As reactions trail the disclosure by the Department of State Services (DSS) on Wednesday over plot to install interim government ahead of May 29 handover from President Muhammadu Buhari to President-elect Bola Tinubu, Labour Party (LP) has dissociated itself from the alleged plot, denying being part of any unconstitutional arrangement to install an interim government.
LP’s spokesman, Yunusa Tanko, said the party is not plotting any insurrection, describing the development as a conspiracy against the state. He made the clarification when featured yesterday on Channels Television’s Lunch Time Politics.
“We are not part of any insurrection plans whatsoever. But what I am saying is that we are going to protect the interest of Nigerians based on provisions of the law, which provides that where you are hurting, you have the right to protest and that you would do so with the defence and protection of the Nigerian security apparatus. That is what we would do, but we will not support any insurrection in any way,” he said.
Tanko, however, accused the DSS and other security agencies of not protecting the interest of the Nigerian state during the 2023 general elections, claiming some of LP’s supporters were disenfranchised in parts of the country.
“DSS and security agencies should come out and protect us even if we are on the streets protesting,” he added, maintaining that LP is not mobilising people to come out on the streets to fight. “We are ready to follow the rules and laws of the democratic setting,” he said.
In America, authorities have granted permission to supporters of LP’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to use a park to protest the outcome of the February 25 presidential election. The permit allows about 100 protesters to converge on the iconic Lafayette Park in front of the White House, in Washington D.C. on Monday, April 3, for four hours, between 8:00a.m. and 12noon. Located across the street from the White House, the park is a prominent fixture in American history.
“We in the diaspora are demonstrating to call the attention of the U.S. government and Biden administration not to recognise the winner,” the organisers said.
The United States Department of the Interior said the organisers and anyone at the protest must “comply with all reasonable directions of the United States Park Police.”
The protesters were warned that “all sideways, walkways and roadways must remain unobstructed to allow for reasonable use of these areas by pedestrians, vehicles and other park visitors.”
The protest is organised by a pro-Obi group, Nigerian American Coalition for Justice and Democracy Inc. A document seen by The Guardian shows that the organiser of the protest is one Franklin Ekechukwu.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 1, announced Tinubu as winner of the presidential election.
Ekechukwu said: “Nigerian election was conducted on February 25, the institution that conducted the election did not follow their guideline nor rule of law in accordance with democratic principles. We in the diaspora are demonstrating to call the attention of the U.S. government and Biden administration to not recognise the projected winner.”
Reacting, the All Progressives Congress in America (APC-USA) in a statement by its Chairman, Prof. Tai Balofin, said: “We wish to inform the public that a group of the Nigerian election losers are currently protesting at the park in front of the White House. It is important to note that the U.S. government is not involved or in support of the protest, as anybody can get approval for a peaceful protest.
“We also wish to state that this protest is sponsored by Obi, who lost the election in Nigeria. It is our belief that the presidential election was free and fair, and Asiwaju Tinubu won the election. The majority of Nigerian voters gave him their mandate, and no propaganda, manipulation or tissue of lies can stop his inauguration.
“The APC in the United States of America assures Nigerians not to be perturbed by the actions of the protesters. We have mobilised true Nigerians to come out in support of their mandate, and we believe that the protesters will not succeed in their mission to disrupt the peace and stability of Nigeria.
“The opposition who lost will meet the winner at the protest ground. We urge all Nigerians to remain calm and peaceful, as we believe that justice will prevail, and the mandate of the Nigerian people will be respected,” he stated.
Also, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State said those advocating an interim government after the administration of President Buhari are daydreaming. He made the comment after a meeting with the President yesterday at the State House in Abuja.
In a chat with State House correspondents, he said the support of interim government would be working against the principle of democracy, which the President has vowed to uphold.
He expressed confidence that the President-elect would meet the expectations of Nigerians and hit the ground running immediately after his inauguration on May 29.
Referencing Tinubu’s service in Lagos State, Lalong said the President-elect would surpass expectations as the party works towards realising its campaign promises.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yabagi Sani, has asked the DSS to name and apprehend those it said are behind plans to install an interim government in the country.
“What would have made sense to us is that so and so person is involved, so and so persons have been arrested or is under interrogation or whatever action has been taken. What do we do with the information as politicians or citizens of this country? We can’t do nothing,” Sani said during his appearance on a Channels Television yesterday.
He said that law enforcement agencies should not fail to demonstrate that nobody is above the law to serve as deterrent to others who might have other plans to scuttle democracy in the country.
Yabagi, who was the presidential candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the February 25 poll, added that democracy is too precious and must be protected by security agencies.
A former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has, however, condemned the idea of installing interim government in the country, saying it is unconstitutional as there is no constitutional provision for it. Agbakoba, in a statement, yesterday, stated that there would be a major setback if the interim government is put in place. He, therefore, called on all Nigerians to resist such idea.
He said: “I suggest that the gravest possible consequences must be applied to all who are associated with this treasonable intent. The general elections have held, albeit under the most challenging circumstance. But a President-elect has emerged and we must respect and accept this as fact. At least for now, all leading Presidential candidates have approached the courts with grounds of complaint concerning what they consider as electoral irregularities.
“If the presidential candidates have accepted the democratic process by lodging petitions before the courts, then it is very difficult to understand upon what basis anyone considers that an interim government is a viable and legal alternative. We must all reject this nonsense and respect our Constitution, which has no provision for interim arrangement.
“As the President-elect is sworn into office on May 29, the judicial process will ultimately render a decision. As Nigerians, we must turn to the courts to render a decision on the petitions before them. The Judicial process will certainly carry a huge responsibility in the process of democratic consolidation. The notion of the contraption referred to as interim government has no place in our lives and our Constitution.”
A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Comrade Timi Frank, has described the alarm raised about a plot to foist an Interim National Government (ING) on the country as a ploy by security agencies to arrest the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and his LP counterpart, Obi, before the May 29 handover date.
Frank, in reaction to the DSS’ claim, said the secret police knew more than it chose to tell Nigerians and urged the agency to be more forthcoming.
He said the security alarm by the agency was meant to be an alibi to crackdown on peaceful protesters demonstrating against the rigged 2023 presidential election and to massively arrest opposition politicians in the country.
He said: “The DSS’ purported intelligence is fake. It is a plot to crackdown on protesters and arrest opposition political leaders before May 29.
“We have credible information that the DSS issued the statement in preparation for its planned disruption of ongoing protests by Nigerians who are demonstrating peacefully to demand for justice and the restoration of their stolen mandate.”
Frank added that the DSS ought to have used the same intelligence to stop abuse and killing of Nigerians by terrorist groups over the years.
Also, a civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has said there is nothing wrong in applying legal means to stop the inauguration of the President-elect, Tinubu, on May 29, because the February 25 election that produced him is still being actively challenged in court by leading candidates in the poll.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the alarm raised by DSS should not be used as an obstacle to stop the petitions filed by Atiku and Obi.
The DSS warning followed a petition by the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, that DSS invite Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, over their rejection of Tinubu as the President-elect.
“DSS must work for all of Nigerians and not work as errand boys of Tinubu and his allies who only recently made claims that some persons want to stop his swearing-in. By the way, there is nothing wrong in applying legal means to stop his inauguration because the election is being actively challenged. Nothing should be used as obstacles to obstruct Obi and Atiku’s petitions. DSS should go after arm smugglers, kidnappers, bandits and terrorists and leave politicking for politicians,” he said.
However, Adewole Adebayo, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), has said the call for an interim government is an act of treason, adding that the call is synonymous with joining a terrorist group.
“Peaceful protest over elections is legitimate, even if unpleasant. Nigerians, especially youths, must avoid treason in promoting any so-called ‘interim government’, a high crime, on the same scale as joining Boko Haram, ISWAP, or any terror group. All gains will be lost,” he wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in Abuja has dismissed an appeal filed by a former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, seeking to disqualify Tinubu. The apex court, yesterday, threw away the suit on the ground that it was statute-barred, having no life support or legs to stand upon.
Justice John Inyang Okoro, who presided over a five-man panel, while dismissing the appeal, however, did not award cost against the former Minister for withdrawing his case when informed that the case was filed outside the time prescribed by law.
Nwajiuba and a civil group, the Rights for All International, had asked the Supreme Court to cancel the processes that produced Tinubu and his political party. He had lost at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal, both in Abuja on the same ground that his case lacked merit that could make the court look into it.
In another development, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) is set to commence investigation of Atiku over the diversion of public funds while he was Vice President through the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV). This was revealed in an invitation from the CCB, asking Keyamo to come substantiate his petition.
The Bureau has invited Keyamo to come forward to adopt his petition. Keyamo is also to help the CCB secure the presence of the whistleblower, Mr. Michael Achimugu, to assist in the investigation.
Earlier in the year, Keyamo, who was spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, filed a suit seeking that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrest Atiku.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) joined the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Related Commission (ICPC) and CCB in the suit, which was filed after a 72-hour ultimatum he gave elapsed.
Keyamo, in a letter dated January 16 and addressed to the chairmen of EFCC, ICPC and CCB, said Atiku should be arrested and prosecuted for alleged offences against the code of conduct for public officers, money laundering, criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation and conspiracy.
Keyamo made the demand following the controversial videos released by Achimugu, a former aide of Atiku. In the videos, Achimugu made several allegations against the PDP presidential candidate.
He had claimed that between 1999 and 2007 when Atiku was Vice President, he colluded with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to fleece the country using what he termed “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs).
Keyamo asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to compel the anti-graft agencies to investigate the matter and prosecute Atiku.