BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
LAGOS — PRESIDENTIAL Candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, picked holes in President Goodluck Jonathan’s raising of a 22-man panel to probe the post-presidential polls mayhem that claimed many lives and property in some northern parts of the country.
Buhari who described it as illegal and a wild goose chase, also criticised the doling of N5million each to families of the 10 youth corps members killed in the violence.
The CPC presidential candidate, in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “The Federal Government, by law, has no powers to investigate any disturbances outside the Federal Capital Territory as pronounced by the Supreme Court in Fawehinmi vs Babangida. The 22-man panel set up by the President is, therefore, a hollow ritual meant to just play politics with a serious national tragedy.
“Justice Samson Uwaifo, who has been made the Deputy Chair of this illegal panel was on the Supreme Court panel that gave that decision. He presently chairs a lawful Truth Commission in Osun State as only states have such powers.”
Poor performance at the polls
Buhari spoke as founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, berated him over alleged “drumbeats of war” after performing poorly at the polls.
Fasehun said: “The sectarian pattern of General Buhari’s performance in the last elections in which he won only in North-East and North-West states, coupled with the tribal explosions that took place thereafter, should underscore to all and sundry the kind of image that he has cut for himself. Rather than projecting the qualities of a national leader,
General Buhari cuts the image of a tribal warlord; and he is very dangerous for the unity and future of this country.”
In the statement entitled: “On President Jonathan’s cheap politicisation of post-election violence,” Odumakin said the CPC did not justify the killings, adding: “The only sour truth we have pointed out is that those who wilfully violate the right of the people to freely choose their leaders are vicariously liable for the outrage of the mob. While we want justice for the people who lost their lives, we need to alert the whole world that the handling of this issue by President Jonathan is the worst form of mischief dance on the graves of the dead.”
Buhari alleged that the motive behind the giving of N5 million each to families of the victim was not out of “genuine concerns for the dead” but a “a photo-opportunity with the families,” adding: “Were the government to be genuine over its intention of even compensating those who lost their property, all it would have needed was advertising in newspapers for such victims to come forward with a verification panel to assess their claims and value genuine losses.”
He said the activities of the panel would not stand legally because “most of the terms of reference of this illegal panel are criminal investigations that cannot be tribunalised. The burning of houses is arson while the killing of people is culpable homicide; a competent government should be filing charges against the suspects arrested rather than embarking on a wild goose chase.”
Intense pressure on OPC, others
However, warning Buhari against heating up the polity, Fasehun said it took a great deal of maturity for southern leaders and organisations like the OPC to resist the intense pressure brought upon them to answer the violence in the North with collateral reprisals in the South.
He said: “Such leaders and organisations also held back out of consideration for President Goodluck Jonathan and their love for democracy. If killings take place in future, it may be difficult to control the backlash of emotions.”
Saddened by the killing of corps members during the mayhem, Fasehun canvassed amendment of the NYSC law to make participants serve in their regions of origin. He also sought N20 million compensation of corps members that die in service.
Country no longer at war
Fasehun noted: “General Yakubu Gowon’s regime established the National Youth Service Corps in 1973 as a post-civil war formula to “keep Nigeria one.” Now that this country is no longer at war, do we still need the NYSC 38 years after? Every year the country loses young, bright Nigerians in the NYSC to sectarian crisis mostly in the North.
Against this background, Nigerians expect that the first assignment of the incoming National Assembly will be to consider a Bill to modify or repeal the NYSC Act. Thus the Legislature must, as a matter of urgent public concern, hold a public sitting, where Nigerians will express their views on the desirability, modification or outright abolition of the operations and the latitude of the NYSC.
“While awaiting this essential legislative intervention, we demand immediate modifications in the scheme. If the NYSC must be retained, authorities should, as a matter of national emergency, put in place a system whereby fresh graduates will serve only within their regions of origin or indigeneship. Yoruba people should serve only in South-West states, while Igbo youths serve in South-East, Ibibio in South-South, Fulfude in North-East, and so on. It is unlikely that dog will eat dog; and a zone will not likely kill its own children in case of any crisis.
Also, the government must immediately institute a compensation and insurance package funded by both the NYSC and host states. The family of any youth corps member who dies in the course of serving his fatherland should receive a minimum compensation of N20 million.”