BY BEN AGANDE, JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & CHRIS OCHAI
ABUJA – PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan Thursday raised the alarm that there were remorseless anti-democratic forces who were operating under the cover of political parties working seriously to truncate the hard won democratic liberty in the country.
President Jonathan who made this revelation at the All Nigeria Political Parties and Political Stakeholders summit in Abuja noted that the anti-democratic forces were exploiting lapses in the management of the nation’s political and electoral processes to derail the 2015 general elections.
He expressed worry that some politicians make unguarded utterances in a bid to capture power and after they had failed to grip the power, because of what they had said, their followers capitalized on that and cause mayhem.
According to him, “I agree totally with the Chairman of INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) that we have to be mindful and make our ears to listen very well so that we can save our necks.
“There are still very remorseless anti- democratic forces operating in the political system, ever ready to exploit lapses in the management of our political and electoral processes. Some of these forces may indeed during the fourth coming elections as their lifestyle truncate the nation’s hard won democratic liberty.
“But dear compatriots, with respect to the 2015 elections in particular and our journey as a nation in General, we must never allow these negative forces to prevail.
“The onset of the fourth republic, the institutionalization of the inter party mechanism was domiciled in the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter party Affairs.
“The concept of inter party relations and collaboration presupposes that even though political parties may differ in ideology, process and structure of governance, they must remain united in the common objective of preserving and consolidating the nation’s unity and its democratic foundation.
“Political parties must relate with one another and conduct themselves with responsibility and statesmanship, focus of positive inputs into governance whether they are in power at present or not.
“Inter party relations and collaborations make it incumbent on the party in power to govern in recognition of beneficial voices and views of political party and vice versa for the parties out of government to proffer issue based engagement towards improved performance in governance and service delivery to the people.
“This is only possible through rancor free relationships amongst political parties in their conducts, acts and utterances.
“Nigeria’s political history since independence is replete with examples of viable collaborations amongst political parties in and out of government. Of course, listening to the speech from Former President Shagari made reference to such cases.
“In the first republic, the ruling Northern Peoples Congress NPC had an alliance with the national council of Nigerian Citizens NCNC, which allowed the leader of the later the late Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to become the President if Nigeria.
“In the second republic, a unique alliance between the ruling national Party of Nigeria, NPN and the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, made it possible for the NPP which did not have a majority in the house to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“At the commencement of the fourth republic, on the invitation by the ruling PDP, members of the opposition parties were appointed Ministers and Special Advisers to the President and other positions in the government.
“Indeed, the first Special Adviser to the President on Inter Party Affairs, the late Senator Mahmud Waziri, was the founding chairman of the then opposition All Peoples Party, APP, later All Nigeria’s Peoples Party, ANPP.
“In furtherance of this role, the Inter Party office has continued to promote cordial and positive relationship amongst all political parties which culminated in the establishment of an inter party advisory council, IPAC, a structure recognized by INEC.
“Consequently, in 2011 all political parties agreed and committed themselves to a code of conduct for political behavior.
“Article 7 of the code states that ” No political Party or candidate shall during campaign, resort to the use of inflammatory language, provocative actions, images or manifestation that incite violence, hatred, contempt, or intimidation against another party or candidate, or any person or group of persons on grounds of ethnicity, gender or for any other reason.
“Accordingly, no political party or candidate shall issue any poster pamphlet, leaflet or any other publication that contains any such incitement”
“However, dear compatriots, the current national political outlook with regard to inter party collaboration is less than salutary. Indeed, the conduct and utterances of leading politicians at home and abroad are rapidly creating and spreading unnecessary tension in the country.
“Such unguarded utterances on their part fester the embers of discord, bitterness and rancour. Such unfortunate development plays into the hands of extremist elements waging a vicious campaign of terror against the state.
“The recent mindless bombings and killings of innocent Nigerians in the FCT Jos, in plateau State, the killings in Adamawa state including that of the traditional rulers as well as the heartless criminal abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok, are better addressed by a political class united in its commitment to defend the polity irrespective of political differences.
“We must never politicize the fundamentals and core imperatives of defending the state as to do so can only embolden the terrorists and other enemies of our republics who will seek to employ any perceived political and social division for their nefarious ends.
“We must never give them such opportunity. Our political parties must remain positive and constructive in their engagements as we seek to build virile and stable nation that can compete with other states in the world.
“This summit today, by all political parties in Nigeria therefore offer the opportunities for political parties and indeed politicians to reflect and review the possible consequences their actions.
“Conducts and utterances in the recent past have had and will have on our polity and corporate existence. This summit must be an occasion for political rejuvenation and re orientation, its outcome must be a common stand against all and any anti democratic forces that are currently waging vicious and mindless war against the state.”
President Jonathan urged Nigerians to first build a nation before engaging on arguments on how best to run it, stressing that the system was not yet so sock proof to withstand all unguarded and careless political statements and action.
“If our state enterprise fails, no political party or politician that can stand it. Hence at a time such as this, when our existence as a nation is threatened by anti- democratic forces, we politicians and political parties must rise to the higher moral grounds in defence and protection of our existence as one nation and one people.
“Our roles should not be limited to the struggle to win elections and acquire political powers but also to handling…patriotism and statesmanship and restoring hope to the Nigerian people.
“In all these, it is pertinent that the act, conducts and utterances of all political stakeholders reflect the highest level of commitment to the defence and press action of our social cohesion, our political stability and our sovereignty as a nation.
“We must reinforce and recommit our various supporters across the nation to the Nigerian project irrespective of party affiliation, ideological differences and alliances. History will not judge us kindly if this country fails as a result of our actions and inactions.
“Let us bear in mind that no advantage or benefit can be gained by any political party over the other if our democracy fails. We have no choice but to work together and the time is now.
“For me, even though INEC had their code of conduct from IPAC from my humble beginning as a deputy Governor of Bayelsa state to date, I have my own guiding principles that shape my political activities. My belief is that my ambition at any level is not worth the blood of any Nigerian,” he stated.
Chairman of the occasion and former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar explained that one of the greatest challenges facing the country was the mutual mistrust and suspicion among different political parties.
General Abubakar said that opposition parties in a democratic setting was to help check the excesses of the ruling party while when issues of security challenge crop up, different political parties come together to confront it.
He advised spokesmen of different parties to be sensitive to the security concern of the country even as he remarked that many political parties had faced crisis as a result of imposition of candidates and lack of internal democracy.
He also advised Nigerians to device the means of holding the political class accountable for their actions and inactions and appealed that the democratic process should eschew bitterness and rancor.
The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega noted that June 12 represents frustration of Nigerians in their journey to democracy as it affected the nation’s political and national development.
Prof. Jega said that the lesson to learn from June 12 was the need to keep strive deepening democracy and to sustain the gain in a bid to reverse authoritarianism, adding that political parties have responsibilities to that regard.
He frowned at the high level of cross carpeting in the country, warning that the commission would come tough on the issue of cross-carpeting and make sure that any elected officer that abandons the political platform that gave him victory would made to vacate the seat.
Politicians without electoral values behind violence—Oshiomhole
Speaking in an interview, Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said that most of the political crsisi in the country were caused by people that did not have political value.
Governor Oshiomhole said, “We have huge political platform which is the Nigerian platform. The whole essence of political contestation is about how to fix the country, creating prosperity and ensuring that the welfare of Nigeria is the primary purpose of political engagement and contestation.
“Now, there is no question that too often, our language in politics has been violent. Our language often suggests we have taken the electorate for granted. And even elders in this business sometimes use language that suggests as if they are childish and the truth of the matter is that, if we do not get the politics right, we are not going to enjoy the fruit of sustainable growth and economic development.
“Even worse is the issue of criminality, when people get so desperate and resort to tactics that often cause loss of lives. When politicians who have no electoral values resort to arming young people to go and fight and replace the ballot with bullets and rather than counting the number of votes you are counting the dead bodies.
“I think this occasion is meant to remind us of the primary purpose of this engagement, our primary purpose of politics. And if the welfare and wellbeing of Nigerians is the issue, if it is the progress and development of Nigeria is the primary purpose, then our language, our style, our conduct must reflect that.
“And we must know the different between partisan contestation; we must know when to dispute issues and when to stop blame game when national interest is at stake. And I think we will spend couple of minutes and everybody leaves here with a new reflection that we can approach this thing differently in a way that does not threaten the fabric of our national unity.”
Also speaking, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari who had declined to speak on behalf of the All Progressives Congress, APC as the party’s leader when he was called up to speak on behalf of the party said that the letter and programme had suggested that it was the party chairman that would speak for the party.
But when he was called again to speak as a former head of state, Gen. Buhari said that in democracy people should learn how to respect the constitution and do things that would not suggest that they are above the law.
He also advised that law enforcement agencies should be neutral and not to act as agents of government especially during elections.
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu said that the security situation in the country was not only a challenge to the ruling party but also to all political parties.
He regretted that the Bring back our girls campaign was turned to opposition organ against the federal government when in the actual sense should be a concern for all Nigerians in the effort to ensure that the abducted girls were released.
He also condemned the recent political violence in Ekiti state after the PDP rally attended by President Goodluck jonathan and accused the opposition APC and the governor of Ekiti state for being responsible for what he described as a despicable act.
President Goodluck Jonathan, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Commodore Ebitu Ukaiwe, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Segun Osoba, Chief Tom Ikimi, Prof, Attahiru Jega, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Dr. Donald Duke, Governor Godswil Akpabio, Attahiru Bararawa, Prince Abubakar Audu, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Peter Obi, Governor Willy Obiano, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Chief Chekwas Okorie, Dr. Amadu Ali, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor among others.