Northern political elements, who seek to regain power from the South, are turning up the heat on President Olusegun Obasanjo’s alleged scheme to succeed himself.
His administration again came under flak from the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) which accused it at the weekend of mismanaging the economy and ridiculing democracy.
It urged Obasanjo to apologise to the electorate and then leave office in 2007.
The MRD is composed mainly of politicians North of the Niger River, like the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD). They are holding talks on a possible merger, the MRD has confirmed.
Both were formed a few weeks ago with the sole aim to wrestle power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as scuttle Obasanjo’s perceived ambitions.
MRD National Chairman, Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta told a news conference after the group’s meeting in Abuja that the human rights record of the government is worse than what obtained in the days of Sani Abacha.
Last week, Northern lawmakers in the House of Representatives established a forum whose first salvo was fired against the third term plot. Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, was present at the occasion.
But Presidential Assistant, Femi Fani-Kayode, said on Sunday that Jimeta has forgotten the number of highly placed Nigerians who were murdered by the state during the Abacha junta.
He argued that a democratic government, where the rule of law is the hallmark, cannot be compared with a full blown military dictatorship that ruined the economy and killed suspected enemies of Abacha.
He asked Jimeta to shut his mouth as his own role under the dictator was well known.
But Jimeta, a former Inspector General of Police, stressed that corruption in high places has reached immense proportions, likewise profligacy.
“Obasanjo administration’s corruption is worse than Abacha’s stealing and corruption at all levels of government is more now. Obasanjo should apologise to Nigerians and leave in May 2007,” he stated.
“We are disturbed that in spite of the unprecedented wide spread poverty and deprivation inflicted on Nigerians, the administration remains insensitive. Its pre-occupation is a programme of self-perpetuation in power, hence the third term agenda.”
According to him, the MRD is aware that the government would move its machinery against it because of its strong opposition “but we are ready for them. We are prepared to pay the price and we are not scared of their Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).”
Jimeta reiterated the MRD’s opposition to the amendment of the Constitution allegedly being manipulated to favour the present crop of political office holders.
He pleaded with Nigerians to come together to salvage the nation from avoidable calamity.
“The existing political parties lack the capacity to effect a change because they have been weakened by intra-party crises, largely engineered from outside.
“What is urgently required is the coalition of all visible democratic and other patriotic forces to restore and secure democracy for Nigerians.”
He reminded Nigerians of what Abraham Lincoln said to America after its civil war: “This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it; whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or over throw it.”
However, Jimeta suggested the option of change through the ballot box and promised that the MRD will provide the road map to promoting democracy.
In countering Jimeta’s views, however, Fani-Kayode retorted: “How can anybody in his right senses compare the present dispensation, where you have democracy and the rule of law, where you have peace and stability, where you have a recovering economy and where Nigeria is no longer regarded as a pariah country, how can anybody in his right senses say that is comparable to Abacha’s regime?
“Gambo Jimeta served Abacha. So it is understandable that he should be nostalgic about Abacha’s activities because he was part and parcel of that administration.
“But let it be on record that it is the same Abacha that he so loves who not only killed Shehu Yar’Adua but also killed hundreds of other innocent Nigerians, and no matter what anybody says, this administration and this President does not have blood on their hands, unlike Abacha.
“Those who believe that the Abacha days are better than today and those who believe that Nigerians felt better under Abacha should bow their heads in shame. They certainly do not reflect the thinking of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians.”
Fani-Kayode enumerated four of the achievements of the present administration which stand it above Abacha’s government. “These include over $30 billion in Nigeria’s foreign accounts, reduction of interest rates to 9 per cent, successful campaign to erase Nigeria’s foreign debt as well as the enthronement of rule of law and the fight against corruption.”
Paul Mumeh and Bayo Oladeji (Abuja), November 28, 2005, Daily Independent