Falana: Emasculation of Opposition, Constriction of Democratic Space Signs of Buhari’s Alleged Third Term Bid


•Says he won’t allow Buhari to be reckless

By Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has said that despite the official denial by the Presidency that President Muhammadu Buhari will not seek a third term in office, the emasculation of the opposition, constriction of the democratic space, subversion of the rule of law through disobedience of court orders, among others are signs of the alleged third term agenda.

Though, for the third time, the presidency had on Monday denied rumours that Buhari was nursing a third term agenda, stressing that the president has no such plan to elongate his stay in office beyond 2023.

But Falana in a statement on Tuesday claimed that Buhari’s third term agenda kicked off on September 21, 2019 under the auspices of “Movement For the Approval of Buhari Third Term.”

He added that the members of the group who launched the campaign in Abuja were not harrassed by the Police or the State Security Service, while the Presidency did not deem it fit to disown or dissociate itself from the campaign.

The human rights lawyer said that following the popular rejection of the campaign, the presidency issued a statement on October 2, 2019 to “correct internet-based gossip and un-informed media commentary regarding presidential term limits, given credence by so-called support groups, staging street demonstrations asking President Muhammadu Buhari to do a third term.”

Falana noted that in rejecting the pressure of the “so called support groups”, Buhari stated last month that he was not going to make the mistake of attempting a third term, adding that besides his age, he swore by the holy book that he would go by the constitution.

He stated: “Notwithstanding the official denial of the third term agenda the Buhari regime has since intensified its campaign for the emasculation of the opposition and constriction of the democratic space.

“This has been manifested in the subversion of the rule of law through disobedience of court orders, sponsoring of anti media bills and reckless arrest, detention and prosecution of the perceived enemies of the federal government.”

Falana pointed out that peaceful meetings and rallies against unpopular policies of the government were violently suppressed, while rented crowd attack groups and citizens who challenge ‘authoritarian rule’ in the land.

He emphasised that on Monday, armed thugs unleashed violence on peaceful protesters in Abuja with the alleged connivance of a detachment of the Nigeria Police Force, stressing that one of the leaders of the protesters, Mr. Deji Adeyanju who was severely injured by the thugs had been hospitalised, while lamenting that up till now, no arrest has been made by the Police.

Falana stated: “Since this is the route that has been followed to pave way for the third term agenda of incumbent Presidents in Guinea, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire I was compelled to urge Nigerians not to dismiss the campaign of the “so-called support groups, staging street demonstrations asking President Muhammadu Buhari to do a third term.”

He noted that the Presidency decided to attack him for challenging the support groups and All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders that are behind the third term campaign, stressing that even though the campaigners are well known to the security agencies they have not being attacked by the Presidency.

“We fought the plan of the late General Sani Abacha to metamorphose from a military dictator to a civilian President through the manipulation of a discredited political transition programme. Some of us were detained for 10 months without trial. In 2006, I was also involved in the campaign against the third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Like now, I was accused of spreading false rumours!,” he added.

Falana emphasised that for filing suits in the courts to challenge official impunity, he has been accused of engaging in judicial blackmail by sponsored agents of the State.

He noted that by now, he expects the Presidency to have realised that he had been as constant as the northern star in the defence of human rights, democracy and rule of law.

Falana explained that In 1992, himself and his colleagues fought the “hidden agenda” for the tenure extension of military President Ibrahim Babangida, where they were charged with treasonable felony, adding that the case was however struck out in their favour.

He stressed that in denying the third term agenda, Buhari said that he “can afford to be reckless”, adding, “since we are not a conquered people, we are not going to allow the President to be reckless in the exercise of his powers in so far as as they are limited by the Constitution.”

Falana stressed further that shortly after the official denial of the third term agenda, a chieftain of APC, Mr. Charles Enya filed suit no. FHC/AI/CS/90/19 at the Federal High Court in Abakiliki praying for the amendment of section 137(1) (b) and 182 (1) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution to allow for a third term for the President and the state Governors.

He said that Enya later succumbed to public pressure when he announced in court that he had decided to discontinue the matter to allow for further consultations.

Falana notes that the ruling party which had threatened to sanction Enya for filing the suit had since maintained sealed lips.

He said it was pertinent to note that after the dismissal of Enya’s suit, a bill for a 6-year single term of office for the President and the 36 state governors was sponsored by a member of the APC in the House of Representatives. He said the bill which was to promote the third term agenda through the back door was rejected.