The Action Congress of Nigeria and the All Nigerian Peoples Party on Sunday raised alarm over the arrest of former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima, saying the act was aimed at intimidating members of the opposition by the Federal Government.
The parties described as unacceptable the arrest of Yerima in Kaduna State over alleged inciting comments on a live radio programme on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Kaduna.
Senator Yerima was released barely hours after, but the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the arrest might signal an impending clampdown on the opposition by what he described as “an increasingly jittery Federal Government.”
The party said Yerima’s arrest by the police, for saying in a radio interview that there would be a mass protest if the Independent National Electoral Commission refused to register the newly formed All Progressive Congress after it would have met all legal requirements, was nothing short of “budding fascism.”
The party maintained that Yerima did not say anything extra-ordinary by threatening a protest, adding that protests remained an integral part of liberal democracy and could not be wished away or banned by anyone.
The party also accused the Peoples’ Democratic Party of working with some unnamed people to register what it called a “phantom African Peoples’ Congress,” which it said was done to deny the APC registration with the INEC.
“We will like to say, in support of Senator Yerima, that if INEC refuses to register the All Progressives Congress, when all the legal requirements have been met, the protest in Tahrir Square in Egypt will be a child’s play compared to what we will do at the Eagle Square.
“We say this because we are aware that the Peoples’ Democratic Party, which is mortally afraid of the rise and rise of the APC, is behind the phantom African Peoples’ Congress which has applied to INEC for registration, in an effort to instigate an acronym crisis and give INEC a reason, if it needs any, not to register the All Progressives Congress.
”But we will like to warn that if indeed INEC has not merged with the PDP, as one of our leaders, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) has brilliantly said, then we do hope that the electoral body, which by the way is not unaware of the All Progressives Congress as the authentic APC, will not succumb to the evil machinations of the apprehensive PDP,” the statement said.
According to the party, it expected more acts of intimidation by the Federal Government in form of arrests, investigations by the anti-corruption agencies, among others.
“After all, it is generally believed that the recent redeployment of Police commissioners in the states was done in readiness for the pre-2015 clampdown on the opposition. We know the arrest of Senator Yerima is just a tip of the iceberg, as the PDP-controlled FG gets ready to bare its fangs. But we must warn that fascism can never prevail over liberal democracy,” the statement said.
In another statement statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, the ANPP said the arrest of Yerima was “a sign of things to come from the ruling PDP as they are patently jumpy over the coalition of progressives in readiness for the 2015 elections.”
It said that under Nigeria’s democracy, free speech is allowed and that the Senator was merely exercising his rights without breaching public peace by any means.
“Moreover, peaceful demonstration is also legal. If Senator Yerima expresses doubts about the sincerity of the ruling party in supporting democratic best practices and calls for a future peaceful demonstration, it is only a government which has malicious agenda that would take offence at such opinion,” the statement added.
In his defence, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Olufemi Adenaike said the Senator was not arrested but merely invited to clear the air on the statement he made at the radio station.
“All I did was to go to the radio house and I met the distinguished Senator and I said, Please, I want to know what you said,” he said.
The CP added that, “He (Yerima) said, ‘no problem, let me finish. And I will come with you to the office.’ That was what transpired.”
“If you were in my shoes as the commissioner of police and you start getting calls from concerned citizens of the state that somebody has made an inciting statement on radio, will you go to burukutu (local brew) joint and start drinking? You have to make a move.
“I am surprised that people are saying many things like, ‘CP has arrested him, CP has orders from Abuja.’ The distinguished senator is not under arrest.
“All we did was to find out what he said. And he said they were going to go on a peaceful demonstration. And I said define what you mean by peaceful demonstration, considering that Kaduna State is a volatile state. I don’t want anything to happen in my domain. I am completely satisfied with what he has said. And he is free to go. There was no directive from anywhere. We were doing things on our own.”