Emmanuel Umohinyang, convener, Re-elect Buhari Movement (RBM), leads one of the major support groups rooting for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election. He spoke with ZEBULON AGOMUO on a variety of issues including the alleged plot to rig the forthcoming election. Excerpts:
There have been allegations and counter allegations over plots to rig the 2019 general election. What is your reaction to former President Obasanjo’s allegation that President Buhari is planning to rig the coming election and that his administration is like that of Abacha?
As you know, when it comes to the issue of credible election, Obasanjo does not have a say. He does not have the morality to talk about credible election in Nigeria because he is the grand master of election rigging. Under his watch, we had the Maurice Iwu of this world. During his time, election was not won at the ballot; results were written from the comfort of people’s homes. It was during his era that we had the famous “Mr. fix it”. Election was fixed. It is only an exhibition of fear, thinking that we are back to the era we are coming from. I want to assure our former President that the new Sheriff in town is different from what we had during his era. Under President Muhammadu Buhari, elections will not only be free and credible, it will be seen by even the worst critics of his administration. Let us not becloud ourselves with the issue, coming from Otta, asserting that this administration is being run like the Abacha era. I think it is the most unfortunate statement I have had from a former President. By the way, Obasanjo is not the only former President we have had in this country and one expects that as an elder statesman, if he sees anything that the administration has done that he feels strongly about, he could approach the President and share his views. The late former President Shehu Shagari, and Gen. Yakubu Gowon are examples. We have the Council of State of which he is a member, so trying to portray himself as saint when we have his records is like a slap on our face. It’s quite unfortunate. I think we should give it to this administration that it has saved us the pain and agony of the past, talking about the Obasanjo/Atiku era, when the issue of political detainees was the order of the day; politically motivated assassination was the order of the day. I think ex-President Obasanjo may have run out of ideas and is just trying to seek attention from Nigerians. Unfortunately, he cannot get it. President Buhari is a general of the people’s army. Nigerians love him and appreciate what he is doing. That is basically the reason we are pushing for his re-election come February 16, 2019.
Don’t you think the former President has a point with Gen. T.Y Danjuma toeing the same line?
I am surprised that you mentioned Gen. Danjuma, so we can say it is a communion of the Generals. Their views do not represent Nigerians’ views and I think at the last Council of State meeting, the INEC chairman was there to explain the level of preparation. From what we heard, the Council of State endorsed INEC’s preparation. INEC has equally said they have worked independently. There has not been pressure from any quarter. I want to assure you that under President Muhammadu Buhari, election will not be rigged; rather we will have something better than what we had in 2015. I think the President has endeared himself to Nigerians. It is not easy for a man to maintain the position of “Mr. Integrity” for decades. Who among these people can you call ‘Mr. Integrity’ without hearing a boomerang from Nigerians? President Buhari has held on to ‘Mr. Integrity’ for years. Nobody, not even his worst critics have ever queried that posture. He didn’t earn that over the shelf. It is due to hard work that he has put into the system. He has held several public offices. You can go and check his records. Go and check what he has, and you will realise that we have moved from that era where a sitting President will gather contractors and gather N7 billion in the name of a Presidential library. What we are saying is that we should have more faith in President Muhammadu Buhari. The integrity of some people is tied to their stomach, not President Buhari. He will never allow the coming election to be rigged in his favour or that of any other candidate.
How do you react to the removal of CJN by President Buhari?
I think I need to correct this impression; Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen remains the CJN. We must enlighten our people that he has not been removed in the literal word of it. He was only suspended. The provision for the removal of the CJN is provided for in section 291 and 292 of our constitution as amended. Under those provisions, I don’t think the President can unilaterally remove the CJN. No. what the President has merely done is to carry out an order of the CCT, directing that the President should suspend the CJN, pending the conclusion of his trial, and that the most senior judge in the hierarchy of the Supreme Court be appointed in acting capacity. The suspension simply means if the person is found not guilty after the conclusion of trial, he will be reinstated. People made some funny and ridiculous comments, prior to his suspension. We had some governors assemble in Abuja and declared that the CJN ignore the summon of the CCT. If at all, those governors made those statements, I think it is the most ridiculous statement I ever heard because when you tell an ordinary Nigerian on the street who was caught stealing yam, that the full weight of the law would be brought on him and you try to turn a blind eye on somebody just because he is from your zone, such is really unfortunate. We cannot make progress as a country. My position is that irrespective of who is involved, even if it is my father, the very minute you go against the laws of the land, you must face the consequences, pure and simple. What becomes of our country when people begin to disobey the order of the courts? If we go tribal, it means the Northern governors could also say El-ZakZaky and Dasuki are from our zone. The next thing will be anarchy. We should all rise against sectional interests and begin to deal with issues on its merits.
What is your reaction to the backlash that followed the suspension?
Look, we are in a political era. The Presidential election is by the corner. It is expected. We are in era where the politicians, lawyers, doctors, etc all have interest to protect, but I think we should look at the larger picture regarding whose interest the President should protect. That of his political party? The answer is no. His personal interest? The answer is no. That of the constitution? I think the answer is yes. The President is acting based on the powers given to him by our constitution, to obey orders that come from courts. You must also understand that it is a simple principle of law that orders of courts must be obeyed, no matter how bad. It was Lord Denning who said in his famous quote that no matter how tall a man is, the law is taller than him. That is why I subscribe to the removal of immunity against criminal prosecution for all categories of office holders, so that any occupier of even the office of President can be tried for criminal infractions. It will be an aberration to smuggle immunity that was not conferred on the CJN. I think Nigerians should rise up and be counted if we want to move Nigeria from where we met it to where we want it to be. Don’t forget fighting corruption is one of the cardinal programmes of this administration. The present happenings in our country today remind me of the famous poem by Prof. Niyi Osundare titled, ‘My Lord, where do I keep your bribe?’ As members in the temple of justice, we must ensure that corruption is eradicated from our Judiciary.
There are different interpretations about the warning by the US and UK against violence in the coming polls; where do you stand on this?
I would rather commend the UK and US for always showing exemplary interest in everything that has to do with our country. First, we know how elections had been conducted in the recent past. We know how results were written. This current President has been a victim of series of election. He has also been a beneficiary of a transparent process in 2015. For a man who benefited from a transparent process, he will never do anything to circumvent the will of the people. Two, if anything goes wrong with Nigeria, Africa as a continent catches cold, so you can now see why there is much interest in what is happening in Nigeria’s election. We have become a mirror to many African countries, so it is expected. We want to assure other countries that Nigeria under President Buhari will not derail this process.
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