Abuja, Kaduna — The presidency yesterday accused some religious and political leaders of plotting to forcibly remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office, warning that it would thwart the moves and ruffle some unruly feathers in the process.
The presidency, however, came under fire as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in separate reactions dismissed the allegation.
The main opposition party described the allegation as a resort to blackmail in the face of the failure of the Buhari administration.
Afenifere said Buhari had lost control of the country’s leadership, adding that nobody needs to pass a vote of no confidence in him before the world knows that he has failed Nigerians.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in a statement that available evidence indicated that some disgruntled religious and past political leaders are poised to throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel an undemocratic change of leadership.
Adesina’s statement came a day after the Department of State Services (DSS) alleged that some “misguided elements” were threatening Nigeria’s unity and peaceful co-existence.
DSS spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, in a statement on Monday, had said that among those threatening the federal government and Nigeria’s unity are “some religious and past political leaders who have either called for a forceful change of government or mass action against it.”
The presidency in a reaction to the DSS yesterday said there is proof that the disruptive elements are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians round the country, with the intention of convening some sort of a conference, where a vote of no confidence would be passed on the president, thus throwing the land into turmoil.
It stated: “The caterwauling, in recent times, by these elements, is to prepare the grounds adequately for their ignoble intentions, which are designed to cause further grief for the country. The agent provocateurs hope to achieve through artifice and sleight of hands, what they failed to do through the ballot box in the 2019 elections.”
It added that Nigerians have opted for democratic rule since 1999 and the only accepted way to change a democratically elected government is through elections, “which hold at prescribed times in the country as any other way is patently illegal, and even treasonable. Of course, such would attract the necessary consequences.”
The presidency also accused external forces of collaborating with some individuals and groups to cause crisis in the country and warned that it will not take kindly to such moves.
“These discredited individuals and groups are also in cahoots with external forces to cause maximum damage in their own country. But the presidency, already vested with mandate and authority by Nigerians till 2023, pledges to keep the country together, even if some unruly feathers would be ruffled in the process,” it said.
But some analysts told THISDAY last night that the presidency might have been reacting to a grand move by some past leaders of the country to hold a conference to discuss the state of the nation, which they said had been hemmed by massive violence from non-state actors, including bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and separatist elements.
The conference being facilitated by a former head of state is expected to be attended by leaders of prominent regional political groups, civil society organisations, religious leaders and past political office holders.
The groundwork had reached an advanced stage and state intelligence agencies and the presidency, the analysts, said may have panicked in the fear that the conference in dissecting the litany of woes that have befallen the country may throw up conversations and conclusions that are certain to embarrass the Buhari administration.
This is Blackmail, PDP Fires Back
Reacting to the allegation, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed it, describing it as a resort to blackmail in the face of the failure of the Buhari administration.
The PDP said rather than live up to the responsibilities of office by taking charge and securing the nation, the presidency was engaging in frivolous allegations against Nigerians.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated that the Buhari presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are being haunted by their own shadows as Nigerians know the persons as well as the political party with the history and penchant to scuttle democratically-elected government.
The PDP said: “The presidency has forgotten that in 1983, Brigadier Muhammadu Buhari, as he was then known, led a military coup to truncate a democratically-elected government thereby causing our nation a huge drawback on democratic governance.
“Also, in 2015, the APC, which was hurriedly formulated, made itself available as a vehicle of brigandage to disrupt our political process by beguiling Nigerians and taking power through violence, propaganda and falsehood.
“Even in 2019, Nigerians will be quick to remember how the APC imported bandits, vandals and thugs from neighbouring countries, as political mercenaries, to unleash violence, disrupt our voting processes and muscle itself into power.”
The PDP urged the presidency and the APC to look inwards for those allegedly plotting to upturn democracy.
“Our party believes that the statement by the Buhari presidency is an attempt by the APC to heighten political tension in our country ahead of the 2023 election, having realised that they cannot face the people at the polls,” it added.
The PDP, however, advised the APC to know that such blackmail against Nigerians cannot work.
“For us in the PDP, our party will remain undeterred, alongside other patriotic Nigerians, in our commitment towards the sustenance and stability of our democracy as well as the unity and corporate existence of our country, Nigeria,” the PDP said.
Afenifere, ACF, PANDEF, CAN Dismiss allegation
Afenifere, ACF, PANDEF and the CAN also dismissed the allegation by the presidency that some religious and political leaders are part of a plot to overthrow Buhari.
The leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said Buhari had lost control of the country’s leadership, adding that nobody needs to pass a vote of no confidence in him before the whole world knows that he has failed Nigerians.
He stated that given Buhari’s poor performance, there is no need for any group to “gather anywhere to pass a vote of no confidence in him.”
Adebanjo, who described the 1999 Constitution as a fraud, also urged the president to, as a matter of urgency, return the 1964 Constitution agreed on by the founding fathers of Nigeria, including the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
He said: “Who is interested in passing vote of no confidence in Buhari? Who has confidence in Buhari before let alone pass any vote of no confidence in him? That is not the issue. The main thing is to restructure the country back to federalism and forget all these gossips by Adesina. We don’t have to pass a vote of no confidence for the world to know we don’t have any confidence in Buhari.
“I don’t know of any group who wants to take over the government, but I know those of us who want the country to be restructured in a peaceful manner.
“Those of us in Afenifere and all other groups in the South who are agitating for restructuring are the friends of Nigeria, are the friends of Buhari. I hope it is not too late for Buhari to realise this.”
ACF also said it was wrong for the presidency to see all its critics as disgruntled people with ulterior motives.
The spokesman of the ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, told THISDAY that the presidency should be broad-minded and tolerate all shades of opinions.
According to him, many criticisms against the government are done in good faith to help improve the situation in the country.
He said: “Many criticisms are done in good faith and if acted upon will help improve the situation in the country.
“It is wrong to see all critics as disgruntled, religious and past political leaders with dark motives. Some of them mean well for the government and the country.”
Also, the Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of CAN, Rev. Joseph Hayab, said the president and his team were becoming confused.
He stated: “The president and his team have gone blind and confused since in their world view, Rev. Father Mbaka and others who are telling them the truth about what is happening in the country have now become enemies.
“You should know they have run out of excuses and have turned to blackmail even those who love them and want them to do what is good for the generality of Nigerians.
“Every religious leader who chooses to stand with the people and is demanding good governance is now disgruntled.”
The CAN chairman said the presidency needed “to pause a little and remember that these people whom they are calling names today stood with them and for them when those who think they know them more warned against it.”
He added: “Nigerians have since passed their vote on Buhari and his government after watching helplessly how bandits have taken over the country; our young university students are being killed and destroyed.”
Hayab appealed to those who are making statements on behalf of the presidency to be careful with their poor words and strive to win the support and confidence of the people with love and facts, not blackmail.
The Special Assistant to the CAN President on Media and Communications, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said beyond praying for things to get better, religious leaders reserved the right to criticise the authorities if they were not doing the right thing.
“If the government accused some religious and past political leaders of planning to remove President Muhammadu Buhari, in what ways has that concerned the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)? The biblical responsibilities of the church include but not limited to praying for those who are in the position of authority but to criticise when doing wrongs or performing below the average. Check the Bible; there was never a time a bad ruler was spared from criticism,” he said.
He stated that the government should pre-occupy itself with how best to tackle insecurity and ensure the wellbeing of the people.
“Our candid advice to the government is to find an answer to the menace of insecurity occasioned by the bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. The country is approaching the precipice and President Muhammadu Buhari is in the position of rescuing the country by stopping the unprecedented bloodshed.
“It is only the fool that goes to bed when his roof is on fire. Our members and non-members are being kidnapped and killed while the government appears helpless,” he said.
According to him, fixing the security challenges is beyond issuing press releases or threatening to deal with the criminals.
He stated that 24 hours after Buhari vowed never to tolerate any banditry attack on schools, the bandits struck, adding that the victims are still in captivity.
“What is the government doing to rescue the victims? Some university students who were kidnapped in Kaduna are being killed but the government is too busy threatening the critics. We advise the presidency to recall all the promises made by Buhari during the electioneering and what is happening under his watch. Until his government wakes up to its responsibilities, the church will not keep quiet,” he said.
In a reaction, PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Hon Ken Robinson, expressed shock that the presidency would under the prevailing situation of disastrous insecurity tag religious leaders and past political leaders “disgruntled.”
He said such a statement was the least expected from government.
The group urged the presidency to stop chasing shadows, stressing that Nigerians are anxious, troubled and many are becoming hopeless over the worsening insecurity, while the security agencies appear helpless and vulnerable.
PANDEF asked Buhari to involve all critical stakeholders nationwide in efforts at finding solutions to the problems facing the nation.
It said: “What we expect from President Muhammadu Buhari, at this time, is to rally all critical stakeholders, from all sectors and sections of the country, to build national consensus and fashion out collective and holistic ways to address the hybrid problems confronting the country. This is not the time for arbitrary statements.”