A former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), on Tuesday accused President Goodluck Jonathan of waging a war against Nigeria by using the “common wealth to subvert the system.”
Buhari made the accusation in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists in Kaduna.
The statement titled, “Pull back Nigeria from the brink,” is his first formal reaction to the removal of Murtala Nyako as Adamawa State governor and the threat of impeachment against Governor Umaru Al-Makura of Nasarawa State.
Nyako was one of the five Peoples Democratic Party governors who in November last year defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress.
Al-Makura is an APC governor in a state whose House of Assembly is dominated by PDP members.
The Presidency had since denied Jonathan’s involvement in the development.
But Buhari, who is one of the leaders of the APC, said in the statement that whether or not Jonathan was aware of the development, what mattered most was that it was happening under his administration.
He warned that the development which was aimed at turning the country “into a one-party state’’ did not augur well for democracy.
The former military ruler lamented that the recourse to impeachment as a punitive measure against “out-of-favour” governors was an indication that Nigeria was gradually drifting into anarchy.
He disclosed in the statement that he had in his private capacity discussed the current situation with the President but regretted that nothing had been done to check it.
Buhari explained that he did so because, as a former Nigerian leader, history would never be kind to him if he sat back and watched it to continue.
Describing himself as “ a close participant and witness to Nigeria’s political history since independence in 1960,” he said, ‘‘Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian President declare war on his own country as we are seeing now.
“Never before have I seen a Nigerian President deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President utilise the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics.
“Our nation had suffered serious consequences in the past for egregious acts that are not even close to what we are seeing now. It is time to pull the brakes.’’
He alleged that the impeachment or threats of impeachment of ‘‘out-of-favour’’ governors was to decapitate the opposition.
The general also said that impeachment or threats of impeachment had become an unwelcome distraction to the war against Boko Haram which has put the country on tenterhooks, “with innocent citizens being daily mowed down at the times and places of the group’s chosen and over 200 schoolgirls spending more than three months in precarious captivity.”
The statement read in part, ‘‘Whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan is behind the gale of impeachment or the utilisation of desperate tactics to suffocate the opposition and turn Nigeria into a one-party state, what cannot be denied is that they are happening under his watch, and he cannot pretend not to know, since that will be akin to hiding behind one finger.
‘‘In my capacity as a former Head of State, rather than a politician, I have spoken to President Jonathan in private over these issues, but indications are that the strategy has not yielded positive fruits.
“I cannot, just because I am an opposition politician, fail to do what is expected of me as a former Head of State to help rescue our nation in times of great trouble and palpable uncertainty. History will not be kind to me if I sit back while things turn bad, just so that no one will accuse me of partisanship.
“Yes, I am a politician. Yes, I am in the opposition. Yes, there is the tendency for my statement to be misconstrued as that of a politician rather than a statesman. But I owe it as a matter of duty and honour, and in the interest of our nation, to speak out on the dangerous trajectory that our nation is heading.
‘‘I can say, in all sincerity, that I have seen it all, as an ordinary citizen, a military officer, a state governor, a minister, a Head of State, a man who has occupied many other sensitive posts and a politician.”
He asked the President to tarry awhile and ponder the impact of recent events in the polity and the sustenance of its democracy.
Buhari said subverting the constitution through desperate moves or deploying the institutions of state against ‘‘an out-of-favour’’ state governor could only breed anarchy.
He warned, ‘‘The dangerous clouds are beginning to gather and the vultures are circling, and these have manifested in Nasarawa State where the ordinary people have defied guns and tanks to protest the plan to impeach Gov. Al-Makura in a repeat of the bitter medicine forced down the throat of Nyako.
‘‘The people’s protest in Nasarawa State is a sign of what to come if the federal authorities continue to target opposition state governors for impeachment. In the long run, the impeachment weapon will be blunted. Positions will become more hardened on both sides and Nigeria and Nigerians will become the victims of arrested governance and possible anarchy.”
He reminded Jonathan to also remember that no democracy could thrive or survive without a virile opposition.
Buhari added that a man in power must realise that he cannot always do things just because he could do them.
The former Head of state said, ‘‘I, along with many other patriotic Nigerians, fought for the unity and survival of this country. Hundreds of patriotic souls perished in the battle to keep Nigeria one. The blood of many of our compatriots helped to ensure the birth of the democracy we are practising today.
‘‘Let no one, whether the leader or the led, the high or the low, a member of the ruling or the opposition do anything to torpedo the system. Let no one, whether on the altar of personal ambition or pretension to higher patriotic tendencies, do anything that can detonate the keg of gunpowder on which the nation is sitting.
“It is time for all concerned to spare a thought for the ordinary citizens who have yet to see their hopes, dreams and aspirations come to reality, within the general context of nationhood.”
Jonathan however described the allegations by Buhari as unwarranted and totally uncharitable.
In a statement by his spokesman, Reuben Abati, the President said Buhari had sadly moved away from the patriotic and statesmanlike position he recently adopted on national security to “unbridled political partisanship.”
Jonathan said there could be no other explanation or justification for the “completely unwarranted and very uncharitable assault” on his conduct and integrity which Buhari’s statement represented.
He said it was unfortunate that instead of working to put their house in order and resolve the leadership crises and internal contradictions in the APC, the former Head of State and his allies had resorted to blaming the President for their woes.
While describing the fate that had befallen the APC as self-inflicted, Jonathan said he had never in his acts or utterances, recommended or promoted violence as a tool of political negotiation.
The statement read in part, “Gen. Buhari talks about anarchy. He needs to be reminded that President Jonathan from his humble beginnings as a Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State to date, has never in his acts, or utterances, recommended or promoted violence as a tool of political negotiation.
“The Constitution does not give the President any power to intervene in such proceedings and President Jonathan has never arrogated such powers to himself or sought to exert any nefarious and unconstitutional influence on state assemblies in Adamawa, Nasarawa or anywhere else in other to secure undue political advantage for his party as Gen. Buhari unjustifiably alleges.
“President Jonathan remains true to his declaration that no political ambition of his is worth the life of a single Nigerian. The President has definitely not declared war on his own country or deployed federal institutions in the service of partisan interests as Gen. Buhari falsely claims. Neither has he been using the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, as the former Head of State inexcusably asserts.
“Also, President Jonathan has never at any time ordered that any Nigerian should be kidnapped or that anyone should be crated and forcefully transported in violation of decent norms of governance.
“We therefore urge Gen. Buhari to tarry a while, ponder over his own antecedents and do a reality check as to whether he has the moral right to be so carelessly sanctimonious.
“It may well be time to pull the brakes, as Gen. Buhari says in his statement, but it is he and others who have resorted to idle ‘scapegoating’ and blaming President Jonathan for their self-inflected political troubles who need to stop their inexcusable partisanship and show greater regard for the truth, democracy, constitutionalism, the rule of law, peace, security and the well-being of the nation.”