- Reaffirms respect for right to protest, criticise govt
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend dismissed calls for protests, billed for today, and being championed by Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, saying the days of coups and revolution are long gone.
The president described organisers of the protest as “faceless,” challenging them to come out of their hiding and reveal their identities.
The president, in a statement in Abuja by one of his spokesmen, Mallam Garba Shehu, said he had respect for the rights of citizens to protest, but described organisers of the protests as individuals merely seeking to attain power by violent and undemocratic means.
According to him, the ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government.
The statement added that the president was re-elected through the ballot box only six months ago and the results of the elections were affirmed by international observers while those who disagreed with the outcome are still contesting it in the court.
“Less than six months ago, Nigeria held simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections. Both contests were won resoundingly by President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress. The campaign was observed, and results were confirmed by international election monitoring groups and observers. The result was even contested by the losing presidential candidate and his party in court.
“The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria. The days of coups and revolutions are over. Those making the ‘revolution’ call hide behind the veil of social media modernity. But without revealing the identity of their sponsors this shadowy campaign is no better, and no more democratic, than the days of old.
“The president calls on all those who seek to use and hide behind everyday citizens to attain power through undemocratic and violent means, which has been alluded, to come out clearly and be identified. They should lead their march in person. Only then will they begin to have the right to call themselves leaders before the people of Nigeria,” the statement said in part.
The statement added that the president and his government have respect for the rights of citizens to embark on peaceful protests and simultaneously criticise the government, but the current call for regime change is antithetical to civil campaign.
It also said proponents of a “revolution” march today “with the aim of bringing ‘regime change’ in Nigeria without recourse to a nationwide vote,” should come out boldly and declare who will be the beneficiaries of the outcome of the revolution.
“The President of Nigeria and his administration respect and uphold the right of every Nigerian to peaceful protest and civil campaign– whether to raise awareness on issues, and even oppose the government. It is the inalienable right of all citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to do so.
“There is, however, a difference between peaceful call to protest and incitement for a revolution.
“The organisation championing this planned action is not fronted by any serious public faces. We call on the sponsors and organisers to have the decency to come forward and make their identity known – out of respect to all Nigerians – so that Nigerians can be fully aware in whose name this ‘revolution’ is being proposed and who the beneficiaries may be,” it said.