By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari has formally reacted to the release of the 2019 election timetable and schedule of activities by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, warning actors in the political space against violence in an attempt to sway electoral support, or in the event that they were rejected at the polls.
President Buhari, who spoke while delivering a keynote address at the 15th Daily Trust Dialogue, with the theme, ‘’Nigeria and the Challenges of 2019,” yesterday in Abuja, 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.
Lamido posited that the 2015 elections were defined by “lies and propaganda of a coalition of desperate politicians” under the aegis of All Progressives Congress, APC.
However, the President said: “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.
Jonathan has set the tone
“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.’’
He said the election timetable was a reminder to politicians and other stakeholders that the 2019 general elections were fast approaching.
Buhari, who was represented by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan, by his actions in 2015, had already set the tone for decent political conduct in the country.
He said: “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.”
Allow Attorney-Generals handle election disputes—Ajibola
Chairman of the occasion and former judge of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, at The Hague, Prince Bola Ajibola, 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.”
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 saw 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.
Council of State meeting
‘’For the over two years that Yar’Adua was president, Gen. Buhari never attended the Council of State meeting. 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.
“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 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 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 herdsmen killings in Benue and Taraba states, saying it was time government puts a stop to open grazing but expressed 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 the 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.”
He also spoke against the current fuel subsidy regime in the country, saying: “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 insider trade undermine the good intentions upon which the subsidy is based.
‘’Currently, the subsidy does not benefit the average person. It sweetly profits the elite who manipulate the programme 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.