By Emma Ujah, Clifford Ndujihe & Henry Umoru
LAGOS—INTRIGUES and controversies trailing Independence Day twin bomb blasts in Abuja, assumed a new dimension, yesterday, with the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, asking President Goodluck Jonathan to resign within seven days.
They said in a statement signed by Alhaji Adamu Ciroma and Madakin Fika, that if he failed to resign within168 hours, they would ask the North-dominated National Assembly to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.
Their reason: “The President has proven that he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly and that he is desperate enough to want to hang mass murder around the neck of unnamed Northerners to achieve his second term..”
Security agencies had arrested and released Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who is Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s presidential campaign director over alleged text messages in connection with the blasts.
The NPLF has remained resolute in its support for retention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, zoning formula and for power to remain in the North. It had on many occasions asked President Jonathan not to contest the 2011 polls.
In the 13-paragraph statement, the NPLF condemned the bomb blasts and urged the fishing out and prosecution of the perpetrators. It said that militants who failed to take advantage of the amnesty programme initiated by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and were still holding the nation to ransom should be met fire-for fire.
Wondering why the President was exonerating the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, which claimed responsibility for the blasts, they noted: “We would like to state, for the umpteenth time, that President Goodluck Jonathan’s desperation to be President again in 2011 can only take Nigeria back to the dark days of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Third Term with all its attendant instability and the wasting of innocent civilians’ lives.
“Now that the President has proven that he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly and that he is desperate enough to want to hang mass murder around the neck of unnamed Northerners to achieve his second term, we as citizens of this country have totally lost confidence in his leadership and hereby call on him to immediately resign.
“If he fails to do so by the end of the week, we call on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him with immediate effect. We state, without any equivocation that, as Northerners and as citizens of this country, we no longer feel safe and secure under his leadership.”
The statement read in part: “The attacks took place while the heads of state and government of several African and other countries were seated in Eagle Square to celebrate our 50th Independence Anniversary with us and while the attention of the whole world was upon us. It was clearly meant to embarrass the nation and its people and to give the rest of the world the false impression that Nigeria is on the verge of a violent political conflagration ahead of the general elections of 2011. It was also meant to intimidate the international community that Niger Delta criminal gangs have the capability to influence political outcomes beyond their traditional area of influence.
“It is regrettable that these bombs were allowed to go off given that the nation’s security organizations had admitted that they were forewarned by foreign intelligence organizations and by the bombers themselves. It is also unfortunate that the bombings followed recent changes in the leadership of the nation’s first line of defence - the armed forces, the police force and State Security Service.
“We in the Northern Political Leaders Forum condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this callous and barbaric act of cruelty and cowardice, perpetrated by a group of people steeped in the culture of terrorism and unbridled violence.
We condemn all those who give them shelter or comfort under any guise and call on all law-abiding and peace loving Nigerians to raise their collective voice against this violent group, its method and motive. We call on the Federal Government and the nation’s law enforcement agencies to pursue these common criminals masquerading as militants with all the resources at their disposal and bring each and every one of them to justice for the crime of murder and for taking arms against the State.
“We seize this opportunity to offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this dastardly act and pray for the repose of the souls of their loved ones. We call on the Federal Government to pay compensation to the families of the victims for its failure to prevent this attack in spite of multiple warnings, including several from the perpetrators themselves.
We pray for the quick recovery of the injured and call on the Federal Government to, in addition to settling their medical bills, offer them the services of expert counselling in order to assist them recover psychologically from this harrowing ordeal. May this kind of tragedy never be allowed to happen to this country again.
“The tragedy of October 1st has opened yet another ugly chapter in the history of our nation whereby, for the first time, innocent civilians and the nation’s capital were simultaneously targeted and bombed by a notoriously violent terrorist group. The implications of this act to the security, peace and stability of the Nigerian State are so grave that no matter the motive(s) of the bombers, they must be hunted down, apprehended and punished for their dastardly act. If they are allowed to go unpunished, as they have been in the past, Nigeria and Nigerians may never see peace again as the spectre of kidnapping, which emanated from the activities of criminal gangs in the Niger Delta continue to illustrate.
“ It is on record that the Amnesty Programme of President Umaru ‘Yar’Adua included a definite deadline within which all Niger Delta insurgents were to lay down their arms. Any individual or group that failed to take advantage of the Amnesty Programme must no longer be allowed to hide behind the guise of militant agitation to take innocent lives and must be considered and classified as terrorist. There is no longer room for semantics over Niger Delta militants and terrorists.
“That is why it came as a rude shock to the nation when President Goodluck Jonathan declared, only hours after the Abuja bombs that killed and maimed innocent civilians that MEND, the criminal group that took responsibility for the bombings, was not to blame. Not only that, the President was also quoted as saying that he knew who the bombers were and that they were terrorists, not MEND, a distinction which reveals where the President’s sympathies lie. In a curious reversal of roles, the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who swore to an oath to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to protect the lives and property of its citizens has found himself, instead, going the extra mile to absolve from culpability, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“Even more disturbing was the declaration by the President, only hours into the bombing investigations, that he knew who the attackers were. Is President Goodluck Jonathan a closet member of MEND or is there more to the President’s curious posture than meets the eye?
“Just before this statement was due to be released to the media, the answer to the second question began to emerge. The Department of State Security finally succumbed to political pressure from the President himself and followed in the footsteps of the EFCC to target the President’s political opponents. On Monday October 5th, we received news that High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of DAAR Communications and Director-General of General Ibrahim Babangida’s Presidential Campaign Organization, has been arrested by the SSS in connection with the bombings of October 1st. Last night (Monday) NTA’s 9 O’clock news was interrupted, for effect, to broadcast the purported connection between the High Chief, General Babangida’s presidential campaign and the bombers in a desperate attempt to validate President Jonathan’s hasty investigations and prove his predetermined theory right. "
IBB, Atiku, Gusau, Saraki ask Jonathan to stop politics of impunity
Meanwhile, presidential aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from the North told President Goodluck Jonathan that they would not be deterred by what they described as politics of impunity, silence, fear, intimidation and harassment.
The aspirants, former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, immediate past National Security Adviser to the President, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau and Kwara State Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki; also jointly condemned the arrest of the Director-General, IBB 2011 Presidential Campaign Organization, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
The PDP aspirants warned that the nation’s constitutional democracy was under threat given “the increasingly desperate, intolerant and arbitrary manner the government of President Jonathan is handling issues of National Security and the respect of the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Crude violation of right
They noted: “Our laws have no provision for fascism or a Gestapo-style, crude violation of rights and freedom of political opponents, in the same way that the nation cannot be governed via curious, hasty, disconnected and disorganized policy statement and incoherent actions. We wish to play the politics of ideas and issues, and not the politics of impunity and intolerance. The defense of Nigerian democracy, its constitutional provisions and the rights and freedom of all our people is the collective responsibility of all. And this we pledge to collectively do.”
In a joint statement issued at the end of their meeting, Senator Ben Obi, the Director-General of the General Aliyu Gusau Campaign Organization; Mr. Chris Mammah, Director-General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization; Dr. Udenta O. Udenta of the Governor Abubakar Bukola Saraki Campaign Organization and Senator Kanti Bello of the IBB Campaign Organization condemned the arrest of Chief Raymond Dokpesi by the State Security Services and his link with the independence day bomb blast.
The aspirants who condemned the bomb blast in the statement and fraternized with the victims and families of the blast, however, insisted that it was wrong for President Goodluck Jonathan to use state apparatus to hunt perceived political opponents, adding that Dokpesi’s arrest was uncalled for.
According to them, the recourse to demonize Dopkesi and the IBB’s campaign as well as put him in the category of terrorists, “is but a small part of an escalating culture of impunity, recklessness, intolerance and arbitrariness with which the federal government is associated with.