By Tunde Opeseitan (Lagos) and Yaqoub Popoola (Edo Ekiti)
Ekiti State governor, Ayo, Fayose, has said that at no time did he wish the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, dead.
The governor, who stated this while playing host to a team of American diplomats who paid him a courtesy call on Saturday, said the so-called “death wish” advertorial placed on some newspapers, were misunderstood.
While many viewed the advertorial as inciting and offensive and could lead to breakdown of law and order, Fayose’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), distanced itself from the advert.
It stated that the advertorial neither represent the view of the party nor that of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The American delegation which visited Fayose in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, was led by the United States Consular General in Lagos, Jeffrey Hawkins.
Fayose said the state witnessed a peaceful poll last year during the governorship election, expressing confidence that the standard would not be lowered in the coming polls.
The governor, however, maintained that Jonathan would defeat the APC’s Buhari, as according to him, Nigeria is safe with him.
Speaking further on the advertorial he placed in two papers last month, Fayose told the American envoy that it was not a death wish advert, but to appeal to sense of reasoning to prevent the episode of 2010 when the National Assembly had to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity.
He reiterated that he has no apology for sponsoring the advert, adding that it was his own personal opinion and not that of the PDP.
“Our party, the Peoples Democratic Party, abhors violence. In the build up to last year’s governorship election in the state, there was no record of members of our party being indicted for violence.
“We conducted ourselves in peaceful manner and the records are there that it is All Progressives Congress (APC) members that were involved in violence,” Fayose said.
He further said: “Since we came to office, we have been able to curtail excesses of those whose main business is war songs.”
In his remarks, Hawkins said the unity of Nigeria should be paramount in the mind of politicians.
He decried the tension in the polity, saying elections should not be seen as war.
Hawkins added that the United States was interested in smooth transition and election in Nigeria.
In a related development, former Minister of Transport, Ebenezer Babatope, has defended Fayose over the advertorial he sponsored against Buhari.
In the front page advertisement in select national newspapers on Monday, January 19, 2015, titled “Nigerians Be Warned’’, Fayose had called on Nigerians to choose life, adding, “will thou allow history to repeat itself? Enough of state burials, Nigerians vote wisely, vote Goodluck Jonathan, northern presidency should wait till 2019.”
The advert, which generated widespread condemnation from concerned Nigerians, went ahead to outline late Heads of State and former presidents from the North West who had died while in office.
But, Babatope, a member of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, in an interview with Sunday Independent, said Fayose had good intention as he only tried to draw the attention of Nigerians to the danger the nation may face if Buhari is elected as president.
He accused the APC of blowing the issue out of proportion by reading twisting the true meaning the advert.
“Governor Fayose never brought out an advertisement aimed directly at saying ‘Buhari will die’. He never did that.
“But, the APC media terror machine has twisted the whole thing to mean something otherwise. The boy never said that.
“I am of the same age with Buhari because he is only three weeks older than myself. At his age, I don’t expect anyone to think he will die because nobody knows tomorrow. But honestly, Fayose never wished him death”.
Also speaking on the violence-free pact signed by the major political stakeholders, Babatope said nothing good will come out of it because the APC will not honour the agreement.
“On Kofi Annan’s pact, I was very sorry for him when he said the political parties should sign a pact on non-violence. I know APC will be the last to respect that kind of pact.
“That party is built on promoting chaos, disorder and they won’t honour any of such pact. It is not surprising that their supporters went ahead and organised the stoning of the convoy of the president in Katsina and Bauchi”.
“But, as far as the PDP is concerned, we want a credible election that is devoid of violence, an election that will allow the Nigerian people to have the measure of freedom to elect those who they desire to govern them.
“Kofi Annan would have known now that the APC is a dangerous party capable of doing anything to acquire power,” he said.
Reacting further to Fayose’s advertorial, prominent Nigerians who spoke to Sunday Independent, have expressed the need for a review of the immunity clause as it currently appears in the constitution for some holders of elective positions.
Immunity clause protects incumbent President, Vice President, Governors and their Deputies from arrest and prosecution for any crime they might have committed while in office.
Executive Director of Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP), Tokunbo Mumuni, said in as much as he is not a fan of Fayose owing to his motor park style of governance, but that nothing would have happened to the governor even if he is not protected by immunity clause.
Mumuni recalled that many ex-militants from Niger Delta region with no immunity protection have equally made several inciting statements and have not been cautioned in any way by security agencies in Nigeria.
The lawyer recalled that many ex-governors who had cases of corruption to answer have since been walking free in the country, even after their tenure, without questioning despite the fact that they no longer enjoy immunity protection against arrest.
“There are just seventy-four people in Nigeria enjoying immunity protection against arrest and they are the President, Vice President, Governors of the 36 states and their Deputies, the question is what are the law enforcement agencies doing to bring those that are not in that category to book once they have breached the law?
“In my view, I think Nigerians should now begin to ask questions from our security agencies as to what they are really doing to fight crime. Criminal case can be pursued anytime and one wonders why some former public office holders who no longer enjoy immunity are yet to be made to answer to the alleged crime they committed while in office,” the CACOL boss queried.
Also speaking on the development, President of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, said the way out is not really removal of immunity clause from the constitution, but a review of the law to prevent impunity by public office holders.
He said: “Our own stance at CACOL is that immunity clause is not our own problem but the impunity is the greatest problem.
“All the laws that make it possible for sinners to go unpunished are what we need to review.
“Immunity clause really should be one of the benefits accrue to chief executive officer of a state or the country and those who have immunity are just two within a cabinet and if those two are exempted, they cannot act alone and all other people through whom they act don’t have immunity.
“My take is that those people can be rounded up, arrested, and prosecuted.
“For instance, if the Chief of Staff is rounded up; if the Secretary to the Government is rounded up; if the commissioner, minister or any principal officer as the case may be is rounded up, arrested and tried in court and they now zero in on the chief executive, then the law that will prevent impunity will make that offence to be subsisting till when he leaves office and as soon as he leaves office, immediately he loses that immunity clause, he should be promptly arrested.
“His arrest warrant should be waiting for him even if it is going to wait till the next four years.
“And if they have been stripped naked of all those that can protect them like the Accountant General, the Attorney General and all of them that have contributed to the impunity that they perpetrated while in office, then they will surely think twice.”
Speaking further, the CACOL boss added: “Don’t forget also that the immunity clause does not say that the President or the Governor cannot be investigated while in office,” adding, “What we suggest is that, instead of going through this rigour, let the chief executive be investigated after all those who participated in the atrocities in office have been arrested, investigated or being sent to jail.
SOURCE: Daily Independent,