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Nigeria: Senate Reprimands President Obasanjo

The Nigerian Senate Wednesday criticized President Olusegun Obasanjo over what it called his attempts to disqualify some candidates from competing in the country’s upcoming April presidential elections. In a resolution passed Wednesday, the senate urged President Obasanjo to desist from utterances which they say raise doubts about his administration’s willingness to allow free and fair elections.

Senator Lawal Shuaidu represents Nigeria’s northwestern state of Zamfara. He said the senate resolution simply called on the president to check his utterances.

“What happened today was that President Obsanjo was alleged to have said on one of his trips in the southern states that the elections this year are going to be do or die, and that he is not going to hand over to anybody who is not going to continue with his reform programs. Now, one senator stood up with a motion to call the president to attention. The senate debated the motion. We agreed that the senate is pleading with the president to check his utterances,” he said.

In its resolution, the senate said President Obasanjo’s public utterances bring into question the legitimacy of the upcoming elections. Senator Shuaidu said the president’s comments send a bad signal.

“What it means clearly is that the president, said he is not going to hand over government to anybody who wins election but refuses to agree to continue with his reform programs. And that is enough to send bad signals because there are other candidates from other political parties who probably don’t believe in the reform programs of the president, who have their own programs to implement for Nigerians,” he said.

Senator Shuaidu said it’s not yet clear to the senate whether President Obsanjo might try to interfere with the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission. But he said there are indications the president might.

“There is no proof up to now as to whether he is interfering with the National Electoral Commission. But there are lots of speculations that he might direct the electoral commission to do one or two things probably that could favor their own party,” Shuaidu said.

He said the senate has not decided to look into reports that Vice President Atiku Abubakar might be banned from contesting the coming elections.

“He (President Obsanjo) has no powers to stop the vice president in running in the elections. But what he did, on the basis of an allegation of corruption against the vice president, he now sets up an administrative panel, which indicted the vice president. And in accordance with the constitution of Nigeria, once you have been indicted by an administrative panel set up by government, it means you are eligible to contest elections again,” Shuaidu said.