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Anti-Yar’Adua protests rock Lagos
22 January, 2010 03:37:00 KALU OKWARA and Monsur Oladunjoye
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image •PROTEST...A cross section of civil society group during the “Enough is Enough” protest, organised in Lagos…yesterday. PHOTO: MIKE IROANAYA

EMINENT politicians and civil society activists under the aegis of Save Nigeria Group yesterday held a rally in Lagos to protest against the power vacuum in Nigeria.
The group had on January 12 had the first rally in Abuja, asking the National Assembly to pass a resolution mandating the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to constitute a team of medical officers to examine the health status of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The group said there was need to obey section 146 of the 1999 Constitution which provides that the Vice President shall be sworn in as acting President if the President was incapacitated.
Among the personalities who participated in the rally which started at the Archbishop Vinning Cathedral, Ikeja and ended at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa Ikeja, were Pastor Tunde Bakare, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Major-General Alani Akinriade (rtd), Charles Oputa, Osita Okechukwu, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Mike Ngini, Yinka Odumaki, Adamu Aliyu, Abdullahi Yerima and Femi Falana, among others. Prof. Wole Soyinka sent his solidarity message to the group.
The protesters were armed with placards that read among others: “1999 Constitution is a lie that must be thrown away,” “No electoral reform no 2011” and “Fuel scarcity is a shame;” “Why are criminals, kings in Nigeria?” “Enough is enough,” “The revolution is on” “Go Umaru Go,” “Enough of offshore president among others”.
At Alausa, the protesters were received by the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola who was accompanied by his information and strategy commissioner, Mr. Bamidele Opeyemi.
Reading a letter from the Group addressed to governor Fashola, Bakare appealed to the Governors’ Forum of Nigeria (GFN) to intervene to end the power vacuum existing in Nigeria since President Yar’Adua traveled to Saudi Arabia for treatment.
“What bothers our patriots is that if a boss will not allow his vice to take over power from him – somebody he selected and from the same party, then what is the hope that a victorious candidate of the opposition will be allowed to take over power.
“This clearly makes nonsense of the rule of law and electoral reform programme, which are two key items on the seven-point agenda of this administration.
“We must equally express our displeasure at the body statement and posturing on this matter by the government either collectively or individually. Most of the statement have shown indifference to the feeling of Nigerians and in collaboration with those interested in the power vacuum for their selfish interests above the destiny of the whole nation,” read the letter.
In accepting the letter, Governor Fashola commended the group for the non-violent manner it adopted in expressing its rejection of was what happening in Nigeria.
He, however, warned against using the exercise to undermine some of the good things gained so far in the current democratic dispensation recalling that in 1973 due to the then existing dictatorship it was not easy for people to hold rallies to express their views.
He said: “There was a time when we could not even speak to our leaders; we have gained that victory, we should not lose it; there was a time when we could not gather like this without Police permit.
“As we struggle to get more, let us look back and acknowledge the gains that we have made, let us not as we struggle to get more lose all the gains we have made,” he cautioned.
Fashola who advised them to expect the realisation of their agitation very soon, however condemned Nigerians with contrary view to their struggle, saying, “all of us who exercise civil authorities do so with one purpose: to serve you, therefore it is your legitimate right to ask us to do more. It is also your legitimate right to tell us when we have not enough.
“Anybody who feels you are asking too much has misconstrued public service,” adding. “When the kitchen is hot you get out of there and when the seat is too hot for a leader, the best option is to leave the seat with dignity. “People’s voice is being heard loud and clear, sooner or later, the inspiration on this issue will be fulfilled,” he assured them.
Promising to deliver copy of the letter presented him by Pastor Bakare to the governors’ forum, he advised the protesters, “I ask you to purify your heart of violence and replace it with message of peace and unyielding commitment to continue to speak irrespective of provocation in a non-violent manner.”
Bakare in his address said the denial of vice president Jonathan acting as the president made nonsense of the popular doctrine of rule of law and the electoral reforms that are key items on the seven-point agenda of Yar’Adua administration.
“We do not want to believe that the governors are oblivious of the likely implication of the present dangerous slide that the country is taking. It would amount to short-sightedness to think that there will be immunity for anybody if we allow this situation to boil over.”
“We are here to tell the whole world that all is not well in our country. The president has travelled out of the country for almost two months ago and nobody has tell us the truth, those who know the truth are shying away to tell the people what’s their right to know,” he said.
Prof. Soyinka who was away to New Delhi, India sent a message read by the President, Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei Odumakin. He said the protest undertaken by the group was not about vacuum that was created per-see but how the vacuum would be filled.
“Let all proceed with this understanding: The fundamental issue is not about what individual rules, or is denied the right to rule, but about how the nation is ruled. It is not about who leads or who does not, but about how a people are led. It is so much about a vacuum but about how that vacuum is filled, what is done in secret caucuses, what is deliberately withheld, delayed, subverted, or degraded in time of such a vacuum. Ask yourselves the obvious question: who profits?

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