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Sowore’s Re-arrest: Yoruba group cautions Buhari against lawlessness, incarceration of journalists

LAGOS, Nigeria – A renowned Yoruba Group known as Voice of Reason (VOR) has cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against continuous detention of journalist and pro-democracy crusader, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, against court orders.

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The group, in Lagos on Thursday demanded urgent restructuring of Nigeria’s political, economic and social structures, warning that a delay in doing that would spell doom for the country.

They equally called on President Buhari to take over governance of the country and purge his administration of many unelected characters currently ruling the country by proxy.

In a statement, the group Chairman, Dr. Olufemi Adegoke, said: “The President at his inauguration said: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. On that day majority of Nigerians walked tall and looked towards a new chapter in the governance of Nigeria in which no man will be oppressed.

“It is now clear to every objective observer of the goings-on in the nation that we do have very present and urgent reasons for all Nigerians to worry about the trajectory in the governance of the country. The problems revolve around the way the country is being administered. The reality is that the President has fallen short of all expectations and on his own solemn promises, freely given.

“Sadly, We cannot but conclude that the President’s extempore comments away from his speechwriters’ construction reflects his true beliefs. when the President on July 25, 2015 at the US Institute of Peace visit in Washington DC told the world in response to a question on the how inclusive his Government will be: “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%.” This is unfortunate for a country that has battled unsuccessfully to erase the divisive fault lines of ethnicity and religion.

“President Buhari ran unsuccessfully to be President in 2003, 2007 and 2011 in spite of his advertised stand against corruption. He was considered unelectable and defeated each time because of his perceived clannishness and suspicion of his disdain for democracy and the human rights of citizens. In 2015, he succeeded in getting historically and statistically significant support from outside the North on the coat tails of broad disenchantment with his opponent the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. President Buhari’s campaign message was anchored mainly on his well-known (and perhaps now well-worn) fixation of fighting corruption and the restructuring of the country (some of his sponsors and supporters now say what was promised was devolution). For the 2019 election, the President said restructuring was not his priority though his party had actually published a document signalling the pathway to restructuring. Every failing of President Buhari’s Government in his first term was blamed on the massive corruption and waste by his predecessor that emptied the Treasury and the alleged ‘hijack of the National Assembly by ‘unfriendly’ elements.

“Nigerians being a generally trusting people ignored the failings and re-elected the President to give him a second chance.

“On august 8, 2018 the nation woke up to the news and the pictures of DSS operatives preventing members from entering the National Assembly. This was for all intents and purposes an attempted coup against democracy. The desecration of the temple of representative governance was fortunately brought to an end by the quick action of the Vice President. We cannot recall that the President has to-date instructed that treasonable felony charges be brought against those who brought us close to the precipice of chaos and global disgrace.

“It would appear that the President’s body language, which his operatives generally watch for indications on how to act, might have informed the actual desecration of the temple of justice by the DSS a few days ago in the attempt to forcefully re-arrest Omoyele Sowore and one other person, who were facing trial for ‘treasonable felony’, and had been granted bail by a competent court. Citizens were able to see in real time what actually transpired at the venue, which was at variance with what has been put out in the official version. The need for the public to know the truth about what goes on in their country informs the opposition of many citizens to any attempt to regulate the Social Media or defining anti-government rhetoric as hate speech.

“We would like to believe that President Buhari cannot possibly be directing all these excesses of his appointed officials. He however needs to rise up to the oath of his office and protect our hard-worn democracy. Today, he represents our hopes for its sustenance by virtue of the office he occupies and we call on him to uphold the banner. He must be able in four years hand over the banner without stain.

“Our President is known to rely heavily on his aides. Some critics have even suggested that he does not delegate, he abdicates. We will like to counsel the President that his aides were not elected and the legacy is his, not his aides’. As people who desire progress for the nation, we urge the President to impress on his aides the need to read his high spirited and soul rousing speeches which endeared him to all Nigerians, and always to act in consonance with them.

“We would love to see actions to convince Nigerians, and the world at large, that he believes in Democracy, and will use all the powers of his office to deepen it, and that he will uphold the rule of law, reinvigorate the fight against corruption, restore every citizen’s faith in the oneness of Nigeria and make the necessary constitutional changes to find a much more efficient and fairer governance structure for Nigeria.

“In this regard, the recent Kogi elections (widely derided by citizens as the ‘Ta-Ta-Ta’ elections, for obvious reasons) brought our electioneering process to a new low. It should, we believe, bring all politicians to the realisation that we are on the wrong trajectory in our democratic journey.

“There is an urgent need for all politicians to recognise the dangers ahead if the Kogi elections were to become the standard for future elections. Our elections should not become wars. We call on the National Peace Committee of General Abdulsalam jointly with others to convene a broad-based stakeholders conference to help usher in a new electoral Code and law. The President must lead this effort.

“We urge the President to stop the perception that only court decisions that favour the Government are acceptable and deserving of being enforced. There have been too many cases in which court decisions are flouted by, in particular, the DSS. The Omoyele Sowore bail saga which took an ultimatum from the Judge to get the DSS to comply with a bail order is a particularly galling example. The compliance was not only grudgingly done, the ensuing bizarre and embarrassing drama has gone viral all over the world. It is the most direct intimidation of the court to-date. Nothing can be more damaging to the Investment Climate of the country.

“There is a pattern of continuously levying new charges against accused persons until the accused gives up all attempts to for bail. Some judges also seem to be co-operating by setting bail conditions that are obviously impossible for the accused to meet. All these are devious ways of denying people justice. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. Any Government committed to serving justice must also do so not only in word, but in deed and in spirit.

“We join the Government and President Buhari in the celebration of the conviction of some former Governors for acts of corruption committed while in office. It sends a strong signal to all incumbents that a day of accountability will surely come for all. We however note and hereby encourage the prosecution agency for their diligence in seeing through the trial of these cases. We note with dismay though that some notable members of the ruling party have been shielded and have even been given appointments in the Executive arm of Government without the conclusion of the cases already instituted against them or clearance and discharge by the investigating agencies.

“You cannot be jailing some corrupt people while more insidious corruption is allowed to go on unchecked. We wish to bring to attention the recent attempt by the Attorney General to justify the appointment of an agent(s) to collect on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria arrears of $62.2 billion. The Attorney General General was quoted as saying: “The five percent as a recovery fee is a product of innovation introduced by the federal government upon the assumption of office of

President Muhammadu Buhari as against the 30 per cent and above which was the traditional fee by the previous administration.” We call attention of the public to this story and the logic underpinning his argument.

“We think public officials have come to the conclusion that Nigerians are imbeciles and any argument can be made to fritter away funds that belong to the commonwealth without anyone querying the reasonableness of their decisions. How does anyone in Government justify paying $3.11 billion (N1.12 trillion, one fifth of this 2020 budget) to some agents who lack the legal, contractual and coercive powers of Government and pass that off as patriotic duty?

“The President must immediately dismiss these agents and direct Ministry of Petroleum Affairs of which he is the Minister, the DPR, NNPC of which his Minister of State is the Chairman to collect the money. No other matter is more critical to the nation’s fiscal stability than this issue. To relegate the collection of this debt to the agency of some faceless agents appointed with perhaps no recourse to any transparent procurement process and who have scant leverage on the oil companies is ludicrous. If the Federal Government with all its contractual, legal and coercive powers cannot collect this money, no sweet-talking lawyer or any political jobber can. Using the 30% commission rate being dashed out by previous administration as justification is akin to asking Nigerians to show gratitude that you did not give 60% of next year’s budget.

“The case of the arrears of deep offshore fees due from the oil companies typifies the kind of poor management and conflicted interest that has brought Nigeria’s economy to this sorry pass with Nigeria having nothing to show for the huge money that we have generated from oil.

“Countries comparatively less endowed have delivered to their citizens far more in physical and social infrastructure which has translated into comparatively prosperous citizens. It appears we are content with impoverishing our citizens while we enrich a few people close to the corridors of power. It is immoral and unpatriotic.

“This standard of management of economic resources impels the demand for restructuring so that a profligate centre will not condemn the whole country to the ravages of the misery from such economic mismanagement. Given Nigeria’s bounteous resources, our people do not deserve the lot that decades of mismanagement have foisted on them.

“The President’s biggest failing however is the divisiveness in his style of governance. Nobody can begrudge the President the prerogative of appointing those whom he trusts can help him govern. However, when nearly all the heads of security agencies are predominantly from his state or region, then he is telling others that his Government is to serve only those who for primordial reasons gave him 97% of their votes. The President’s lopsided appointments are not restricted to the security agencies. Even the visible display of real power shows who and who are influential in the Government. In fact, the in your face public humiliation of the Vice President by unelected minions in the Presidency suggests that those uncivil acts have the blessings of the President.

“There is widespread insensitivity to the federal character of the nation and impunity being displayed in public appointments. In the Nigeria Police the third Northern Inspector General of Police in succession is in the court with the Chairman of the Nigeria Police Commission in a struggle over who has power to recruit policemen and promote officers. It was then discovered that the latest recruitment of policemen was scandalously lopsided with clear preferences being given to recruits from the President’s and the Inspector General’s states of origin. Indeed the perception is that a significant part of the President’s agenda is to use his office to tilt the resources of the country to the advantage of his region.

“Some of the President’s actions sadly are the best advertisement for the need for restructuring. The alternative is the continued tension that makes Nigeria a country in which large parts of it consider themselves subjugated by a self-serving elite that has so mismanaged their own region that they have produced several home-grown insurgent groups and created the most appalling economic environment in Nigeria. A more federal structure will see more resources, power and responsibilities transferred to the federating units and engender healthy competition amongst the federating units as we saw in the First Republic

“Much of the nation, especially in the South and Middle Belt, have demanded for political restructuring. Rather than ease the disenchantment of these regions with the emasculation of their development aspirations, the President has ignored even his own party’s prescription for devolution of power.

“Yet the President persists in clearly sectional decisions on economic issues lacking in economic logic. We are yet to see the compelling reasons why Nigeria must build a refinery and railway lines into Niger Republic. We are yet to be told who would be financing the projects. Some years ago, the Nigerian Defence Academy was upgraded to the status of a university ostensibly to copy US West Point.

“Then the incumbent Chief of Army Staff announced that an Army University will be created in his home state. This was followed by the announcement by the Air Force that an Air Force University will be established in his own home state. Recently we were then informed that a University of Transportation will be established in the President’s hometown, Daura. For a country that has not been able to adequately fund its Federal universities and a country facing the daunting fiscal challenges, one begins to wonder if anybody is looking out for Nigeria. How can anyone then blame those campaigning that it is the turn of their own ethnic group to rule Nigeria?”

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