Yoruba groups, others knock Obasanjo over demand for election cancellation
Don’t set Nigeria on fire, group chides him
Following the open letter written by the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu to immediately suspend the announcement of the presidential election results owing to malpractices, some Yoruba groups and individuals have descended on the old man, criticizing him for taking such position.
Afenifere Canada in its reaction said demand was uncalled for because the election was “largely peaceful.”
The leader of the group, Asiwaju Abiodun Salami said the call for cancellation of the election due to few skirmishes published on social media in some polling units could lead to incitement of violence in the country.
“As an elder statesman and former President, Afenifere Canada expected Chief Obasanjo to sue for peace and patience that will allow INEC conclude its job, and encourage aggrieved parties to follow legal means of seeking redress which has worked in the past.
“There are other living former Presidents and head of state of Nigeria that witnessed the same elections that have not publicly come to make such inflammatory statement when the final results have not be declared.
“Nigeria should not be set ablaze because election is not going in the direction of some powerful people who publicly endorsed candidates of their choice. Nigeria is bigger than few individuals.
“Afenifere Canada, therefore, calls for peace among supporters of different political parties, and ensure that the prediction of doomsday prophets do not come to pass,” the group said in a statement.
According to the group, 2023 presidential election seems to be the most peaceful since 1999, without record of mass attacks and killings of innocent electorates that characterised many of the previous elections.
“Therefore, it is an indication of democratic progress in spite of inadequacy of BVAS technology promised by the electoral body.
“Nigerian masses are the ones that would bear the brunt of any post election chaos, therefore, everyone should not allow themselves to be incited into violence. Elections are not war,” it declared.
The group stated that it doesn’t look like a coincidence that the same day Obasanjo was calling for cancellation of the election, some international observers discredited INEC for lack of transparency in the election. It, therefore, called on Nigerians to beware and protect themselves from being pushed into violence.
Also, Yoruba Council Worldwide (YCW) has warned that cancelling the election results will likely provoke war in the country.
YCW President, Aare Oladotun Hassan in a press conference in Lagos yesterday, urged INEC to safeguard the ongoing process and see to its conclusion.
According to Hassan, any attempt to allow unilateral cancellation by the chairman of INEC as proposed by Obasanjo is a recipe for anarchy and full implosion that will take many years to repair.
He implored President Buhari alongside all Nigerians to ignore Obasanjo and insisted that only the court can address many of the issues raised on the uploading of the results from the Polling units to the INEC Portals.
Hassan called on all presidential candidates to continuously maintain their peace accord demands in line with the National Peace Committee’s noble vision, objectives and mandates, adding that no one’s blood is worth the election.
He further called on all law enforcement agencies to be on red alert to immediately arrest anyone instigating or inciting violence either by utterance or deeds.
His words: “Chief Obasanjo being a former president of Nigeria midwifed an election plagued with duress, mass killings and unprecedented electoral malpractices, where he propounded the ‘do or die’ ideology into our electoral system.
“His undemocratic stance on many fronts has further reduced his level of opinion to a mere beer parlor argument without no substance to hold and bind the nation together as a true democrat and respected elder statesman.
“Chief Obasanjo is under intense frustration and desperation to foist his endorsed political son; Peter Obi of the Labour Party on all Nigerians without due respect to our franchise will, having sacrificed our efforts to vote for our choices on February 25, 2023.
“We respect everyone’s choices without any iota of intimidation and violence, in as much as we respect the Igbos and other ethnic regions, hence we expect equal reciprocity. Consequently, we wouldn’t want Chief Obasanjo to drive his personal vendetta agenda under ethnic wedged venom of hatred, and divide and rule syndrome to cause ethnic conflict that will inevitably nosedive into civil unrest as earlier postulated by Chief Obasanjo in his letter dated February 27, 2023.”
The group maintained that only courts would address many of the issues raised on the uploading of the results from the polling units to the INEC portals.
YCW, however, stated that INEC needed to apply all lawful means to keep the process unimpeded.
“Vote counting and tallying processes were carried out in a transparent, simple and professional manner, in the presence of party agents, observers, and security agents in daytime in some polling units and with lamps in others, where voting was delayed due to human logistical problems.
“Based on such testimony from the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, INEC needs commendation rather than being chastised.
“We hereby reiterate our confidence in INEC to continue the result computation process in line with the dictates of the laws of the land, and whoever wins must be declared immediately and given certificate of return,” the group declared.
Similarly, an activist group, Youths for Stable Democracy (YSD), in its reaction accused former President Obasanjo of an insidious attempt to subvert the outcome of the 2023 presidential elections over fears that his preferred candidate and ‘puppet’, is certain to lose the contest.
Its national coordinator, Chinyere Nwadike, a lawyer, in a statement yesterday in Enugu said Obasanjo’s call to halt the ongoing collation of votes, as undemocratic.
YSD warned the former leader against inciting comments aimed at “overthrowing the popular choice of the people”, adding that Nigeria was not created to satisfy his desire for control and unchecked powers.
“Our appeal to President Obasanjo is for him to refrain from dangerous actions capable of undermining the peace and stability of the country.
“Nigerians made their choice on Saturday, February 25, and INEC must be allowed to reveal that choice without unhelpful meddling and reckless incitements from entitled individuals who regard Nigeria as a private possession that they can order in any direction that pleases them.
“It is irresponsible and unstatesmanlike to sow doubts about the credibility of an election because the outcome doesn’t reflect your personal wish.
“If President Obasanjo has struck an agreement with a candidate in the race to fulfill his third-term agenda through him, then he must be reminded that Nigerians are not a party to the unholy matrimony, and are thus free to choose a different path.”
“We cannot suspend or dishonour the sacred process of declaring the electoral wishes of millions of Nigerians because one man who has refused to come to terms with the fact that he is a tired horse and spent force is upset that his personal, self-serving wish has been ignored,” the group said.
They stated that they cannot receive lectures on credible elections from people who masterminded the dark years of Nigeria’s democracy when elections were regarded a ‘do or die’ affair and ballots were delivered to the private residences of party warlords who thumb printed and sent them back for counting.
Nigeria, they claimed, has evolved from that low point, and needs no constant reminder of that era, either through unsolicited letters or interference in important electoral processes.
“We call on international bodies, security agencies, and other relevant actors to play their part in defending Nigeria’s democracy by providing INEC support to complete its constitutional and sensitive role of revealing the people’s poll decision. Collation must continue and the winner must be announced,” they insisted.
Unhappy with the call by Obasanjo, a group known as the Concerned Yoruba Muslim Scholars (CYMS) in Nigeria, yesterday, chided the former president.
It warned Obasanjo not to cause another June 12 saga for Nigeria.
While addressing journalists at the premises of Ibadan Central Mosque in Oja-Oba area of Ibadan, its President-General, Shaykh Abdur-Rasheed Mayaleke, condemned the intervention by Obasanjo.
Mayaleke said: “It’s rather unfortunate that such statement is coming from a supposed statesman and participant in the just concluded election. Is it because his candidate appears losing at the polls or what? So, where is the sense of sportsmanship, patriotism, justice and concern for the unity of this country?
“We, therefore, call on Nigerian citizens to go about their normal routine lawfully and ignore every call that can unnecessarily heat up the polity.”
The group advised INEC to disregard the irresponsible and diabolic calls regardless of the quarters it is coming from.
Reacting differently to Obasanjo’s call, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and the Yoruba Assembly, yesterday, demanded for the completion of the 2023 electoral processes, and urged the Military to turn a deaf ear to any possible incitement from retired Generals or their rank and file to meddle in the process.
The group, at a briefing, said Obasanjo lacks the moral right to serve as a guiding beacon, given his political partisanship, noting that he cannot at the same time pretend to be a father of the nation.
The leader of the ARG, Olawale Oshun, urged Obasanjo to at least grant President Buhari the full prerogative of wishing to bequeath a free and fair election in the country, even though he (Obasanjo) succeeded in intervening in the elections held under him.
Oshun described Obasanjo’s statement as nothing, but a call for undue interference in the constitutional responsibilities of INEC as an independent institution under the laws.
He said: “We would not join those who argued that Obasanjo be ignored, after his latest political tirade on the yet to be concluded 2023 presidential elections. We would not, because he had always postured as the only Nigerian patriot whose views must hold sway all the time.
“We will be justified to impute motive and suggest that this 2023 attempt at wanting to render the elections inchoate as that of 1993 could just be that Obasanjo would want till his passing to remain the only Yorubaman to ever attain leadership of the country.
“Obasanjo’s hand was heavy in the institution of the failed 1993 Interim Government, a process that ultimately led to the restoration of the military and Gen. Sani Abacha’s murderous regime, and ultimately to the death of the President-elect, MKO Abiola, who was Obasanjo’s townsman.
“We recognise, however, that more than ever before Nigeria is at a crossroad and that whoever emerged from the candidates, has a great responsibility to set the ship of nationhood on the right path. We, as a people, call on the incoming government to set itself on the task of restoring unity of all the peoples of the country.”
The group advised that whoever feels aggrieved over the outcome of the election should go to court and warned the military to completely steer clear of whatever temporary impasse that may occur as it is normal in all democracies.
On his part, the former governor of Ogun State and chieftain of ruling APC, Chief Segun Osoba, described the call by Obasanjo as “a treasonable attempt to incite the youths and young military officers against the government.”
According to Osoba, what Obasanjo said is capable of inciting Nigerian youths into an untoward action, which can cause mayhem in the country.
Osoba, who spoke in a television programme described the act as capable of inciting young officers in the military to overthrow the government.
“What Obasanjo did was more than an incitement but treasonable. I am happy that Nigerians have been wiser and decided to stay in democratic change of government. The statement is like going back to the days of the military when retired generals are usually asked to issue statements attacking the sitting government to encourage young military officers to overthrow the government but this will not happen now,” he stated.
The former governor of Ogun State also questioned the moral rights of Obasanjo to interrogate the integrity of any elections whereas the 2003 and 2007 elections that were conducted under his administration were adjudged to be the worst in the post independence history of Nigeria by international observers.
He particularly made reference to the 2007 elections during which 55 people died on election day and the International body described it as a “stolen mandate.”
According to Osoba, if Obasanjo had already endorsed the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) on January 1, 2023, he (Obasanjo) then has no moral right to be a referee in the same contest.
The APC stalwart also warned against attempts to turn Yoruba land into a war zone because of the election.
In his own intervention, the immediate past General Secretary of the Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa yesterday flayed the call to cancel the election and appealed that the process should not be truncated for the sake of the country.
The elder statesman advised that anyone who is aggrieved with the process should seek redress in court.
Arogbofa, in a chat with The Guardian in Akure, the Ondo State capital, stated that those behind the move were trying to experiment with the June 12 saga when the 1993 election was annulled.
He said: “What we have observed so far is that everything has been peaceful. If things have been peaceful and some people are now raising eyebrows over some modalities, well, they may have the right to raise their own eyebrows. But raising eyebrows should not plunge the country into chaos or any kind of war.
“We all respect the former Head of State (Obasanjo). He can give an opinion, but coming out at this time when the law court is there may not be the best.
“INEC has started counting, and results have been coming in from the states. From my point of view, what is happening in Abuja is a ceremonial performance because the results are almost everywhere.
“We should not allow this to be like the June 12 saga that threw the country into chaos. You know what the Association for a Better Nigeria did. We are living in a civilised country; let us do what is civilised. Let INEC complete its assignment; those who are aggrieved should go to court to get redress.”
Nigeria, he stressed, cannot be plunged into an open war because it is already fighting wars against insurgencies, banditry and kidnappings
According to him, anyone who says the election should be canceled is declaring total unrest, destruction, killings, and anarchy in the country.
“The best thing to do is to allow INEC to complete its assignment and thereafter aggrieved parties can do the civilized thing by seeking redress in court,” he reiterated.