by Akintomiwa Agbaje
The controversy over the existence or otherwise of a sniper list which the government intends to use in annihilating its political opponents continues to draw reactions. Members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) including the party leader. Bisi Akande, Nasir el-Rufai, Rivers governor, Rotimi Amaechi and others have cried out saying their lives are in danger.
In separate interviews with PUNCH on Saturday, they accused the President of having their names on a sniper list which was alluded to by President Olusegun Obasanjo in his 18-page open letter to the President in December.
This time in the roll call, the former military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari; the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi; Bisi Akande (a former Osun State Governor and Interim Chairman of the All Progressives Congress) and Nasir el-Rufai (the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory) have unanimously accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being after their lives.
According to a Nigerian Eye report:
El-Rufai had on Thursday named the top politicians as some of the persons on President Jonathan’s watch list. When our correspondents sought their reactions, on Saturday, they agreed with the FCT minister, saying they were targets for being in the opposition to the ruling government.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in an 18-page letter to Jonathan, dated December 2, 2013, accused the President of training snipers and putting 1,000 people on a watch list. He also accused Jonathan of having a killer-squad.
But the Presidency dismissed the allegation, swiftly. It insisted on Saturday that President Goodluck Jonathan had no watch or hit list as being speculated by certain persons.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, reacted on behalf of the Presidency.
El-Rufai, on his Twitter account on Thursday, identified the top politicians as Buhari, Tinubu, Amaechi, Akande and himself as some of those on the watch list. The ex-minister stressed that he was number seven on the list.
“I am number seven on the GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) sniper list, so I will only worry when GMB (General Muhammadu Buhari), Asiwaju (Tinubu), Amaechi, Akande, etc, are killed,” he tweeted.
The following day, he added, “They plot and plan, and God too plans; but the best of planners is God. — Qur’an 8:30 … God protects us”
In his response, Akande told one of our correspondents that his life was in the hands of God, noting that the mysteries surrounding previous killings with political undertone had yet to be unravelled by security agencies.
Akande’s media aide, Lani Baderinwa, who spoke on Saturday, said it won’t be out of place if the APC Chairman was placed on the watch list, being the leader of the opposition in the country today.
“You and I know that Nigeria is a country where anything goes and illegal actions are the order of the day. What else can he do than to be hoping that the wish of the enemies will not come to pass in his life,” he asked.
He said the watch list allegation became more substantive as it came from an insider who knew the workings of the government.
“It was not Chief Akande who actually made the allegation (of a watch list); it was the former President (Olusegun Obasanjo) who has access to everything that the incumbent has, you cannot deny that fact. Therefore, it is difficult to say it is not true. The life of a man is in the hands of God, to be or not to be. Chief Akande remains unshaken.” he noted.
Akande’s aide said telling people to hold the government responsible was a wasted effort, considering that “all the murders in the last 15 years have not been unravelled.”
Baderinwa added, “Most of these unravelled murders had the tones and tendencies of state-sponsored assassination. How then can we make noise that they (government) should be held responsible? As far as we are concerned, the life of Chief Bisi Akande is in the hands of God.
“And we know that despite his age, he has more to contribute to Nigeria than most of these people who are planning to assassinate other people for no just cause other than they are opposition.”
Speaking for Buhari, the erstwhile spokesman for the Congress for Progressive Change (now merged with APC), Rotimi Fashakin, said Buhari’s camp was not surprised that the General’s name was on the list.
Fashakin stated that Buhari got 12 million votes on the platform of CPC, a 10-month-old party at that time, and had since remained a nightmare to the President.
He said, “Everybody knows that the name of Gen. Buhari conjures fear in the heart of the President. That is why they would rather wish that he is no longer in the equation. El-Rufai cannot be far from the truth when he asserted the VIPs that are in the wanted list. He is totally correct.
“Jonathan’s presidency should tell us why (former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Hamza) al-Mustapha is being kept in the Army.
“One of the things that will be giving the presidency sleepless nights will be how to rig. They used some incumbent governors to reduce the vote of the CPC.”
Fashakin said Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan did the nation a great service, adding that the President’s response did not clear any doubt.
He expressed his suspicion over the reinstatement of al-Mustapha into the army after 15 years in detention. He said it might not be unconnected with the watch list.
“Knowing al-Mustapha’s antecedent as one who superintended over Abacha’s killer squad, why shouldn’t we be apprehensive that this government is trying to play with fire,” Fashakin said.
He also said it was the duty of the Nigerian state to protect Buhari, as a former Head of State.
Fashakin added, “It will be a shame to the Nigerian state, if the amiable General is allowed to be taken out just like that. It is not for him to protect himself; it is for the Nigerian state to ensure that the dastardly plot does not succeed because he has served Nigeria meritoriously. It’s a good thing that Nigerians have been put on notice. So, if anything happens to Buhari, we know that direction we should be looking at.”
Amaechi also revealed that although his life was at risk, based on the inclusion of his name on Jonathan’s alleged watch list, he was not afraid of death.
The governor, who spoke through the Chief of Staff of the Government House, Port Harcourt, Tony Okocha, said el-Rufai’s findings were real. He, however, said God was his ultimate protector.
Amaechi said the signs that he was on the sniper list were open to everybody. He identified the alleged use of the Nigeria Police to embarrass his office as one of the indicators that he was on the list.
“We don’t own the police or any of the security outfits in the country. They are all controlled by the Federal Government. So, we solely rely on God to protect us. The governor is a hero and he will be a martyr if he dies based on what he believes.
“We do not have any security measure and we believe that God is the ultimate protector of man. When a governor is being hunted with the police and when a police commissioner confronts a governor of a state at will, these are signs of threat to the governor’s life,” Amaechi added.
But while saying Jonathan had personally explained that he had no watch list, the presidential spokesman said any person who felt he had seen such list should feel free to approach security agents.
Abati said, “The President has already addressed that matter that there is no watch or hit list anywhere but if by any chance, el-Rufa’i or any other person feels he has seen any list, why has he not reported to security agencies?
“If he has the list, let him produce it, otherwise it appears he is just talking nonsense. It is sheer irresponsible talk. There is no watch or hit list anywhere.
“People should stop speculating about any list, they should stop making themselves appear to be important when they are actually not important at all.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, had forwarded a memo to the National Human Rights Commission, directing it to investigate allegations of rights abuse contained in Obasanjo’s letter.
The memo, with reference number HAGF/NHRC2013/Vol2/5, was dated December 23, 2013, was addressed to the Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Ben Angwe.