Nigeria: Jonathan’s reaction to post election violence

By Correspondent Chinyere Ogbonna – Angry youths on Monday protesting against the results of the presidential poll held on Saturday, April 16, stormed the Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship, NCCF, Secretariat in Minna, the Niger State capital in the northern part of Nigeria and forcibly locked fifty members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in the state in the building and set the building on fire.

Reports say the leader of the corps members managed to break the door and set his colleagues free and the NYSC members ran to the nearby army barracks for safety.

According to Reports, the NYSC members were initially few at the ‘Family House’, as the secretariat is called by NCCF members, but many rushed in to escape the rioting near their homes in other parts of the city before the rioters came.

The irate youths also were said to have burnt the NCCF 18-seater bus, which was bought two months ago, and a motorcycle belonging to the fellowship. The Family House of the NCCF, a fellowship centre and a lodge for Christian corps members, was one of the seven worship centres burnt by the youths who said they were protesting the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as winner of the April 16 presidential election.

Although the fifty corps members in Minna were lucky to have escaped being set ablaze, the story is not the same for four of their colleagues and two police officers in Bauchi state also in far north of the country lost their lives in the incident.

The Bauchi State chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Musa Tula said that more than twenty people died in the violence unleashed on innocent citizens by those he suspected to be political thugs.

In many parts of the north, youths went on rampage to protest outcome of the presidential election leaving many dead, destroyed homes, worship centres and people’s means of livelihood.

The violence which erupted in several parts of the northern part of the country on Sunday as the results of the presidential election were being released state by state, has left many well meaning Nigerians and observers in doubt as to what the rioters truly want, especially on an election which has received the commendation of both local and international observers as being the fairest election conducted in Nigeria in recent times.

While the violence lasted, it appeared that security agents were caught unaware. If there was prompt response from security agents some victims of the riots probably might have been saved.

There is also the believe from many quarters that if the Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change ,CPC, whom it is believed the rioters were protesting his loss at the poll had made a speech cautioning the angry youths early enough then many lives that were lost could have been saved.

For instance it took Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) more than twenty four hours to call for peace and dissociate himself and his party from the violence.

It is important that the government takes steps to pre-empt such occurrences in the future.

As the gubernatorial and state assembly elections scheduled for April 26, the government should put in place adequate security measures to forestall any breach of public peace during and after the election.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has unveiled plans to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to the post election violence in some states in the northern parts of the country with a view to looking into the remote and immediate causes of the crisis among other far reaching measures he has adopted to address the issue.

Speaking in a nationwide broadcast, Dr. Jonathan warned that “enough is enough” President Jonathan said he would no longer tolerate the spate of killings going on in some parts of the country following last Saturday’s presidential election.

He likened the series of “horrific” events to what obtained before the Nigerian Civil War and the June 12 crisis of 1993.

President Jonathan asserted that those fomenting trouble in the country aimed to truncate the democratic process especially the remaining governorship and State Assembly elections slated for April 26, 2011.

He reminded the country that the effects of the Civil War were still being felt and the wounds yet to heal completely, adding: “If anything at all, these acts of mayhem are sad reminders of the events which plunged our country into thirty months of an unfortunate civil war. As a nation we are yet to come to terms with the level of human suffering, destruction and displacement, including that of our children to far-away countries, occasioned by those dark days.”

To stem the targeting of youth corps members who were used to conduct the elections by hoodlums who have been killing people in some northern states of the federation, the President directed that governors should take personal responsibility for their safety and condemned the killing of these innocent citizen on national assignments,

He noted that he had taken every possible step to ensure that he delivered free and fair elections in Nigeria in spite of a few challenges, but regretted that some misguided elements who lacked democratic finesse had formed themselves into groups that had struck with destructive force against the country.

President Jonathan added that the mobs also targeted government offices and facilities, especially those of INEC, waylaid vulnerable youth corps members even though they are all known as guests within our communities and are agents of public good and national unity.

He stressed that these disturbances were more than mere political protests. According to him, they clearly aim to frustrate the remaining elections, which he warned are not acceptable.

The President said the unwarranted killings and destruction of personal properties by miscreants had no justification and that he would not sit by and watch those constitutionally put under his care being mowed down and harassed to further the personal ambition of few individuals and emphasized that “enough is enough”.

He said that there was no grievance too much for the courts of the land to handle and that aggrieved politicians ought to have ventilated their misgivings than allow supporters to kill people and warned that he was going to take stiffer actions to protect the people and the laws of the land.

“As president, it is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live.

“I will defend the right of all citizens to freely express their democratic choice anywhere in this country; to enjoy every freedom and opportunity that this country can offer without let or hindrance.

“I have ordered the deployment of security personnel to troubled parts of the country. I have also directed the reinforcement of security in all parts of the country.

“I have authorized our security services to use all lawful means, including justifiable force to bring an immediate end to all acts of violence against our fellow citizens.

“In view of the condemnable attacks on our gallant youth corps members, I have directed all state governors to take personal responsibility for their security and safety in the states where they serve.

“I have directed that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts of violence and all those who seek to continue to breach the peace and stability of this nation must be fished out and made to face the full weight of the law.

“In this regard, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry will be constituted to look into the immediate and remote causes of this recent tide of unrest,” he said.

President Jonathan appealed to religious and political leaders to put the national interest above personal interests and desist from using religious platforms to preach hate and spread disaffection but join hands to ensure that the remaining elections were successfully conducted while those from other parts of the country who might be victims of the attack to continue to show restraint even in the face of attacks.

He assured Nigerians that despite the situation, the elections slated for next week would go on as planned and urged Nigerians to go about their lawful duties without fear in their bid to build a nation everyone would be proud of.

“To those who persist in sowing the seeds of discord, I say – You may hurt and bring grief to some innocent families momentarily, but you will never succeed in stopping our transformational journey: a journey that will lead this country, by the grace of God, to emerge stronger, more prosperous and more united “, he added.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Minister of information, .Mr. Labaran Maku has assured Nigerians of government’s efforts to increase security presence through the forthcoming governorship elections and beyond to ensure there will be no repeat of the recent crisis that claimed many lives and property in the northern region of the country.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, the minister said despite the crisis and its challenges, the country is stable and has the capacity to stem any negative aftermath of the elections which has been adjudged free and fair by many.

He charged Nigerians to still come out en-masse to cast their votes and be assured of their security through the process.

Condemning the attack on innocent citizens by the protesters who he referred to miscreants and criminals, Mr Maku said any persons who have issues with the outcome of the elections must follow due process and go to the courts.

In a related development, The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has postponed governorship and House of Assembly elections in Kaduna and Bauchi states from April 26 to April 28, 2011, citing security concerns arising from the recent post election violence that swept through parts of Nigeria’s northern region early this week.

The Chairman of the electoral commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, said that this is due to the commission’s assessment of the situation in these parts of the country ahead of the elections on Tuesday.

He also announced that after thorough investigation, the commission has decided that elections will also hold on the 26th of April, in Anambra central senatorial district and Ika Federal Constituency, Delta State in the Niger Delta region.

The chairman also appealed to parents and guardians of youth corps members not to allow perpetrators of violence to scare them away from the noble job there are doing for the country.

He thanked all Nigerians for their continued enthusiasm, commitment and support for the unfolding process of building a strong democratic country, according to him, is exemplified by the successful completion of the National Assembly and Presidential polls.

Professor Jega noted that there had been several assessments of the conduct of the Presidential election, by both domestic and international observers most of which indicated that the election was not only a marked improvement on the National Assembly polls, but also met the highest global standards for free and fair elections.

The INEC Chief stressed that In spite of these positive assessments, some people have raised issues about the results declared by the Commission. More seriously, it has been suggested by some politicians that the outbreak of violence in some parts of the country is somehow associated with those results.

In many instances, the violence has been unjustifiably targeted at INEC, particularly young National Youth Service Corps members who are diligently discharging their patriotic duty to the nation.

He argued that these young men and women are being targeted to scare them away from continuing the honourable and excellent work they have been doing during these elections.

Professor Jega also said that apart from the Corps members, INEC staff, offices and materials have also been attacked.

He as a Commissioner he condemns the violence without reservation. It is unnecessary, unwarranted and totally unacceptable. In a democratic system, political grievances, however as serious as they may be, should be resolved through formal legal processes, rather than through recourse to destroying property and killing and maiming innocent people.