Leading opposition politician, Major General Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan are back in the trenches, throwing verbal darts at each other.
Gen. Buhari, in an open letter on Sunday, accused President Jonathan of pushing the polity to the brink through alleged undemocratic acts, the President fired back recalling the failed crating of recently deceased Alhaji Umaru Dikko among other instances of abuse of power by former military ruler’s regime.
In the letter, released in Kaduna on Sunday, Buhari said his action was a patriotic clarion call as a statesman and not a politician.
The chieftain of the All Progressives Party (APC) fingered President Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the recent gale of impeachment moves against opposition state Governors.
APC’s Admiral Murtala Nyako was recently impeached as Governor by PDP-dominated Adamawa State House of Assembly. Another APC Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State is also battling to survive impeachment. Similar moves are feared to be targeted at mainly APC Governors, particularly in Edo and Oyo states.
Buhari, in the letter, expressed the belief that impeachment is being used as a tool by the President Jonathan and the PDP to decapitate the opposition.
But in his reaction, President Jonathan’s media aide Reuben Abati did not only deny the allegation but also accused Buhari of going beyond the realm of statesmanship to partisanship and the peddling of outright falsehood.
Buhari urged the President to pull the brakes on the train of impunity in the interest of the nation and the sustenance of the democratic dispensation.
He described the gale of impeachment as an unwelcome distraction for the nation’s ongoing war against terror.
The APC leader said: “Whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan is behind the gale of impeachment or the utilization of desperate tactics to suffocate the opposition and turn Nigeria into a one-party state, what cannot be denied is that they are happening under his watch, and he cannot pretend not to know, since that will be akin to hiding behind one finger.
“In my capacity as an elder statesman, rather than a politician, I have spoken to President Jonathan in private over these issues, but indications are that the strategy has not yielded positive fruits. I cannot, just because I am an opposition politician, fail to do what is expected of me as an elder statesman to help rescue our nation in times of great trouble and palpable uncertainty.”
Reiterating that the letter was not motivated by malice or partisanship, Buhari said: “Yes, I am a politician. Yes, I am in the opposition. Yes, there is the tendency for my statement to be misconstrued as that of a politician rather than a statesman. But I owe it as matter of duty and honour, and in the interest of our nation, to speak out on the dangerous trajectory that our nation is heading.
“I can say, in all sincerity, that I have seen it all, as an ordinary citizen, a military officer, a head of state, a man who has occupied many other sensitive posts and a politician. I have been a close participant and witness to Nigeria’s political history. Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian president declare war on his own country as we are seeing now.
“Never before have I seen a Nigerian president deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian president utilize the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics. Our nation has suffered serious consequences in the past for egregious acts that are not even close to what we are seeing now. It is time to pull the brake.”
He advised Jonathan to ponder the impact of recent events in the polity, under his watch, on the survival of the nation and the sustenance of its democracy.
The former Head of State said subverting the constitution of the federal republic in the desperation to impeach a state governor or deploying the institutions of state, some of which are symbols of the country’s unity, just to kick an out-of-favour state governor in the groin can only breed anarchy and lead the nation down the slippery slope to perdition.
“The dangerous clouds are beginning to gather and the vultures are circling, and these have manifested in Nasarawa where the ordinary people have defied guns and tanks to protest the plan to impeach Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura in a repeat of the bitter medicine forced down the throat of Governor Murtala Nyako,” Buhari noted.
“The people’s protest in Nasarawa is a sign of what is to come if the federal authorities continue to target opposition state governors for impeachment. In the long run, the impeachment weapon will be blunted. Positions will become more hardened on both sides and Nigeria and Nigerians will become the victims of arrested governance and possible anarchy,” he said.
Buhari reminded Jonathan that no democracy can thrive or survive without a virile opposition; hence it will amount to a man cutting his nose to spite his face for anyone to embark on a journey to decapitate the opposition, as the current central government is doing.
He said a man of power must realise that he cannot always do things just because he could do them.
“I, along with many other patriotic Nigerians, fought for the unity and survival of this country. Hundreds of patriotic souls perished in the battle to keep Nigeria one. The blood of many of our compatriots helped to water the birth of the democracy we are all enjoying today,” Buhari said.
“Let no one ― whether the leader or the led, the high or the low, a member of the ruling or the opposition ― do anything to torpedo the system. Let no one, whether on the altar of personal ambition or pretension to higher patriotic tendencies, do anything that can detonate the keg of gunpowder on which the nation is sitting.
“It is time for all concerned to spare a thought for the ordinary citizens who have yet to see their hopes, dreams and aspirations come to reality, within the general context of nationhood.”
In response, however, Abati in a statement entitled, “don’t blame me for your party`s self-inflicted woes” said:
“We have noted with much surprise and regret, the statement issued by General Muhammadu Buhari today in which he made some wild and totally unsustainable allegations against President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.”
“Although he tries very hard to deny it in the statement titled “Pull Nigeria Back From the Brink”, there can be no doubt that General Buhari has sadly moved away from the patriotic and statesmanlike position he recently adopted on national security, which President Jonathan publicly commended, and has now reverted to unbridled political partisanship.”
“There can be no other explanation or justification for the completely unwarranted and very uncharitable assault on the conduct and integrity of President Jonathan which the statement he issued today represents.”
“General Buhari’s main grouse which clearly motivated his ill-considered statement appears to be what he called “the gale of impeachments or the utilisation of desperate tactics to suffocate the opposition and turn Nigeria into a one-party state”.
“It is most unfortunate that instead of working to put their house in order and resolve the leadership crises and internal contradictions that have plunged their party into a downward spiral, General Buhari and his opposition allies have resorted to blaming a blameless President for their woes”.
“The processes for impeaching an elected Governor are clearly stipulated in the National Constitution which Nigeria has operated since 1999. The President of Nigeria is not assigned any role in that process and President Jonathan has certainly not played any role in the recent impeachment of Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa or in the impeachment drama currently being played out in Nasarawa State”.
For the record, President remains fully committed to upholding the letters, principles and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution as he has sworn, and defending the rule of law and integrity of the democratic process with all his might.
“General Buhari talks about anarchy. He needs to be reminded that President Jonathan from his humble beginnings as a Deputy Governor in Bayelsa state to date, has never in his acts, or utterances, recommended or promoted violence as a tool of political negotiation”.
“Contrary to whatever General Buhari and his new friends may imagine, President Jonathan fully respects the rights, powers, authority and independence of elected representatives of the people, including the members of the state assemblies who have concluded or initiated impeachment proceedings against their state governors on grounds which they consider justifiable”.
“The constitution does not give the President any power to intervene in such proceedings and President Jonathan has never arrogated such powers to himself or sought to exert any nefarious and unconstitutional influence on state assemblies in Adamawa, Nasarawa or anywhere else in other to secure undue political advantage for his party as General Buhari unjustifiably alleges”.
“President Jonathan remains true to his declaration that no political ambition of his is worth the life of a single Nigerian. The President has definitely not declared war on his own country or deployed federal institutions in the service of partisan interests as General Buhari falsely claims. Neither has he been using the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, as the former Head of State inexcusably asserts”.
“Also, President Jonathan has never at any time ordered that any Nigerian should be kidnapped or that anyone should be crated and forcefully transported in violation of decent norms of governance”.
“We therefore urge General Buhari to tarry a while, ponder over his own antecedents and do a reality check as to whether he has the moral right to be so carelessly sanctimonious”.
“It may well be time to pull the brakes, as General Buhari says in his statement, but it is he and others who have resorted to idle scapegoating and blaming President Jonathan for their self-inflected political troubles who need to stop their inexcusable partisanship and show greater regard for the truth, democracy, constitutionalism, the rule of law, peace, security and the well-being of the nation”.