VOA News – Nigerian Vice President Warns of Threat to Democracy

1 Comment » February 24th, 2007 posted by // Categories: Favorite Articles



Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar says that his country is heading for autocracy and dictatorship unless voters support him in the upcoming presidential elections.

A frontrunner for the upcoming presidential elections, Atiku Abubakar is warning of serious consequences for the country’s democracy, calling the April elections a ‘do or die affair’.

Read More:http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-02-21-voa42.cfm

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One Response to “VOA News – Nigerian Vice President Warns of Threat to Democracy”

  1. NigerianMuse says:

    Challenges for Nigeria After the Election

    With corruption a major concern, the April election in Nigeria is shaping up to be highly controversial. HE Atiku Abubakar, Vice-President of Nigeria and one of the candidates, spoke on Tuesday, February 20, 2007, at Chatham House about the challenges of building a free and prosperous Nigeria.

    See pre-talk version of speech will be found in:

    http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/pdf/meeting_transcripts/200207abubakar.pdf

    Challenges for Nigeria after the elections

    by Atiku Abubakar

    Text of the Vice-President’s Speech at Chatham House on February 20, 2007

    The focus of my address this evening will be the challenges facing my nation, Nigeria, in this very important year where elections are scheduled to hold in April and how these may impact our attempts to build a strong, virile and prosperous country with a thriving economy, driven by an educated, skilled, and motivated workforce. I will also speak about our quest to enthrone a free, just and equitable society anchored on the principles and ethos of democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law in the face of numerous man-made obstacles that have been placed in the path of this quest.

    At the end of my discussion, I will be glad to answer any questions you may have for me.

    You will recall that, after many years of military dictatorship and autocratic rule, Nigeria returned to a democratic system of government in May 1999 with the election into office of President Olusegun Obasanjo, and my humble self, as President and Vice-President, respectively. At the time, our citizens and, indeed, our friends all over the world, expected that the return of democracy would deliver a better life for the people of Nigeria; we all expected that democracy itself would be deepened and institutionalised, and Nigeria would return to its pride of place in the comity of nations, and remain a shining example and a beacon of democracy and good governance in Africa.

    Today, however, the realities on the ground contrast sharply with the expectations we had when we commenced on this democratic path in May 1999. Today, the Nigerian state is not functioning properly and is in grave danger of failing as a nation-state. There has been a prolonged and sustained assault on Nigeria’s young democracy, its political structures, and the very institutions that support and nurture democracy, including the judiciary and the press. Concerted efforts have been underway, for some time now, to return the country to full-blown autocracy and dictatorship. Sadly, these efforts appear to be succeeding, in spite of the best efforts of some of us.

    We are witnesses to the intrigues, the subterfuge, and the machinations that have been employed in the run up to the April elections. We are confronted with a situation where our president, whose term of office will expire in May of this year, has called the upcoming elections "a do-or-die affair" for him and his political party rather than a free contest or a test of the acceptability of his party by Nigerians in the unfettered exercise of their constitutionally granted right to freely elect their leaders. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, what more evidence do we need that the April elections are not intended to be free or fair?

    Today, we are witnesses to a very bizarre order of things in the political, social and economic spheres of our polity. In the economic sphere, for example, the well conceived and well intentioned privatisation programme which was designed to transparently transfer state owned assets to private hands to ensure better service delivery has gradually been personalised and our prized economic assets and choice enterprises have been cornered and auctioned off to a tiny cabal of private sector interests closely associated, or in full partnership with, those in the corridors of power, with little or no pretence at due process or transparency. The very same people who wrongfully and maliciously accuse innocent people of wrongdoing in order to settle personal and political scores have turned around and used the privatisation programme to auction our crown jewels to themselves at rock-bottom prices.

    Similarly, the much-hyped economic reform programme has been turned on its head and has now become a weapon to inflict maximum anguish and suffering on the generality of Nigerians. An otherwise nationally beneficial programme that was devised to re-structure our economy and turn our fortunes round, has now being turned into a convenient tool of demagoguery and promoted as an article of faith, any variation from which is official apostasy.

    In the political sphere of things, the picture is murkier, ominous, and pathetic. Unfairness, injustice, desperation, blatant manipulation and intolerance are the philosophy of the day. The political space has been so fraudulently rigged and forcefully constricted that comparisons with the worst forms of military dictatorship now come to look very charitable. Those considered potential or real adversaries have been systematically and illegally purged from the ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, or from the political space completely. Everything foul and unfair has been done to stifle opposition within the party, whether such opposition was real or imagined. Candidates who are perceived to challenge the vested political interests of powerful persons and candidates who were lawfully nominated in their constituencies in fulfilment of due constitutional provisions have been branded as corrupt and are blackmailed with the odious toga of corruption. Those who are considered to be of no threat or are willing accomplices to the imposition of dictatorship are hailed as innocent. Opposition party politicians are not spared either.

    As if this brazen and illegal charade were not enough, some candidates will be publicly branded as corrupt and declared to be ineligible to contest the April elections one evening, only to emerge with the immaculate garb of innocence the next morning, all after very dubious backroom negotiations. Conversely, some politicians who have never held public office in their lives are publicly branded as corrupt and declared to be ineligible to contest the elections simply because they happen to express their desire to contest on the platform of parties other than a particular party, or they seek to run against certain candidates who have been anointed by the powers that be, or candidates who are family members of powerful elements in the ruling cabal. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of "do-or-die" democracy that someone insists must be imposed on our beloved country!

    In a nutshell, therefore, the greatest challenge facing Nigeria today in the run-up to the April elections is the looming dictatorship confronting us head-on. Unless we redouble our efforts to save our democracy and install a new kind of leadership, a listening leadership, a leadership that respects and holds sacrosanct the wishes and aspirations of all Nigerians, our country is clearly at a significant risk of a general breakdown of law and order and serious internal conflict. Most of us here are familiar with the debilitating crises that have befallen many an African country where people have been denied their sovereign right to choose whom to govern their affairs. We have seen in countries as varied as the Democratic Republic of Congo where a constitutional crisis between President Joseph Kassabuvu and Patrice Lumumba led to the emergence of Joseph Mobutu as temporary president for a 90 day term that became 32 years;

    Or Rwanda, where the reckless shooting down of 2 Hutu presidents triggered the most horrendous genocide witnessed in modern times; Or Ivory Coast, where the forced disqualification of Alhassan Ouattara from contesting the presidency has brought the once prosperous Ivory Coast, the icon of economic and cultural development in Africa to its present sorry state of near anarchy. All of these have resulted in one common phenomenon: the violent and explosive release of pent-up frustrations related to ethnicity, poverty and under-development, leading to a needless and senseless loss of lives and the stagnation and continued under-development of Africa. Little wonder, therefore, that Africa is the only continent that has become poorer in the last 25 years – all related to bad government and destructive politics.

    Nigeria cannot and must not be allowed to go down this path. We are already witnessing the gradual destruction of the ability of the State to hold society together, and an increasing tendency for Nigerians to resort to self-help remedies. Imagine, therefore, if a debilitating crisis were to occur as a result of the wilful refusal to allow our citizens to freely express themselves in the choice of their leaders. Imagine the devastating consequences of a refugee crisis in the West African region arising from the internal displacement of a huge number of people out of a population of over 140 million. Imagine the consequences of a further conflagration in the Niger Delta area in the event of controversial elections, or of no elections at all. Consider the resultant significant increase in the disruptions to oil flows and oil exports, and the continued reduction of Nigeria’s ability to produce its OPEC allotted quota of oil. This, of course, will further lead to a drastic downturn in Nigeria’s economy as a whole, the return of economic stagnation, and a reversal of the much touted economic reform programme.

    An unstable Nigeria will mean the loss of Nigeria’s ability to continue to act as a mediating influence in the West African region and the Gulf of Guinea, in particular, and the rest of Africa, in general. It will also limit the ability of Nigeria to continue to contribute to, and participate in, significant peace-keeping efforts on the African continent – which have helped bring peace to Liberia and Sierra Leone, for example.

    Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about the importance of the coming elections. It is the first election in our 47-year history that contemplates the handing over of the baton of office from one civilian president to another civilian president. This election is about change – change not only in our national leadership, but also change in how the rest of the world will view Nigeria from here on. Change not only in our party politics and politicking, but also change in our very country itself. As president, I will lead this change process.

    I will offer Nigeria a new kind of leadership. A leadership that is neither hampered nor constrained by the regressive politics of the past, nor the unproductive ideologies of the present. I am proven, committed, and experienced, and I know how to reinvent government to help solve the real problems facing our people today.

    I have been humbled by the ravages of debilitating poverty and I know what it means to go hungry. I have diligently served my country in the public sector for over 20 years before successfully venturing into private business and professional politics. I have over 20 years of cognate experience as a tested and committed democrat and politician, the last 8 years of which I have served as Vice-President of our country sometimes, even, under the most harrowing and trying of circumstances.

    I will provide more opportunity for the citizens of Nigeria, and create a greater sense of community for our country. I will be a leader that understands that power flows from the people and not the other way round; that leadership is a relationship, a partnership, a dialogue, not a monologue.

    Nigeria deserves a president who understands the vagaries, difficulties and hardships of the lives of the people of our country; a president who will work for the people of this country, and who will be relentless in his pursuit of creating opportunity for the majority of the people of this country. A leader who understands what democracy entails and will heal the wounds left by the militarism, intolerance and arrogance that have been the lot of our politics in the recent past. I intend to be that kind of president.

    I shall, in the very shortest possible time, address the power supply and other infrastructure deficiencies our country has been experiencing over the last several years that has seen our production of power dwindle to levels lower than when this administration took over the reins of power in 1999 and has led to the closure of thousands of businesses and the relocation from Nigeria of numerous enterprises, the latest been the French giant, Michelin.

    I am the leader that will soothe the Niger Delta. I will lead a collaborative effort involving the Federal, State and Local governments and other stakeholders to implement a region wide solution that is different from past approaches; I will appoint a cabinet level Minister for the Niger Delta to directly oversee and implement all Federal Government initiatives in the region including the development of a region wide master-plan, the floating of a Niger Delta Bond issue to increase the amount of funding available, the development of critical infrastructure such as township roads, water supply and additional housing in key urban centres in the region; the development of Training and Vocational Centres, the implementation of an Arms Amnesty Programme to encourage the voluntary handover of weapons and the creation of a Niger Delta Coast Guard under the Naval High Command specially trained to patrol the creeks, secure the pipelines and tackle illegal bunkering.

    As the main force behind the conceptualisation, establishment and initial funding of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ("EFCC"), my government will be a strong advocate of the adherence to law and order. It is my belief that if we strengthen the adherence to law and order in our country, we will not only live better and more productive lives, we will also attract people and resources from other countries to invest in our economy. It is clear that investments will only flow into areas where there is peace and law and order. Accordingly, we shall attack corruption head-on by adequately funding the EFCC, the ICPC and all other anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies and will guarantee their independence from political pressure and undue influence, including pressure from the presidency.

    We will also address the root causes of corruption and abuse of office in our society, commit the much needed resources to revitalising the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies, strengthen our judicial arm of government and guarantee judicial autonomy, independence and effectiveness. Finally, we will ensure the protection of all real, personal and intellectual property, whether owned by a citizen or by a foreigner. It is our belief that people will only invest in a country where they are confident that their property and property rights will be protected.

    In closing, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I reiterate that the only hope that Nigeria has for long_term stability and development depends on our ability to remain transparently democratic and be adjudged to be so by our citizens and our friends across the world. Our hope to remain democratic and stable, and to remain on the path of sustainable development, depends on how we conduct the April elections. And the only hope for the April elections to be free and fair lies in the vigilance of Nigerians and the help that the international community can render in monitoring them closely. It is therefore important for the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, not only to pay attention to these elections but to also actively support the electoral processes leading to the elections, and help bring about free, fair, and credible elections in April.

    Finally, it is critically important that, the United Kingdom, in conjunction with the rest of the international community, must prevail upon our president to respect the dignity and inviolability of the Nigerian constitution and to allow the rule of law to prevail. We must all respect and help assure the enforcement of the right of all Nigerians to choose the leaders they wish to govern them. The persistent persecution and harassment of vast numbers of Nigerians currently going on, simply because they do not subscribe to someone’s desire to succeed himself, either in fact through a 3rd term in office, or through the back door by foisting on Nigerians of weak and unpopular candidates, must be halted forthwith. The United Kingdom and the international community must help ensure that a new, freely elected, government is sworn-in on the 29th of May.

    *Being text of speech delivered by Vice President Atiku Abubakar in London.

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