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Gambari, others visit Obasanjo, condemn calls for Jega’s removal

By Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta
18 March 2015   |   8:29 am
SOME eminent Nigerians, under the umbrella, “Council of the Wise,” yesterday expressed worry at the gale of protests by some armed militias in different parts of the country, describing the development as “unfortunate and partisan.” In past days, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), in Enugu and Lagos respectively, had been calling for the dismissal of the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, over the large number of citizens being disenfranchised by the electoral body ahead of the general elections.
Prof. Ibrahim Gambari

Prof. Ibrahim Gambari

• Say whoever causes violence will face ICJ

SOME eminent Nigerians, under the umbrella, “Council of the Wise,” yesterday expressed worry at the gale of protests by some armed militias in different parts of the country, describing the development as “unfortunate and partisan.”
In past days, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), in Enugu and Lagos respectively, had been calling for the dismissal of the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, over the large number of citizens being disenfranchised by the electoral body ahead of the general elections.

However, coordinator of the council, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, told newsmen after a closed-door meeting with former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, at his hilltop residence in Abeokuta yesterday that such protests were “not the proper thing to do at this critical period.”
According to Gambari, who was Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative at the United Nations, “you don’t change a referee at the middle of a game.” In view of that, he cautioned Nigerians, including the First Lady, Mrs. Patient Jonathan, against making utterances that could undermine peaceful elections.

He warned that whoever plunges the country into violence by his or her action would be made to account for it at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Fielding questions from journalists, Gambari said: “Like many Nigerians, we feel concerned about this 2015 general elections.
“The council chairman is Justice Mohammed Uwais (rtd) and we have members from each of the geo-political zones. We have been visiting past presidents, traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil societies, security forces, and INEC, of course.

“The objective is to have credible and violence-free general elections, and Nigerians want this. The international community is watching, we have five elections to be held in West Africa alone this year and Nigeria is number one.

“As the most populous black country in Africa and one with the largest economy, we have a greater responsibility to conduct our elections as an example to others. So, free and fair election is important, peace is important and a reason Nigeria should show good example.

“The whole world is watching, including the representatives of the United Nations, the United States and the International Criminal Court (ICC), because some people, whoever they may be that are fomenting violence and undermining the will of the people, will be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, he disclosed that Obasanjo received them warmly, noting that the ex-presidents are important voices in Nigerians’ aspiration for peaceful elections, and have lent their support for peaceful and credible elections, where all avenues to ensure transparency and credibility should be explored.

On Mrs. Jonathan’s reported statement that those calling for change should be stoned, Gambari replied: “It is not my duty to advise the First Lady, and I don’t know exactly what was said.

“There has been retraction of what was reported to have been said, but in any case, what we are telling Nigerians, both these at the top and those at the bottom, is that we should all be dedicated to peace and peaceful elections.
“Elections should be held on time to avoid constitutional crisis, one which outcome will be acceptable and credible, not within Nigeria alone but also outside Nigeria. It is not a do or die battle.”

On the protests against Jega by ethnic militias, Gambari said: “It is unfortunate. You cannot change referee in a middle of a game for partisan reason. But INEC has principal responsibility to conduct free and fair elections for all of us and we should join hands to support the electoral body to conduct credible elections that will not undermine our security and development.”
The council was established by Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development.