Eminent personalities and leaders of the mainstream socio-cultural groups in Nigeria, yesterday, issued a red card to President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC), resolving to work for the emergence of new leadership in the country during the forthcoming general elections.
The leaders, who met in Abuja under the auspices of the Summit of Nigerian Elders and Leaders, drawn from Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, reviewed the State of the Nation in terms of the economy, security, human rights, as well as recent political developments and came up with a damning verdict that the Buhari administration had drifted from the liberal democratic path which Nigerians had fought for over the years.
Prominent Nigerians who attended the summit included Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Edwin Clark, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Senator Suleiman Dansadau, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Prof. Gordini Darah and Senator Bassaey Ewa Henshaw. Others at the event were the Secretary of the Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin and Dr. Alfred Mulade, spokesman for the Pan-Niger Delta Forum.
The summit observed that under the current administration, democracy had come under persistent assault following the rising trend of calculated assault on constitutional governance and rule of law in the country.
The summit, which held for several hours behind closed doors, resolved that there was an urgent need for Nigerians to seek a new leadership that will not only arrest the slide away from democracy and the rule of law, but will ensure the emergence of a truly federal, constitutional democracy in Nigeria.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the leaders condemned the continued detention of persons granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction, including the ECOWAS Court, as well as the unlawful harassment of media practitioners.
They argued that going by the recent trend of events, Nigeria was gradually descending into a full blown dictatorship where citizens’ rights under the constitution can no longer be guaranteed or respected by the government of the day.
“This is clearly evident in the unlawful freezing of the accounts of some governments of the federating units; continuous illegal detention of citizens in spite of court orders granting them bail, as in the cases of Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), former National Security Adviser (NSA) and Ibrahim EI-Zakzaky, the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN); the illegal arrest, detention and mistreatment of 120 women exercising their legitimate rights to peaceful protest in Imo State; the incarceration of journalists, suppression and clampdown on media practitioners, thereby impeding not only on the freedom of the press, but also the right to information; regular denial of access to public utilities to political opponents and extra judicial killings in the country.
“This ugly trend culminated in the invasion of the National Assembly by the Department of State Services (DSS) on August 7, 2018 in an attempt to disrupt and undermine the legislative arm of government.
This, indisputably, was an attempted coup against constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law,” the group said. The summit demanded that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry be set up to examine the recent invasion of the National Assembly by security agents, and the outcome made public.
Similarly, summit expressed concern that barely six months to the 2019 elections, the President is yet to assent to the 2018 Electoral Act, without which, the legitimacy of the next elections in 2019 will be in doubt. They also took exception to President Buhari’s recent pronouncement that “the rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interests.”
They argued that national interest and the rule of law in a constitutional democracy are not and cannot be mutually exclusive. The summit equally expressed concern about the recent pronouncement by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, that restructuring is not a fundamental challenge in the country.
The summit urged President Buhari to be consistent with the rule of law by assenting to the 2018 Electoral Act, and opening up the political space for political actors to operate freely without hindrance by any acts of omission or commission from the government.
They also urged the President to restrain public agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), DSS and the Nigeria Police, from harassing and intimidating political actors, particularly those in the opposition camp.
The summit condemned the release of detained Boko Haram terrorists without due process and their alleged clandestine recruitment into the Nigerian security agencies. The leaders urged the President to use his good offices to secure the immediate release of Leah Sharibu, Chibok and Dapchi girls, and other innocent Nigerians still being held by Boko Haram.
The summit also rejected the illegal occupation of farming communities by invaders who sack and displace the indigenes. It urged the Federal Government to act swiftly to free these communities from illegal occupation and bring the perpetrators to justice.