Engr. Martin Onovo, Head, Policy Positions Movement for Fundamental Change in Nigeria, was a former Presidential candidate of the Action Alliance, AA, in 2007, and National Conscience Party, NCP, in 2011. He has over the years been deeply engaged in advocacy for transparent elections, good governance and rule of law, equity and justice in Nigeria’s nation building. In this interview with SUNDAY DOMINIC, Onovo acknowledges that June 12 has unique democratic significance in Nigeria, lamenting that Chief M.K.O. Abiola clearly won the presidential June 12, 1993, election but the military annulled the result. Martin Onovo decries what he perceives as the rots in Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential election.
June 12 has been made Democracy Day; would you consider this to enrich the democracy credential of President Muhammadu Buhari?
June 12 as Democracy Day was made by law to commemorate the democratic victory of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the presidential election held on June 12, 1993. Interestingly, I was a Presiding Officer at a polling unit in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for that election and Chief Abiola defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa clearly at my polling unit. Unfortunately, the military government of retired General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election.
Similarly, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, defeated President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, clearly in the February 23, 2019 presidential election but the result was ‘managed’ by the umpire to impose President Buhari on Nigerians. Just as the democratic will of Nigerians was overthrown by the annulment of June 12, 1993, the democratic will of Nigerians has again been overthrown by the ‘alteration’ of the result of the February 2019 presidential election as being challenged by dissatisfied political parties and their candidates at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal under the government of General Buhari.
We must remember that the military led by this same General Buhari overthrew the democratically elected government led by late President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983.
We now have a case where an unrepentant tyrant is using a democratic event to attempt to falsely present his dictatorship as a government that respects democracy. This is most hypocritical and deceitful. If President Buhari respects democracy, he must respect the will of the people and handover government to the winner of the 2019 presidential elections. We must state unequivocally that, the stolen mandate of the 2019 presidential election is worse than the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
Are you having skepticism on President Buhari’s democracy culture?
President Buhari was a military dictator; he became a military dictator after they overthrew a democratic government in 1983. He also served under the military dictatorship of late General Sani Abacha during which Chief Abiola was arrested and detained unlawfully. Since 2015, after he came back to office as the president, his government has not shown any respect for democracy or the major principles of democracy, including the rule of law, the integrity of the ballot and the freedom of the press. They have overrun the legislature, intimidated the judiciary, compromised civil society and censored the mass media in a most dictatorial manner. This government is clearly worse than a military government.
What would you say is the significance of June 12?
June 12 has a distinguished democratic significance in Nigeria because Chief M.K.O. Abiola clearly won the presidential election in 1993 but the military annulled the result of the election. It is important to commemorate his democratic victory and, thereby, promote democracy, particularly, in our country, Nigeria, where the political culture is more lawless than democratic.
Unfortunately, this event is currently tarnished and perverted by the undemocratic tyrants pretending to be promoting June 12. These are the same tyrants that oversaw the falsification of the results of the 2019 presidential election as being challenged at the tribunal. Auspiciously, no former elected President of Nigeria was associated with that shameful charade. Even former military dictators kept away from the maiden event in Abuja.
Who would you identify as hero(s) of democracy in Nigeria?
The heroes of democracy in Nigeria include Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, Chief (Mrs.) Kudirat Abiola, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, many journalists, many young Nigerians, including students, members of civil society organizations and artisans that joined in the struggles against military dictatorship.
Would you say the election of National Assembly leaders met the expectations of Nigerians?
Definitely not! The “election” of National Assembly leaders was an insensitive charade obtained by corruption and coercion by the ruling party through the abuse of executive powers. Now, we have puppets of the executive as presiding officers of both chambers. When this is combined with the intimidation of the judiciary, the censorship of the mass media and the falsification of the 2019 presidential election results as being challenged, then, it becomes clear that democracy has been effectively destroyed in Nigeria by tyrants pretending to be promoting June 12 struggle.
Do you consider the Nigerian Government to have the capacity to combat banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and other crimes in the North and other parts of the country?
The current government in Nigeria lacks the moral authority and has no capacity to combat terrorism, kidnapping and other crimes in Nigeria. The government has not concealed its support for the terrorists and their sponsors. Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, speaking for the Presidency, asked Nigerians to leave their lands for terrorists so that they can stay alive! This is a government whose primary responsibility is the security of lives and property. Instead of defending the lives and property of its citizens from terrorists, it asks them to leave their land for the terrorists. Miyetti Allah has confessed publicly several times in manners that suspiciously link its members to terrorism but the government not only shields them but also empowers them with N100 billion and a Fulani ‘AM’ radio station. The confession of Danladi Ciroma, the North Central Chairman of Miyetti Allah, went viral, yet, the government shields Miyetti Allah.
President Buhari advised Benue leaders and elders to accommodate the suspected Fulani terrorists as their countrymen. How can genocidal terrorists be promoted as our country men by our own Commander-in-Chief? With all these, it is the thinking of many Nigerians that only Fulani lives matter to President Buhari.
The same President sent the Nigeria Army with heavy military equipment against unarmed IPOB members in his ‘Operation Python Dance 1 and 2’ in the South East.
In like manner, Boko Haram fighters have re-surged stronger after the government paid them two million Euro (€2mn) as ransom and also released many of their Commanders and bomb makers that had been captured. How can such rulers combat terrorism?
How effective would you say the anti-corruption war in Nigeria has been in the past four years?
The anti-corruption war is very clearly corrupt and deceitful. The current rulers of Nigeria deliberately promote unprecedented corruption while deceiving the people with fables and anti-corruption rhetoric.They use anti-corruption as a cover to persecute their political opponents. This is similar to the conviction of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti on trumped up charges by a military tribunal under Gen. Buhari in 1984.
This government has spent almost N30 trillion budget since May 29, 2015. There is no new refinery, there is no new power station, there is no new teaching hospital; only a loud lie that it had completed the Ogwashi-uku Dam when it had not even mobilized to site. Corruption in this government is massive and unprecedented. We all know of the N400 billion subsidy scam, the $320 million Abacha loot frittered away, the NNPC N50 billion alleged to be diverted from the TSA, the N18 billion BCDA contracts scam, the N500 billion telecoms company fines reduction sca good evening sir I am not able to make it, the N5.8 billion NEMA contracts scam, the mother of all scams, $25 billion (N8trn) NNPC contracts scam, etc.
The future of Nigerian children has been looted by the current rulers. This is the most corrupt government ever in Nigeria.