Despite denials, ghost of interim government looms large five days to election



Uba Group

As the clock continues to tick on the February 25 and March 11 dates for Nigerians to go to the polls to elect men and women into various political offices to superintend the affairs of the country in different capacities, the unwelcomed prospect of an interim government that could be bequeathed to Nigerians because of growing apprehension over the successful conduct of the polls, has continued to loom on the political horizon.

And, with emotionally distraught Nigerians still boxed into a corner because of the perennial fuel crisis and scarcity of naira notes, having five unmistakable days to count before the rigours of the presidential election commence, the fear of a repeat of the interim government similar to the one inspired by a former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, and headed by the late Ernest Shonekan in 1993, would surely be the beginning of wisdom. For the records, however, sundry government officials have denied all suggestions in that regard.

The latest was that by Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who on Friday said in a statement that the talk of Interim Government and truncation of democracy is way off the mark.

“Those who peddle it stand to gain nothing- nothing at all -but the creation of panic and the incitement of the public against the Federal Government,” he stressed. According to the presidential spokesman, “Everybody is aware that there is a lot of pressure on everyone-all of us- the party, its elected officials, its candidates and law enforcement agencies following the way the currency swap has gone but the way to go is not to panic.

“There is indeed a problem and nobody will pretend that it doesn’t exist. It is precisely because the President is concerned with this problem that he opened several avenues for consultation with leaders and groups across the country, culminating in his broadcast to the nation on Thursday morning.

“In line with the speech, his clear and unequivocal directive is that the problem of cash supply must be addressed without delay. While this is being done, there is no need to panic. We need to work together as leaders; as a people and as one nation. When panic hits, people go into overdrive. Shouting helps no one because no one can listen,” he stated. Garba added that “What should be made crystal clear to the doubters and the speculators and the untruth-tellers is that in no way was the naira swap “engineered” to keep the President in office beyond May 29.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The President looks forward to handing over the reins of power to his elected successor.

This will happen on May 29, 2023 as the Constitution requires it. The days of unelected Nigerian leaders, and those who outstay their welcome by unconstitutionally extending it, have gone,” Shehu noted. Babangida, in probably his most ignoble act in office, subverted the will of the people who voted overwhelmingly for the undeclared winner of the June 12 presidential election, the late business mogul, MKO Abiola, when he annulled the results of the election, adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria.

After the annulment, “Maradona”, as Babangida was notoriously referred to, infamously installed an Interim National Government, a first of its kind in Nigeria. Interestingly, the authorities at the time, while adducing reasons in support of the annulment, told flummoxed Nigerians that Abiola, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, had appeared at a polling unit with the horse logo of his political party fully emblazoned on the front of the “agbada” he wore.

According to them, Abiola used his attire to solicit votes when he should have known it was forbidden to do so on election day. Now, almost 30 years after the sorry excuse of a reason given for the annulment, Nigeria is on the edge of the precipice.


But unlike the charade in 1993 to foist Shonekan on the people, the country is now faced with a real sense of foreboding and may find herself in the grip of a new interim government, if the allegations made by Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, are anything to go by. El-Rufai is an associate of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and a likely would-be minister or official with a reasonable portfolio, should the Asiwaju become Mr. President.

And judging by the recognition he enjoyed when he was called upon by Tinubu to answer a question related to insecurity at Chatham House in the United Kingdom, it is abundantly safe to say that El-Rufai is one of Tinubu’s right-hand men and a formidable member of his inner caucus. While answering the question delegated to him, El-Rufai proved his worth to have been included among the eggheads in Tinubu’s entourage with his elocution skills wowing the audience.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that after Tinubu, in one of his campaigns in Ekiti State, hinted at a grand scheme by the powers that be to derail his presidential ambition, El-Rufai also emerged to corroborate the allegation, insisting that the naira scarcity and lingering fuel crisis were the handiwork of certain Rock who were hell-bent on playing the role of detractors because their own candidate lost the party’s presidential primary election. The APC later renounced the Central Bank of Nigeria’s naira redesign policy, which it blamed for the scarcity.

And three states controlled by the party: Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara took the matter to the Supreme Court, where the apex court gave an order restraining the apex bank’s governor, Godwin Emefiele, from phasing out old naira notes just yet until the final determination of the case. The CBN, however, insisted that it would go on with the policy and also reaffirmed its commitment to end swapping of old naira notes by the February 10 deadline it announced.

Expectedly, protests and riots broke out in several parts of the country with several commercial banks either vandalised or looted. Analysts then began to question the rationale behind the CBN governor’s refusal to obey the order of the Supreme Court. And in spite of the efforts by very high profile authority figures like former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who expressed hope that nothing would stop the conduct of the polls, and Buhari who approved the establishment of a 22-member Presidential Transition Council, with the signing of Executive Order No. 14 of 2023 for the facilitation and management of presidential transitions, Nigerians are yet to be assuaged.

And when the Supreme Court further adjourned hearing on the Naira redesign case to February 22, 2023, and the President, likely sensing a breakdown of law and order before the elections, told Nigerians in a nationwide broadcast that the old N500 and N1, 000 notes had ceased to be legal tenders in country. In a new twist, however, the President announced that the N200 would continue to be used for 60 more days, only. Buhari’s address left many questions unanswered even as some Nigerians, led by the “indefatigable” El-Rufai, insisted on the earlier order of the Supreme Court that the N500 and N1, 000 notes continued circulating. Additionally, Buhari’s address didn’t seem to provide the relief sought by Nigerians, and analysts fear that this could be the catalyst that speeds up, one way or the other, the foisting of an interim government on Nigerians. In a telephone chat with The Point, legal heavyweight, Itsey Sagay, said that Emefiele was plotting and creating “chaos, insecurity and uncertainty” in the country so that conditions could be ripe for an interim government.

In Sagay’s assessment, the CBN governor’s actions could be a deliberate plot to plunge the country into crisis. Sagay, who disapproved of the actions of Emefiele, also said that the CBN boss ought to be “stopped” otherwise the future of Nigeria would not be guaranteed. The former chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption noted that since the Supreme Court had given an order mandating the Emefiele-led CBN to continue with the old notes, it behooves the executive arm of government to obey the Supreme Court by “effectively stopping Emefiele”.


Sagay added that an action for contempt should be brought against the embattled CBN governor if he persisted with the naira redesign policy of the apex bank. “The way things are going is frightening….particularly the manner the CBN governor is plotting and creating chaos, insecurity and uncertainty in the country. “And it makes one wonder whether it’s not a deliberate plot to plunge the country into a crisis in order to create a condition for an interim government,” Sagay said.

Continuing, he said, “I don’t see how anyone will deliberately carry-on with what the CBN governor was told (by the Supreme Court) and yet expects there will be normalcy. “He has to be stopped, otherwise the future of this country will not be guaranteed. It is for the executive arm of government to obey the Supreme Court by effectively stopping him. And if he does not stop, then an action for contempt should be brought against him and that could lead to imprisonment.”

Asked whether in the event of a complete breakdown of law and order, an interim government could be an option, the respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria said that “it cannot make sense at any time.” He noted that an interim government was the evidence that democracy had broken down again.

He also told our correspondent that such a scenario, even without bloodshed or gunshots, would be akin to the country going back to the dark days of military coup d’états. Sagay said, “An interim government cannot make sense at any time as far as I am concerned. If there’s an interim government, it’s evidence that democracy has broken down again and you know how fundamentally tragic that will be. “That we are now going back…even without bloodshed or gunshots…we are going back to January 1966, July 1975 when Yakubu Gowon was removed, December 1983 and August 1985. “We are going back to the breakdown of our democracy and, therefore, disappearance of the rule of law.

It’s so damaging to the soul of the country that it should not be contemplated,” Sagay declared. Moreover, the distinguished Professor of Law stated that since the Nigeria constitution didn’t make any provisions for an interim government, anyone who had ever been an interim president shouldn’t enjoy the privileges entitled to past presidents.

He also noted that in circumstances where it was impossible to have an election because of “conditions of uncertainty or extreme insecurity in the country”, the existing president would “continue in power for six months, at a time.”

Also joining the conversation, a stalwart of the People’s Democratic Party, Ogbeide Ifaluyi-Isibor, said that Nigerians have their minds focused on the election, and do not envisage an interim government or a possible need for one.

Ogbeide, who supports the presidential candidate of the Labour Party and is the coordinator for Peter Obi group, posited that the security and economic challenges Nigerians were experiencing today were not new and that the country has had it worse before and elections still held. Ogbeide singled out those he termed “political actors” and accused them of overheating the polity with the talks of interim government.

He also observed that the body language of the president was favourably disposed to a successful transition. Ogbeide said, “The truth is that political actors are, maybe, in my view, overheating the polity with these talks of an interim government. There’s no suggestion why there should be an interim government. “The president has made it clear that he intends to hold elections and also hand over power.

To that extent, he has set-up a transition committee to ensure the smooth handover of power,” he acknowledged. Ogbeide also claimed that “fear” lay at the root of the unending talks about an interim government. In his opinion, the “political actors” were afraid because for the first time, over 70 million registered voters under the age of 50 “have the capacity and were unanimous in their decision to decide who wins the election.”

Whether he agreed with the allegations made by El-Rufai that cabals in Aso Rock were scheming to install an interim government, Ogbeide said, “I agree with El-Rufai to the extent that his government has failed.

The APC has failed as a government and there is an implosion that is going on in the party.” Ogbeide noted that the implosion was responsible for the attacks and criticisms by APC members against other members of the party.

He also stated that the Nigerian people had rejected the APC. “How else can you spell failure? These men know that the Nigerian people are ready to retire them from politics and from the pilfering of state resources and that is why there is this cry about interim government, here and there,” he asserted. Ogbeide, who noted that there was no anarchy in the system and that the nation was relatively stable, told our correspondent that he would not subscribe to an interim government because there was no basis for it. He said that Nigeria was nowhere near “the issues” that precipitated the Interim National Government of 1993.