President Muhammadu Buhari has formally reacted to the release of the 2019 election timetable and schedule of activities by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, warning actors in the political space against a resort to violence in an attempt to sway electoral support, or in the event that they are rejected at the polls.
President Buhari spoke Thursday in Abuja while delivering a keynote address at the 15th Daily Trust Dialogue which had as its theme, ‘Nigeria and the Challenges of 2019’.
This was as he said his election as president in 2015 was a reflection of the will of Nigerians, a position that was immediately denounced by one of the three key speakers and former Governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido who posited that the 2015 elections were defined by the “lies and propaganda of a coalition of desperate politicians” under the aegis of the All Progressives Congress APC.
“The elections that ushered the ‘change’ government into power in 2015 reflected the will of the Nigerian people and was widely acclaimed as transparent and peaceful.
“From Umuahia to Damaturu, Jalingo to Osogbo, our people queued for long hours at their polling units and kept vigil as election officials tabulated their votes. And then the big one: the then outgoing president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan historically set the tone for future political conduct in the country by graciously accepting defeat in a keenly contested race”, the president recalled.
He said the election timetable is a reminder to politicians and other stakeholders that the 2019 general elections were fast approaching.
Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, the president said his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan by his actions in 2015, had already set the tone for decent political conduct in the country.
“I also call on politicians and political parties to pledge their commitment to the peaceful democratic process by urging their supporters to respect the electoral process and restrain them from violence. All aggrieved parties should seek redress through constitutional means and respect for the rule of law.
“On our part, I want to assure Nigerians that my administration will not condone any violence, support any individual or groups that undermine citizens’ confidence in the ability of the country’s political institutions to conduct peaceful and successful elections”, he said.
Allow Attorney Generals handle Election Disputes -Ajibola
Chairman of the occasion and former Judge of the International Court of Justice ICJ, Prince Bola Ajibola on his part, advised the federal government to allow Commissioners of Justice and Attorneys General in the states to handle 2019 election disputes.
Ajibola, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, said; “The point I am making is to allow the Attorneys-General and Commissioners of Justice in all the states to handle as Judges the cases of election petition by moving them around the states, come 2019 so that non will preside over matters in his own state and will definitely serve in another state either jointly, with a panel or alone”.
He also advocated an amendment of Paragraph 2 of S.150 of the 1999 Constitution which states that “…a person shall not be qualified to hold or perform the function of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation unless he is qualified to practise, as a legal practitioner and has been so qualified for not less than 10 years”.
According to Ajibola, “instead of 10 years, we now need to replace it with ‘Senior Advocate Of Nigeria SAN’. We have so many of them now and they are competent to handle this service”.
Lies, Propaganda Defined 2015 Elections -Lamido
Lamido who accused the APC administration of lying itself to power, also took a swipe at the president, describing him as “intolerant and vengeful”.
Speaking directly to the president, Lamido said, “if you destroy too much, one day you will also lead”.
“Mr President, I am sure when you were coming here, you say fuel queues everywhere. You are the Minister of Petroleum. When are you going to demonstrate and go on strike?
“Typical of you APC, you have not been able to metamorphose from an opposition party to a party in government. Same old rhetorics. More blame games, more problems. Telling lies. That is what you are. Your party, not you as a person.
“The election in 2007 was among three northerners who are Fulani. Gen. Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Umaru Musa Yar’adua. We are talking about tolerance and making sacrifices which you (Buhari) tried to allude to. After the elections, PDP with about 27 governors and a number of local governments in Nigeria won the elections. The two other northerners went to the tribunal and lost; went up to the Supreme Court and lost. If you go by their pedigree, and again I mean no offence, Yar’Adua was the most qualified democrat among them. He was a northerner, a Fulani like them. He was not Ijaw. He was not Jonathan, but even at that, they never forgave Yar’Adua up till when he died. For the over two years that Yar’Adua was president, Gen. Buhari never attended the Council of State meeting. He never did. When Yar’Adua became sick, the pressure and harassment he went through in the National Assembly, some of us stood by him but we were not being seen as northerners or PDP. When God took him, the first (Council of State) meeting that the then President Jonathan called, the first to be there was Gen. Buhari. It says so much about tolerance. It says so much about vendetta. It says so much about hate.
“Thereafter in the PDP, somehow, Jonathan ran in 2011 and those who are now preaching tolerance were not tolerant. He (Buhari) refused to concede and in the north, people like us were villified and blackmailed. I was called a ‘pastor’, a preacher because I had a contrary opinion. At that time, you were either for them or you were not a northerner and a lot of people were killed in the north because of the hate speeches. APC won in 2015 by creating disaffection among families. In Gusau, they went from house to house flogging PDP members.
“APC is telling us what government should do after three years in power. APC should tell us what they have failed to do”.
Why Tinubu must leave APC
Speaking to Mr Wale Edun who represented Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu at the event, the former Jigawa governor said; “Tell Asiwaju that his brother and friend says he is in a wrong party. He will only recover and reintegrate himself as a democrat if he leaves the APC”.
He accused the Buhari administration of using “Tinubu’s own governors” to fight against him, saying the president only reached out to the former governor barely six months ago because his strategic services would be handy ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Buhari, Nigerians now Wailing Wailers
“They call Nigerians wailing wailers for complaining. Thankfully, wailing will be over in 2019. APC members have joined the wailing wailers. Buhari is wailing. His wife is wailing because there are no syringes in the Aso Rock Clinic. Sagay is wailing, calling his party names. (Bisi) Akande is wailing, everybody is wailing.”
Tinubu kicks against Open Grazing, Backs Power Devolution
Tinubu on his part weighed in on the hersdmen killings in Benue and Taraba states, saying it was time government put a stop to open grazing. He however expressed his support for devolution of powers.
“2019 must not be a game between players similar in every way save the political party costume they wear. The election to come must be a contest of different visions for the nation’s present and future”, he said.
On killing of people in Benue and Taraba states, Tinubu said; “Against this backdrop, we must take prudent action. It is incumbent on the federal government to do what past governments neglected to do. We must forget our age-old prejudices in order to resolve this problem. What we need is serious committed action. At its essence, this crisis was not born of religious or ethnic hatred. It is about a shrinking amount of grass and water.
“As we commend these security measures, we must not lose sight of the fact that the problem bears an economic origin. Thus, agro-economic policy initiatives must help shape the lasting solution. The crux of the matter is that the nomadic way of life is fast becoming obsolete. Large scale nomadic practice does not belong in this day and age. This is reality and it is inescapable.
“Thus, herders have no right to cling to this way of life by killing others. Government must stop their violence but also offer them a viable new way of life by moving them toward more modern, non-nomadic cattle rearing”.
He also spoke against the current fuel subsidy regime in the country.
“We must reform the current fuel subsidy regime. At this stage it causes more problems than it cures. Bottlenecks of long fuel queues, erratic supply, resultant economic dislocations for consumers from lack of fuel and the corrupt practices of trade insiders undermine the good intentions upon which the subsidy is based. Currently, the subsidy does not benefit the average person. It sweetly profits the elites who manipulate the program to their own advantage. We need to allow market forces to more directly determine price. We need to open the now closed market to more suppliers”.
The third speaker at the event, nollywood actress, Kate Henshaw lamented the growing culture of gerontocracy in Africa, saying it was high time the elders left the stage for the younger ones.
She said, “every election year, we do the same thing, and expect different results”.
Advising political parties to refrain from parading spent forces who have been tested but cannot be trusted, Henshaw urged them to instead reach out to highly-cerebral young Nigerians who have the wherewithal to rescue the nation from the albatross.