Ahead of the forthcoming general elections, MUYIWA OYINLOLAwrites on the voices and warnings for President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on issues not to be taken for granted in their re-election bid
Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, it was not until the last general elections held in 2015 that an opposition party was able to defeat the incumbent at the Presidential election and other levels.
Prior to that period, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had through intimidation, disregard for democratic institutions, and manipulation of electoral process (as disclosed by some of its chieftains), won elections over and over until it eventually burnt its fingers through arrogance and disregard for the electorate, sold itself out to the formidable opposition of a coalition of five political groups and interests under the umbrella of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Prior to the defeat of the PDP, which until that period had branded itself as the largest party in Africa and a party that would rule the nation for at least six decades, there had been hand writings on the wall that it was threading the path of defeat and may not return to power after the last general elections.
But the party, rather than take a cue from the warnings, resulted in propaganda and intimidation of the dissenting voices, both within and outside the party.
Some of those uncomfortable with the party (PDP) at that moment distanced themselves from the party and formed New Peoples Democrat Party (nPDP), which later merged with the political parties and groups that formed the APC. About five governors, a number of senators, Rep members and prominent PDP members, who felt PDP had derailed from the ideals of its founding fathers and may not return to power deleted to the APC.
It will be recalled that the then President Goodluck Jonathan-led government waged attacks on some of the PDP chieftains and branded the opposition toothless until they eventually swept the carpet off his government with the coming to power of Buhari on May 29, 2015.
However, available reports indicate that the current APC-led government may be heading the way of the then PDP as it appears to be clamping down on opposition and dissenting voices to its government.
The recent alledged plot by the government to silence those who are not in support of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and counter accusation against those described as alarmists might be one of the signs that 2019 general elections will attract much attention of the international community considering the place of Nigeria in Africa.
Lest than 24 hours after the APC Deputy National Publicity, Comrade Timi Frank, cried out that the government was planning to arrest him, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, seized the media space with the same allegation, claiming that “The content of the alleged beastly designs, it was learnt are two-fold for now. One, to seize his International Passport and clamp him into detention indefinitely, in order to prevent him from further expressing angst on the pervasive mediocrity in the quality of governance, economic management and in the protection of lives and property by the Government.”
According to a statement signed by Chief Obasanjo’s spokesman, Kehinde Akinyemi, “Impeccable security sources have alleged Chief Obasanjo’s name is on their Watch List and that the security of his life cannot be guaranteed.
“According to these informants, many of who are in the top echelon of the Nation’s security management and close to the corridors of power, the operatives are daily perfecting how to curtail the personal liberties of the former President and hang a crime on him.
“But, since that could expose the Government to a swath of international condemnation, embarrassment and outrage, it is said that another plot being hatched is to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-open investigation into the activities of Chief Obasanjo’s administration using false witnesses and documents.
“This will be a re-enactment of the Abacha era in which Chief Obasanjo was one of the principal victims.”
Just like the former president Obasanjo, Comrade Timi Frank, had told the world in an open letter that his Police security aides have been withdrawn while a serving Minister was going about threatening media houses against publishing his news releases.
The outspoken APC chieftain, who has severally complained and condemned what he called persecution and intimidation of perceived opposition through different open letters, urged Nigerians, and especially the National Assembly not to relent in providing leadership to ensure the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria.
Recall that in recent weeks, he had cause to issue four open letters where Frank passionately pleaded with President to stop security agencies from harassing and intimidating Nigerians especially those perceived as enemies of the administration. He also called on relevant security and anti-graft agencies, to follow due process in the ongoing fight against corruption in the country.
The APC chieftain had equally, through different letters called on the leaders of the international community, like the President of the United States, Donald Trump, Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to prevail on the present administration to respect the sanctity of human lives, uphold the fundamental human rights of Nigerians, stop the intimidation and harassment of innocent citizens; and to make sure that the ongoing fight against corruption is conducted according to the principles of fairness, equity and justice.
In the said letters Comrade Frank had decried a situation where personalities mainly from the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) arm of the ruling APC party, were alledgedly being selectively targeted for persecution in the guise of fighting corruption.
Like frankly speaking Frank spoke out against the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led government, warning the then ruling party against anti democratic tendencies going on then but was ignored, what happened to PDP after the 2015 elections is no more news.
Like prophet which they say ‘has no honour in his house,’ everything Comrade Frank has predicted about his party, the APC are all coming to past.
Reacting to ex-President Obasanjo’s accusation, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the security agencies to order in order to douse the tension in the country.
Atiku, who is also a 2019 presidential aspirant, said that he received with serious concern the purported alert raised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo of an alleged plot by the government to arrest him on trumped up charges, added that he was disturbed by the turn of events in Nigeria considering the huge price that was paid for country to have democracy.
In a statement Atiku personally signed last night, he adviced that government and its agents should retrace their steps “to avoid aggravating the already over heated polity.
“I wish to state without equivocation that President Obasanjo is a historical figure in Nigeria’s democracy and that the primary purpose of government is to provide security of lives and property of all citizens and residents irrespective of their status, political affiliation, religious inclination and ethnic leanings.
“Our nation has lost so much precious lives and property that we can no longer afford to travel that road again.
“I wish to appeal to President Buhari to call the security agencies to order in order to douse the tension in the land.”
For the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that the lives of those who oppose President Buhari are endangered.
The PDP spokesman also said that the former President’s revelation shows that it has not been making up stories about the government’s plots to silence the opposition.
He said “The alarm by Chief Obasanjo has further shown that the PDP has not been crying wolf regarding the plots by the APC-led Federal Government to frame, arrest, detain and arraign political opponents of the APC, including regular Nigerians, for holding or canvassing opinions that are divergent to the interest of those in power.”
But in a swift reaction to Obasanjo’s letter, the federal government said the Buhari administration would not be distracted by frivolous allegations from any quarter, especially those cleverly choreographed to divert attention from a widely-acclaimed presidential proclamation and to shore up support for a waning and egotistical cause.
The government added that it is only those with skeletons in their cupboard that should be afraid of even their own shadows.
In a statement, the Minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that while those who have skeletons in their wardrobes should be afraid, even of their own shadows, innocent persons need not worry about any investigation, whether real or imagined.
He said the administration is too busy trying to clear the mess of 16 years and build on its unprecedented achievements over the past three years to waste its energy and time on framing up anyone or dwelling on issues that are not grounded in fact. Mohammed stated:
“This administration will never engage in a frame-up of innocent citizens. That is neither in the character of President Muhammadu Buhari nor in that of his administration. Only the guilty should be worried. To paraphrase an African proverb, a man who has no wife cannot lose an in-law to the cold hands of death.
“The administration is also strongly committed to the tenets of democracy, including freedom of speech and the right to dissent. But we understand that those who, in their time, were un-tethered to those principles would find it hard to believe.”
Apart from chief Obasanjo and comrade Timi Frank, other political leaders; like Senate President Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Governor Nelson Wike of Rivers state, Senator Shehu Sani and Senator Dino Melaye, have all complained of plot to frame them up recently.
Some political analysts believe that the situation was the first in the long time politicians were alledging same kind of fear, while others think that the dissenting voices were out to raise unnecessary alarm against the government.
Whatever may be true position, lovers of democracy and leaders of Nations across the world should not be deaf to complains of Comrade Timi Frank and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the Nigeria move closer to 2019.
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