Niger's embattled President Mamadou
Tandja has vowed to go ahead with his planned 4 August referendum despite
At a news conference Thursday, President Tandja
dismissed international pressure about his plan, saying Nigeriens want him to
But the opposition contends that President Tandja is subverting the
constitution, describing the referendum as a coup d'état.
Tandja, whose second
five-year term ends in December, wants to change the constitution to extend his
rule for three more years.
Alhaji Mahamadou Abubakar Dan Dubai is the
chief supporter of Tandja's constitutional reform. He told VOA that the opposition cannot stop the 4 August referendum.
is not President Tandja who asked about the referendum, no. Major people say Tandja is the best
president. He is a very good president
and he works for the people very nicely, so he has to stay," Dubai said.
He said supporters of the
president wanted him to continue with good works.
"When the people talked and
they made their manifestation… the president is okay. No problem. The people
like me (and) I like them," he said.
Dubai dismissed the recent
ruling of the constitutional court declaring the 4 August referendum illegal.
"Let me tell you something.
Anywhere in the world in the big countries, they say democracy, what is
democracy? This is the best democracy Tandja (brought) to Niger. This is
democracy, what the people need. And the president has to respect it. The
government has to respect it and has to do it. That is democracy," Dubai said.
He said it would be wrong
for President Tandja to refuse the will of the people.
"When the people need
something and the government says no, this is dictatorship. We are Niger
people, and we say we like our president. We are the ones who do elections and
we put a president there. And again the people came out and said we need our
president. What is the problem"? he asked.
Dubai rejected opposition
claims that the referendum is a coup d'état.
"You know the problem? The
opposition in Niger. They are not capable to do what Tandja did in this
country," he said.
Dubai said supporters of the
president are urging him to press ahead with his developmental plans and not to
be distracted by the opposition.
"When Tandja became
president, Tandja got only 630 million (CFA), like one million dollar only…
Now, we are very rich because of Tandja. We don't have any crisis… We want
Tandja to stay," Dubai said.
The opposition has expressed
determination to thwart the referendum. Abdul Kamardine is a human rights activist.
He told VOA that Nigerians are outraged over Tandja's refusal
to hand over power after his second term expires in December.
"They (Nigeriens) are
actually surprised the old man is holding onto power because some people are
even saying, maybe an old man of more than 70 years, he (Tandja) may be sick as
well," Kamardine said.
He said there is speculation
that those around the embattled president are urging him to stay.
"So what people understand
is there are some lobbies who are trying to protect their financial and
economic gains in the fields of uranium mining and petroleum mining… so that is
why those people are pushing him not to go," he said.
Kamardine said that by
campaigning in the upcoming referendum, the opposition would be endorsing an
"Right from the beginning,
the Constitutional Court has ruled that it is unlawful to go ahead with that
organization. So for them (opposition)
to come out and be campaigning against, it is like participating in that
masquerade," Kamardine said.
Some political observers say
Tandja's planned referendum has plunged the country in a deep political crisis.
To hold the controversial poll, Tandja, has dissolved both parliament and the
Constitutional Court. The opposition has voiced outrage and is threatening to
stage a coup and use all legal means to prevent the referendum.