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Cross fire!

Posted by Vanguard on 2005/12/18 | Views: 450 |

Cross fire!


THE gulf between President Olusegun Obasanjo and chieftains of the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD)/Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), over the President’s alleged third term agenda widened yesterday.

•Stop treasonable actions or face fire— Obasanjo
•You can’t rule for more than 8 yrs — Ogbeh
•Umar leads fresh offensive against 3rd term

THE gulf between President Olusegun Obasanjo and chieftains of the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD)/Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), over the President’s alleged third term agenda widened yesterday. To the MDD/MRD chieftains who have been campaigning against the President’s alleged third term tenure, and who have been accused by government of engaging in treasonable felony, Obasanjo asked them to stop their activities or face the full wrath of law.

But a member of the MDD/MRD coalition, Chief Audu Ogbeh, insisted that the President cannot rule for more than eight years, going by constitutional provisions and an internal agreement within the ruling PDP that power should not remain in the South beyond 2007. Also yesterday, a new political association with the sole aim of fighting Obasanjo’s perceived third term agenda was formed in Sokoto State with the former military Governor of Kaduna State, Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, leading the group.

“Government will leave no stone unturned in checking such fissiparous tendencies in our country including stern measures against the treasonable actions of some misguided elements in our society. The law will continue to take its course in this regard,” Obasanjo said yesterday in apparent reference to the activities of the MDD/MRD.
The President, who spoke in Kaduna at the graduation ceremony of the Short Service Course 34 (Army) and Direct Short Service Course 16 (Navy) Cadets, lambasted some politicians and those he called enemies of democracy, who believe they can use undemocratic means to achieve their ambitions. “Unfortunately, in spite of all the alternative civil opportunities that exist, some people still believe that they can force their point of views on others by undemocratic means, often including violence,” he stated.

Obasanjo, who was represented by Defence Minister, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, added: “Our re-emergent democracy firmly rooted in the rule of law, upholds the fundamental rights and freedom of citizens as enshrined in the constitution. In addition, we have also made giant strides in restoring public confidence in government, provision of infrastructure, resuscitation of moribund industries and restoration of our country’s dignity and esteem in the international community.”
“All these have been made possible by our democratic system in which we can freely express ourselves and work out a harmonious way forward through the time tested mechanisms of discussion, consultation and consensus that exist at all levels of government in Nigeria.”

But, insisting, yesterday, that the President had no claim to third term in office, Ogbeh accused Obasanjo of creating a dichotomy between the North and the South to unable him perpetuate himself in office.
Presenting a lecture entitled, “North and the Future of Democracy,” at Arewa Media Forum, in Kaduna, Ogbeh, the former National Chairman of the ruling PDP who, last Friday, resigned from the party alongside other prominent politicians, regretted that Obasanjo’s behaviour was against a decision taken by the PDP caucus in 2002 to cede power to the North in 2007. Going down memory lane, Ogbeh said a meeting of PDP caucus including all PDP governors agreed at that meeting that the South should rule for eight years starting from 1999 to 2007 while the North would take over and rule for the same period, “it was an unwritten agenda by nearly all Northern delegates (to the Constitutional Conference established by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar) without exception, a resolve to heal the wounds of June 12 and the decision was that no Northerner should contest the 1999 election as President. “This is how, in all parties across the land, the North did not participate in the presidential contest. It wa a self-imposed ban, a restriction by love, not by law. It was one of the most far-reaching political decision taken by the North in the overall interest of the peace and national healing. It was not noticed by observers, but must not be missed by historians ... Thereafter, monumental financial sacrifices were made by many Northerners and some Southerners to further assist in the project of power shift in particular to the South-West, the zone severally bruised by the June 12 misadventure.”
The former PDP National Chairman further said that at a pre-convention meeting which he presided over in 2002, the same trend of power shift continued in spite of the earlier agreement that the first tenure was to last only four years. “We proceeded to dissuade all serious contenders from participating. Two Northerners went to court, but did not make it through the convention. The decision had been reached at a caucus meeting which I chaired late in 2002.

“It was an expanded caucus meeting involving nearly all PDP governors and the constitutional caucus members. At the meeting, it was resolved by a vote of 47 to 2 that the PDP would stand by a policy of eight years South, eight years North. That way, we discouraged Northern candidates, including Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, from contesting.
"It was not an easy decision, it was taken because we saw the larger Nigerian interest and the need for all, North and South, to shed any further feeling of alieniation and denial.” Ogbeh said the situation of things today was regretable, adding: “To our shock, we are hearing strange things. We are hearing the issue was never discussed. We hear one man alone must be allowed to interprete rotation. We hear power must never be allowed to return to the North. Strange things indeed.
“There even seems to be an attempt to provoke a seeming North/South crisis, all in furtherance of secret schemes. But we ask one question, whatever happen to this thing called ‘honour’? Now, there is a thing called an extension or third term. We ask, how can we begin to change the rules of a game while the game is going on all because we own the referee, we police the pitch and we can intimidate any person who seems uncompromising or uncooperative.” He said that the airwaves were today full of allegations and denials of the third agenda, stressing: “If there is no such project, then may God be glorified. But if there happens to be, then the Almighty be equally praised for the position already taken by our representatives in the National Assembly ...” Expressing pessimism over the third term agenda, he said that if the scheme comes through, there will never be any election or semblance of it in our lifetime. Ogbeh pointed out that for things to be normal, and for the North to speak with one voice again, it must address wide range of in-house issues.

In his own speech at the same occasion, former Head of State, General Mohammed Buhari, said it was revealing that the decision to rig the 2003 election was taken by the PDP even before election took place. Buhari said that although he has forgiven those who rigged him out in 2003, it would not be the same thing in 2007.
Meanwhile, a new political association with the sole aim of fighting the perceived third term agenda of Obasanjo has been formed in Sokoto State with Umar as chairman. Other protem leaders of the group known as Movement for Unity and Progress (MUP) are former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Rev. Odeh, Dr. Sadiq Abubakar Mohammed, Malam Mohammed Haruna, Malam Aba Kyari, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Barrister Aliyu Umar with Malam Buka Zarma as secretary general. Others are Executive Director of Human Rights Monitor (HRM), Mr. Festus Okoye, Mataimaki Tom Meiyashi, Mohammed Alhaji Yakubu, Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, Col. Aliyu Abdul, Dr. Alkassim Aba and Barrister Zainab Idris.According to the organizers of MUP, the aims include, “to explore the need for a body of movement that will help defend, deepen, sanitize and sustain the democratic system of government” as well as“explorethe needs and machineries for promoting unity and understating across cultures and regions in thecountry”.The MUP also resolved to ensure that Nigeria “is governed in accordance with democratic principles asprovided for in the constitution” and “resist any attempt by individuals or groups to tinker ormanipulate the operation of the constitution in a way that will subvert its intentions or the will of thepeople” as well as to “support and work together with other groups and institutions with similar aims andobjectives and thereby ensure the continued existence of Nigeria”

It resolved to apply peaceful measures in pursuit of its goals but threatened to respond in kind ifviolence is used against it.”It was decided that the movement would apply peaceful measures in pursuit of its goals. However, it reserves the right to respond in kind if violence is used against it.”Specifically, the movement will seek to sanitize and mobilize the broad masses of the people to stand upfor their rights and prevent corruption and abuse of office” the group further stated.The MUP which also stated that it would implement its decisions through the mass media, public rallies,posters, banners, leaflets, internet and other electronic means of communication condemning thecurrent attempt at amending the 1999 Constitution to allow the president and state governors to remain in office beyond their maximum two terms tenure.Describing the move as a “serious threat to democracy” which could lead to “dictatorship, conflict andchaos”, the movement said it “shall accordingly take immediate and all necessary measures to prevent it”



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