Panel denies indicting Buhari over post-election riots
By KINGSLEY OMONOBI & PAUL ODENYI
ABUJA—Barely 24 hours after the Federal Government panel on the 2011 Elections Violence and Civil Disturbances submitted its report and a section of the media alleged that former head of state and Presidential candidate of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), was indicted for making provocative utterances that instigated the violence, Chairman of the panel, Dr. Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, has said Buhari was never indicted in the panel’s report submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan.
The report submitted by Sheikh Lemu, had said, “Provocative utterances by many individuals and the widespread charge by prominent politicians including the CPC presidential candidate, to the electorate to ‘guard their votes’, ‘appeared’ to have been misconstrued by many voters to include recourse to violence which they misconstrued.”
But, Lemu, in a chat with select journalists in Abuja, yesterday, described the interpretation as misleading noting, “We never indicted Buhari. From the outset, we said the commission is not out to indict anybody. We are not a judicial panel. It was a shock to us to hear or read that we blamed Buhari for the violence.
“In all my years as a teacher, a judge etc, I have come to learn that no matter what you do or how good your idea or suggestion is, somebody must criticise you. In fact, what we said in our report exonerated him (Buhari). We made it clear to Mr. President that we are not out to indict anybody.”
The chairman stressed that at the meeting his panel had with Gen. Buhari, where he opened up to them, he (Lemu) was surprised that he (Buhari) was able to talk to them, giving them instances where he was a victim of the post-election violence.
Lemu said: “I sent a team of prominent members of the panel to meet with Buhari. I never thought he would even agree to talk to us, but he did. He told us that he himself was a victim of the violence and of the destruction of his property the photographs of which were given to the panel. He explained to the panel he would never be a supporter of violence.”
Meanwhile, the Buhari Campaign Organisation has commended the report of the panel, saying it has vindicated Gen. Buhari’s position that he never instigated the crisis but was a fallout of social, political and economic conditions in the country.
Mr. Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of the organisation, said the report which was submitted to President Jonathan clearly located the cause of the crisis which engulfed parts of country, as a failure of governance at that period.
On the report’s alleged indictment of Buhari, Odumakin said instead the report vindicated him, saying the call for the electorate to defend their votes was similarly made by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and its Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
He said: “The report vindicated Gen. Buhari, who asked people to guard their vote, the same way INEC and Prof. Jega and religous leaders such as Pastor Adeboye asked people to protect their vote. The report did not indict Gen. Buhari.”
He said: “We commend the panel for locating the causes of the problem and identifying as one, the internal schism within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We are also happy that the panel also said that the problem was neither a religious, Christian/muslim thing; neither North versus South issue. It was, according to the panel, a failure of governance at the time.
“The panel also identified the pervasive poverty in the land, the monetisation of politics as a do or die affair and the failure of government both now and the past to implement past report on disturbances as the reason for the outbreak of violence after the election.