LAST weekend in Lagos, activist lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), announced the emergence of a new organization, dedicated to the protection of the democratic project in Nigeria. The new organization is called Nigerians United for Democracy (NUD). The new body is a clear indication that Nigerian activists are prepared to go back to the trenches to defend the hard won space of democracy in our country.
This new initiative was triggered by anger at the decision taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to postpone by six weeks, the elections initially scheduled to commence on February 14th.
It was clear that INEC had been forced by the nation’s security apparatus to postpone the elections, despite public declaration by the election management body, that it was ready to conduct the elections from February 14th.
It was instructive that INEC had declared that it was better prepared for the postponed elections, than it was for the 2011 elections, which brought President Goodluck Jonathan to power.
In the days since INEC was boxed into a security corner, leading to the subsequent elections postponement, a lot came to the fore, which underscore the extent of scheming by anti-democratic forces in the country.
There is the vulgar, orchestrated campaign against the National Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega. The same man who presided over the 2011 elections which they laud to high heavens was suddenly turned to the straw man of a desperate group of reactionary individuals and groups, whose sole purpose was to engineer Professor Jega’s exit from INEC.
His “crime” from their perspective, is his fierce independence and refusal to be influenced or bent in a direction to achieve a certainty that their candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, will be assured of a shoehorn into a new term into office. A group of reactionary old men, centred around the self-declared “Ijaw Leader”, Chief EK Clarke, and including such individuals as Dr. Femi Okuronmu and Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has been at the forefront of a scurrilous campaign attempting to turn Professor Attahiru Jega into the issue in the 2015 elections.
They issued a particularly irresponsible accusation that the INEC Chairman was coordinating activities with the Northern Elders’ Forum, to ensure that General Muhammadu Buhari emerged winner of the presidential election. At the weekend, Ezeife expressed the minds of members of the reactionary clique when he told SUNDAY SUN newspaper that: “I don’t even want the elections to go ahead, if it must be conducted by Jega, as chairman of INEC”. Without even any sense of shame, the former Anambra state governor openly stated their desire, demanding that Professor Attahiru Jega either resigns or be suspended.
If the coming elections leads to Nigeria’s “death” (Nigeria’s death for these old reactionaries means President Jonathan’s defeat!), then an Interim National Government (ING) should be set up with President Goodluck Jonathan at the helm!
An ING agenda
An Interim National Government (ING) agenda seemed to have taken a life of its own as the desperate last card of those determined to scuttle the democratic project. But it was one that could never fly! Even the Attorney General of the Federation, was forced by circumstance, to state clearly that there was nowhere in Nigerian law that justification can be found for the ING idea.
The build up of national and international forces was also making it a dead on arrival idea. The new pro-democracy body, Nigerians United for Democracy (NUD), also argued that there was no way that President Goodluck Jonathan can lead any so-called Interim National Government. If it ever appeared tempting before, I think by the beginning of this week, having noticed the unpopularity of the idea, even President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to describe any such tilt towards an ING as illegal.
But what remains foggy for Nigerians is the overall agenda of the security apparatus. Yes, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, has assured that the elections will hold at the end of April, but Nigerians are still very suspicious of the cloak-and-dagger scenario that led to the postponement of the elections in the first place.
War against Boko Haram
The past two weeks have also been particularly interesting on the warfront against Boko haram. The rapid advances against the insurgents have been heart warming, with the Chadians Army taking a string of towns and villages. Similarly, the Nigerian Army also witnessed an arousal of martial pride, with our forces finally going on the offensive and rapidly retaking Monguno and Baga.
All of a sudden, there is a concerted information onslaught that seemed targeted at showcasing progress of the war effort as well as to assist the flagging campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigerian Airforce jets and attack helicopters began pounding targets in Gwoza, Bama and the Sambisa forest. But most intriguing of all, was the open announcement by President Goodluck Jonathan, that the terrorist leader, Abubakar Shekau, will soon be arrested! That was the same Shekau that the security forces announced his killing at least twice in the past year!
By the beginning of this week, a new twist emerged as the story went viral in social media, that the order to arrest Shekau, was part of a political dirty tricks campaign. The opposition APC raised an alarm that there was a plot to “frame up” General Muhammadu Buhari; and the proof was in the order to troops to “capture alive Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau”.
The statement added that “a fake Shekau…will be made to state that he is working” for General Muhammadu Buhari. The essence of this dastardly plan was to deal a fatal blow against the relentless momentum that the Buhari campaign gathered. The circles that have profited so much from the Jonathan administration in the past six years: from the lumpen warlords in the creeks turned billionaires; the oil subsidy beneficiaries; those privileged to get dubious waivers; through to sundry godfathers, like Chief EK Clarke, are looking at defeat in the face and they are scared stiff!
This is the reason they have been launching all types of anti-democratic agendas. And it is this frightening background that kindled the plan to launch Nigerians United for Democracy (NUD).
A National Day of Action has been earmarked for Saturday, February 28th, 2015. On that day, Nigerians are urged to stand hand-to-hand to send a strong message to government and the Nigerian political elite, that citizens will never tolerate any attempt to interfere with the elections or any step to truncate the democratic process. Nigerians are defending democracy because a lot of sacrifice went into winning the democratic spaces that sections of the ruling class are attempting to subvert in 2015!