The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has fired back at President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, after asking former President Olusegun Obasanjo to apologize over his comments on the troubling security challenges in Nigeria.
In a seeming counter-offensive, the PDP has charged Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, to apologize to Nigerians for allegedly misleading the country and heating up the polity with unfounded security breach allegations against them and their Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Government on Tuesday asked former President Obasanjo to tender a public apology over his comments imputing ethno-religious motive to the blood-spilling Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, says that with the assurances on Monday, that Nigeria was safe for the Presidential inauguration, Mohammed has further exposed the fact that he, acting for the Federal Government, only conjured claims to create the impression that the PDP and Atiku had set security breaches against the presidential inauguration. Allegations that have vanished like what they are – phantoms!
According to the party, ‘’it is indeed lamentable that in its desperation to secure acceptance from Nigerians and confer legitimacy to the outcome of a rigged election, the Buhari administration would manufacture and purvey fake news to the public, only for Nigerians to learn from the same minister that his earlier claims against the PDP and our Presidential candidate were not based on any concrete evidence but, according to him, on having no reasons to doubt claims by other individuals.
‘’The minister’s claim that he relied on certain alarms fell flat as no agency in the country had ever accused the PDP, as a political party, or our Presidential candidate, Atiku, of doing everything possible to sabotage the Buhari administration, generally overheat the polity and make Nigeria seemingly ungovernable” as claimed by Lai Mohammed.
‘’It is now clear that the whole essence of the misleading allegation was to heat up the system, attempt to cow democratic voices, divert public discourse from the rigging of the Presidential election and scare the PDP and our Presidential candidate from pursuing our stolen Presidential mandate at the court.
‘’We also have fears that Lai Mohammed could have made those wild claims in a bid to pave the way to frame, harass, arrest and detain some opposition figures on trump-up charges. Such antics have failed as Nigerians have seen through them and are resolute, behind Atiku, in the determination to retrieve his mandate in the court, and no form of blackmail and intimidation will detract from that resolve’’, PDP said.
Adding, the party said, ‘’by his fabricated claims, the information minister only succeeded in further de-marketing our dear nation in the international arena, causing more damage to investors’ confidence in our system and exposing this administration as purveyor of fake news. The PDP therefore invites Lai Mohammed to apologize to the nation and desist from such acts of incitement.’’
Before now, the Buhari administration was pressing Obasanjo to withdraw the statement it described as deeply offensive and patently divisive, claiming that such indiscreet comments are far below the status of an elder statesman.
Lai Mohammed, in a Tuesday statement in Abuja, the country’s capital city, said it was particularly tragic that a man who fought to keep Nigeria one is the same one seeking to exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life.
He said Boko Haram and ISWAP are terrorist organisations pure and simple, adding that they care little about ethnicity or religion when perpetrating their senseless killings and destruction.
”Since the Boko Haram crisis, which has been simmering under the watch of Obasanjo, boiled over in 2009, the terrorist organisation has killed more Muslims than adherents of any other religion, blown up more mosques than any other houses of worship and is not known to have spared any victim on the basis of their ethnicity. It is therefore absurd to say that Boko Haram and its ISWAP variant have as their goal the ‘Fulanisation and Islamisation’ of Nigeria, West Africa or Africa”, Mohammed said.
Continuing, he said President Buhari put to rest the mis-characterization of Boko Haram as an Islamic organisation when he said, in his inaugural speech in 2015, that ”Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of”.
According to him, Obasanjo’s comments are therefore as insensitive and mischievous as they are as offensive and divisive in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria, wondering whether there is no limit to how far the former President will go in throwing poisonous darts at his perceived political enemies.
He said Obasanjo’s prescriptions for ending the Boko Haram/ISWAP crisis, which include seeking assistance outside the shores of Nigeria, are coming several years late, as President Buhari has done that and more since assuming office, hence the phenomenal success he has recorded in tackling the terrorists.
”Shortly after assuming office in 2015, President Buhari’s first trips outside the country were to rally the support of Nigeria’s neighbors – Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – for the efforts to battle the terrorists. The President also rallied the support of the international community, starting with the G7, and then the US, France and the UN.
”That explains the massive degrading of Boko Haram, which has since lost its capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which it became infamous, and the recovery of every inch of captured Nigerian territory from the terrorists”, the minister said.
For him, Obasanjo’s call for wide consultations with various groups as part of the efforts to tackle the Boko Haram crisis has been neutralized by his ill-advised comments which have served more to alienate a large number of Nigerians, who are offended by his tactless and distasteful postulation.
Meanwhile, in a tacit appeal, the minister said Obasanjo, who took bullets for Nigeria’s unity, should not to allow personal animosity to override his love for a united Nigeria.
Obasanjo was one of the key figures that assisted in programming President Buhari into power in 2015. But, the former president parted ways with Buhari in this year’s presidential poll. He anointed his former deputy, Atiku, to succeed Buhari.