Thursday, March 6, 2014

ELECTION: Pres. Jonathan 2nd Term Ambition, Northerners Agenda Will Make or Break Nigeria -- Abdulsalami

Former military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, a retired General, has warned that the ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan to secure a second term in office, and the resolve of the North to produce the next President of the country against all odds pose serious danger to the nation’s democracy.

He gave the warning in Abuja, just as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, equally expressed the belief that the survival of the nation before and after the 2015 general elections lies with Jonathan, whose decision would shape the destiny of the country.

He noted that the election was pregnant and would spring forth a lot of surprises.

Abdulsalami and Tambuwal spoke on Thursday at a conference organised by the Peoples Media Limited, publishers of Peoples Daily newspapers.

The former Head of State noted that caution was necessary at this point because of the unnecessary overheating of the polity.

The 2015 election, he added, is a “watershed moment” in Nigeria’s history and that unless Nigerians handle it with utmost seriousness and patriotism, a repeat of the 2011 violence may occur.

“The 2015 election is among other things, expected to determine where power will reside in the next four years. The North is determined to have it back and its leaders are pulling all the stops to see that that happens.

“On the other hand, the body language of the incumbent President strongly suggests he wants another term in office. Distinguished guests, the unfolding scenario may portend danger to our nation if Nigerians from all parts of the country do not close ranks and put the interest of the nation first,” Abdulsalami said.

Abdulsalami, who was chairman of the occasion, said nothing has gripped the imagination of Nigerians as the 2015 elections, adding that the fault lines are apparent and politicians are ready to exploit them to the fullest to achieve their sometimes not so noble objectives.

Speaking on the topic, Nigeria: The 2015 Question’, Abdulsalami said he was however confident that Nigerians can collectively rise above the challenge of the impending danger to deliver a credible election.

He said for this to be achieved, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has a key role to play in ensuring free and fair elections that express the will of the people.

“As an international elections observer, I have monitored polls in less endowed countries that have managed to organise more credible elections and I am always left with the sad feeling that with all our resources, we are unable to set an example for the rest of the world,” he said.

And speaking as guest of honour at the event, Tambuwal said the 2015 election has made the challenge of Nigeria’s federal system more difficult, as tribalism and nepotism have taken the centre stage.

He, however, expressed belief in the ability of Nigerians to weather the storm, and his unshaken belief in the unity of the country.

I believe in the unity of this country. I believe in our ability to triumph over our challenges. I believe in our power to see beyond our subjective experiences to a more objective future. I believe that 2015 will bring us good surprises,” he said.

The Speaker warned that the handling of 2015 issues by the President would determine, to a large extent, the fate of the nation, just as he insisted that the onus lies with the incumbent government to conduct a free and fair poll to usher in peace in the country.

Yes, 2015 is indeed pregnant. But it is in our hands if we want it to deliver a bright future or a foetus of aborted hopes and dreams.

“The responsibility is of course first on those who hold power currently and the election umpire that we now have.

“If they decide to conduct fair and free elections, if the scales are not rigged, then the hope that 2015 will usher in a more peaceful and more progressive year is not in doubt.”

Tambuwal submitted that Nigerians have an opportunity to make 2015 a turning point if only the political parties would enthrone internal democracy and conduct free and fair primaries to allow aspirants test their popularity.

“We hold it in our hands to make 2015 a turning point in our politics and our nation. But first the political parties must enthrone a democratic culture that should provide level playing ground over and above every other consideration.

“They must learn to make party primaries a genuine exercise in testing the acceptability and popularity of every candidate rather than a make-believe, a mere gathering of political party faithful,” he stated.

Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, also spoke at the same event where he described the current government led by Jonathan as the worst in tolerating corruption and corrupt tendencies in the annals of the nation.

He also adjudged the government as having performed poorly in provision of security to the citizenry, in job creation, infrastructural development, and child education.

Amaechi gave the grim scorecard in his paper entitled, ‘Nigeria: The 2015 Question, The Metaphor of Change and the Politics of 2015’.

Amaechi, who was the guest speaker at the occasion, noted that though corruption did not start under the administration of Jonathan, the situation seems to have developed a life of its own under the watch of the current government.

According to him, corruption began to flourish when the nation threw away its dependence on agriculture and began to pursue oil money which seems easier to acquire.

He noted that the crisis began to become noticeable when the military came into power, but added that it will be wrong for anyone to ascribe institutionalisation of corruption to the military, who, he said, can be described as saints in terms of corrupt acts when placed side by side with some civilian governments.

“A common feature that characterised the different governments is corruption in varying degrees. The fight against corruption was given a serious thought under civilian administration of (Olusegun) Obasanjo.

“He instituted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a corruption-fighting agency despite the fact that there was in existence a Nigeria Police who has as one of its responsibilities fighting corruption.

“Nigeria as a country had abandoned its progress in agriculture development and agrarian economy for an economy driven by oil revenue.

“The oil revenue itself enhances the development of an army of looters. John Campbell the one time American Ambassador to Nigeria in his book, ‘Nigeria Dancing on the Brink’, had this to say: ‘Throughout the post-civil war period, the self-enrichment of individual military officers was made possible by immense oil revenues combined with weak institutions of governance with little accountability to the public.

“‘Militarisation and centralisation of government authority went hand in hand, power in Nigeria became much more centralised than its ‘Federal’ label would indicate’.”

Amaechi added: “Like was said earlier, corruption is not a repository of the military alone. The politicians were also experts at it.

“The progress made in fighting corruption began to erode under President Yar’Adua. His short-lived regime cannot be assessed in this wise.

Currently in the present regime of President Goodluck Jonathan corruption appears to have been institutionalised.

“A whopping sum of $20 billion is alleged to have been missing. The stories of both fuel and kerosene subsidy are not anything to behold. It smears of corruption and rottenness.

“The aviation bulletproof saga remains unresolved. The Shell Malabu story is a macabre dance. The response of the regime to corruption is to imprison those exposing corruption.

“The impunity in corruption is extended to the punishment of those who fight corruption.

“The removal of the Governor of Central Bank is unconstitutional. Constitution means nothing to the current government. What we see is the re-emergence of civilian dictatorship, but enough about corruption,” the Governor said.

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