Flirting with Anarchy, Elevating Impunity to an Art of Statecraft

Being text of State of the Nation address delivered by the Chairman of
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Comrade Zikirullahi M. Ibrahim at a World Press Conference Held At Pauliham Hotel and Resorts, Gwarimpa Abuja on Thursday, November 27, 2014.

Invited guests, gentlemen of the Press.

It is with great pleasure that I warmly welcome you to this World Press
Conference on the State of the Nation. The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of over 450 civil society organisations formed in 1998, is
disturbed by certain unsavoury events that have happened in the Nigerian
polity in recent times. It is to make our position known and make
recommendations on the way forward that we have deemed it necessary to
convene today’s briefing.

A cursory excursion down the lane of our collective memory as Nigerians is
bound to throw up the realities of pain and sacrifices made by the real
heroes of our democracy. I am talking of the men and women who in those dark days of military adventurism into the political space, stood their ground to ensure the nation returns to civilian rule. The present democratic
dispensation, its flaws notwithstanding, is the result of the collective
struggles of the Nigerian people to free themselves from the shackles of
repressive military rule.

Although there has been very little to celebrate after 15 years of this
democratic experience, the Nigerian people are still hopeful that the true
manifestation of the government of the people by the people for the people,
remains the vehicle for the achievement of our national developmental
objectives. As such, in spite of the poverty, chronic youth unemployment,
economic stagnation and the general state of anomie pervading the land, we are convinced that the Nigerian people will ultimately take their collective destiny in their hands by liberating their country from bad, corrupt and an inept political leadership.

Knowing that democracy should ultimately be the vehicle for the people to
liberate themselves from the present rudderless order, we frown at and
denounce all actions that attempt to subvert democracy. It is the biggest
irony that the very beneficiaries of our nascent democracy won through the
blood, tears and sweat of Nigerians, are the ones pushing the system to the
brink.

Invasion of the National Assembly

TMG condemns in the strongest possible terms the November 20, 2014 invasion of the National Assembly by policemen and other armed security agents. To say the least, that action of November 20 would go down in history as one of the most ignoble attempts to subvert democracy and the principle of separation of powers. Those who ordered the ill-advised clamp down on the National Assembly should be made to know that their action was a declaration of war against the Nigerian people.

For the avoidance of doubt, the National Assembly is the custodian of the
mandate of elected representatives of all peoples from across Nigeria. It is
the hallowed ground which is supposedly a spring-well from which laws that
govern the people of Nigeria are fetched. Thus, it beats our imagination
that anyone with an understanding of the sacredness of this institution
would order the kind of shameful assault, including the tear gassing of
lawmakers.

TMG also takes serious exception to the action of a few thoughtless entities
within the executive who have by their impunity made Nigeria a laughing
stock in the international community.

TMG frowns at the might is right approach, which has been deployed in
apparent pursuit of what looks more like vendetta. We are not in doubt that
the issue of the defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives
from the ruling party to the opposition, is a matter for a court of
competent jurisdiction to decide on.

The police action of November 20, amounts to a patent illegality, a clear
case of an institution of the state taking the laws into its own hands and
resorting to self-help. It calls to question the ability and credibility of
the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, to police the forth coming
elections. To say the least, his actions since inception have shown
partisanship, and the fact that he has become a ready tool in the hands of
the ruling party.

Invasion of All Progressive Congress (APC) Data Centre

As if the impunity at the National Assembly was not enough desecration of
the democratic space, the attention of the public was again drawn to the
invasion of the opposition APC data office in Lagos. While we cannot say
that security agencies should not do their legitimate duty, we frown at all
forms of illegality even in the line of duty.

If the security agencies believe that the said building was been used for
illegal activities, the procedure would be to obtain a search warrant or a
court order before any takeover of the building can be effected. It is the
law, and no one or institution is above the law. It again amounts to
thinking that the security agencies are above the law, when they take
actions outside the law. Also, those who wield the coercive powers of the
state must not be seen to descend into the political arena. The moment that
is allowed, it becomes an open invitation to anarchy.

We therefore call on the security agencies to understand that their ultimate
duty is to the Nigerian people, and not to sheepishly follow every whim of
the government of the day. Security agents must be able to decipher between lawful orders and orders that are capable of throwing the nation into a state of confusion.

Absurd Mathematics in Ekiti State House of Assembly

Similarly, TMG is appalled by the current absurdity going on in the Ekiti
State House of Assembly. From the way events have been playing out, it is
clear that desperation and recklessness have become the name of the game. We cannot understand how mature men and women who are supposed to be lawmakers would descend so low as to publicly engage in actions that invite the conclusion that majority of our politicians require psychiatric help.

Strangely, in a legislative body of 26 members, wherein 18 is the least
needed to remove the Speaker, seven legislators are purporting to have
removed the Assembly speaker. While we are not interested in the partisan
bickering, we find this absurd mathematics in Ekiti worrisome. Apart from
being a criminal subversion of due process, it debases the people of a state
reputed as the nation’s fountain of knowledge. Furthermore, this kind of
attitude makes mockery of the essence of democracy, which is a game of
numbers by the majority.

Unfortunately, the police, which should have intervened to end this
disgraceful conduct is babysitting the gangsters that are perpetrating the
absurdity. TMG takes exception to this state of affairs and condemns this
gangster approach to politics as well as the complicity of the law
enforcement agents. TMG calls for immediate exhibition of decorum by the
elected Ekiti legislators as their place of service is to the masses that
elected them and not for their selfish political gains.

2015 General Elections

With less than eight weeks to the 2015 general elections, TMG notes with
concern that the polity has been fouled up by violent and inciting rhetoric.
We note concern that political actors who should be at the vanguard of
stabilizing the system are openly pushing people into violent acts by their
extreme posturing.

In this regard, we flay the “crush the cockroaches” hate speech as credited
to the Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema. On the whole, we are
convinced that now is the time for all actors in the political terrain to be
mindful of their utterances especially as the country is already stretched
by dastardly reality of political and sectarian violence. All those making
inflammatory comments capable of stoking passions and causing disorder
should know that they would be held accountable for whatever heinous roles they play.

On Insecurity in the North East

TMG notes with a deep sense of concern the unending waves of attacks being carried out by the Boko Haram sect in the North East. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have either been killed, maimed or displaced by the reality of the insurgency. We are saddened and disturbed by the further humiliations that all Nigerians have suffered as a result of the tendency of a number of our troops to run, rather than stand and fight the insurgents. We commend the gallantry and raw bravery of local hunters and vigilante groups in Adamawa who helped liberate a number of towns taken over by the insurgents in recent times.

The daring and successful counter offensive by these local groups against
the terrorists makes it abundantly clear that it is possible to rout the
insurgents and restore peace. We remain convinced that the welfare and
security of the citizens remain the primary purpose of government. We
therefore call on the government to stop abdicating its responsibility in
the face of the audacious redesigning of Nigerian territory by Boko Haram.

On the realm of strategy, we call on those handling this war on the side of
the government to live up to their epaulets by ensuring every part of the
country becomes safe for all Nigerians. To us at TMG, this unending assault
on the sanctity of human life on Nigerian soil is unacceptable. It is the
responsibility of the government to stem the tide, but to our consternation,
the government has looked weak and bereft of ideas, as the terrorists have a field day. No case exemplifies this more than the fact that so close to
Christmas, the over 200 Chibok girls abducted in April are yet to be
rescued.

The Economy

Just a few months ago, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan
informed the world that the Nigerian economy had been rebased. It claimed
that Nigeria had emerged as the number one economy on the African continent, beating South Africa and others.

We knew that there were no indices to substantiate this claim. It was
nothing but the usual government propaganda similar to the negotiated
ceasefire with Boko Haram which resulted in a false promise about releasing
the over 200 abducted Chibok girls.

Just last week, the government announced austerity measures to cushion the downward trends of the economy. It sought to withdraw over 50 percent of our external reserve and further devalue the Naira. Government is also looking at increasing prices of petroleum products. Ordinary Nigerians would be the most affected by these policies.

TMG is of the belief that this government has completely run out of ideas
about revamping the nation’s ailing economy. We reaffirm our position that
until massive corruption is tackled by government, Nigerians won’t benefit
from the wealth of the nation.

INEC Preparations

TMG calls on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to be more forth
coming with explanations about its preparation for the 2015 general
elections. It is not enough for the commission to say its preparations are
in top shape. The commission must be willing to share the details of its
plans, so that Nigerians can be carried along well enough.

We note with concern the problems that dogged the distribution of the
Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and the Continuous Voter Registration ((CVR). TMG notes that a number of these critical processes have not been concluded so close to the elections.

As we speak, we await the final voter register for the 2015 elections, just
as we wonder when those who are registering now in the CRV will get their
PVCs. Knowing that it took several months, if not years for those who
registered in 2011 to get their PVCs, we wonder how those just registering
now will get theirs’ weeks to the elections. Bearing in mind the fact that
without the PVCs, eligible voters will be denied the opportunity to exercise
their franchise, we call on INEC to ensure that no eligible voter who has
registered is denied the opportunity.

We believe Nigerians are itching to know how far the commission has gone
with printing of ballot papers, the state of card readers, preparations for
logistics amongst a host of other issues. While we have no cause to doubt
the commitment of Professor Attahiru Jega to conducting a free fair and
credible election, we call on the INEC leadership to be much more forth
coming regarding progress so far, and the challenges ahead. This way,
Nigerians can better appreciate what is on the ground, and how to adjust in
the face of eventualities. In the end, free, fair, transparent and credible
elections are non-negotiable in the eyes and minds of all Nigerians.

TMG’s Plans For 2015

As Nigeria’s flagship election observation and civic education coalition,
TMG would be actively on ground to observe the 2015 elections. In the run up to the polls, we have been engaged in monitoring the pre-election
environment within the context of our early warning system for violence
prevention.

Reporting cases of violence or early indicators that a situation may become
violent during the 2015 electoral process and receiving early responses from
relevant authorities is expected to mitigate electoral violence and
facilitate peaceful elections next year. The first report from our
monitoring of the pre-election environment in the build up to the 2015 polls
will be released next week.

For the Presidential Elections of February 14, 2015, TMG will be deploying
the Quick Count methodology. The Quick Count methodology, also known as the Parallel Vote Tabulation, is a gold standard for verifying the accuracy of elections. TMG will verify the outcomes of the 2015 polls using this widely
tested method. Processes to be assessed include; opening of polling units,
voter accreditation, voting, sorting, counting, announcement of results
amongst other aspects of the Election Day procedures.

Through the TMG Quick Count, non-partisan citizen observers will deploy to a random, representative sample of polling units across the country to report on the opening, accreditation, voting and counting processes during Election Day, as well as collect voting results. The heart of the Quick Count rests on establishing a representative, random sample of polling units. TMG will thus deploy observers to all 774 LGAs – whether this means traveling to the most inaccessible riverine areas or to the most remote desert villages – to maximize geographic coverage to analyse the election.

All of these, we believe will help ensure transparent elections, which would
allow for the supremacy of the voices of the Nigerian people come 2015.

Let me use this opportunity to profusely thank all our donors; the National
Democratic Institute, the United States International Development Agency
(USAID), Department for International Development (DFID), MacArthur
Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP/DGD) for their support to TMG.

Long live the flagship of Nigeria election observation, the TMG; and long
live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

For media enquiries, please contact TMG Media Manager, Armsfree Ajanaku on 07033865138 or email: media@tmgng.org

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