate would reject the party in the 2015 presidential election. They continue to criticise the federal government’s poor handling of the issue of insecurity, which is said to likely affect President Jonathan’s re-election.
The opposition party has criticised the ruling PDP regarding almost every topical issue, from the handling of the abducted Chibok girls by the Boko Haram sect to the Ekiti election, insecurity and Nyako’s impeachment.
Nyako’s impeachment by the PDP-controlled State House of Assembly was allegedly a plot orchestrated by the federal government-led PDP. Irrespective of what Nyako may have said to absolve President Jonathan, many remain convinced that the president does have a hand in it, especially that the allegations leading to his impeachment are said to have been committed five years ago.
Speaking on behalf of the Lagos State House of Assembly, the Chairman, House Committee on Information and Strategy representing Epe Constituency II, Hon. Segun Olulade, accused President Jonathan of giving Nyako “a condition to join PDP or lose his job.”
The PDP in its alleged condition to Nyako and the APC in its reaction concerning the impeachment – which has failed to address the corruption charges levelled against Nyako by the state lawmakers – both have been accused of being callous in their action and utterances.
Nyako’s impeachment has been overtaken by politics, while the main issue – his alleged corrupt practices have been swept under the carpet, unfortunately by the same assembly which passed a confidence vote in his government a few months back. No one of the feuding parties is talking about the fact that he’s said to have mismanaged and misappropriated state resources, a situation that makes his case truly political.
For instance, Nyako has been accused of the following: “Outstanding salaries of the state’s civil servants to the tune of N2.3billion for the months of September and October 2012; the siphoning of N8billion and N4billion through the office of the SSG between 2012 and 2013; the siphoning of N142million as illegal deductions from the salaries of workers in the state, and the overbearing strangulation of the local government funds.”
The N8billion was allegedly siphoned through SNECOU Group of Companies Limited, a firm said to be linked to one of the governor’s wives. There is the allegation of a diversion of over N400million of the total N500m federal government intervention fund for flood victims in Adamawa State in 2011. Although he was the constitutionally elected governor, Nyako’s family and friends were said to have been in charge of government business.
Impeached on the premise of a 16-count charge bordering on gross misconduct, financial mismanagement and misappropriation of state resources listed above, Nyako’s impeachment would rather be handled as blackmail by the PDP and equally viewed in like manner by the APC.
APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, at a press conference in Abuja, said “Having bastardised the army, the police, the courts, aviation and the electoral commission, he (President Jonathan) has now moved to the next level: impeachment. Every impeachment or threat of it in recent times has the imprint of President Jonathan.
“As we speak, the Governor of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako, has been impeached at the instance of the president and his party; they have moved to Nasarawa, their next stop, while Rivers, Edo and Borno, all APC states, and are not being spared the destabilisation that precedes their new-found weapon.
“What was Nyako impeached for? Offences he allegedly committed five years ago. Those offences were not impeachable when he was in the Peoples Democratic Party. But the moment he defected to the APC, they became impeachable,” Oyegun said.
What lends credence to Oyegun and the APC’s allegation is that the impeachment sweeping across the polity is only happening in APC-controlled states. Equally alleged to be corrupt, the governors in the PDP-controlled states have so far been exempted from impeachments.
Away from impeachment, there’s the Chibok girls abduction. After the visit of the Pakistani teenage girl-child education campaigner, Malala Yousafzai, the APC in a statement chided President Jonathan.
“President Jonathan, who has already embarrassed himself and the entire people of Nigeria by his inexplicable failure to visit Chibok since the girls were abducted over 90 days ago, has compounded the embarrassment and insulted Nigerians by waiting for Malala to goad him to meet with the girls’ parents, not in Chibok but in Abuja,” said the APC.
From the exchange exacerbated by the reality of the already tensed political atmosphere, all is obviously not well with Nigeria and the further the untoward situation is stoked, the more vulnerable the nation becomes to destabilisation, the very reason some Nigerians have begun to caution both sides on the need to tread with caution and properly analyse the implications of their actions.
In an open letter to President Jonathan, the Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN), Human Rights Commission and Civil Society Organisations, Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa, categorically accused the PDP of plotting to derail and destabilise the Edo State Government.
Mr. John Mayaki, a member of the coalition, wrote in the letter that there is a grand plot to derail the Governor Adams Oshiomhole-led administration in the state.
According to him, fulfilling his mandate of developing Edo State is becoming difficult by the day for the governor due to what he described as “an unreasonable and violently destructive opposition” coming from PDP.
He bemoaned that while opposition has a duty to keep a government alive to its responsibilities in a democracy, the reverse is the case in the state as the people have become “unwilling spectators” in the crisis that has been raging in the House of Assembly.
“What we see in Edo State in recent times is the ganging up of the opposition party members with some disgruntled elements who want political power relinquished to them on a platter of gold embarking on a policy of obstructing the government, without devising a program on which they would base an alternative one.
“Their policies have been narrow in concept and often violent, abusive and terroristic and their first port of call is the state House of Assembly,” he noted.
He said the approach of the PDP lawmakers in the state assembly is suggestive of an end in itself rather than an instrument for securing better condition for the people. To him, their intent is that they seek to add to the difficulties of government and heighten the obstacles which need to be overcome so that, with a breakdown of administration, they may get a chance of grabbing power.
He said it was disheartening and stupefying that court order was not being obeyed by the PDP legislators in Edo State, where a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Obayuwana was committed to jail over contempt of court.
“State agents have virtually become the enforcement wing of the PDP and have aided their legislators to break into the assembly complex on the pretext of holding plenary,” Mayaki lamented.
He however concluded by urging President Jonathan, the various security agencies, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, The National Human Rights Commission, well-meaning Nigerians and the Edo State people both home and abroad to prevail on those acting as “clogs in the wheel of progress in our dear state to desist forthwith to forestall breakdown of law and order.”
The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe is of the opinion that considering the political tension generated by the perceived second term ambition of President Jonathan, he should dump the idea of seeking re-election in the interest of Nigeria.
Igbokwe, who insisted that he was expressing his personal opinion as an activist and participant in the struggle for the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria averred that the yet to be announced second term ambition of the president is generating considerable tension in the nation’s body polity, capable of breaking the country.
“It seems to me that the harassment of the opposition, Boko Haram insurgency, and impeachment of governors are all geared towards the 2015 presidential election. Now, President Jonathan must be persuaded to step down,” he said.
Buttressing his position, Igbokwe said since former president Olusegun Obasanjo from the South ruled Nigeria for eight years, it was expected that the late president Yar’Adua from the North will rule for eight years but he died after two years in office. But when President Jonathan, the vice president from the South then took over the mantle of leadership, it was expected that he would complete the first term of Yar’Adua’s tenure and step aside for the North to complete their eight years.
“Against protests from the North, President Jonathan sought another term and got elected. By 2015, he would have ruled for six years. Seeking another term of four years will endanger our politics and create ethnic and religious tension as we are witnessing now. We are in a democracy and if we are still in one country, there is need for equity and justice. President Jonathan’s ambition to rule for 10 years may break Nigeria,” he said.
He also alleged that the decision of the APC members to provide alternative government was responsible for the “intimidation, subterfuge, brigandage, suppression, oppression, repression, force and harassment” that are being deployed by the ruling party.
The APC spokesperson who described the 16 years of the ruling PDP at the national level as an “unmitigated disaster”, also expressed the view that the ruling party was only making political gains out of the issue of Boko Haram by labeling the opposition party the sponsor of the dreaded sect.
“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 is a product of PDP’s infighting and struggle for power.
“What happened to the independent day bombing in Abuja, which introduced the evil of bombing in Abuja? Even as MEND claimed responsibility for the bombing, the Jonathan government claimed that it was his Northern enemies. We dare ask, what happened to the investigation on that incidence?” he asked.
While noting that the president has not performed well to seek re-election, Igbokwe bemoaned the president’s style.
“Jonathan’s handling of the Nigerian state is disastrous and tragic. His stellar performance in growing corruption, exhuming convicts, murders, those facing corruption charges, and rehabilitating them with limitless illicit resources to go and wrestle states and liberalise illegality and gangsterism for the purpose of annexing states and remaining in power has crashed the economy of the nation. It is certainly going to crash this democracy if men of goodwill do not stand up and confront this brigandage,” Igbokwe said.
Odigie-Oyegun also lamented that the federal government was using raw power to crush the opposition and that it must be a source of concern for all Nigerian.
“All Nigerians must be worried about power with impunity, which is what President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, have resorted to in their desperation to crush the opposition and destroy Nigeria in the process. Events in Nigeria in the past few weeks point to a return to the dark old days of state dictatorship, lawlessness, impunity and repression.
“Our freedoms are being emasculated, our economy being run to the ground, and our only hope of bringing about change – our democratic expression is being smothered before our very eyes all because President Goodluck Jonathan is so obsessed with re-election in 2015 at all cost that he is destroying not just all our key institutions but indeed the entire country.
“We know it has been the dream of the ruling PDP to rule for 60 unbroken years, not minding if Nigeria becomes a desert in the process. Their evil machination has manifested in Ekiti. It has manifested yesterday in Adamawa, they have carried it to Nasarawa, and they have Edo, Osun and Rivers in their sights,” he said at a recent press briefing held in Abuja.
He said though his party would have preferred restraint and mature engagement with President Jonathan and the ruling PDP, but that with the current situation, it is evident that “inaction is no longer an option and we must resist.
“Indeed keeping quiet in the face of the ceaseless and unrelenting reckless violations of all known laws of the land and the Constitution will amount to complicity in the lawlessness and impunity that has become the norm under President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Now, who is guiltier of gross misconduct than a President who is frittering away our commonwealth to induce perfidious legislators to impeach their state governors?
“We have raised the alarm several times that President Jonathan’s obsession with his re-election is a clear and present danger to our democracy. Today, we say this President’s obsession with re-election is threatening the very existence of our nation.”
Embattled Al-Makura, unlike Nyako, did not mince words in blaming the presidency for the impeachment move against him. He alleged a deliberate ploy to destabilise the APC controlled state, adding that the combination of internal and external factors are responsible for his ordeal.
“Abuja is the mastermind of this development to destabilise APC controlled states in the country. Authorities in Abuja should stop the bull from entering Chinese shop. They are opening a new war front; they should address the issue of insecurity and Chibok girls instead of chasing shadow in the country.”
The governor said the presidency and PDP are threatened by the monumental achievements of APC administration in Nassarawa State adding that there is no administration that is as corrupt as the present PDP-led government in the country.
The Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, however disagreed that there was any reason for raising the alarm. He opined that it is an old tactics by the opposition to raise false alarm.
"It is quite unfortunate that the APC is still sticking to its tired and worn out strategy of crying wolf where there is none. Just like they tried to do before the Ekiti election and failed, the APC is coming up with excuses not to accept the result of the Osun election because they are going to lose.
“Why should we intimidate the opposition when we won the hearts of the voters in Ekiti State and they voted for the PDP? We are trying to replicate the same thing in Osun. The era of slavery is gone. We are urging people to come out and express themselves without fear of intimidation.
“The noise; the hullabaloo you are hearing borders on the fact that we know them too well and their capacity to rig elections. They are not interested in one-man-one-vote. They are interested in multiple voting and fraudulent manipulations of election results.
“We have seen that if Yoruba people are allowed, they would vote against the All Progressives Congress and that is what we have seen in Ekiti. Ekiti election was the voice of the people. There is no way the election would have been manipulated without an uproar after the election; that people were rejoicing is to say the least that the people had expressed themselves,” he said, insisting that his party has no reason to intimidate the opposition.
Also, the Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Comrade Yinka Odumakin, felt that the foul cry of the APC was baseless, especially where the issue borders on corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
“It is a shame on the opposition. Twenty allegations were raised against Nyako and he was unable to exonerate himself. By not defending himself, it means that he accepted those allegations as true.
“Though there are some rights of citizens that are not expected to be trampled upon but being in the opposition does not permit anyone to mismanage public fund. Opposition is not a license for larceny or immunity against accountability,” he said.
But whilst the recriminations continue with both sides recalcitrant on their stand, there is a present and clear danger that seems to be threatening the very foundation of the polity. Indeed, these elemental factors pose such danger that could undermine and vitiate the successes of the nation’s 16 years democracy except there is a cautious resolve for change.