Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Worried by the audacious refusal of the police to submit to civil authority and the doubt over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible elections in 2019, Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Forum has demanded the immediate sack of Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris and the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu.
Members of the Forum, comprising eminent leaders like Chief Edwin Clark, Ayo Adebanjo, Chief John Nwodo, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Yinka Odumakin, among others, equally what they tagged the current government extreme intolerance to patriots.
In a communiqué read after several hours meeting in Abuja yesterday, the Elders Forum said: “We are worried about the latest overheating of the polity as politics continues to overshadow governance in our country with its attendant national embarrassment as professionalism is fast becoming alien in many of our public institutions.
“The latest in the serial assaults on decency in public affairs is the audacious refusal of the police to submit to civil authority and the elastic tolerance of the growing impunity of its Inspector General.
“It is on record that the IGP has defied the authority of the President when he refused to relocate to Benue State to restore law and order.
“Since the President confessed that IGP ignored his directive, there has been no evidence of his compliance with the order and no sanction has been imposed on him for this.
“It is little wonder that the Nigerian police under him has become accumulated indication of a source of anarchy in the land.
“We are gradually rolling towards anarchy, as all sense of decency and order have been eroded. We have not forgotten how the police spokesman, taking a cue from his boss, declared a state governor “a drowning man” and how the IGP has flagrantly refused to honor the Nigeria’s Senate invitation to explain why the authority has not been able to stop killings going on across the country and bring killers to book.
“While we recognise and defend the right of the police to investigate crimes and interrogate anyone linked to such no matter their status, we are miffed at the conduct of the police throwing professionalism overboard by conducting media trial of the Senate President and a sitting Governor without having proper investigation of serious criminal allegations.
“The police makes itself a butt of practical joke when it flip-flops making three different statements within 72 hours on one case. First, it summoned via media, next it withdrew the summon and ask for a written response within 48 hours, and then restates the summon all over again.
“No serious police behave like this anywhere in the world. The police itself admitted that investigations were pending and that it had not even presented the allegations to those they publicly announced were suspects linked to the act.
“We have looked at the career record of this IGP and we have not seen any outstanding performance that would make Mr. President to keep such a man in such an esteemed office beyond the fact that he was the Commissioner of Police in Kano in 2015 where controversial polls took place and the Resident Electoral Commissioner who would have been questioned if there were challenge to the results was found dead with his wife and two children in a mysterious inferno.
“The then Commissioner of Police, who was promoted lGP within a year with over 30 Senior officers to him having their career abruptly terminated, explained away the deaths within a few hours without any serious investigation.
“Discipline has broken down under this IGP as we saw in a policeman who should be guarding a bank in Lagos getting recruited on illegal duty by a politician to Ekiti where he shot at people in a campaign rally .
“We have also noted the resolutions issued at the end of a joint executive session of both chambers of the National Assembly on the state of the nation calling on the president to take majors steps to stop the killings going on across Nigeria and protect the lives of our citizens.
“We believe that the presidency should even be more interested in this more than anyone else and we consider them patriotic demands on the presidency at a time the country’s neck is between the sword and the block.
“There is no patriot who would want the wanton killings that have become daily occurrence to continue unhinged. This country was engaged in a civil war for three years and there were days when there were no deaths recorded.
“Now that there is no war declared, we are packing body bags on daily basis. This is why what is required at the moment is for the Presidency to quickly deal with the issues raised in the resolutions,” the Forum noted.
The elders also rejected government’s directive on anti-grazing law, stressing: “In one of the loudest encouragements given to killer Fulani herdsmen yet again in Abuja last week after a meeting of President Muharnmadu Buhari with the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin and some defence chiefs, the Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan Ali called for suspension of anti-grazing law in states where it has been passed and operational in some states, saying the suspension of the law would reduce the tension in states where herders clash with farmers.
“The Defense Minister has always defended and shielded the herdsmen against arrests and prosecution in what has become a cardinal program of this government and which has heightened the fear of conflict of interest between the constitutional role of the President to defend the lives of property of all Nigerians and his self-assigned duty of being the Grand Patron of Miyetti Allah.
“The shielding of Fulani killer-herdsmen remains the strongest flashpoint of invitation to chaos and anarchy in our country as people would not continue to fold their arms forever as they are being killed with government unwilling to lift a finger in their defense.
“It would be recalled that in January this year, the Minister of Defence blamed passage of the anti-grazing law in some states as the cause of killings by herdsmen. His latest statement is capable of being interpreted to mean that the herdsmen would not stop their killings until all states embrace once again the barbaric culture of open grazing of cows in this age and time,” the Forum noted.
Condemning what they described as intolerance of the current government to patriots, the elder statesmen said: “Another flashpoint of anarchy is the growing intolerance of government to patriots who express contrary views to the misdeeds of government with strong arm tactics.
“The harassments that came the way of Lt. Gen T.Y Danjuma after he exposed the collision of military personnel with killer herdsmen readily come to mind as a measure of the burgeoning culture of tyranny in the country.
“Similarly, our attention has also been drawn to allegation of attempt by the federal government to clamp former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in order to curtail his freedom, for holding contrary political views against President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
“If this allegation is found to be true, it will amount to a throwback to the unfortunate days of the Military regime of late General Sani Abacha where persons who held and canvassed contrary political views were dealt with in a gestapo manner. We urge the federal government not to embark on any action reminiscent of that dark era of Military rule, as we are currently in democratic era, where contrary opinions must be tolerated.
While demanding the removal of the INEC Chairman, the Forum noted: “As we move towards the 2019 elections, there are accumulated indications that there are efforts to manipulate the result in forth coming election and to rig the elections which Nigerians must be vigilant to and thwart.
“Apart from keeping the current Service Chiefs who ought to have retired, retaining them in conjunction with the choice of INEC chairman is very suspicious an in tandem with the narrative that they are poised to play partisan roles in favour of the incumbent.
“We have fears that INEC may not be able to deliver free and fair election as the bug of nepotism and sectionalism that this administration is renowned for has also eaten up the leadership of the Commission.
“From 1960 till date only President Muhammadu Buhari has been audacious to pick only people who are either his relation or of the same ethnic stock with him to lead the Electoral a Body. The Balewa Government headed by a Northerner appointed Prof. Eyo Ita Esua from the South who was in charge of Federal Electoral Commission from 1960-66.
“Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yorubaman set up the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) under Micheal Ani (1976-1979). President Shehu Shagari from the North appointed Victor OvieWhiskey (1980-1983) from Bendel State as Electoral boss.
“When Dr. Goodluck Jonathan came in from South-South, he appointed Prof Attahiru Jega from North West (June 2010 October 2015).
“It is only President Muhammadu Buhari who first appointed his relation from the North West ,Mrs Amina Zakari as Acting Chairman when he became President in 2015 before he appointed Prof Mahmood Yakubu from North East, as Substantive chairman. The relationship between the powerful Amina Zakari and the [NBC chairman is so strong that it has the tendency to influence the outcome election in favour of the appointee
“Our fear that the current 1NEC chairman may not be able to discharge his functions impartially because of hailing from the same region as the President is not unfounded. Only recently we saw the scandal of underage voters during the Local Government elections held in the North West state of Kano, a replay of the 2015 elections abnormally in large number.
“Responding to the public outcry of the saga, as INEC is the only body that registers voters, the INEC Chairman set up a committee to look into this gross violation of our law which stipulates that only citizens 18 years and above can be registered to vote. As we address this press conference, the Chairman of INEC has refused to release the report of the committee.
“We therefore strongly demand the replacement of the INEC chairman with a man/woman of integrity from another zone in order to restore public confidence in the electoral body as it prepares for the 2019 elections,” the Forum noted.