Interim government rumour treasonable, says Jonathan

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President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday said the insinuations that he was planning to put in place an Interim National Government instead of ensuring the sanctity of the May 29 handover date amounted to treason.

He said the only ING that could be put in place was that of the military which, according to him, will not be accepted by Nigerians and the international community.

Jonathan spoke during the opening mass for the plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja.

The President again assured all stakeholders in the political process that the general elections would hold on the rescheduled dates of March 28 and April 11 and the winners inaugurated on May 29.

He said, “There is no way Goodluck Jonathan, elected by the people with a clear mandate, will go and head an interim government.

“The only ING anybody can constitute is that of the military which, of course, will not be acceptable.

“The Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations won’t accept it. We will not allow Nigeria to be a pariah state again.

“Clearly, the insinuations about interim government, to me, amount to treasonable offence .”

Jonathan also described the recent poll delay as a blessing in disguise.

He said there would have been a monumental loss during the attack by Boko Haram insurgents on Gombe State on February 14, the day the presidential election would have taken place.

The President said, “Look at what happened in Gombe State on February 14 , if the elections had been held, the casualty figure would have been higher.

“It is better for us to conduct elections that will not be contested; elections that are credible, free and fair.

“We believe no criminal element can come and prevent us from conducting our elections.

“I will not do anything that would jeopardise the interest of this nation because of personal interest.

“When I listen to how some of us (politicians) talk… but God is supreme. This nation will survive.”

Jonathan used the opportunity to again thank Christians and indeed all Nigerians, for their prayers which he said, had sustained the country despite its security challenges

Giving assurance that the country would overcome its challenges, Jonathan condemned utterances that overheat the polity.

Like Jonathan, the Senate President, David Mark, said the postponement of the polls was “a blessing in disguise.”

Although he did not cite security implication like the President did, Mark stated that the delay had provided millions of eligible voters an opportunity to collect their Permanent Voter Cards.

According to him, if the elections had held on Feb. 14, many Nigerians would have been unable to vote.

The News Agency of Nigeria quoted him as saying, ‘‘I want to be re-elected back but I do not want to go through the back door, I want to be re-elected with many Nigerians accepting that this is their choice.

‘‘Whatever we can do to enable few more Nigerians to vote on their appointed days, I think it is proper that they do it.’’

Mark also restated that ING was “absolutely alien to the current constitution “and added, ‘‘We will not allow that.’’

Also at the event, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, urged Jonathan to warn his aides and supporters about their utterances.

Onaiyekan also called on politicians to desist from mudslinging that has so far characterised electioneering ahead of the general elections.

He said, “There should not be room for negative campaigns. Personal insults and caricatures should give way to rational discussion of issues that concern us all.

“Truth must be sacrosanct even in politics. Lies, deceit, calumnies cannot move us forward. They are the hallmarks of the bad politics which have not allowed us achieve the high level that we deserve as a nation.

“These are what builds tensions, heats up the polity, spreads dangerous rumours and cause deep distrust among rival political groups. All these are not in the interest of our people.”

The cleric enjoined politicians to use the opportunity provided via the postponement of the election to mend fences.

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said that the theme of the conference, “ Good Families Make Good Nations,’’ challenges every Nigerian to nurture their family.

Oritsejafor appealed to the government to continue to work hard to create employment opportunities for young Nigerians.

He also advised church leaders to ensure that their followers imbibed sound moral values needed to raise responsible families.

The CAN leader said, “We must along with other stakeholders continue to assist in creating an enabling environment for families to grow and mature, respect constituted authority, be honest and love one another.

‘‘I am pleading for cooperation, unity and brotherhood; efforts must be made to denounce worldliness, to build families that imbibe godly and enduring values.’’

Also, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, appealed to the Anglican Roman Catholic Commission to give a definite agenda to the commission.

Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, and President, CBCN, said the Catholic Church had uses different associations to enlighten its members to shun acts of violence.

Kaigama said that the church had gone beyond political or religious differences in promoting the common good of the nation.

Tenure extension, invitation to anarchy –Reps

The House of Representatives on Sunday re-stated its stance against extending the tenure of the current Federal Government under the headship of President Goodluck Jonathan beyond May 29.

It said keeping the government in office beyond May 29 without conducting elections was an “invitation to anarchy.”

The House spokesman, Zakari Mohammed, spoke against the backdrop of speculation that Jonathan might still use insecurity in the North-East to request the National Assembly to defer the March 28 presidential poll by six months.

Mohammed, who spoke exclusively with The PUNCH, noted that the House “as an institution,” took a collective stance against tenure extension to safeguard democracy.

Besides, he said democracy and the institution of the legislature must outlive the present crop of lawmakers.

The lawmaker added,”If we support what is unconstitutional because people say we will benefit from it, what are we doing to democracy?

“We swore to an oath to uphold the constitution; we cannot afford to be selfish because there were people who held these offices before we came in.

“If they had chosen to go against the constitution, they would not have vacated the offices for us.

“Even if we are to benefit mutually (tenure extension), it is an aberration and can only lead to anarchy. That is why say no tenure extension; it is unconstitutional.”

Mohammed observed that the power equation in the House at moment, where the All Progressives Congress members were more in number meant that a proposal for tenure extension would die on arrival.

The APC now dominates the House with about 180 members, while the Peoples Democratic Party, hitherto the majority party with 208 members in 2011, has dropped to around 161.

Speculation of a further postponement of the poll from March 28 have heightened lately, with fears being expressed that Jonathan may rely on the National Assembly to make the extension possible.

A legislative official told The PUNCH in Abuja on Sunday that it “ is likely the government will use the insecurity in the North-East as a ‘part of the country at war’ to request for the deferment.”

“The President will have to rely on the National Assembly, which is the approving authority in this regard,” he added.

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, appeared not to be sure of the likely turn of events when he told the Senate last week that he could not guarantee the sanctity of the March 28.

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