Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you for your presence here this morning.
The 2011 elections started on a positive note but suddenly diminished into arson, killing and maiming in the North. It took unequal courage on the part of the electoral commission, the security agencies and the government to conclude the polls in that part of the country. The saddest aspect of the sectional breakdown of law and order in the North was the murder of graduates from the South participating in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who had rendered priceless service as electoral officers and contributed immeasurably to the success of the elections nationwide. Yet they were rewarded with death –very sad, very barbaric.
Why The Northern Riots Did Not Provoke Collateral Reprisals
It took a great deal of maturity for Southern leaders and organizations like the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) to resist the intense pressure brought upon them to answer the violence in the North with collateral reprisals here in the South. Such leaders and organizations also held back out of consideration for President Goodluck Jonathan and their love for democracy. If killings take place in future, it may be difficult to control the backlash of emotions.
We hereby express our heartfelt sympathies to those parents who lost their graduate children in the violence. Sponsors and perpetrators of the killings must be told that violence begets violence; and violence is not a monopoly of one group. Sheep neither bark nor bite; but when cornered, they will not only bark they will bite –and bite hard.
Governor Yuguda And NYSC :
We particularly note with concern the unguarded, insensitive and reckless position taken by Governor Issa Yuguda of Bauchi State that the cold-blooded killing of defenceless NYSC members in his state should be accepted as an act of destiny. Governor Yuguda’s statement is insulting and provocative. Governor Yuguda must tender an unreserved apology to Nigerian youths, Nigerian students, Southerners and the entire country for that heartless statement. While remembering that Bauchi State was last year accused of feeding the fighting in Jos with mercenaries, OPC hereby demands a thorough investigation of Govenor Yuguda's role in the brutal killing of youth corpers in Bauchi State.
Future Of The NYSC Scheme:
General Yakubu Gowon's regime established the National Youth Service Corps in 1973 as a post-Civil War formula to "Keep Nigeria One." Now that this country is no longer at war, do we still need the NYSC 38 years after? Every year the country loses young, bright Nigerians in the NYSC to sectarian crisis mostly in the North. Against this background, Nigerians expect that the first assignment of the incoming National Assembly will be to consider a Bill to modify or repeal the NYSC Act. Thus the Legislature must, as a matter of urgent public concern, hold a Public Sitting, where Nigerians will express their views on the desirability, modification or outright abolition of the operations and the latitude of the NYSC.
While awaiting this essential legislative intervention, we demand immediate modifications in the scheme. If the NYSC must be retained, authorities should as a matter of national emergency put in place a system whereby fresh graduates will serve only within their regions of origin or indigeneship. Yoruba people should serve only in South-West states, while Igbo youths serve in South-East, Ibibio in South-South, Fulfude in North-West, and so on. It is unlikely that dog will eat dog; and a zone will not likely kill its own children in case of any crisis.
Also, the government must immediately institute a compensation and insurance package funded by both the NYSC and host states. The family of any "youth corper" who dies in the course of serving his Fatherland should receive a minimum compensation of N20 million.
Meanwhile, we commend Southern state governments that have rescued their NYSC participants from volatile Northern states. It is a clear demonstration that these youths are not expendable materials. We should not wait until parents in the South revolt too. We don’t want to wait to hear the voice of "To your tents O Israel."
Buhari And The Drumbeats Of War:
It is interesting that General Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), have gone to court to challenge the result of the presidential polls. The April 2011 election marks the third time that the former Military Head of State will fail at the presidential polls. He lost in the 2003 and 2007 elections too. A word is enough for the wise. Emphasis should be laid on the word "wise." Clearly, Nigerians have no faith in General Buhari. He should be advised to lower the flag of his ambition. Any court case by Buhari at this time is futile, insensitive and will only overheat the country.
The sectarian pattern of General Buhari's performance in the last elections in which he won only in North-East and North-West states, coupled with the tribal explosions that took place thereafter, should underscore to all and sundry the kind of image that he has cut for himself. Rather than projecting the qualities of a national leader, General Buhari cuts the image of a tribal warlord; and he is very dangerous for the unity and future of this country.
While we cannot deny Buhari his right to seek redress, he should approach the courts only if he is ready to comply with the following conditions:
In line with due process and in the spirit of coming to equity with clean hands, Buhari and CPC must permit scrutiny of the incident of millions of under-aged voters rampant in those parts of the country where he and his party scored sizeable votes
He must submit his scores for the subtraction of votes garnered from the vast number of under-aged votes
Buhari should make a full deposit of expenses incurred by INEC and other government agencies for the process of litigation; tax-payers’ money should no longer be used to prove that this election, adjudged free, fair and transparent worldwide, is indeed so; he loses deposit should he lose the case
Buhari must give an undertaking that should he again lose the case, he would forfeit his position as a Retired Army General, former Head of State, Member of the Council of State and all National Merit Awards.
When Buhari left the All Nigerian Peoples' Party (ANPP) to found CPC, it showed crass intolerance, lack of statesmanship and lack of capacity to manage relationships. He went to start a new party where he became the alpha and omega as well as its sole godfather and sole moving spirit. That action was a recipe for political failure. Or has he forgotten that he unilaterally discarded every opportunity to forge alliances and a broad-based platform with fellow opposition parties, including ACN, SDMP, DPA, ADC, ANPP and others?
General Buhari has also demonstrated insensitivity for his supporters’ cold-blooded killing of Southerners. Now he further stretches that insensitivity by electing to go to court to challenge the results of 20 states in which he lost, all in the South-South, South-West, North-Central and South-East. It is significant that General Buhari’s own coordinators in the South-East have vilified him for contesting the result in their zone, saying they lost fair and square. His holier-than-thou disposition has made him to give a blanket bill of health to elections in the North-East and North-West. And yet Buhari wants to rule as Nigerian President?
For crying out loud, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan won in 31 of the 36 states! Is Buhari insinuating that the judgement of bonafide Nigerians in 31 out of 36 states should be disregarded? In addition, while Dr. Jonathan warned voters that his ambition and those of other politicians were not worth shedding blood for, Buhari motivated his supporters to "lynch" (his exact words) any one suspected of rigging. It is noteworthy that nobody was lynched in the states where Jonathan scored majority votes; but the "lynching" took place where Buhari won. So who is the apostle of peace and national cohesion and who is not?
Buhari And The Albatross Of His Past:
A Yoruba proverb says, "A person who makes rubbish may easily forget, but not the person who clears the rubbish." General Buhari may choose to bury his past, but enlightened and right-thinking Nigerians still remember the era of the draconian Decree Four, where even the publishing of truth landed journalists and the Press in trouble. Nigerians also remember the retroactive decrees leading to death sentences and executions. They remember his hypocritical permitting of 53 suitcases laden with currencies to pass through airport security unchecked during a nationwide currency exchange because they belonged to Buhari’s relation. They remember the detaining of Southern politicians in maximum prisons while politicians from Buhari’s area lived luxuriously in house arrests. Nigerians cannot forget the untimely deaths of Progressive politicians like Professor Ambrose Alli and Chief Bisi Onabanjo as a direct consequence of their inhuman treatment in prison detention during which they were denied medical attention and medications. Also Buhari once went to Oyo State to protest the killing of cows belonging to Fulani herdsmen –only for police and SSS chiefs to carpet him for being partial as his kinsmen had actually been the aggressors by first killing poor farmers in cold blood for protesting cattle grazing on farmlands and damaging crops. Voters still remember all these. General Buhari should realise that the recent sectional killings in the North injure his ambition the more, for they serve to remind well-meaning Nigerians that he has failed to rise above tribal inclinations. There are more nationalistic personalities in the North who can win votes and trust. The country waits to support and endorse these credible Northerners.
Congrats To Victors:
Permit us at this juncture to congratulate all newly-elected political office holders. We enjoin them to remember that the process that brought them into office has been as credible as we can get anywhere and reflects the true wishes and aspirations of Nigerian. Elected politicians should therefore ensure that Nigerians enjoy the dividend of the hope reposed in them in the next four years.
We especially thank President Goodluck Jonathan for giving Nigerians an electoral process that they can be proud of, an electoral process in which the people's votes have counted. The latitude of independence he gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rekindled hope in democracy.
Professor Jega And INEC:
Nigerians also owe the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, a debt of gratitude for the credible, transparent and patriotic manner in which he supervised and conducted the polls. Professor Jega should not be discouraged by the few voices of protest. History will remember him and his INEC team for running this election in a most objective and transparent manner. This is an election in which all Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora are proud of. Professor Jega and his team deserve national awards for this patriotic feat.
Sovereign National Conference:
President Goodluck Jonathan is a man of peace; and Nigeria needs peace to enjoy the dividends of democracy. The President lacks the vocabulary to assassinate character. He conducted his campaign with a lot of seriousness and in a civilised manner –so much so that Nigerians thought his civilised manner should earn him the presidency.
But everything we have said at this Press Conference points to the need for a Sovereign National Conference. President Goodluck Jonathan can make it happen. He must realise that people's love for him confers big responsibility and challenge for good performance. Convening the Sovereign National Conference in line with Nigerians’ desire gives President Jonathan a golden opportunity to make history as the Father of Nigeria’s Reformation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you for your attention.