By FEMI FALANA
The third term agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari kicked off on September 21, 2019 under the auspices of “Movement For the Approval Of Buhari Third Term.” The members of the group who launched the campaign in Abuja were not harassed by the Police or the State Security Service. The Presidency did not deem it fit to disown or dissociate itself from the campaign.
However, following the popular rejection of the campaign the Presidency issued a statement on October 2, 2019 to “correct internet-based gossip and uninformed media commentary regarding presidential term limits, given credence by so-called support groups, staging street demonstrations asking President Muhammadu Buhari to do a third term.” In rejecting the pressure of the “so called support groups”, President Buhari stated last month that ” I am not going to make the mistake of attempting a third term. Beside the age, I swore by the holy book that I would go by the constitution and the constitution said two terms. I know that I am in my last term and I can afford to be reckless, because I am not going to ask for anybody’s vote.”
But shortly after the official denial of the thrd term agenda, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Charles Enya filed suit no. FHC/AI/CS/90/19 at the Federal High Court in Abakiliki praying for the amendment of section 137(1) (b) and 182 (1) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution to allow for a third term for the President and the state Governors. In succumbing to public pressure to drop the suit Mr. Enya announced in court that he had decided to discontinue the matter to allow for “further consultations”. The APC which had threatened to sanction Mr. Enya for filing the suit has since maintained sealed lips! It is pertinent to recall that, after the dismissal of Mr. Enya’s suit, a bill for a 6-year single term of office for the President and the 36 state governors, was sponsored by a member of the APC in the House of Representatives. In order not to promote the third term agenda through the backdoor, the bill was unanimously rejected by the House members.
Notwithstanding the official denial of the third term agenda the Buhari regime has since intensified its campaign for the emasculation of the opposition and constriction of the democratic space. This has been manifested in the subversion of the rule of law through disobedience of court orders, sponsoring of anti media bills and reckless arrest, detention and prosecution of the perceived enemies of the federal government. Peaceful meetings and rallies against unpopular policies of the government are violently suppressed while crowds are rented to attack groups and citizens who challenge authoritarian rule in the land. Yesterday, armed thugs unleashed violence on peaceful protesters at Abuja with the connivance of a detachment of the Nigeria Police Force. One of the leaders of the protesters, Mr. Deji Adeyanju, who was severely injured by the thugs has been hospitalised. Up till now, the arrest has been made by the Police.
Since this is the route that has been followed to pave way for the third term agenda of incumbent Presidents in Guinea, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire I was compelled to urge Nigerians not to dismiss the campaign of the “so-called support groups, staging street demonstrations asking President Muhammadu Buhari to do a third term.” The Presidency has decided to attack me for challenging the support groups and APC leaders that are behind the third term campaign. Even though the campaigners are well known to the security agencies, they have not been attacked by the Presidency.
However, for filing suits in the courts to challenge official impunity I have been accused of engaging in judicial blackmail by sponsored agents of the State. By now, I expect the Presidency to have realised that I have been as constant as the northern star in the defence of human rights, democracy and rule of law. In 1992, my colleagues and I fought the “hidden agenda” for the tenure extension of military President Ibrahim Babangida. We were charged with treasonable felony. The case was however struck out in our favour.
We fought the plan of the late General Sani Abacha to metamorphose from a military dictator to a civilian President through the manipulation of a discredited political transition programme. Some of us were detained for 10 months without trial. In 2006, I was also involved in the campaign against the third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Like now, I was accused of spreading false rumours!
Finally, in denying the third term agenda President Buhari said that he “can afford to be reckless”. Since we are not a conquered people we are not going to allow the President to be reckless in the exercise of his powers in so far as as they are limited by the Constitution!
Falana is a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN