Inâ€¨ defence of the innocentâ€¨â€¨- By Tony Momoh
With the volume of material organised on the net to divertâ€¨attention from the disaster that was the 2011 elections in Nigeria in April, the world hasâ€¨come to associate the violence in the country with the Congress for Progressiveâ€¨Change
. And as the national chairman of the party, I have always said that thisâ€¨perception is unfortunate.
What should â€¨be done about perceptions, and no more, is to provide for the one 'perceiving'â€¨that volume of material you have to 'persuade' them to see what is happeningâ€¨from your point of view. I believe thatâ€¨any opportunity to do so should be taken. â€¨â€¨That was what advised the CPC appearance at the Federalâ€¨Government's investigation panel on the 2011 election violence and civilâ€¨disturbances on Friday August 12, 2011. I had received a letter of invitationâ€¨to address some issues reflected in the panel's terms of reference and theâ€¨argument had been raised as to whether or not we should appear at the body weâ€¨believed the federal government had no constitutional right to set up. I had no difficulty at all opting to appearâ€¨at that forum where I believed that in spite of our doubts, there areâ€¨personages that have, at whatever cost, a name to protect.
If they saw facts we were going to present,â€¨they would be persuaded that yes these much maligned people of the Congress forâ€¨Progressive Change may be innocent ofâ€¨the allegations heaped on them that they were the cause of the mayhem andâ€¨destructions that we saw during the April elections.â€¨â€¨We therefore went to the International Conference Abuja onâ€¨Friday, April 12 at 10am, the time we were given. There was a gentleman there waiting when weâ€¨arrived. He was, as I later discovered, a member of the PDP. The party had been asked to appear theâ€¨previous day, but they had not shown up! They had arrived, through the presence of just the one man, to be heardâ€¨by the panel but the panel said there were six groups to be taken that day andâ€¨that the party should be slotted for another day.
The gentleman opted to leave the paper he hadâ€¨brought to present, left it and left. â€¨â€¨Well, not so with the CPC. We arrived with a team ofâ€¨officials of the party led by me. Theâ€¨National Secretary, Engr. Buba Galadima, was there. So also were the Deputy National Secretary,â€¨Barr. Okoi Obono-Obla; the National Treasurer, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, the National Publicityâ€¨Secretary, Engr. Rotimi Fashakin, and the Chief of Staff to the Nationalâ€¨Chairman, Alhaji Garba Gadi. We had a 24-paged memorandum we had preparedâ€¨within one week, with six annexures.
Weâ€¨ took along a projector to show the panel the unpublished evidence of brutalityâ€¨of security agents during the campaigns and the elections. â€¨â€¨We had an hour to make the appearance but I pleaded that oneâ€¨hour was not enough for us to speak on issues as varied as those listed underâ€¨the terms of reference. The fact was notâ€¨that we were going to address all the issues, but that we had facts to presentâ€¨to fully make a case that the Congress for Progressive Change was not a violentâ€¨party, nor did it or does it endorse violence in any form. We wanted to show that right from the April 2â€¨National Assembly election that was aborted, to the eve of the gubernatorialâ€¨and state assembly elections of April 26 that were held under curfews in theâ€¨north, we documented our observations to INEC and had reactions from them.
I â€¨packaged 11 such correspondences that included press conferences and pressâ€¨statements. â€¨â€¨We were also prepared to make a presentation on the wayâ€¨forward, and this we anchored on sections 14 and 17 of the Constitution. Section 14 says that the federal republic isâ€¨based on the principles of democracy andâ€¨social justice. Sovereignty, it saysâ€¨belongs to the people of Nigeriaâ€¨and what we have in the Constitution is those powers and authority the peopleâ€¨have conceded to government.
Sectionâ€¨ 17 says the state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality andâ€¨justice, and is specific that every citizen 'shall have equality of rights,â€¨obligations and opportunities before the law'. We would tell of the difference between a country OF laws and a countryâ€¨ WITH laws. The latter is what Nigeriaâ€¨has, where there are volumes of lawsâ€¨that are never enforced or whose enforcement is selective in the extreme. In aâ€¨country OF laws, every citizen is equal in the eyes of the law.â€¨â€¨Since the way forward would include the operation of theâ€¨democracy we have opted for, we were going to say that the provisions ofâ€¨section 14 which identified our choice of democracy and social justice as theâ€¨guiding light, posed a problem of choice of emphasis on whether to fundâ€¨democracy more than social justice or vice versa. Since social justice can only be accessedâ€¨through welfare and security of the citizens, anyone preoccupied with theâ€¨full-blown operation of democracy to the detriment of growing the polity wouldâ€¨be putting the cart before the horse.
Making governance a business as we had been doing would therefore beâ€¨seriously revisited to heavily reduce the cost of doing so.â€¨â€¨So before we started our presentation, we asked for anâ€¨extension of time. We did have time toâ€¨make our case forcefully that we did not encourage the violence that eruptedâ€¨after the declaration of the presidential results of the election held on Aprilâ€¨16. The material emerging at theâ€¨tribunals all over show that we were not just shouting wolf when we pleadedâ€¨that issues being raised during the election be seriously addressed. Who wouldâ€¨have believed that people who wanted to win elections were so desperate that inâ€¨Kebbi, they loaded the ballot boxes with fake papers, including FEDECO ballotâ€¨papers!â€¨â€¨ â€¨
We started with a caveat which we listed as an addendum atâ€¨the end of the paper we gave. This is what we said: 'The terms of reference of this Panel areâ€¨encompassing and broad. Even the name of the Panel gives the impression thatâ€¨this Panel is an 'Investigative Panel' set up to investigate the commission ofâ€¨crime committed during the crisis that erupted after the Presidential Election. â€¨â€¨Weâ€¨are at a loss on whether or not this Panel by law has the power to investigateâ€¨crimes, when the Nigeria Police Force is the only statutory body vested withâ€¨the power to investigate crimes such as Possession of Firearms, Assault, Arson,â€¨Murder (homicide) etc.
We wonder aloud if the President has such power to setâ€¨up a Panel to investigate events that occurred in Kano,â€¨Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Nassarawa etc outside theâ€¨jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory,â€¨Abuja. â€¨ â€¨Weâ€¨are also worried that certain people who have taken strong position andâ€¨declared support for or against some Candidates in respect of the Presidentialâ€¨Election are members of this Panel.
We just hope these people would not allowâ€¨their prejudice to becloud their position that ought to be impartial andâ€¨neutral. â€¨ â€¨Beâ€¨that as it may, we are ready to cooperate with this Panel to the best of ourâ€¨ability. We are happy that this Panel would afford our Party (CPC) anâ€¨opportunity to be heard concerning the violence and civil disturbances thatâ€¨erupted after the election because there has been invidious propaganda peddledâ€¨in newspapers sympathetic to the Federal Government and other vested interestsâ€¨that the violence was instigated, masterminded and funded by the CPC.' â€¨
â€¨For the record we published the memo we presented at the panel sitting. See my Blog ofâ€¨Saturday, August 13 at www.tonymomoh.com http://www.tonymomoh.com/ â€¨â€¨Princeâ€¨Tony Momoh, National Chairman, Congress for Progressive Change, 1132 Festusâ€¨Okotie Eboh Crescent, Utako District, Abuja