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Interim Government: Governors’ forum demands arrest of plotters

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh, Sodiq Omolaoye and Ameh Ochojila  (Abuja)
01 April 2023   |   4:35 am
State Governors across party lines yesterday united against the plot to subvert the current democratic order at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure on May 29, this year, and institute an interim government, unanimously calling on the Department for State Services ...

Yusuph Magaji Bichi

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State Governors across party lines yesterday united against the plot to subvert the current democratic order at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure on May 29, this year, and institute an interim government, unanimously calling on the Department for State Services (DSS) to rise above mere issuing of a press statement and arrest and prosecute all persons it identified as the proponents.

While the Nigeria Governors’ Forum  (NGF), an umbrella association of all state governors, in a communiqué issued at the end of an emergency meeting in Abuja, condemned any attempt to effect regime change through unconstitutional means, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), which is composed of governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in a separate statement, cried out that “some self-serving individuals are unfortunately seeking to sabotage our democratic progress”, calling on the security agencies to nip their plan in the bud.

This was as the immediate past Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BOB), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), has warned that the country risks extinction if those behind the call for interim national government do not desist from it. 

The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the umbrella body of registered political parties in Nigeria, also condemned the calls for the installation of an interim government in the country yesterday.

Recall that the DSS had last Wednesday declared that the plot for an interim government was real, but would fail. It said there was a conspiracy to set aside the constitution and install an interim government after May 29 by “misguided” political elements. The Service warned against moves to scuttle democracy, vowing to do all within its powers to frustrate the scheme. It had also revealed that it had identified key players in the plan, but failed to name them.

However, the NGF, in the communiqué signed by its Chairman and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, told the secret police that issuing press statement without making arrest could create unnecessary tension in the country. 

“The Forum deliberated extensively on the alleged plot by some unscrupulous elements to install an interim government, as contained in the recent statement issued by the Department for State Services (DSS). Governors condemned in the strongest terms, any unconstitutional means of regime change and pledged its commitment to continue to defend Nigeria’s democracy as elected leaders.

“In addition, the Forum believes that issuing statements without arrests is akin to heating up the polity and causing unwarranted tension in the country. It called on the DSS to do its job by immediately arresting and prosecuting all those involved in the plot as a matter of urgency,” the communiqué noted.

The NGF also disclosed that it would soon commence induction programme for the newly elected governors and their wives with a view to strengthening them against the onerous task of delivering good governance. 

“The Forum is set to conduct its flagship induction programme for its newly elected and re-elected governors. This event, which will bring together newly elected, re-elected, past governors, national and international leaders, captains of industries and development partners, scheduled to hold from 14th -17th May 2023, is designed to build the capacity of Governors to establish, organise, manage, and set agenda/priorities using best practices whilst leveraging the tools of their trade – people, processes, programmes and public opinion – for greater and more effective governance.

“The second part of the induction programme will hold from 17th -19th May, 2023, and will focus on the Governors’ Spouses Summit designed to strategise on how the activities of the Governors’ spouses can best complement the roles of the Governors in promoting good governance at the sub-national level and help the spouses better understand the processes of transitioning to their new roles as first ladies,” the communiqué added.

On its part, the PGF applauded the DSS for exposing the plot, calling on the secret service and other security agencies to arrest and prosecute anyone involved in the plot.

In the statement signed by the chairman of the PGF, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, the governors appreciated the commitment of President Buhari to the transition programme as well as the support of the security agencies.

Calling on Nigerians to remain vigilant and continue to support Nigeria’s democratic development, the PGF stressed the need for the citizenry to resist any undemocratic conduct that is capable of undermining democratic rule in the country.

The statement added: “It is ironic that after the Presidential, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections in which all the major parties recorded varying successes and disappointments in different constituencies, and with our country being appreciated around the globe, some self-serving individuals are unfortunately seeking to sabotage our democratic progress. 

“After a democratic contest, parties are free to exercise the legal right of going to court. Indeed, it was widely reported that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) had chosen to go to the Presidential Election Tribunal to challenge the outcome of the presidential election, which was won by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC. 

“Furthermore, in all the 36 states of the federation, tribunals have also been established to provide opportunity to those who participated in the various elections but otherwise feeling dissatisfied, to challenge the results.

“Our country has done well in promoting democracy both in Nigeria and elsewhere in the African Continent, and it is sad that some unpatriotic elements are nursing the evil plot for interim government, which will amount to subverting our national democratic progress. 

“It is commendable, however, that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Transitional Council issued a statement restating the Federal Government’s commitment towards a successful inauguration of a new President on May 29, 2023.”

Also, at a news conference held after IPAC’s emergency general meeting in Abuja, yesterday, its National Chairman, Mr. Sani Yabagi, said the statement by the DSS that it had uncovered a plot by some people to violently disrupt the nation’s peace and install an interim government was disturbing. He described interim government as unconstitutional, undemocratic and unacceptable.

“IPAC rejects any attempt to scuttle, subvert and truncate the nation’s emerging democracy by reactionary and retrogressive forces.
“It is an attempt to overheat the polity, cause confusion, political upheavals, impasse and quagmire as was the case in the infamous annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election that necessitated the hasty set up of an interim government by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, which was headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan in August 1993.

“The court declared it illegal and the interim national government was overthrown by Gen. Sani Abacha in November same year,” he said. Yabagi called on the country’s intelligence service to name the plotters, arrest and prosecute them in accordance with the law of the land, to serve as a deterrent to others who would resort to self-help to achieve their selfish political ambitions.

He reiterated the council’s call on all aggrieved political parties, candidates and supporters to eschew violence in all its ramifications and seek redress in court for perceived infractions and irregularities in the conduct of the 2023 general election.

“Council further urged the judiciary to dispense justice without fear or favour as the temple of justice and last hope of all aggrieved persons.

“All eyes are on the judiciary to justify the confidence the people reposed in it by upholding the rule of law.

“That is the only way to assuage the anger in the land and maintain the sanctity of the ballot box,” Yabagi noted. He said that IPAC would continue to stand against anti-democratic forces in whatever guise while appreciating and commending those adding value to Nigeria’s nascent democracy.

Speaking during the send forth dinner organised by the Body of Benchers last Thursday at the end of his one-year tenure as the 50th Chairman of the body, which was attended by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; Ekiti State Governor, Abiodun Oyebanji, Justice Mary Odili (who stepped in a the new BOB Chairman) and other eminent Nigerians, Olanipekun described as an aberration and an invitation to anarchy, the sudden call for interim government in a democracy where elections had just been held and certificates of return issued to winners.

He said: “It is unconstitutional. To me, it comes from the pit of hell. Calling for interim national government? Where did you get it from? How do you compartmentalise it? How do you accommodate it within a constitutional democracy? I, as a lawyer, don’t know the jurisprudence that will accommodate it.
“Let’s face it. Whenever there is election anywhere in the world, there is bound to be disagreement. But if for every disagreement you say let us disband the system, that does not make sense. You can’t throw away the baby with the bath water. It is never done.”

Olanipekun, who cited cases from developed countries where election outcome had been disputed, urged those aggrieved to explore the opportunities provided by the constitution and the statute having gone to court. He also recalled the unpleasant experience the nation had under the last interim government experiment of the late Chief Ernest Shonekan in the country, describing it as an ill wind that will blow no one any good.

“I am not saying all is well. In every institution created by God for man, there would be minuses. You don’t have 100 per cent anywhere. I am not saying there is no room for improvement. But don’t let us call for anarchy. No one is going to benefit from it, not even those calling for it. 

“I want to plead with those calling for interim national government to cease fire. Let them introspect. Let them think of the present and the future. Let them think of what will be the outcome. 

“The outcome is going to be calamitous. It is going to be an ill wind and it is not going to do anybody any good. It will blow all off us into the Atlantic,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Partners for Electoral Reform, yesterday cautioned politicians against criminalising the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the conduct of the 2023 general election. 

Addressing journalists in Abuja, Convener of the group, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said Nigerians should instead of criminalising INEC and making it look weak over the outcome of the 2023 general election, protect the institution. 

Nwagwu said most of the commentary after the election has been from a position of propaganda, and in most cases founded on ignorance of history and ignorance of the process of election.

He appealed to Nigerians not to allow politicians to use them as propaganda machines to drive a narrative that paints the 2023 general election as the worst in the country’s history. He alleged that the target by the politicians was to criminalise INEC and make it look weak. 

“I’m just saying that the country needs to be nuanced in the way it engages in elections. And it must engage elections from an informed point of view so that partisan interests do not overshadow the commentary,” he said.

Nwagwu admitted that there was violence and suppression of votes during the election, but said it would be unfair to use violence in a few polling units to judge the entire process that happened in 176, 000 polling units.

He added: “It is important that Nigerians who are knowledgeable about the electoral process put this narrative out and make the world know that 2023 was not Armageddon. It was not a disaster. INEC performed creditably up to the point where that challenge came. Where that challenge came from, time will expose it.”

According to him, the BVAS machine was still a game changer in the election and most politicians, especially those who could not rig, were not pleased with the reforms introduced by INEC. He recalled that there was a time in the history of the country when election results were written in hotel rooms.

“In most cases you could even be voting and the result of where you are voting will be announced. In most cases the results were written in hotel rooms,” he recalled, adding: “So the thrust of my conversation is that we cannot completely continue the narrative of saying everything was bad. We must also put out those things that worked significantly well in 2023. And one of the things we must protect going forward is the BVAS. The BVAS has helped us to ensure that Rivers cannot bring three million votes that used to happen. In times past, Rivers, Lagos and Kano were the last results that used to come in every election in Nigeria. 

“They wait until all other results are announced. But in 2023, Lagos results were among the first and it produced a very significant low number of votes. What used to happen, when people talk about voter apathy, is that we wrote results in hotel rooms and told people to go to court. But politicians in 2023 were afraid of the BVAS; they didn’t know what to do with it. And that accounted for the low numbers that you have seen.”