Supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and General Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, are leaving nothing to chance as mudslinging and name-calling characterise their campaigns to win February 14 presidential election despite the many hurdles before the two candidates
| By Olu Ojewale | Feb. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
IT could hardly get worse. Barely a week after majority of the 14 candidates in the February 14, presidential election signed an accord to work towards a violence-free conduct, the media campaigns, utterances and actions of supporters of the main political bigwigs in the election appear to be working contrary to the peace pact. Less than one month to the presidential election the frenzy in the political landscape is becoming charged as the main political parties continue to churn out inflammatory advertisements and making unguarded utterances in apparent disregard to the spirit of peace accord signed by the presidential candidates that attended the sensitisation violence-free accord signed in Abuja on Wednesday, January 14.
One of the ugly developments was the stoning of the convoy of President Goodluck Jonathan, who led the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to Katsina State in furtherance of his re-election campaign on Tuesday, January 20. General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Party, is from the state. Trouble started when Jonathan, in company of Namadi Sambo, vice-president; Adamu Mu’azu, national chairman of the PDP and Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, among others wanted to pay a courtesy visit on Hajiya Dada, mother of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. As the convoy of the president and members of his entourage was entering into the Yar’Adua Quarters, some youths holding brooms and were chanting “Sai Buhari” surged forward to block the convoy. It took security agents quite a hectic time to disperse the crowd.
Having succeeded at the time, as the convoy was leaving the Yar’Adua’s compound, the youths who had regrouped, again moved to attack the president’s convoy. Security agents had to fire tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd to allow the president’s convoy to depart from the area. But as the convoy made its way towards the Katsina Airport, the youths pelted it with stones. Mercifully, there was no report of serious damage or injury recorded. Both the PDP and the APC have since condemned the action, saying it was against the spirit of democracy.
Similarly, on Monday, youths in hundreds in Sokoto, Sokoto State took to the street near the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, to carry out a symbolic sweeping of the floor. The action was taken shortly after President Jonathan and his entourage left the Sultan’s palace to Shehu Kangiwa Square today to hold a rally.
Ibrahim Musa, one of the sweepers, told journalists that the exercise was to demonstrate to the PDP leaders that the people of the state were not in support of Jonathan’s re-election bid. “You can see things for yourself. Mr. President just passed and we youths mobilise ourselves to clear our area for peace, progress and political growth of our country,” he said.
Abdullahi Isa, another sweeper, described the symbolic sweeping of the roads as a clear indication that Nigerians needed a change of leadership direction. “Nothing seems to be moving hence the need for well meaning Nigerians to support the cause of political change being championed by the progressives,” he said. Isa said that no one asked the youths to sweep the road, adding that they came out to show their disdain for the PDP-led government. “I have three graduates in my house. No work for them,” Isa said, adding that the PDP should forget Sokoto and, indeed, the North-West because he would not get votes there.
But the two incidents, which apparently overshadowed campaign promises of President Jonathan, were not regarded as inflammatory as the front-page advertisement in the national dailies sponsored by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. Prior to the advertisement on Monday, January 19, Fayose had questioned the state of health of Buhari following reports that he fell during his campaign in Calabar. But he stirred more controversy across the country with his advertisement entitled “Nigerians Be Warned”. It has the portraits of the late Nigerian leaders from the North West, who had died in office from General Murtala Mohammed, General Sani Abacha to President Musa Yar’Adua, and on the picture of General Buhari, who is also from the North West, is a question mark. It quoted a Bible passage saying: “I have set before thee life and death….” Stating that General Buhari is 72, the advertisement said: “Will you allow history to repeat itself? Enough of state burials! Nigerians vote wisely. Vote Goodluck Jonathan. Northern presidency should wait till 2019.”
In response to the advertisement, Buhari, in a message on his official Twitter handle said: “How can his (President Goodluck Jonathan) campaign be talking about ex-dead leaders, jogging around the stadium and outright lies about health?” He said that campaigns should focus on national issues and not on his state of health and dead Nigerian leaders. Buhari dismissed the allegations that he is sick as something borne out of mischief, assuring his supporters that he is fit as a fiddle.
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, described the advertisement as “reckless”, adding that the PDP leaders had turned themselves to God. Lolu Akinwunmi, president of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, the advertising regulatory organisation in Nigeria, described the advertisement as “unconventional, shocking and controversial.”
The APC, on its part, described the advertisement as “choosing death for our candidate.” The party accused the PDP of threatening Buhari’s life and paying lip service to the Abuja accord signed on Wednesday, January 14, by the parties to ensure a violence-free election. The APC, in a statement issued in Lagos by Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary, said: “But for our party’s ceaseless enlightenment of our members and supporters to shun violence of any kind even when provoked, and the peaceful disposition of the APC as a party, one can only imagine what could have happened in the wake of this demonic advert, laced with ethnic put down and a morally-repugnant death wish for a fellow being.” The party, therefore, called on those who witnessed the signing of the peace pact, especially Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, and Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth secretary-general, to take note of the serious breach of the agreement and urgently called Jonathan and his party to order.
”We are also calling on all Nigerians, as well as security agencies, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, to take note of the political desperation of the PDP and its supporters, while warning that we will hold President Jonathan and his party responsible if anything untoward should happen to the APC presidential candidate,” it said