Don’t Be Distracted By Threats, Friends of Atiku In UK Tell International Community

The threat by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir Ahmad el’Rufai that foreign observers who meddle in Nigeria’s elections would return home in body bags, and the strongly-worded statement by the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress, APC campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, in which he accused the United States of America of interfering with the presidential election by allegedly supporting the opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has elicited reaction from a London-based group, Friends of Atiku, who believe that the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Union, EU, have not done or said anything to indicate bias against the ruling party.

At a solidarity conference in London by Friends of Atiku, United Kingdom chapter, a few days ago, guest speaker, Isaiah Osifo, Doctor of Political Science, and lecturer in the department of political science and public administration, Igbinedion University, Okada, posited that international law allows international community to intervene and support the enthronement of sustainable democracy through the instrumentality of a free and fair election. Osifo, who is the Edo State co-ordinator of Friends of Atiku, insisted that “the UK, US, EU and other lovers of democracy have not violated the sovereignty of Nigeria nor have they violated any international law in their determination to support a free and fair election in Nigeria”. He said Nigerians are indeed grateful to the government and people of the United Kingdom and other democracies in the world “for this interventionist policy of supporting democracy and free and fair election in Nigeria”.

According to Osifo, this act of humanitarian intervention is a gesture Nigerians would continue to appreciate, stressing that “It is not for Atiku; it is for all Nigerians. We should have a political system whereby the citizens will be the determining factor of who should govern them”. Drawing a parallel between intervention and interference, Osifo explained that “intervention is not the same thing as interference. Intervention is a support for the institutions and the system to achieve resilience, professionalism and independence to conduct a free and fair election. Interference is when external powers attempt to influence the choice of a candidate by influencing the electorates to vote for a particular candidate. The UK, US, EU, etc. cannot be accused of interference in our internal affairs or violating our sovereignty, because they have not asked Nigerians to vote for a particular candidate, but they are interested in a peaceful, free and fair election that will enable Nigerians to freely elect the president of their choice.”

Enumerating the achievements of the PDP in its 16 years as Nigeria’s ruling party especially in the areas of the economy, judicial reforms and bequeathing a culture of free and fair election to the country, Osifo said nobody had expected the APC federal government to address all the problems of Nigeria in four years. He said Nigerians, however, expected the APC government to consolidate on the achievements of successive PDP governments and lay a foundation for a positive direction. He regretted that the APC inherited the fastest growing economy in Africa, “but today, the Nigeria economy is near collapse. Industries are closing or relocating to other countries, the unemployment rate is the highest since Nigeria’s independence. APC claims to be prudent in finances and boasts of a record of high internal revenue, but these figures do not reflect in our national budget and public expenditure. The external debts Obasanjo/Atiku administration fully paid have returned in a high burden of billions of dollars”.

Friends of Atiku, United Kingdom chapter
Friends of Atiku, United Kingdom chapter

Osifo also lamented that the gains of democracy and rule of law inherited from PDP administration by APC federal government have been eroded by president Buhari and his APC government. He said while the APC government has not contributed any policy or law to improve the conduct of a free and fair election in Nigeria on the basis of which Buhari was elected in 2015, “under the Buhari/APC administration, Nigerians are now under the burden of begging the INEC chairman appointed by President Buhari to conduct a free and fair election”.

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Also faulting the anti-corruption policy of the present government, Osifo described it as a ruse and deliberately targeted at members of opposition political party or perceived enemies of the president. Citing examples, he noted that the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole has a petition written against him since 2016 on corrupt enrichment and embezzlement of Edo state funds when he was serving as the governor of Edo state “but up till this moment, three years after the receipt of the petition by the EFCC, no attempt has been made to look into the merit or otherwise of the petition”. He similarly recalled that “in 2016, the same Adams Oshiomhole as governor of Edo state invited president Buhari to commission his so-called five-star hospital that he claimed to have constructed with billions of Naira of Edo state money. More than two years after the commissioning of the hospital by president Buhari, the hospital is still under lock and key and taken over by weeds and reptiles”. Osifo also recalled how the Director-General of Buhari’s presidential election campaign and former governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi was indicted by Rivers state Judicial Commission of Inquiry for embezzlement of Rivers State money. “The indictment by an authorised state government was ignored by Buhari/APC administration, and such personality is the best man to be appointed as Campaign Director-General by a president that is claiming to be fighting corruption”, he stated. According to him, even if the indictment was interpreted to be political, an anti-corruption government has the moral burden to accept the decision or subject the report of the inquiry to a review or an investigation of the EFCC to inform Nigerians on the second opinion of the federal government and why they are ignoring the report. He described the present-day Nigeria under president Buhari as “a text book definition of the mode of fighting corruption by a dictator”.

Osifo charged Friends of Atiku to be committed to rescue Nigeria from the dictatorial hold of Buhari/APC, stressing that the approach to this will be the total mobilisation of all good men and women of Nigeria to elect Atiku Abubakar as the president of Nigeria in the 2019 presidential election. He believed that Atiku’s vision on restructuring, privatization and diversification of the economy, commitment to the unity of Nigeria, fight against terrorism and violent crimes, and so on, would restore Nigeria to the path of a functional state and respect in the comity of nations. Defending the position of Atiku on privatising the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Osifo argued that it would free huge amount of money for the economy, stimulate investments, make petrol products surplus, and drive major economic competitiveness. The outcome of these, he said, would be massive employment, income generation for government, household and general economic prosperity.  He also believed that the privatization of NNPC and diversification of the economy from oil to agriculture and solid minerals will boost the economy of Nigeria. Excited about the recent endorsements of Atiku by leaders of the dominant social-cultural associations in Nigeria, namely Pan Niger-Delta Development Forum, (PANDEF), Afenifere, the Ohaeneze N’digbo, Norther Leaders Forum and the Leadership of the middle-Belt Forum, Osifo said it is an attestation to his good character and general acceptance by Nigerians. While stating that Atiku’s presidency would promote the unity of Nigeria, Osifo concluded that “Atiku represents a recipe for the unity of Nigeria and an instrument to put end to terrorism in Nigeria. Atiku is a strong advocate of institutionalism and rule of law. The only sustainable means of fighting corruption in democratic countries are support for strong institutions and rule of law. Atiku will fight corruption by supporting and respecting the independence of the institutions vested with this responsibility and by adhering strictly to the principles of the rule of law”.

In a communique at the end of the conference, the Friends of Atiku called on the international community and agencies, notably African Union, AU, UK, USA, EU, and Canada not to be distracted but to ensure close monitoring of the conduct of the election and announcement of results to ensure credible, free and fair process and outcome. The communiqué, signed by Iyore Monday Ugiagbe, co-ordinator, Friends of Atiku, UK chapter, and witnessed by Osifo, the group also called on the federal government to safeguard the lives of the citizenry and to ensure a safe, free and fair election February 16. Friends of Atiku, UK, further charged the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the evil practice of vote-buying and any other electoral malpractices were not allowed during the elections. Ugiagbe had earlier in his address, stated that the group was routing for Atiku because he is experienced, is a social democrat, a successful businessman, not a religious bigot, and has not been charged or convicted in any competent court of law for corrupt practices. Calling on Nigerians to vote for Atiku, he said “as Nigerians in the diaspora, we do not want a next level of ‘gaffes’! One term of four years is enough to impact the lives of a nation positively. Any government that fails to positively impact the lives of its citizenry in one term of office MUST not be voted for a second term! The present government has failed!” Ugiagbe called on the government of the UK to ensure that the 2019 election is free and fair and that the will of the people prevails

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