By Alex Ogbonnia, Ph.D
The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been drawn to the recent remarks by the Minister for Culture and Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Washington DC, USA to the effect that the February 25, 2023 presidential election in Nigeria was the “fairest, most transparent and most authentic in the history of Nigeria”.
Mohammed used the occasion to level allegations of “treason and inviting insurrection” against the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi and his Vice, Dr. Datti Ahmed. Mohammed stated this in Washington DC during his “official engagements” with some international media organizations.
First, let us take Lai Mohammed back to his remarks in 2015: On April 27, 2013, the almighty Mohammed granted interview to the Premium times wherein he stated that ‘Democracy will fail in Nigeria unless APC wins in the 2015 election.’
Second, as the national publicity secretary of the All Peoples Congress (APC), Lai Mohammed reiterated the statement credited to the APC on rejecting the outcome of the 2015 elections and “forming a parallel government if the elections are rigged by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP)”.
The above remark was validated by an APC stalwart, an erudite scholar, a senior advocate of Nigeria and currently the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Third, when interviewed about his extremist remarks, Mohammed replied “…..that Nigerians will no longer accept the outcome of any fraudulent polls and that those who incite the people are those who steal their mandate,”
According to Mohammed “it is therefore laughable that anyone will refer the statement on parallel government as treasonable,” adding that “there is no higher treason than the subversion of the people’s will”.
Four, the Nigerian incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari had threatened that “the dog and the baboon will be getting soaked in blood” if the 2011 election was rigged by the PDP.
Five, as a corollary to the above, Lai Mohammed had admonished: “Let us remind the presidency, in case it has forgotten, that election fraud triggered a civil war in Algeria in the early 1990s, led to the killing of over 1,000 people in post-election riots in Kenya in 2007/2008 and fired a near-revolution in Iran in 2009/2010.
Electoral frauds also corrupt democracy and breed dictatorship, and risk making the people to lose confidence in democracy’. These were the vintage Mohammed.
Lai Mohammed is reminded that European Union Election Observation Mission and several other bodies monitored the 2023 general election. In their preliminary statement dated March 20, 2023, the EU group remarked that “obstruction and organized violence limited the free expression of the will of the voters, despite efforts by civil society to promote democratic standards”.
The THISDAY also reported that the “members of the United States diplomatic mission observed the 2023 elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of the incidents of the electoral violence first-hand and expressed “displeasure over the disturbing acts of violent voters’ intimidation and suppression that took place during the Nigerian elections”.
A Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, faulted the conduct of the 2023 general election. In an interview with Channels Television’s Roadmap 2023, the erudite scholar said that the polls were “not exactly the most edifying exercise that we’ve been through’.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Yakubu Mahmood has admitted this much when he stated that “the issues of logistics, election technology, the behaviour of some election personnel at different levels, and the attitude of some party agents and supporters added to the extremely challenging environment in the February 25, presidential and National Assembly elections”.
Based on the above backdrop, Mr Peter Obi has advised Mr Lai Mohammed to stop the US junket; Obi condemned Mohammed’s trip as a waste of Nigeria’s resources and that it is laughable since most of those countries sent their representatives to monitor the election and have all received reports from the monitors, as well as from their embassies.
Obi therefore posed a teaser “between Lai Mohammed and their monitors/embassies, who would these countries believe? Obi added that ‘the billions spent on those meaningless trips would be enough to fix several dilapidated schools in the country”.
Any discerning mind will easily acknowledge that history has taken a fantastic turn on Lai Mohhamed. Lai Mohhamed is an extremist imperious demagogue with a dubious allegiance to democratic norms; a man who has both in the past and in the present subverted democratic ideals; a bundle of contradictions who puts democracy ahead of his narrow interests; a man whose media junkets undermines Nigerian democracy and a political relic whose talents for Machiavellian intrigues have been totally overwhelmed.
Mohammed and indeed the APC are reminded that Peter Obi and Datti Ahmed represent the New Nigerian spirit; a mystic force which neither Mohammed nor his pay masters can withstand. It is therefore puerile to accuse Obi and Datti of treason for the simple reason that they, like most Nigerians, expressed dissatisfaction with a process that was heavily compromised.
The position of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide led by Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu CFR, (Ahaejiagamba) Chairman, Council of Elders, on the 2023 general election is that INEC was heavily compromised; that INEC found it convenient to change the goal post in the middle of the game; and that INEC compromised not just its own guidelines for the election but also the provisions of the Electoral Act. And that Mr. Peter Obi and Datti Ahmed of the Labour Party won the 2023 presidential election.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo salutes the courage of several patriotic groups in Nigeria that have continued to stand up for the truth; that have continued to expose the day-light electoral robbery perpetrated against the people of Nigeria by INEC.
These groups include but not limited to the Afenifere led by the irrepressible Ayo Adebanjo, the Middle-Belt Forum (MBF) ably led by Dr. Bitrus Porgu, the Pan-Niger-Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Chief Edwin Clarke; among others.
We also commend the maturity of the opposition parties and their resort to legal means to challenge the outcome of the 2023 electoral process. We, therefore, call on the Nigerian judiciary to be upright and fair to all the parties involved; to reckon with the fact that the judiciary is the final guardrail of democracy in any country.
This is the task before the Nigerian judiciary and its place in history will be determined by how it handles the election matters brought before it.
Finally, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide urges the International community to disregard the insidious shenanigans from Lai Mohammed as part of his incorrigible occupational obsessions.
Ogbonnia is the National Publicity Secretary, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide