The Alliance for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (ASDA) has asked Benin Republic President Patrice Talon to resign because he has lost the people’s trust.
The Chairman of ASDA, Prosper Agbesi, made the call at a news conference held on the sideline of 55th Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on Saturday in Abuja.
ASDA is a continental civil society organisation, which promotes credible elections and participatory democracy on the continent.
Mr Agbesi, who is also the presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Congress (ANC) and a key opposition leader in the 2016 country’ elections, said he was speaking on behalf of other opposition political parties in the country.
According to him, opposition parties have come together to save the country, to avert a physical showdown between unarmed civilians and armed agents of a repressive government led by a proven unethical leader.
“We have a president whose company runs our ports, the cotton (industry); our Customs does not run the revenue but his company, his company is called `Benin Control’.
“Can you have something like that in Nigeria where President Buhari’s company is running the revenue?
“The cotton is him, the hotel (industry) is him, there is no job for our people, now they are killing our people in the country, we don’t have any help.
“This man has lost the trust of our people; there is no more trust between us and him.
“He just needs to resign and we are going to put in place a government of unity.
“We don’t want violence, we don’t want confrontation, and we just want him to resign.
“We also want a re-election of the parliament, and we want all our people in exile to come home,” he said.
According to him, more than half the population of the country is out of the country on exile in neighbouring countries.
“I had to go and help some of them the last time.
“The people of Benin are mourning as we speak and there is no hope for the people.
“Our people are mourning because we have an illegal parliament; we have someone who has taken over every institution in our country.
“Benin has transformed into a one-party state.
“The over ten political parties in opposition have no single representation at all in the country’s 83-member legislature.
“The national assembly members were barred from contesting the most recent parliamentary elections held in March through the sudden and unconstitutional changes to the electoral code introduced a month to the elections,’’ he said.
He added that at the moment, Mr Talon was ruling without any form of legislative checks and balances.
He alleged that it was instructive that the new legislature, comprising entirely members of the president’s party and his closest political allies, was elected into office by just 27 per cent of the registered electorate.
According to him, this translates into less than 10 per cent of the country’s entire population,’’ he said.
While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for his intervention so far in the country, he asked for more help to restore democracy in Benin.
“The step that Buhari has taken is noble.
“We must thank him for putting his foot down for the former president to be released from prison; he was sick.
“A former president was kept under house arrest for 54 days without telling us the charges.
“We thank President Buhari for what he is doing in Benin, but it is not enough.
“We are very honourable people as Benin people and yet you have from 18 to 40 years old people filling all the prisons in Benin, and this is the first time this is happening,” Mr Agbesi stated.
He further said that if given the opportunity to rule Benin, he would work closely with Nigeria for the benefit of the two countries.
He stressed the need to use this opportunity to tell the leadership of Nigeria that Benin and Nigeria constitute an integral economy.
“If I take over (leadership), I’m telling Nigeria that this is your place, let us do business together. Gone are those days when small countries insist on autonomy in every area of life.
“I want to be called the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Benin because we have to integrate our economy by first of all growing our country’s GDP.
“What we care about is the health care of our people, the education of our people and the infrastructure,’’ he said.
He alleged that Mr Talon and his cabal were making open their bid for autocratic, unchallenged power in Benin.
He said that democracy is being forcibly discarded and replaced with autocracy, right before their very eyes, adding that this has been on for several years now but over the past few months, it has exploded into an open agenda.
“The overwhelming majority of the people who are actively protesting are being met with armed force, getting injured, maimed and even killed on the streets of their own country by agents of the very government which claims it is in office through the mandate these people gave it.
“This is why, we, the political opposition have come together to save our country, to avert a physical showdown between unarmed civilians and armed agents of a repressive government led by a proven unethical leader”.
He said that fundamental human rights, such as freedom of expression and association have, to all intents and purposes been revoked.
He also called on The Kingdom of Morocco to leave Benin alone and stop supporting president Talon.
“Morocco must stay away, we have strong information that the people who are backing the dictator of Benin are from Morocco: people are dying over there and they are sitting at the same table with them,’’ he said.