The Federal Government may have warned against foreign interference in the nation’s affairs following a rash of statements by foreign governments on the President’s removal of the head of the judiciary, but the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has expressed appreciation at the interference by the United States of America, United Kingdom, and European Union in the matter of the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The government said the foreign interference is capable of creating apprehension, distrust among citizens, and undermining the transparency and acceptability of outcomes of the nation’s electoral process.
However, restating his position that he rejected what he described as the unconstitutional removal of Onnoghen, Atiku welcomed the involvement of the international community.
His words in a statement on Sunday: “I am not fighting for Justice Onnoghen. I am fighting for the constitution. Once we open the Pandora’s Box of unconstitutionality, we cannot tell where it will end.
“This scenario appears to me like déjà vu. Under a particularly brutal military dictatorship, Nigerians witnessed the illegal and arbitrary removal of many innocent people from their positions of authority and many said nothing because they were not from the ethnic group of those affected.
“I remember speaking up then that what we know is when the rain begins, but we do not know when it will end. My warnings were ignored by some until they woke up one day and that dictator removed no less a personality than the Sultan of Sokoto.
“It is worth pointing out that Muhammadu Buhari was by his side when he did that. He obviously learned very well from his teacher.
“If they come for the heads of the legislature and we keep quiet because we are not legislators, if they came for the heads of the media and we keep quiet because we are not journalists, if they came for the head of the judiciary and we keep quiet because he/she is not from our area, there may be no one left to speak up when they come for us.
“At this point, let me commend all the Lord Justices of the Supreme Court who have heeded my call and the call of other patriots to remain united. The fact that they did not participate in the swearing-in of election petition tribunals is not lost on true
democrats all over the world.
“My thanks especially go to the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union for standing shoulder to shoulder with the Nigerian people. This is most appreciated and on behalf of the voiceless, I say thank you.
“And to those who accuse these governments of interfering, I remind them that they made no such accusations when they celebrated a statement from the US/UK/EU calling for free and fair elections in 2015, just after the postponement of the 2015 elections to make room for a final assault against Boko Haram. What has changed between then and now, except that they are now in power.”
In a statement on Saturday in apparent reaction to the US, UK, and EU statements expressing reservations over Onnoghen’s suspension by Buhari, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, condemned “any interference or perception management that promotes apprehension, citizens distrust or undermines the transparency and acceptability of the outcomes of our electoral process.
He added: “Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all.
“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections’’.
He said the government welcomes the prevailing keen interest and partnerships for successful elections and a peaceful Nigeria.
Government, he said, has ensured the independence of all organs, institutions and arms of government to “perform their functions in a manner that is transparent, and not lacking in integrity whether institutionally or by persons within such institutions or organs.’’
“Although the question of foreign interference, whether state sponsored, promoted or otherwise has dominated recent elections and outcomes globally, the federal government assures citizens and the global community that it will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process,” it said.
The government enjoined the citizens to confidently exercise their franchise in an orderly manner with the assurance of the federal government to their security during and after the electoral process.
Shehu further reiterated the readiness of the nation’s security forces to confront any plan or attempt to interfere with or disrupt the process whether by elements within or from outside the country.
Additional reports by NAN