In
 defence of the innocent

- By Tony Momoh

Source: huhuonline.com
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With the volume of material organised on the net to divert
attention from the disaster that was the 2011 elections in Nigeria in April, the world has
come to associate the violence in the country with the Congress for Progressive
Change

. And as the national chairman of the party, I have always said that this
perception is unfortunate. 

What should 
be done about perceptions, and no more, is to provide for the one 'perceiving'
that volume of material you have to 'persuade' them to see what is happening
from your point of view.  I believe that
any opportunity to do so should be taken. 

That was what advised the CPC appearance at the Federal
Government's investigation panel on the 2011 election violence and civil
disturbances on Friday August 12, 2011. I had received a letter of invitation
to address some issues reflected in the panel's terms of reference and the
argument had been raised as to whether or not we should appear at the body we
believed the federal government had no constitutional right to set up.  I had no difficulty at all opting to appear
at that forum where I believed that in spite of our doubts, there are
personages that have, at whatever cost, a name to protect. 

If they saw facts we were going to present,
they would be persuaded that yes these much maligned people of the Congress for
Progressive  Change may be innocent of
the allegations heaped on them that they were the cause of the mayhem and
destructions that we saw during the April elections.

We therefore went to the International Conference Abuja on
Friday, April 12 at 10am, the time we were given.  There was a gentleman there waiting when we
arrived.  He was, as  I later discovered, a member of the PDP.  The party had been asked to appear the
previous day, but they had not shown up!  They had arrived, through the presence of just the one man, to be heard
by the panel but the panel said there were six groups to be taken that day and
that the party should be slotted for another day. 

The gentleman opted to leave the paper he had
brought to present, left it and left.  

Well, not so with the CPC. We arrived with a team of
officials of the party led by me.  The
National Secretary, Engr. Buba Galadima, was there.  So also were the Deputy National Secretary,
Barr. Okoi Obono-Obla; the National Treasurer, Hajia  Sadiya Umar Farouq, the National Publicity
Secretary, Engr. Rotimi Fashakin, and the Chief of Staff to the National
Chairman, Alhaji Garba Gadi. We had a 24-paged memorandum we had prepared
within one week, with six annexures. 

We
 took along a projector to show the panel the unpublished evidence of brutality
of security agents during the campaigns and the elections. 

We had an hour to make the appearance but I pleaded that one
hour was not enough for us to speak on issues as varied as those listed under
the terms of reference.  The fact was not
that we were going to address all the issues, but that we had facts to present
to fully make a case that the Congress for Progressive Change was not a violent
party, nor did it or does it endorse violence in any form.  We wanted to show that right from the April 2
National Assembly election that was aborted, to the eve of the gubernatorial
and state assembly elections of April 26 that were held under curfews in the
north, we documented our observations to INEC and had reactions from them.

I 
packaged 11 such correspondences that included press conferences and press
statements.   

We were also prepared to make a presentation on the way
forward, and this we anchored on sections 14 and 17 of the Constitution.  Section 14 says that the federal republic is
based on the principles of  democracy and
social justice.  Sovereignty, it says
belongs to the people of Nigeria
and what we have in the Constitution is those powers and authority the people
have conceded to government. 

Section
 17 says the state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and
justice, and is specific that every citizen 'shall have equality of rights,
obligations and opportunities before the law'.  We would tell of the difference between a country OF laws and a country
 WITH laws.  The latter is what Nigeria
has, where there are  volumes of laws
that are never enforced or whose enforcement is selective in the extreme. In a
country OF laws, every citizen is equal in the eyes of the law.

Since the way forward would include the operation of the
democracy we have opted for, we were going to say that the provisions of
section 14 which identified our choice of democracy and social justice as the
guiding light, posed a problem of choice of emphasis on whether to fund
democracy more than social justice or vice versa.  Since social justice can only be accessed
through welfare and security of the citizens, anyone preoccupied with the
full-blown operation of democracy to the detriment of growing the polity would
be putting the cart before the horse.  

Making governance a business as we had been doing would therefore be
seriously revisited to heavily reduce the cost of doing so.

So before we started our presentation, we asked for an
extension of time.  We did have time to
make our case forcefully that we did not encourage the violence that erupted
after the declaration of the presidential results of the election held on April
16.  The material emerging at the
tribunals all over show that we were not just shouting wolf when we pleaded
that issues being raised during the election be seriously addressed. Who would
have believed that people who wanted to win elections were so desperate that in
Kebbi, they loaded the ballot boxes with fake papers, including FEDECO ballot
papers!

  


We started with a caveat which we listed as an addendum at
the end of the paper we gave. This is what we said:   'The terms of reference of this Panel are
encompassing and broad. Even the name of the Panel gives the impression that
this Panel is an 'Investigative Panel' set up to investigate the commission of
crime committed during the crisis that erupted after the Presidential Election.  

We
are at a loss on whether or not this Panel by law has the power to investigate
crimes, when the Nigeria Police Force is the only statutory body vested with
the power to investigate crimes such as Possession of Firearms, Assault, Arson,
Murder (homicide) etc.

We wonder aloud if the President has such power to set
up a Panel to investigate events that occurred in Kano,
Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Nassarawa etc outside the
jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory,
Abuja. 
ʉ۬We
are also worried that certain people who have taken strong position and
declared support for or against some Candidates in respect of the Presidential
Election are members of this Panel.

We just hope these people would not allow
their prejudice to becloud their position that ought to be impartial and
neutral. 
 â€¨Be
that as it may, we are ready to cooperate with this Panel to the best of our
ability. We are happy that this Panel would afford our Party (CPC) an
opportunity to be heard concerning the violence and civil disturbances that
erupted after the election because there has been invidious propaganda peddled
in newspapers sympathetic to the Federal Government and other vested interests
that the violence was instigated, masterminded and funded by the CPC.' 
 


For the record we  published the memo we presented at the panel sitting. See my Blog of
Saturday, August 13 at www.tonymomoh.com http://www.tonymomoh.com/ 

Prince
Tony Momoh, National Chairman, Congress for Progressive Change, 1132 Festus
Okotie Eboh Crescent, Utako District, Abuja