By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru & Dapo Akinrefon
LAGOS— GENERAL Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, came under attack as a man desperate for political power following his assertion, Monday, of the possibility of a bloody revolution in 2015.
The Presidency in a scathing dismissal lamented that the former Head of State had, through his assertions, reduced himself to a regional leader, noting that Buhari even as a presidential candidate consistently showed himself as divisive person who did not even campaign in the south.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, denounced Buhari, as a man who would not mind trudging on the blood of Nigerians to achieve his dream to return to power.
Jonathan’s critics also rounded on Buhari, describing his comments as being in the extreme.
The only respite for the 2011 presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC came from the party and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP. The CPC dismissed the criticisms of Buhari’s statement as balderdash. The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF in its own reaction noted that Buhari’s assertion was nothing new as it claimed that it had been severally parroted by other political leaders, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Speaking in Hausa language while receiving a delegation of the CPC from Niger State, Buhari was quoted as saying: “God willing by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way.
“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.”
He was also quoted as describing the federal government as the biggest Boko Haram in the country.
Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati in the presidency’s reaction to what he described as an unfortunate statement from Buhari said:
“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.
“We find it very sad that an elder statesman who once presided over the entirety of Nigeria can reduce himself to a regional leader who speaks for only a part of Nigeria.”
Noting with irony previous denunciations of Buhari by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who is now an associate of Buhari, the presidency said:
”We now understand what his protégé and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Nasir El’Rufai, meant when he wrote in a public letter in October of 2010, telling Nigerians that Buhari remains “perpetually unelectable” and that Buhari’s “insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity and his parochial focus are already well-known.” Who can know Buhari better than his own political associate?”
“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?”
Rebuffing Buhari’s depiction of the Jonathan led administration as the biggest Boko Haram, Abati said: “The Federal Government led by President Jonathan is not 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.
“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.”
On Buhari’s condemnation of the administration’s handling of the affairs of the oil industry, the presidency fired back:
“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”.
PDP slams Buhari
The PDP in its own reaction through its national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh said it was regretful that Buhari would again incite Nigerians to violence after allegedly causing the mayhem that followed the 2011 presidential election.
Metuh said: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) calls on well-meaning Nigerians, especially the Northern elders to call Buhari to order and ask him to spare the nation his thirst for blood,”
Noting the events that followed the 2011 elections, he said: “We need to remind ourselves that on April 21, 2012, Buhari was reported in the media as predicting a bloody revolution in 2015. The reports in the national dailies today quoting the same retired General as repeating that blood will flow in 2015 is another build-up to Buhari’s 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.”
Describing the former Head of state’s statement as truly, undemocratic, unpatriotic and un-statesmanlike, he said: “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.
“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, gruesomely injuring thousands and the displacement of more than 40,000 people.
“The panel 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 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.
“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, we challenge Buhari to prove to Nigerians that only PDP members are 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 53 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. This commitment is not in response to pressure from international development partners, western nations or opposition parties.
“It is unfortunate that at this time of grave security challenge while Nigerians are burying their dead and counting their losses, Gen. Buhari, who wants to rule them, is further inflaming the orgy of violence.”
CPC, ACF, CNPP defend Buhari
The biting attacks on Buhari were immediately dismissed by the CPC which threw its weight behind its 2011 presidential candidate. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Engr. Rotimi Fashakin said yesterday that General Buhari was only reiterating what many Nigerians had been saying for long.
“They are merely talking balderdash; what General Buhari has said is what many Nigerians have expressed . Remember Professor Wole Soyinka had said election rigging is violence against people and that they have the right to confront violence with greater violence”.
Fashakin who alleged that the PDP connived with INEC to rig the 2011 general election and opposition parties had said it would not be business as usual in 2015, stressed, “PDP colluded with Professor Atahiru Jega INEC to foist Jonathan on us. That’s why we are battling with this clueless government. There must be sanctity of votes of Nigerian electorate.
“What Buhari was trying to say is that, it would not be business as usual. So, only the guilty should be afraid of retribution. It is certain that retribution is coming. So, why should PDP be afraid”?
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF responding through its national publicity secretary, Anthony A.Z. Sani said Buhari’s comment was nothing new as he noted that many eminent Nigerians including former President Olusegun Obasanjo had also inferred as such.
“Buhari has not said anything that has not been said before. What people are saying is that he should not have said it because he has mass appeal among the people.”
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, on its part also backed Buhari saying the call from the former Head of State was for the enthronement of a transparent election process.
CNPP’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said yesterday:
“The problem on ground now is due to the fact that many of those holding elective positions were not elected by the people, in actual fact. Therefore they don’t have any sense of accountability and responsibility towards the people.”
There were also mixed reactions to the statement from notable stakeholders yesterday:
It’s an explosive statement— Sagay
Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay said “It was a very explosive statement. I agree that we have had enough of election rigging. All other countries have left us behind, countries like Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Every other country has been able to have free and fair elections except Nigeria; it is time for us to wake up and eliminate that disease from our democracy. So, I agree with him that we must have free and fair elections, but not on the issue of bloodshed because that is a bit frightening and a bit extreme. But I think those who have been rigging and getting away with it, should also have a rethink that it is time for peoples’ vote to count. Nigeria has been left behind.”
That is Buhari’s opinion—Falae
One time presidential candidate of the All Nigeria’s People Party, ANPP, Chief Olu Falae said “that is his own opinion. I am not sure whether 2015 is not too far away, given all the multitude of problems that we have. We can only pray that we survive till 2015. I am not even talking about elections; I am talking about the survival of this country because I think that is the paramount issue now.”
It’s a serious statement— Ayo Adebanjo
Former NADECO chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said: “It is a very serious statement he made but it is also very difficult to fault him. One would not want any violence but for the sake of the country, should there be no free and fair elections, I agree with that statement. I cannot rule it out because people are tensed up. For the elections to be conducted now and not reflecting the wishes of the people, heaven help us.”
It’s a reckless statement— Fasoranti
On his part, National leader of Pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti lampooned Buhari and described the retired general’s remarks as a ”reckless statement.” Fasoranti said “that is a very reckless statement coming from an elder statesman.”
His statement is a warning to Nigerians— Fasehun
Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Fredrick Fasehun said Buhari’s remark remains a warning signal.
According to him, “I think he must have spoken too early but Nigerians desire to have a free, fair and credible election come 2015. The election of 1993, which was free and fair but was annulled, has left Nigeria bruised for some time. Mr Buhari is giving that warning, he is acting as an elder statesman and former Head of State who feels that unfair elections may be a stumbling block and progress in 2015. It is a warning which is good for the country. He is not threatening.