The US National Intelligence Council recently summoned some outside experts to a discourse on Africa and her future and one of the resolutions adopted by the panel was the fear of a possible balkanization of Nigeria come 2015. Although the outcome of the discussion does not mean a final position of the US Government on the vexed and dangerous matter, the unfolding verbal assault that pitched President Goodluck Jonathan, former head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and the political parties last week suggest strongly a scenario that could confirm the fears, writes BAYO OLADEJI.
As the government and security agencies look powerless against the violent activities of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, the political theatre is awash with gladiators locked in a fierce battle for the soul of Nigeria all in a bid to win the next general election in 2015, which is three years away.
The first signal was the rumour of the second term ambition of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, no thanks to the activities of his cronies, foot soldiers, kinsmen and some instant cheerleaders whose actions have been unnecessarily heating the polity. Although Jonathan has been consistently denying the ambition but his body movement seems to contradict his denials.
As if that was not enough, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has also thrown his hat in the ring going by the disposition of his camp which strongly indicate that their principal is not done with the ambition of ruling the country. The big bang was perhaps the outburst of General Muhammadu Buhari last week. Buhari has lost thrice in his bid to rule the country in a democratic dispensation. His latest action and growing visibility indicates his readiness to contest the 2015 presidential poll.
His seeming interest in the race albeit through his body language has rekindled passition and emotion among his followers, thus his once serene Kaduna home has once again turned into a political Mecca of sorts. His political disciples have begun trooping there to pledge their loyalty and support. It was in one of such meetings that he stirred the hornet nest when he read the riot Act to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He pointedly warned of the worst should PDP rig the 2015 general election.
Buhari spoke in Hausa while addressing members of his party; the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) from Niger State, who visited him in Kaduna also warned that 2015 would be bloody if the elections were not transparent, just as he dismissed reports that he would not contest the 2015 presidency. The former Head of State was quoted as saying that he foresees a gory picture of Nigeria as that of a hound and a monkey engaged in a battle for survival. “God willing, by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way.
“If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’ But he did not elaborate further. But the message was clear to those that know how grieved he was over the outcome of the previous elections, which he variously challenged to the end.
He, however, said that he would make up his mind on the presidency when his party re-organises itself.
“That was what I told those who have visited me in the past but the press wrote that I said I have changed my mind about re-contesting.
On Boko Haram he said: “Since the leaders now don’t listen to anybody but do whatever they wish, there is nothing the North can do.”
He also seized the opportunity provided by the forum to hit at the Federal government as he alleged existence of three groups of Boko Haram. Hear him, “I will like to quote Professor Ango Abdullahi that said there are three Boko Haram including the original one led by Mohammed Yusuf who was killed and his supporters tried to take revenge by attacking the law enforcement agencies and politicians. There is another developed Boko Haram of criminals who steal and kill… while the biggest Boko Haram is the Federal Government.”
Commenting on the petroleum subsidy probe, he said: “The current leadership of the country has destroyed the petroleum industry. These sorts of things can only happen under the type of leadership Nigeria has. Nowhere in the world can such things happen and nowhere in the world can government increase the cost of petroleum products by over 120 percent. It is most insensitive. Besides the air people breath, the next important thing to them are petroleum products,
“Unfortunately for me, I know more about petroleum industry than others in government because I was there for over three years as a leader. We started with the Port-Harcourt Refinery producing 60,000 barrels per day. It was upgraded to 100,000 barrels per day. Another one was built there (Port-Harcourt) producing over 150,000 barrels making a total of 250,000 barrels per day purely on Nigerian crude.’’
As expected, both the PDP and the Presidency would not go to bed without responding to such outburst coming from a sworn opposition figure of Buhari caliber. Both the spokesman of the President Dr Reuben Abati and the spokesman of the party, Olisa Metuh returned fire for fire taking Buhari to the cleaners, in the process they labelled him “a frustrated serial loser and a sectional jingoist.”
The full text of the Presidency’ reaction to Buhari is reproduced here:
The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to unfortunate statements in the media made by former Head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) in which he allegedly predicted bloodshed in 2015 and labelled the Federal Government led by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, as “the biggest Boko Haram”.
But perhaps the most unfortunate part of the statement was the portion in which Buhari said that, “Since the leaders now don’t listen to anybody but do whatever they wish, there is nothing the north can do.”
Come to think of it, as the CPC presidential candidate in the 2011 election, how many states in the Federation did he visit to campaign for votes? Buhari never bothered to campaign in the southern part of the country and consistently played up the North-South divide to the chagrin of patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians. As the results revealed, Nigerians will never vote for anyone who wants to divide the country. Is Buhari going to continue to be a sectional leader?
The Federal Government led by President Jonathan is not Boko Haram. Boko Harammeans Western Education is sin. That being the case, one wonders how a government that devoted the largest sectoral allocation in the 2012 budget to education could be said to be Boko Haram.
Only on April 10, 2012, President Jonathan commissioned the first of 400 Federal Government Model Almajiri Schools, equipped with modern facilities such as a Language Laboratory, Qur’an Recitation Hall, classrooms and dormitories as well as a clinic, vocational workshop, dining hall and quarters for the Mallams. As Nigerians read this, more of such schools have been completed.
We now challenge Major General Buhari (rtd) to tell Nigerians what he has done, whether in his capacity as the head of a military junta or in his private capacity, to bring education to vulnerable children. If he cannot live up to this challenge, perhaps he has to reassess who really is Boko Haram.
Buhari claims that the Federal Government does not listen. Such an accusation ought not to emanate from a man overthrown by his own hand- picked colleagues in the military for refusing to listen to advice and behaving as if he had a monopoly of knowledge.
It is on record that the Federal Government led by President Jonathan is a listening administration hence its decision to pursue all means of resolving the Boko Haram insurgency including through dialogue.
When Buhari says that “if what happens in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, ‘the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”, we hereby state that it is Buhari himself who does not listen. He has obviously refused to listen to the Nigerian People, the European Union, the Commonwealth Monitoring Group, the African Union and a multitude of independent electoral monitors who testified that the 2011 elections were free and fair and “the best elections since Nigeria returned to civil rule.”
Indeed, such a reaction from Buhari is not totally unexpected since he has become aserial election loser who has never taken his past election defeats graciously even when such elections were generally acknowledged to be free and fair. Still on the issue of Boko Haram, we wonder what locus a man whose party’s Secretary General, Buba Galadima, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in December, 2010, that the Federal Government is underestimating the support base of Boko Haram, has to accuse a government that has been threatened on camera by the leaders of Boko Haram of itself being Boko Haram?
Major General Buhari (rtd) also boasts of his knowledge of the Petroleum Industry because of his time as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum. We wonder why he did not boast of the infamous scandal that occurred in that ministry where under his watch billions of Naira (in the 1970s) were reported stolen, a matter which led to the setting up of the Justice Ayo Irikefe panel.
Finally, we wish to make it known to Buhari that given his reference to “dogs and baboons”, perhaps his best course of action would be to travel to the zoo of his imagination because President Goodluck Jonathan was elected by human beings to preside over human beings and it is human beings who will determine what happens in Nigeria at any material time not “dogs and baboons”.
Not done, PDP took the queue.
In the statement issued by the ruling party, it expressed surprise that General Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was once again inciting people to take the law into their hands; “inciting Nigerians to slaughter fellow Nigerians as he did sequel to the 2011 general elections.” The party said Buhari’s statement linking 2015 with a bloody revolution was his usual build-up to his relish of funeral train.
“While PDP cherishes freedom of speech, assembly and association as the custodian of Nigeria’s democracy, we at that same time know that such freedom goes with immense responsibilities. We condemn in no uncertain terms this shameful call for the spill of blood of innocent Nigerians to acquire political power.
“We appreciate Buhari’s frustration and antagonism towards the PDP. He has lost three times at the polls. But is Buhari really a democrat? Why is the blood of innocent Nigerians the only thing sufficient to quench his thirst for power? What Nigeria needs right now is ‘evolution’ in the true spirit of democracy. The utterances of General Buhari, a former military Head of State is truly, undemocratic, unpatriotic and unstatesmanly.
“It is on record that Nigeria is yet to recover from the huge losses it suffered due to such reckless and provocative remarks by Buhari before the 2011 general elections which led to a spate of bloody post-election violence across six states of the federation,” Metuh said on behalf of the party.
The PDP reminded Buhari and Nigerians that the 22-man panel of enquiry led by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, confirmed that Buhari’s provocative remarks played a significant role in the bloody violence that led to the death of at least 200 people, the gruesome injuries sustained by thousands and the displacement of more than 40,000 people in the country in the wake of the last general elections in the country.
“The panel had categorically stated that Buhari’s pre-election utterances were misconstrued by his supporters to engage in the condemnable mayhem that greeted the aftermath of the presidential elections. Buhari never apologized to the nation or to the families of the victims. Today, Buhari is again engaged in another the build-up of massive bloodletting and destruction.
“Nigerians should be worried over Buhari’s quest for power by all means as he begins chanting his old war song once again. We have no doubt that Buhari is suffering from combat withdrawal syndrome.
“We therefore urge the Federal Government to allow him to lead the ECOWAS military contingent to Mali or Guinea Bissau to enable him an opportunity to exorcise the bloodletting demons apparently haunting him.
“As a basis for his inciting the public to take the law into their hands, Buhari has consistently said PDP government is not interested in transparency and social justice. To him, justice is only done when his party wins. Where it doesn’t, the PDP’s machinations will be blamed.
“He has repeatedly cited the Igabi Local Government, in Kaduna state, as an example of where free and fair election was conducted, simply because CPC won.”
On the issue of corruption, the PDP challenged Buhari to prove to Nigerians that only PDP members were corrupt.
“Before he does that, we want to remind him that the various sector probes going on at the National Assembly, most of which were initiated by PDP legislators, is enough testimony that PDP government will not tolerate inefficiencies and waste in government operations. Maybe it is high time Buhari confessed to Nigeria the truth about the missing 28 suitcases.
“As a country ruled by military governments for more than half of its 50 years as a nation, political reforms need to be evolutionary not revolutionary. Part of this evolution is the PDP government’s renewed fight for accountability and transparency in governance as the foundation of comprehensive political reforms.
“Unfortunately, bad losers like Buhari are determined to truncate the journey in this right direction by advocating violence and civil unrest. The April 16, 2011 presidential election, which Buhari is still agonizing over, was, according to official results from the INEC, won by the PDP’s candidate, President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, with 57 percent of the vote.”
The PDP asked Buhari to stop seeing the party as the evil genius behind his failure, but see himself as the architect of his own misfortune, as he and his party, CPC, headed to the 2011 election unprepared, with very weak party structures in more than three-quarter of Nigerian states at a time his campaign organisation was in disarray over who controls the party.
But if the Presidency and the PDP think they have succeeded in silencing Buhari, the events proved them wrong. One, the CPC rose up to the occasion and goes after the neck of President Goodluck Jonathan and his policies describing him as an ethnic jingoist making references to his appointments and utterances which the party believes contradict the letters of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Read the full text signed by Rotimi Fashakin, the National Publicity Secretary, CPC:
First, GMB has been out of office as Head of Government for about 28 years, yet his relevance to the Nigerian nation is something firmly acknowledged by a broad spectrum of Nigerians, including his adversaries. As Head of State, his Oil Minister was Professor Tam David-West, a Kalabari man in Rivers state. As a Leader, he created the ambience for his ministers to work unobtrusively and devoid of executive meddlesomeness. But what do we find with Dr Goodluck Jonathan? All the appointees as Oil ministers in his two-year reign thus far as President of Nigeria have been Nigerians of Ijaw extraction, like himself.
Second, in October 1, 2010, there was a bomb blast during the year’s independence anniversary celebrations, with attendant deaths of many Nigerians. Without waiting for any preliminary report from the Security Agencies, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, as President, told a traumatized Nation, “it is not MEND!” Meanwhile, MEND is the name for the militant group from Dr Good-luck Jonathan’s ethnic extraction that had in the immediate past waged relentless and potent insurgency against the Nigerian state but had been placated with more slice of the Nation’s resources ceded to the region. Indeed, MEND impugned the President’s statement and admitted responsibility.
Third, so far as President of Nigeria, Dr Good-luck Jonathan has shown very generous affinity for Nigerians of Ijaw stock in terms of appointments and promotions in the Federal Public sector. There is a marked lopsidedness that smacks of clannishness and ethnocentrism by the President!
On Corruption and sleazy tendency, the Jonathan administration transcends all others before it! Nigerians are still befuddled by the impeachable show of arbitrariness by the regime in expending N2.67Trillion on fuel subsidy instead of the appropriated N240Billion in the 2011 appropriation act. As expected, the regime has attempted all manner of subterfuge to give Executive cover for the indicted people in the scam, who were the bank-rollers of the President’s electioneering campaign. Could it be that the missing money was funneled deliberately to the Jonathan Presidential Campaigns, with the acquiescence of the President?
Meanwhile, with the hullaballoo that Dr Jonathan and his PDP elements have unwittingly caused within the Polity, should it be interpreted that there is a real effort towards ensuring that the 2015 election is also rigged as before in giving vim to the PDP Leaders’ claim of ruling Nigeria for 60 years? As a Nation, we are witnesses to the manner in which rigged elections have foisted on the Nation cluelessness in governance and rapacious impudence; it is indeed a dreary road to tread.
We insist that it is never ignoble to lose elections because President Abraham Lincoln, before being reputed to be the best American President that ever existed, was known to have lost elections several times. GMB, though lost Presidential elections three times to the rigging collusion of the Nigerian presidency and the electoral umpire, took the loss each time (like Abraham Lincoln) with equanimity!
Meanwhile the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) denounced as crude,vitriolic and impudent verbal attack on Buhari, by the presidency and the ruling (PDP) for no other reason than his timely warning against election rigging in 2015.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the statement for which Gen. Buhari is now being mercilessly savaged was nothing but a warning against those who may be planning to rig the 2015 general elections, hence should not have rankled anyone who believes in free, fair and transparent polls. It said the viciousness of the seemingly coordinated attacks by the presidency and the PDP raise a lot of concern regarding their plan for the 2015 elections.
‘’We hold no brief for anyone. But it is true that if elections are rigged, as they have been so shamelessly and brazenly done by the PDP since 1999, naturally people will react, and in doing so it is impossible for anyone to predict how far things can go. This is what, in our opinion, Gen. Buhari warned against. If the presidency and the PDP have no intention to rig in 2015, why are they so worried about the consequences of such action?’’ ACN queried.
‘’The voice of the presidential spokesman is the voice of his principal, the President. That is why his statements must be sober and guarded, in addition to reflecting deep introspection. The insults heaped on Gen. Buhari, a former Head of State - for merely exercising his right to freedom of speech is totally unacceptable and run against the tenets of decorum and mature political discourse,’’ it said.
ACN said, however, that it is not surprised at the response of the PDP, since it is becoming increasingly clear to all that nothing good can come out of a party that has wasted all the opportunities that could have made Nigeria a proud member of the international community in the past 13 years.
From all indications the political leaders in the country has begun beating the war drums all in their bid to control the soul of Nigeria and if care is not taken, the prediction of the American experts on the country come 2015 might come to pass.