On March 28, Nigerians must make informed decisions, says Project Nigeria Movement
At its recent meeting in Lagos where issues concerning the forthcoming general elections were deliberated upon, the Project Nigeria Movement, comprising several Civil Society Organisations, in a communiqué released after, noted and resolved as follows:
The forthcoming presidential election, now shifted from 14 February to 28 March, 2015, confronts the Nigerian peoples with a difficult and perplexing task, that of choosing which one of the two contestants for the office of President, the incumbent President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressive Congress (APC), is to be given the mandate to govern our affairs and lives for four years.
- The choice between the two contestants challenges Nigerians to demonstrate their capability, as a sovereign people, to make a wise, well-informed and intelligent choice, taking into account the overall national interest, as set out below, the contestants’ manifestoes, antecedents, character and how adequately equipped they are intellectually, educationally and in terms of other credentials and qualities to provide effective presidential leadership, as a condition of good governance, the lack of which is a major part of our national malaise.
- Without prejudice to the relevant provisions of the Constitution, effective presidential leadership requires a president with good and sound qualifications, in particular good education up to a minimum level of a university first degree or its equivalent, with the academic knowledge, intellectual insights and mental orientation, ideas and perceptions it imparts, as well as a brilliant, acute and creative intellect and ability to “combine ideas and power, intellectualism and politics”.
- The choice is made all the more difficult and perplexing by the existence of a Deep Divide between adherents of Christian, Islamic and other religious faiths in the country. We insist on upholding the provision of the Constitution, which provides that Nigeria is a secular state.
In appraising the two contestants based on the parameters and criteria set out above, Project Nigeria Movement is of the view that
- Nigeria needs a President who will uphold the supremacy and inviolability of the Nigerian Constitution, and who will stand up firmly against any efforts or attempts by any State Government to implement or enforce, in derogation of the Nigerian Constitution, the doctrines, tenets, injunctions and laws of any particular religion, and who is firmly committed to the re-structuring of the Federation in terms of the territorial groupings of the people in accordance with their ethnic characteristics, the division of powers of government and the sharing of revenue.
- It might help the electorate to make a well-informed, dispassionate and unbiased appraisal for rtd Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to make a public avowal that, if he is elected President, he will not implement or enforce the Sharia criminal law or countenance or connive at its implementation or enforcement by any State Government, despite the statement he was said to have made in a speech at a seminar organised by the Supreme Council of Sharia in August 2001 to the effect that he was committed to implementing Sharia Law in the country in derogation of the Nigerian Constitution and despite the call he made to Moslems in 2002, as reported in ThisDay of 21 January, 2002, to “vote only for the presidential candidate that would defend and uphold the tenets of Islam”; further, that he does not subscribe to, and will not implement or in any way encourage the implementation of the ideological aims and objectives of the Boko Haram insurgents;
- Whilst President Goodluck Jonathan had shown a singular courage, which his predecessor could not muster, in convening and inaugurating a National Conference, and deserves to be applauded for it, there remains, however, the issue of the implementation of the decisions of the Conference, which can only be fully accomplished, not by the amendment of the 1999 Constitution, but through a new Constitution adopted and approved by the people in a referendum. Accordingly, President Goodluck Jonathan must, likewise rtd Gen. Muhammadu, make an unequivocal public statement avowing his commitment, if re-elected, to implement the decisions of the National Conference in the way and manner suggested above;
- President Jonathan’s public statement must also avow a commitment to expand his Transformation Agenda to embrace the entire polity and society to rid and cleanse them of the prevailing corruption, moral degeneracy and decadence as well as the pervasive social injustice, inequity and inequality. The country is certainly in dire need of a social and ethical revolution, led by a President imbued with a revolutionary fervor to change things and create a new and better society, a President capable of mobilizing the people for the purpose.
- The postponement of the presidential election for six weeks by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is an issue that has caused considerable disagreement of opinions. Without going into the question whether or not the postponement is justified by the reason of security given for it, security being a highly sensitive matter of which those in control of it are the best judge, we think that the postponement might well be a blessing in disguise, partly because it allows the tension building up around the election to quieten somewhat, partly because it gives INEC more time to get itself fully ready for the exercise, and partly because the political parties are thereby enabled to review and re-orientate their campaign strategies to make them more issue-based.
- But more important than the justification or otherwise for the postponement is a guarantee that the period before, during and after the election will be violence-free, and that there will be no further postponement for the same security reason or for any other reason not in accordance with or within the contemplation of the Constitution. The necessary guarantee is not the function of the security agencies alone. The truth of the matter is that election violence is caused, not really by the security agencies, but by “we the people” ourselves – the political parties, their leaders, members and their supporters among the masses. The Non-violence Abuja Accord must, therefore, be observed and respected by all as the best guarantee of security, and as the mark of a free, credible election as well as the mark of our maturity as a sovereign people.
- The election campaigns so far have shown that the two main political parties in contest for the presidential office are neck-and-neck in the following that they respectively command among the people. What this teaches us is that the strictly party government based on winner-take-all may not be appropriate in the circumstances thrown up by the election campaigns, and that we need to experiment on a coalition government, otherwise called Unity Government, whereby whoever wins the presidential election will constitute his government with members (ministers) drawn from both parties or from all the parties that contested the presidential election in a manner to be agreed under a formal Accord, as was done in the Second Republic. In Nigeria’s experience since 1999, the strictly party government has been more an evil than a blessing. Such an arrangement, as is outlined above, is what we will strongly recommend as appropriate in the present circumstances existing in the country. This is different from, and has indeed nothing to do with, the somewhat confused idea of an interim government being bandied about.
- We are concerned about the idea being taunted by commentators that elections might not be practicable by 28 March and 11 April, 2015 or some other constitutionally authorised time schedule, and that the executive and legislative tenures should be extended beyond four years in accordance with the provisions in sections 64(2), 135(3), 105(2) and 180(3). Those provisions are clearly not applicable, and it will be unconstitutional to invoke them, by reason of the Boko Haram insurgency in the four North-East States.
- The term “war”, in the legal sense in which it is used in the provisions above, means war with another country. The decided authorities establish that a country cannot legally be at war with itself or with part of itself. Civil war is not war in the legal sense or in the sense in which the term war is used in the provisions mentioned above. Those provisions must be read together with section 5(4)(a) which provides that “the President shall not declare war between the Federation and another country except with the sanction of a resolution of both Houses of the National Assembly sitting in a joint session.” We note that President Goodluck Jonathan has affirmed the handover date of 29 May as “sacrosanct”; it should remain so.
- It seems perhaps not out of place to end this Communiqué by stating that our present position on the issue of the forthcoming presidential election is motivated by the same civic-minded, public-spirited approach exhibited by the MOVEMENT in the past on issues and problems of the day, as, for instance, the public rally organized by the MOVEMENT in Lagos on 9 January, 2012 in protest against the threatened removal of petroleum subsidy and consequent hike in the prices of petroleum products, during which we were tear-gassed by the army and police, and more recently by the hugely successful National Political Summit on the Future of Nigeria also organised by the MOVEMENT and held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on 3rd and 4th September, 2013.
Signed: Professor Ben Nwabueze
Leader, for and on behalf of Project Nigeria Movement