Colonel Tony Nyiam (rtd), a pro- democracy activist and acclaimed mastermind of the 1990 Gideon Orkar -led abortive coup d’etat against the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, speaks on six people whose actions or inactions will have a savoury or unsavoury effect on the conduct and outcome of this year’s presidential elections. He also enumerates the interests of western powers in the elections and their likely involvement, among other national and election related issues.
The presidential election is a few days away. The campaigns have been tension- soaked. What are your basic fears as we take the bend to one of the nation’s most potentially combustible presidential contests?
As a very concerned citizen and critical stakeholder in the Nigerian nation- building, I am seriously worried about the future of our dear nation. As you noted in your question, events leading to the campaigns and even the campaign itself have left very little doubt about the possible chaos that may result from it if not checked and tamed. Therefore, I would like to humbly request that the chiefs of the Armed Forces and the other national security agencies rise up to their duty of protecting the Nigerian people from any act that may trample on their democratic rights to elect who governs them. In this regard, they need to be careful not to fall into the hands of those who do not mean well for the country. I humbly so advice, as the fate of the Nigerian people during the presidential election which comes up on Saturday and the weeks immediately after the election depend squarely on them. The armed services chiefs and the Inspector General of Police partial support for any political party, particularly could lead to loss of innocent peoples’ lives. The blood of these people would definitely be on their heads.
Is there anything you know or have seen that is making you to raise this alarm and why do you seek to hold them responsible for any fracas?
This is very simple to detect. It is not rocket science. The responsibilities of the armed services and other national security agencies’ chiefs have become more than at any other time in our nation- building very crucial. The incidences playing out before our very eyes which have necessitated this Save- Our- Soul (SOS} message to them could be gleaned from so many factors. Many Nigerians are looking up for true democracy. The young ones are restless and may never give up until they see true democracy as practiced by the advanced democracies. This is why the armed services chiefs responsible for the next level need to up their game and must not fail the Nigerian people. Do not forget also, that the executive arm of the Federal Government not too long ago attempted a coup against the second co- equal arm of government, the National Assembly. Many people are saying that there is lack of due process in dealing with the heavy allegations against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) roughly two weeks to the presidential election of which Buhari is a contestant.
But Obasanjo in his time removed about five senate presidents. Was that also a coup or precedence?
The circumstances are very different.
The contentions and on- the ground situations are the not the same. Never in our past history has religion and ethnicity been brought to the fore in governance more than now. Did we have a cabal then? What were the religious and ethnic backgrounds of the men removed and the hatchet men or fixers? What were the issues at stake then and now? What was the style and tempo of the government then? You heard the governor of Kaduna State declaring the other day that foreign observers would be returned to their home countries in the west in body- bags if they stand in the way, or interfere in the running of the elections. Were there such vitriolic declarations during Obasanjo’s time? The other day too, a group of ex- military officers came out to issue a subtle threat to the Nigerian people to vote for Buhari. Curiously, the ex- military officers were led by those who ruled under the late Gen Abacha. They were insensitive to the diversity of unity of Nigeria by making their two spokesmen Muslims. What was wrong in one of the two being a Christian? The arrogance in their speech churned my belly. And who are they to speak for ex- military officers when the epitome of ex-military generals, General T.Y Danjuma had spoken? Such endorsement is a disservice to Buhari. It is unfortunate that the endorsement was received and celebrated in the presidency because they do not understand what liberal democracy means. The endorsement cannot be equated to an earlier one by the Pan- Niger- Delta Peoples Forum (PANDEF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Middle Belt Forum, and Afenifere on the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
In any campaign for office, endorsements are allowed. Some endorsements also came the way of Atiku, the president’s most formidable challenger?
I am talking about the lopsided composition and obvious ill- intent of the endorsers and how they celebrated it, notwithstanding the defects therein. As I had warned earlier, President Buhari needs to review his style of governance. He needs to take the criticisms of the people seriously. The chiefs of the armed services and the Inspector- General and of Police need to demonstrate that they are not servants of the government but the Nigerian public. Hence they are called public servants .It is the duty of the armed service chiefs to ensure that they do not have a mutiny of men and women under their command which a partisan support for the president may result in, especially as the president is openly sectional and nepotistic in his appointments of the security agencies’ heads.
You seem to foresee a post –election violence. You have laid the background for it, but some people may argue that these are not enough to let –off violence, given the peaceful nature of Nigerians. Give us more insights?
It is this same naivety in Nigerians that has cost the nation a lot. A keen follower of the politics and governance of the country in the last three and half years need not be told to expect mayhem if things get out of control. The repeated threats to the American Ambassador and the European Union representatives in Nigeria by officials of the Federal Government is a most unhealthy development that is most likely to rekindle the crude oil- rich Venezuelan example of a failed state. It is clear from the foregoing observations that the ship of the Nigerian state at the moment is being threatened by tidal waves. The fear among the people is that their election will be rigged. There is also the fear that we may be heading back to the era of batons- changing by a relay team made up of self- serving politicians and their kins- folk in the armed forces. I hope that history does not repeat itself in our having again, a kind of an essentially ethnic- clan serving rogue military that toppled a Hausa- Fulani president and Igbo vice president. I am referring here to the toppling of the late Shehu Shagari and Dr. Alex Ekwueme. The adjectives ‘rogue’ and ‘self –serving’ are used to qualify the military officers who toppled democratically elected governments. I repeat that if violence breaks out and there are loss of lives, members of the Nigerian Security management must be held to account internally and internationally. They include the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Burutai, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sardique Abubakar, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu,The Director General of the Department of State services (DSS),Yusuf Magaji Bichi, the Director General ,National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ahmed Abubakar , the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmoud Yakubu and the federal minister of interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (rtd). I want Nigerians to watch out for rigging through the software, or programming interferences and the duplication of key strategic election documents.
Talking about rigging, if that eventually happens, what do you hazard as the post- election atmosphere in Nigeria?
All I can say is that the international community, the Americans, the British, the Germans, and the French are all watching the service chiefs to ensure that nothing awkward happens. They have been having meetings. I expect the service chiefs to at the last minute do what a soldier does: be loyal to the constitution and the state and not to any individual because doing otherwise, any loss of lives in the elections, they would be held accountable at the international Criminal Court (ICC) and at other fora. And as for the chairman of INEC, a gentleman who once worked together with me in the Presidential Advisory Committee before the 2014 National Conference; he was also the secretary of the national conference, I do hope he is not tempted to shirk his responsibilities and become a persona non grata like professor Iwu has become. I do hope he will follow the examples of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the last INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, who are welcome all over the world because of their exemplary conduct.
Again, why do you believe that the western powers must meddle into our local affairs as a sovereign nation?
Clearly, as evidenced by El- Rufai’s outburst, it shows that we are facing very extenuating peculiar challenges. The challenges are such that it is international in scope. With what is coming out, it is clear that there is a convergence between what El -Rufai has said and what the Islamists in West Africa are up to. The west knows that any disruption of Nigeria is going to amount to an influx of refugees and emigrants that will overwhelm the sub- region. That is the concern of the west. You must also know that the west is against all terrorism in any form or disguise. We have occasions where the president displayed the rabia sign to members of the National Assembly which is an institution of state. The sign is common with members of the brotherhood of Islam in Egypt, popular with the Turkish. By displaying it in the hallowed chamber of the House, he was indirectly putting his fingers in the air against western interests. Even the west is pushing for a free, fair, transparent and credible elections that will produce a president that will be generally acceptable.