Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Soyinka, Ojukwu, Buhari, Others in Protest March

NOBEL laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and former presidential candidate of All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), will tomorrow lead other eminent Nigerians to the National Assembly to protest against the continued absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua from the country.

It was also learnt that Northern elders will also meet in Kaduna tomorrow on an action plan for the area in view of Yar'Adua's prolonged stay outside the country.

The meeting which was said to have been initiated by the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, would also make recommendations on major political issues and the constitutional steps to be taken by the North

The march on Abuja

The mass action which is being organised under the auspices of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), tomorrow makes 51 days of Yar'Adua's absence from the country without any formal handover to Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck.

Others that would take part in the rally are Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu; Dr. Tunde Bakare, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana and Prof. Pat Utomi, among many other eminent personalities.

The statement by SNG condemned the orchestra of deception by Federal Government officials, Governors' Forum and the National Assembly to cover the "embarrassing and unconstitutional" absence of the President.

Besides Yar'Adua illness question, others issues such as, Electoral Reforms, terror-tag on Nigerians, and corruption in the country have been slated to be addressed.

A member of the group, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said in Enugu yesterday that Soyinka and Buhari volunteered to lead the protest to save the country from a dangerous slide to a failed State and quasi-dictatorship, arising from power vacuum that was created by the absence of the president from the country since the past 50 days.

He listed the unintended consequences of Yar'Adua's absence so far to include the awkward swearing of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) by a sitting CJN, alleged forgery of 2009 Supplementary Budget, collapse of Niger Delta, blacklisting of Nigeria by the United States and the inertia in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to the SNG members, the options open to the National Assembly on the worrisome development, include the invitation of the Vice-President to explain the whereabouts of the President, invitation of the Personal Physician of the President or visit to Saudi Arabia to ascertain his true state of health and impeachment.

North plots way forward

The meeting which was said to have been initiated by the umbrella organisation of all northern cultural associations, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, would also make recommendations on major political issues and the constitutional steps to be taken by the North.

ACF is said to be concerned that constitutional approach should be adopted in the resolution of the quagmire brought about by the President's absence even as many groups and individuals plotted various schemes and strategies regarding the offices of the president and his vice but the National Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Mr. Anthony Sani, is insisting that the meeting is mainly to "consider reports from the planning committee on the 10th Anniversary celebrations of ACF".

Yar'Adua was taken to the Saudi Arabian hospital on November 23, last year but the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, quoted an official of the King Faisal Hospital and Research Centre, Jeddah, that the President was no longer with the hospital as he was taken out of the place on December 23, exactly after one month's stay there.

However, military sources told Vanguard in Abuja that new security measures were introduced to ensure that undesirable elements do not cash in on the prevailing climate of uncertainty over the President's health to cause havoc in the polity.

It was said that apart from cancelling all leaves or "passes," all commanders are now to report to their General Officers' Commanding (GOCs) at least four times a week to ensure that they do not sneak out of their primary places of work.

Although the sources hinted that there had been no threat of any kind whatsoever from any quarters, it was further learnt that military officers are now barred from organizing social parties for their colleagues without due approval from their GOCs until further notice.

"We are not allowed to travel now and all commanders are to see their GOCs at least three or four times a week but some of these measures are not new to us.

"It is normal in the military and I assure you that there is nothing unusual about such measures in view of the fact that our major duty is to protect democratic institutions and deter external aggression," a top military officer told Vanguard yesterday.

Agbakoba writes VP

Meanwhile, former NBA president, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), in a letter, entitled "Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, Where is Our President?", addressed to the Vice-President, said "the time has come for you to speak up on the whereabouts of our President, Yar' Adua. As the Vice-President of this country, please note that this is not the time for rhetorics or the Presidency's usual refrain that 'he will soon return to the country.' Jonathan, specifically tell Nigerians the whereabouts of President Yar'Adua".

"What millions of Nigerians want to hear without any ambiguity now is where our President is. I wish to inform you that in every town, village, hamlet, motor park and even under the bridge in this country, there is a leader who usually galvanises the people or exercises the leadership role on behalf of the people. We cannot continue like this and you must agree with me that in the President's absence, the nation has experienced certain difficulties and challenges in which he (the President) is expected to make decisions."

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