BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & DANIEL IDONOR
ABUJA- THE Presidential Committee on Post-Election Violence in parts of the country, yesterday submitted its report stating that Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Presidential Candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s provocative remarks played a role in the bloody violence that led to the death of 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, and hundreds of others after last April’s presidential polls.
Apart from Buhari’s utterances, the panel said that the government’s failure to implement reports of past commissions and panels on ethno-religious and political crises also contributed to the post-election violence and urged the government to implement the reports. It also decried the parlous state of infrastructure, rising insecurity and ballooning wages of public office holders amid poverty among the citizenry and urged urgent remedies to avert a looming disaster in the country.
However, Buhari has denied making inciting utterances, saying that the panel and the Federal Government were executing a pre-determined agenda since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier accused the CPC of being responsible for the mayhem even before the panel was raised.
The 22-man Panel said that Buhari’s pre-election utterances might have been misconstrued by his supporters to engage in the condemnable mayhem that greeted the aftermath of the presidential elections.
However, the panel claimed that “a long interactive session was held between the CPC presidential candidate and a five-member delegation of the panel, led by the chairman, in the office of General Buhari in Kaduna on September 14, 2011. It was discovered that he (Buhari) was a victim of the violence, the photographs of which were given to the said delegation”.
President Goodluck Jonathan who received the report of the panel upon the completion of its assignment vowed to implement the recommendations of the panel no matter the individuals involved, insisting that “the culture of impunity would be erased by the government and heavens will not fall”.
The Sheikh Ahmed Lemu-led Panel, which was inaugurated on May 11 2011, turned-in its report yesterday, stating that though Gen. Buhari was also a victim of the violence, his statement to his supporters that they should guard their votes may have been misconstrued by those who took the law in their hands to perpetrate the heinous crimes leading to wanton destruction of lives and properties.
They’re acting out a script – Buhari
However, Buhari’s Spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said he was not surprised that the panel was blaming Buhari for the mayhem because “before the panel was set up, President Jonathan and the PDP had accused the CPC of being responsible.”
Alleging that the government and the panel were acting out a script, he challenged them to prove how Buhari’s comments ignited the violence.
“They have to prove that Buhari’s utterances ignited the violence. There was no comment that he made beyond that people should defend their votes. The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) said people should vote, wait and defend their votes. Buhari did not say anything than people should protect their votes. They have an agenda they are executing. They are working on a script,” Odumakin told Vanguard on phone.
Other causes of electoral mayhem
The panel listed other causes of the recent electoral violence to include “the existing widespread desire for change as a result of frustration and disappointment of many members of the general public regarding the inability of successive past regimes to solve the problems of power failure nationwide, deplorable state of Federal Government roads throughout the nation, bribery and corruption which have virtually been legitimized in all affairs of our nation. Thus with regard to the remedy of bribery and corruption, we recommend that the Heads of the three arms of Government as well as other major stakeholders in Nigeria should come together and agree on the most effective way forward to avoid the impending catastrophe”.
Similarly, the panel added that “general insecurity of life and property in people’s houses and on the high ways and kidnapping are fuel to the fire of public frustration and disappointment. The true state of affairs could escalate to social revolution if preventive measures are not taken in time. In fact, the current sporadic demonstrations in educational institutions and by labour unions are all considered to be signals of more serious negative events to come. This assertion could be verified for your Excellency by the security agencies”.
It further reported that “the next major cause of violence and disturbances is the manner in which political office holders have lucratised their respective positions at the expense of the whole nation. The panel discovered that the remunerations and allowances of the members of the legislature, in particular, are considered by stakeholders who addressed us or wrote to us about the issue to be outrageous. It has turned politics in Nigeria to a do-or-die affair for which many politicians of all parties are seriously establishing private armies to execute. In that respect, easy access to drugs, serious general poverty at the grassroots level and youth unemployment, in particular, are providing many foot soldiers ready for recruitment at a cheap rate. The security agencies could verify this assertion also”.
The panel in the report argued that “generally speaking, the basic cause of the violence in nearly all the communities concerned is political. Ethno-religious sentiments were brought into the issue through negative campaigns and rumour-mongering by unscrupulous individuals to achieve their ulterior motives”. It noted that “the zoning controversy, which started basically as an internal political affair of the ruling party, ultimately changed the nature of the presidential election into ethno-religious contest in the country particularly in the northern states”.
The panel was quick to add that “the most important major cause was the failure on the part of the previous successive regimes since the military handover of power in 1999 to implement the recommendations of various committees, commissions and panels that had taken place in our nation. That failure facilitated the wide spread sense of impunity in the culprits and perpetrators of crimes and violence in the Nigerian society”.
“We recommend to
Your Excellency to order security agencies to fish out culprits of violence for prosecution. Your Excellency should also revisit those previous recommendations like the ones contained in the following reports.
*.Baba Lakin Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Bauchi State Civil Disturbances
* Karibi Whyte Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kafanchan Disturbances
* Niki Tobi Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances
* Justice Sankey Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Wase and Langtang Disturbances
* Justice Disu Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances
* Professor Tamuno Panel of Inquiry on National Security
* Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee.
The panel advised President Jonathan that “people indicted by the committees and commissions concerned should be prosecuted. These recommendations are based on what the panel observed from many victims of those previous disturbances who are nursing reprisals and have only been waiting for the slightest excuse to move into action which some of them did during the 2011 election violence and civil disturbances”.
Responding, President Jonathan said: “I assure you, on our part we will follow your recommendations. You did mention that one of the problem is that when recommendations are made to government, government hardly implements them. They will make speeches, make pronouncements, then the media will carry it, then they lock them up, though some recommendations may be difficult for implementations”.
According to him, “we have decided that even in the Jos crisis, we have set up a committee, we are going to look at all the recommendations and we must issue white papers heavens will not fall. Until government has the political will and courage to do what is right no matter how painful it will be, the culture of impunity will continue and we want to reduce that culture of impunity so we will look at your recommendation and the Federal Executive Council will look at it and come out with a white paper”.
He explained that “even if your recommendation did not prescribe punshiment but your report is there for other government organs to look into. I am also more interested in the preventive aspect of the recommendation than the punishment aspect. Yes people who commit offences must face the laws of the land but how do we prevent subsequent occurrence is the key thing that is dear to me”.
He said: “I won’t say much but I have to thank you for your comprehensive speech, the speech itself is almost like a summary of what we will get from the report. I am indeed happy that you have looked at a number of areas, I am also happy that you have discussed with wide range of people, almost all the people that matter, all the key people you wanted to contact. Let me use this privilege to thank those who voluntarily discussed with you, gave you the information you required especially the party leaders and senior government functionaries, private sector operatives who voluntarily and willingly discussed with you and gave you their own perspective of the cause of the crisis”.
He also agreed with the panel “that ignorance must have some of the basis of this crisis because looking at the result of the election, the states that I lost the election Kano and Bauchi where I had the least 16, 17 per cent were the ones that had most crisis”.
“When we were to conduct the election I said we will try and conduct an election that will be free and fair, at least internationally it has been accepted unfortunately we had this ugly incident.”
My interest is that in 2015 elections and beyond what must we do to make sure that what we experienced don’t happen again. I am quiet pleased you concentrated in that area. You raised the issues bothering on power sector because without power you cannot empowed people economically, the economic situation, the roads, corruption and other issues, all these lead to one thing that if the economy improves and if people can go to school, surely some of these ugly incidences will be minimized and I agree with you”, he said.
He stressed that “the social issues, of course you mention something bothering on compensation we will look at it. You also mentioned the national orientation agency, we have been discussing we have to strengthen that agency to work closely with the ministry of information to be because government has a number of radio and TV stations in every state and we believe they should be able to use these stations to engaged to enlighten and educate Nigerians on security”.