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Anti-democratic forces behind attempt to recall Speaker, says Yakubu Dati, (Plateau Information Commissioner )

Posted by By Taye Obateru on 2005/08/24 | Views: 501 |

Anti-democratic forces behind attempt to recall Speaker, says Yakubu Dati, (Plateau Information Commissioner )


THE attempt to recall the Speaker of Plateau House of Assembly has generated much heat of late with fears from some quarters that it could plunge the state into fresh crisis. The state government says the hard-earned peace which it has managed to secure is being threatened again.

THE attempt to recall the Speaker of Plateau House of Assembly has generated much heat of late with fears from some quarters that it could plunge the state into fresh crisis. The state government says the hard-earned peace which it has managed to secure is being threatened again.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yakubu Dati in this interview, explains why government is afraid among other issues. Excerpts:

It would appear that this recall issue has become a source of concern to the state government and one begins to wonder why it should be so. Why is government so concerned?

Well, from the government’s perspective, we are concerned that the recall move is assuming a dimension that borders on security. There has been a lot of agitation against the move and the bulk of the people in the constituency (Shendam constituency) are not happy with what is going on. The whole thing, in fact, came as a surprise. INEC suddenly came up to say that they have received a petition for the speaker’s recall and the people are wondering, from where?

The issue here really, is that we as a government are concerned that the peace which we earned in a hard way should not be threatened in any way again and this recall thing is moving towards that direction. That is why we are worried. Government has been trying to maintain the peace and we do not want anything to frustrate these efforts. We are happy that the umbrella association of the Goemai people, that is, the Goemai Unity Development Organisation (GUDO) has stepped in and is calling for things to be done properly and I hope those agitating and manipulating will listen to the elders.

Definitely, there is a threat to peace in that area because the people who are the voters are surprised about the way things are going. It is most instructive to note that throughout the elections in that constituency, Shendam never recorded a voting population of mote than 30 to 35 thousand voters. For there to now be 59 to 60 thousand people and almost 98 per cent of that signing for recall is surprising. We wonder where they manufactured the people from. This calls to question the credibility of the whole exercise because if you have a voting population consistently of between 30 and 35 thousand, then suddenly there is a petition that appeared overnight purported to have been signed by about 59 thousand then there is more to it.

We live in a democracy and people are aware and conscious of their rights. Our concern really is that the flash point of the last crisis was Shendam local government area and we do not want things to get out of hand again.

What is your concern really? Is it for peace or for the Speaker’s recall?

The primary concern of government is the threat posed by the move to peace. But we also know based on intelligence reports that the move is not popular among the people of the constituency.

If anything, Lalong has done more for his people lately that even during his first tenure as their representative based on the amount of projects he has been able to influence or attract to his constituency. So if anything, his popularity has actually soared. So part of the concern really is how people may react if their representative is being recalled through a manipulated process. This will obviously threaten peace. For an exercise like this, the credibility of the body conducting such verification is very important so that meanings would not be read into any of its actions. But what did we find? Shendam was invaded in a Gestapo manner by gun-welding security men who surrounded the Shendam Youth Centre where they claimed to have carried out the verification exercise.

I wonder how they could have verified 50 thousand names in one location and within a few hours when people were even scared away by the security men. Is it possible to verify 50 thousand signatures, even in one day? These are the issues every true democrat should ponder over especially as we approach 2007. No verification was done as far as we are concerned, so we were surprised when we heard them say the verification was a success. So why would INEC want to manipulate the process? Does it have any interest in who represents the people of Shendam constituency?

This is the point I have been trying to make. INEC as a body is expected to be a neutral umpire in things like this. Where it is known to be impartial, people will relax and allow things to sort themselves out because of the confidence that the truth will prevail. But where the umpire is seen to be an interested party and does thing in a manner that put a question mark on its integrity then, we have a problem.

This is clearly an attempt by those who have consistently fought against the sustenance of democracy here; those who engineered the declaration of a state of emergency and who failed to achieve their scheme to get the emergency extended. It is as if they have devised the recall thing as a new strategy to create another crisis so that they can succeed in their malicious intentions. It is most unfortunate that people try to take the laws into their hands. The religious leaders and members of the traditional council have stepped in, yet this people are undeterred.

They have targeted the Speaker because of the courage he displayed during the period of the state of emergency in defence of democracy. The worrying dimension to the whole thing is that these people go about dropping names, creating the impression that they have the backing of the President. It is like trying to pitch Mr. President against the people because we know that President Obasanjo who has staked his life for democracy will not be part of anything that would erode the confidence of the people in the system and also create crisis and anarchy. I feel the President should call this people to order so that they will stop desecrating the name and institution of the President.

But has the state government notified the Presidency on its fears and other concerns?

Yes, the state government has written to the President and all the security agencies to alert them that the so-called recall process has the tendency to lead to a breakdown of law and order. Yes there is peace in Shendam now but we want it to remain so and that is why we are appealing that reason is allowed to prevail.

So what has INEC done in clear terms to make you suspicious of its neutrality?

The problem really is the way the whole recall business is being rushed. We have had other cases over the years but INEC had not been this zealous about them. We had that of Prof. Jubril Aminu and a host of others. What did INEC do and why is it so interested in this particular one. We suddenly heard that there was a petition for recall and within record time, INEC said it had come for verification which it also conducted in a manner that could put its neutrality into question. How do you verify 60 thousand signatures in one location within a period of five to six hours? And now they are already talking about referendum. Why the rush? This is something every democrat should be worried about because I believe we shouldn’t look at this issue as something exclusive to Plateau. It affects the whole process of democracy; it affects the integrity of INEC. It also brings to question INEC’s independence as an organization.

It also sends the worrying signals on what could happen in this country in 2007. So you can see that the issue goes beyond Simon Lalong or Plateau State but touches on the entire electoral process and INEC as a body. It is when people have confidence in INEC and the process that we can say we have true democracy. But when people begin to see INEC as dancing to the whims of certain people who are known to be out to settle personal scores, then this sends a worrying signal. INEC should not give the impression that it is being used by certain people because the greater implication is that people will begin to lose confidence in the system.

be clear and the people will be happy. But when it is seen to be manipulated to satisfy certain people who are known to be anti-democratic forces and they seem to be having their way against the wish of the generality of the people, then this could pose a threat to peace and that is why we are worried.

So why do you think anyone would want to plot against the Speaker?

There are a lot of reasons people may want to plot against him. It is beginning to seem that the speaker is a target as a prelude for some bigger agenda. It may not be unconnected with the race for 2007. What is clear is that some people want to get the speaker out so that they can renew their plot to initiate impeachment moves against the governor.



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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.