We’re neutral, says Defence
NSA: March 28, April 11 stand
Another shift of the general elections is in the smithy, All Progressives Congress (APC) Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun alleged yesterday.
It is all in a bid to spark a constitutional crisis and subvert the will of the people, Odigie-Oyegun said.
His proof – a secret memo from the Presidency to the military, inviting officers to a conference in Kaduna, allegedly on how to intimidate the electorate in APC-controlled states and rig the elections.
Odigie-Oyegun accused the Military High Command of being in an “unholy” and “dangerous” alliance with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to subvert the people’s democratic will. The Defence Headquarters denied it all.
The Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade said: “We are not involved in politics and they should not drag us into it.
“Kaduna is a training base for the military. There could be a lot of seminars, workshops and other forms of training, which will make officers and men to perform better. They should not give it political colouration.
“We will remain non-partisan, we shouldn’t be dragged into politics.”
The APC chair spoke at a briefing in Abuja, which was attended by four governors, a deputy governor and top leaders of the party.
He said the Service Chiefs had included “at least six weeks” in their letter to INEC demanding the postponement of the general elections. The elections were moved from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11.
Odigie-Oyegun said: “It is important to note that the Service Chiefs’ letter to INEC demanded postponement for ‘at least’ six weeks. This, we must note, is a booby trap. Embedded in that phrase ‘at least’ is a window to push for another postponement. It is clear, however, that any further postponement can only lead to a constitutional crisis. The constitution demands at least 30 days before the handover date of May 29th.
“We have strong suspicions but hope this postponement is not part of an agenda to create a constitutional crisis in the country. We are just recently recovering from the crisis precipitated by the political crisis of 1993. We cannot afford another.
”We are all witnesses to the way INEC was intimidated into postponement of the elections despite repeated assurances of its readiness. We are aware of plans for worse intimidation in the days ahead.
“We are aware of plans to intimidate and orchestrate arrest of our leaders across the country on frivolous grounds. We are now aware of how PDP used intimidation and arrest to rig the last governorship election in Ekiti State.
“We are aware that this is the plan of the PDP. But we have no doubt that Nigerians will stand up to this. We have no doubt that the international community is watching.”
Odigie-Oyegun accused the Presidency of writing a secret memo to all divisions of the Army on how to intimidate voters in all APC-controlled states.
He said: “The greatest threat to our democracy today is the way the ruling party has compromised the leadership of the Nigerian military to serve the personal agenda of President Jonathan. This is a dangerous game.
“A recent court judgment in Sokoto clearly ruled that the military had no role in the electoral process. What happened with this postponement is that Service Chiefs simply vetoed a democratic process on the directive of President Jonathan. We know what politicisation is doing to our once proud military institution.”
”We are aware that the Presidency has forwarded a secret memo to all commanders of divisions and battalions of Nigerian Army for a three-day strategy meeting in Kaduna from today( Monday) on how to use the military to intimidate voters in APC states to rig election in favour of President Jonathan.
“Since recent revelations about the role of the military in Ekiti elections is demonstrable proof of how far this government will go to compromise the military as an institution, could it be that when the Service Chiefs said they would not have enough personnel to provide security for the elections, what they are actually saying is that they would not have enough soldiers to intimidate voters in favour of the ruling party if the elections had proceeded as scheduled?”
The APC National Chairman expressed concern about the unholy alliance between the ruling PDP and the Military High Command to subvert the nation’s democracy.
He said the National Security Adviser(NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki and the Service Chiefs were economical with the truth on their alleged claim that there were security threats to the general election.
He said: “You will recall that on the 22nd of January 2015, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd) , the National Security Adviser (NSA), at Chatham House declared that INEC was not ready for the elections and he has therefore advised the electoral body to postpone the election.
“ The reason he gave for his unsolicited advice was that substantial number of registered voters had not collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). He did not say anything about security concern even though Boko Haram was an issue then as it is an issue now. So, at what point did concern over elections shift from PVC to security concern?
”When the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited on January 25th, he wanted a categorical commitment from President Jonathan that the elections would hold as scheduled. The President assured the American envoy that the elections would hold. Was it that his Security chiefs had not briefed him on the security situation in the country and how this would affect the election time table at the time he was making this promise?
”On the 2nd of February, at the National Peace Committee meeting in Abuja with the representatives of different political parties, the service chiefs gave assurances of their readiness for the elections.
“At the occasion, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, gave assurances of the Armed Forces’s preparedness for the elections. According to him ‘even though we are busy in the Northeast, we also have capabilities across the nation’. Badeh also admitted that the role of the military is merely to support the police in providing security during elections.
“At the same event, Chief of Army Staff, General Kenneth Minimah said, ‘we are aware of the need for security, before, during and after the elections. We will deploy across the states of the Federation in areas we discover that have capacity for violence. We are prepared to ensure we have peaceful elections.”
” Also speaking at the event, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosu, said ‘we have commenced the airlift of the materials needed for the elections, starting from Abuja. We will continue with the elections.
” The sum total of all these is that only 12 days before the elections and despite the state of insecurity in the Northeast, the entire military high command assured the nation of their readiness to provide security for the elections.
“However, only three days later on Friday February 6th, these same Service Chiefs wrote to INEC, in a letter, which by all practical purposes could be described as blackmail, saying that they would no longer be able to provide security for the elections? What happened in those 72 hours that brought about this complete volte face?
”It is also important to note that at the National Council of States meeting on Thursday February 5th, INEC reaffirmed its readiness and commitment to hold the elections as scheduled. Even though the Service Chiefs briefed the Council that they had security concerns, the consensus of opinion at this august body of eminent citizens was that elections should go ahead nationwide except the 14 LGAs identified as problematic by the security chiefs.
”After all, it was recalled that in 1999, elections were not held in Bayelsa State because of the activities of militants at the time, but it held all over the country. The activities of Boko Haram were clearly limited to 14 local governments in three states out of 774 local governments in 36 states and FCT. How would this then warrant the blanket postponement of elections in the entire country?
“Considering all factors building up to this postponement, it is difficult not to come to the obvious conclusion that the Military High Command is in an unholy and dangerous alliance with the ruling party, the PDP, to subvert the democratic will of the people. We have no doubts that the letter sent to the INEC, warning it not to proceed with the elections, emanated from the Service Chiefs’ hands of Esau and President Jonathan’s voice of Jacob.
“Isn’t it curious that only the PDP and its supporters are celebrating the postponement? We know that at the Council of State meeting, all the former Heads of State in attendance spoke against the postponement, except in the 14 LGAs and all the former Chief Justices also concurred. And every non-PDP governor present in the meeting spoke against postponement.
Oyegun accused the PDP of plans to foist a constitutional crisis on the country, like the case in 1993 with the annulment of June 12 presidential election.
He said with the way, PDP was going, Nigeria not far from the road to Rwanda.
“Never in the history of our country had a Federal Government and the President of Nigeria so wantonly mobilised ethnic and religious sentiments to divide the people against themselves for selfish political reasons,” the APC chairman said.
“By now, everyone is aware how a close confidant of President Jonathan, Chief Edwin Clark, called for the sack and arrest of the chairman of the INEC because, according to him, the INEC chairman is working for the interest of the North. He said this under the aegis of a Southern Nigerian People’s Assembly.
”We are also aware of how the Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo, unfortunately invoked religious sentiment to campaign for his party in Niger State. The level of ethnic and religious baiting that we are currently witnessing is unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria.
“The road to Rwanda and other countries that have suffered tragic ethno-religious conflicts is not far from what PDP is currently invoking on our country. We owe it a duty to stress the point that under our watch, Nigerians, regardless of their ethnic origin or religious disposition, would be free to operate without let or hindrance.
“ Only few days ago, the Director of National Information Centre, Mr. Mike Omeri, claimed that government has uncovered a plan by Boko Haram to bomb polling centres without providing a single shred of evidence. The following day, President Jonathan declared in a church in Lagos that Boko Haram planned to bomb the entire country.
“We see this as deliberate scare-mongering to discourage Nigerians from coming out to exercise their democratic right to vote. This is quite unfortunate. The President that should be protecting the people and assuring them of their safety is now the one scaring them.”
Odigie-Oyegun urged Nigerians to regard the postponement as a sacrifice for the survival of the nation’s democracy.
He said: “This postponement comes with a huge cost to all Nigerians and every one involved, directly or indirectly, in this election, including international observers and journalists.
“However, we should see this as the sacrifice we need to make for the survival of democracy in Nigeria. We must remain steadfast and committed to the cause of change. Like our presidential candidate, General Buhari, said, ‘our desire for change must surpass their desperation to hold on to power at all cost. We have no other country other than Nigeria, and we must remain focused and salvage it.’
“Gentlemen of the press, the contradictions we have pointed out in this briefing represent a clear and present danger to our democracy.
“It is clear that this is a surreptitious but badly disguised attempt to subvert the will of the people. But we must assure Nigerians and friends all over the world that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. These too shall pass and we shall overcome.”
Asked if APC had lost interest in the nation’s military, Odigie-Oyegun said: “Let me loudly and emphatically say that we are largely proud of our men and women in uniform. There is no question about that. We are proud of the great job they are doing; we are proud of the sacrifice they have had to put up with in the North Eastern part of the country even when under equipped.
“We are proud of them; we hail them for their patriotism and we know that they also share some of the pain that we are going through as a people.
“But there is no mincing of words, there is something seriously wrong at the top. There is no question at all. The unfolding events of the last few days have shown in clear terms that there is some collusion between the Service Chiefs and the present political elites in government. We will say that without any apology at all.
“It is unusual for the military that is clearly supposed to be at the background advising and assisting their Commander-in-Chief to sit down and write a letter to an independent electoral body. It is totally unheard of.”
He said he does not see the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, resigning before the general elections.
Odigie-Oyegun added: “When I attended the IPAC meeting, he was very clear that the only thing that will make him resign is if his honour is at stake. I do not see that happening now.
“We think he has done a good job, but his performance has not been faultless. But by and large, he has done a good job in the circumstances in which we operate in this country.
“In the report that he gave us, he mentioned repeatedly resource constraint, but nobody picked up on that. So, it was also certain that he was working under constraints of resources. So, by and large, we have confidence in him and we don’t expect that he will be forced out of his position.”
The briefing was attended by a National Leader of the party,Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, Governors Adams Oshiomhole(Edo), Owelle Rochas Okorocha(Imo), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano); the Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Chief Moses Adeyemo; former governors Kayode Fayemi and Niyi Adebayo.
Others were Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator George Akume, Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Chris Ngige, ex-Ministers Bolaji Abdullahi and Inuwa Abdulkadir, ex-PDP National Chairman, Alh. Kawu Baraje, APC Deputy Chairman(North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, Deputy National Chairman, (South) Engr. Segun Oni, National Vice Chairman, North-East, Engr. David Lawal, National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alh. Lai Mohammed, a former Information Minister, Prince Tony Momoh, APC National Woman Leader, Hajiya Ramatu Tijjani, and the Chiarman of APC in Adamawa State, Hajiya Binta Garba among others.
Source: The Nation


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