AHEAD of 2015 Presidential election, chairman, Northern States Governors’ Forum, NSGF and governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu said yesterday that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar remains the best president Nigeria as a country was yet to have.
Speaking yesterday at the launch of the book, titled, “Landmark Constitutional Law Cases in Nigeria 2004-2007: The Atiku Abubakar Cases”, at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Governor Aliyu who described Atiku Abubakar as one who could not be pushed aside when he was Vice President, however stressed that he had an understanding with his former boss, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, hence any memo which did not have the backing of the former Vice President was considered dead on arrival, adding that each time he nodded his head at Federal Executive Council, FEC meetings, the memo scaled through and when he does anything to the contrary, the memo dies.
Governor Babangida Aliyu who urged any politician who wants to contest for any election, being it Councilorship or Presidential, must budget for it and for the courts, adding, Atiku is “the best President Nigeria is yet to have.”
Meanwhile, the Special Guest of Honour of the event, President Goodluck Jonathan was absent, even as no one represented him.
Speaking at the event, the Chief Host, Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who noted that with his case, governors can now dump the party where they were hitherto elected for another party like what happened on Tuesday where G5 Governors dumped the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the All Progressives Congress, APC .
According to him, the privilege of leaving the PDP without any persecution from ‘above’ was one of the dividends of the persecution he passed through as the Vice President, just as he said that other gains which could be attributed to his ordeal as the Second in Command under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s government between 1999 and 2007 include the inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission to disqualify candidates duly nominated by political parties, among others.
The former Presidential aspirant on the platform of PDP who called for strict adherence to rule of law, however hailed the judiciary, adding, “Today INEC can no longer disqualify candidates that have been duly nominated by their political parties. Today we know that a sitting president or governor may choose to humiliate his deputy, but he cannot remove him from office. The constitutional provision on that has been affirmed by our courts. Today, governors who are elected under a political party can freely defect to another party without persecution
“Today political parties must hold elections to select their officers rather than employ undemocratic methods such as affirmation.This is a critical step if we want internal democracy in political parties without which we really cannot hope for a truly democratic country where impunity by those in power is rejected.”
Stressing that the Nigerian judiciary deserves special commendation, Atiku said, “in the face of enormous pressures it demonstrated exemplary courage in standing by the truth, justice and the Nigerian Constitution. In short it put Nigeria first.
“These cases and the whole experience of fighting for my rights also tell me that we need to do more to strengthen our institutions. We must be a society of rules not of men. We must not trust people in power to do the right things always. Americans do not and they have practiced democracy for hundreds of years. Why should we? And we should stand up to defend our rights and those of others whenever they are threatened by those in power.
“As we seem to be sliding towards more political intolerance, intimidation and harassment of those deemed to be oppositional, we ought to remind ourselves that our work of deepening and normalizing democracy is not done yet. We must remain vigilant, focused and determined to guard the democratic victories that we have won and to further expand the democratic space and extend the frontiers of freedom for our citizens.”
“I did not plan nine years ago to be involved in events and actions that would bring all of you here today for the public presentation of a book about some of those events. I was, as we say in Nigeria, minding my business as the Vice President of our country having had the privilege of being selected twice by President Obasanjo to run on the ticket with him and having been elected on that ticket by the Nigerian people.
“I did not plan on waging struggles to defend and protect my constitutional rights or the Nigerian constitution which I had sworn to defend. I did not think that there would be a reason to make such plans. A number of circumstances and events would, however, shake me out of my comfort zone and propel me to participate in and/or lead the struggles some of which became the court cases captured in this book. I commend these young and accomplished lawyers for putting the book together.
“By hindsight I should not have been as trusting of people doing the right thing when the occasion demanded it, because of the strange things that power can do to even the best of us human beings. I had worked with other compatriots to restore democracy in our country after a long period of rule by our military brothers and sisters. We were convinced that civil democratic government, with all its imperfections, was a preferred form of government because of the freedoms that it allows us to exercise in selecting our leaders and in being who we want to be within the ambits of the law.
“Having achieved democratic restoration, I was committed to deepening our young democracy and I was committed and loyal to our Constitution which I swore to uphold.
“I am a deep believer in the sanctity of the rights of the individual. Thus when I felt that my rights were being abridged, I had to react, but did so according to the law: hence the recourse to the courts.
“The book reviewer has done a good job of highlighting some of the salient issues in the cases covered in the book and drawing out some of the precedents established and lessons for us. So I will not try to repeat them.
Let me say however, that I do not see myself as a hero; I did what I believe reasonable people in my position would do. I just had the privilege of occupying a high office and having the resources to prosecute the struggles.
“But I did not do it alone; a lot of people helped, many of whom I did not even know personally and many of whom would prefer to remain unmentioned- political associates and supporters, lawyers across the country, public servants who provided information often unsolicited. I must say that the support that I received helped immensely to strengthen me and renew my faith in our country.
“Let me use this opportunity to acknowledge the many sufferings that many of my political associates and supporters went through mainly because of their association with me. Many were detained and/or charged to court on frivolous grounds; many lost their jobs or had their businesses destroyed and their lives thrown upside down; and all were threatened and intimidated for their association with me.
“I do not see the court cases as victories for me. If they are to be viewed as victories they are the victories of Nigerians, of Nigeria’s democracy. The cases that we won and the ones that we didn’t win are all important to the extent that they helped to develop Nigeria’s law and democracy.
There were also a pool of encomiums on Atiku from the national leader of APC and former governor of LagosState, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu during the public presentation of a book chronicling his political-cum-legal battles during his tenure as Vice President of the country. He won 14 cases in court mainly against the Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, in which he was the number two man.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was represented by the Spokesman of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “Atiku was misunderstood by many Nigerians for resolving his political crisis through the courts when he was Vice President. But we thank God that the efforts he took in those days have become the bedrock of our democracy today.”
Also speaking, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha who hailed him, said that the lower legislative chambers identifies with the book.
Also in his remarks, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Chief Michael Andooakaa who noted that politics must have a sense of maturity where government and those in leadership do not crush any person seen to be with a perceived enemy, stressed that rule of law must be entrenched and those not happy with actions of some persons should go to court, adding that through out his stay as Minister, he worked with late Musa Yara’adua, yet he was always with Atiku and the late president never harassed him.
The Atiku Abubakar Cases, pulled a large crowd of the who-is-who in Nigeria’s judicial, business and political circles to the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, venue of the book launch.
Other dignitaries also present at the event included the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, his Deputy, Hon. Emeka Ikedioha; Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State as well as the representatives of the governors of Sokoto, Kwara, Enugu and Kano States. A former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Malam Adamu Ciroma, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Lawal Uwais, Yahaha Kwande, and a number of traditional rulers also graced the occasion.
The Chairman of the Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who was represented by Alhaji Issa Yusuf also described Atiku Abubakar as, “a business mentor.”
More than (N50M) Fifty Million Naira was raked in by the authors who are teachers, Professor Maxwell Gidado and Barrister Chidi Ojukwu.