Members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and those of the opposition All Progressives Congress are doing everything possible to discredit each other in their desperate political manoeuvring to win the general elections
| By Olu Ojewale | Mar. 16, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
LESS than one month to the presidential elections billed for March 28, the two leading political parties are all out to outwit each other. In the past few months, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, have literarily been at each other’s jugular. Their infamous political game and brinkmanship have been heating the polity almost every day without any end in sight. There are many accusations and counter accusations; some of which are laughable, outrageous or downright fabrications from fertile imagination of some political irrationals. In any case some of the allegations could be served as comic reliefs. If some of the allegations are placed on the truth metre as done in the United States during political campaigns they could amount to nothing but mere fabrications.
In recent time, the two parties have been exchanging altercations over Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. By Tuesday, March 3, the tension caused by the purported plan to remove Jega especially when the APC Senate caucus alleged that it had discovered a plot by the Presidency to send him on pre-retirement leave as a way of clearing the way for the PDP to emerge victorious in the forthcoming national elections. The senators argued that removing Jega would be unconstitutional except if it secured the approval of two-thirds of the Senate, as prescribed in Section 157(1) of the 1999 Constitution. “Such removal can only be achieved when two things happen, viz, (a) his inability to discharge the functions of the office, or (b) for misconduct, as determined by two-thirds of the Senate,” the resolution said.
A spirited effort by the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives to stop a similar motion from being passed failed. Leo Ogor, deputy majority leader of the House, had raised an objection against a motion tabled by Ali Ahmad, chairman, House Committee on Justice, on the grounds that the motion was “speculative” as there was no evidence suggesting that Jega was about to be removed. “Nobody is interested in removing Jega; so, we can’t entertain such a speculative motion,” Ogor said.
But Aminu Tambuwal, speaker, who defected from the ruling PDP to the APC, overruled him. After the motion had been taken, the House thus warned the federal government against shifting the current arrangements for the March 28 presidential elections, especially the purported planned removal of Jega. The House said that changing the election dates again or removing Jega would only lead to a magnitude of violence, worse than what was witnessed after the 2011 polls.
Tambuwal, at a separate session, raised the alarm that the dark days of military coups might return if the country continued to progress in error. The lawmakers also warned that “persons” whose actions would have led to such violence must be held accountable at all judicial levels.
Prior to the National Assembly’s resolution, the APC accused the PDP members of putting pressure on the Presidency to compel Jega to proceed on pre-retirement leave as reportedly being canvassed by some concerned stakeholders in the polity. Jega’s five-year term will come to an end on June 30, and though he is qualified for re-appointment, but it appears he will not get it because some leaders of the PDP are vehemently against him because he is believed to be working for the opposition candidate. The anti-Jega forces in the PDP are said to have been pushing the Presidency to remove the INEC chairman from office.
As if that was not serious enough, the PDP officials had in recent times kicked against the insistence of the commission to use the card reader and the Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs. Some of the PDP members and sympathisers are already in court challenging the use of the card reader for election.
As the controversy over the card reader sustains, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, PDPPCO, allege that the APC spent N5 billion for the appearance of General Muhammadu Buhari, its presidential candidate, at the Chatham House in London, on Thursday, February 26. The organisation said Buhari appearance at the Chatham was not only a jamboree but also a monumental failure.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Sunday, March 1, Femi Fani-Kayode, director, media and publicity of the PDPPCO, alleged that the Chatham House event was an “arrangee” designed by the APC like the purported London interview to hoodwink Nigerians and prevent the APC presidential candidate from debating in Nigeria. He insisted that Buhari was not originally scheduled to appear at the Chatham as it was a last minute arrangement, aimed at diverting the attention of Nigerians and the world from the fact that the trip to London was mainly to seek medical attention and care.
He said, “It is quite interesting to note that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is describing the appearance of its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday, at the Chatham House in London, as successful. This is not so and in fact the contrary is the case. The truth is that the outing was a monumental failure.
“The whole sorry episode has now fully exposed the APC as a party built on propaganda, deceit, make-believe and one which lacks respect for the people of Nigeria.. The information at our disposal indicates that no less than N5 billion was budgeted for the London jamboree. This amount was wasted on General Buhari’s Chatham House speaking engagement, numerous foreign consultants, air tickets for the huge delegation, the contingent of governors, hotels bills, the purchase and renting of vehicles and other logistics. We challenge the APC and its leaders to contradict this information.”
Apart from that, Fani-Kayode alleged that the people in the Hall were sponsored and that out 1,500 persons that applied to attend the function, only 200 were allowed in. “The audience was carefully selected. The APC mobilised many students from the Republic of Ireland, who were all on scholarship courtesy of the Rivers State Government, to embark on a pro-Buhari rally outside the Chatham House. The students were threatened that their scholarships would be withdrawn if they refused to participate in the rally. This was the show of shame that General Buhari has got himself involved in. Sadly Chatham House offered its prestigious platform to sell a bad product to the world. The APC leaders begged for the speaking engagement and we are reliably informed that they paid for it.”
He also disclosed that the federal government had concluded arrangements and would soon drag Buhari before the International Criminal Court, ICC, over the 2011 electoral violence in the country to face alleged charges of human rights abuses and criminality. He urged Buhari to get prepared for the trial after the elections. But before dragging him to the ICC, Fani-Kayode said that the government would first of all demystify the retired general by defeating him at the polls because it would be risky to arrest him now over the 2011 violence as it would raise dust.
He said further: “According to the African Herald Express report on the issue published on February 20, 2015, Dutch lawyers – Prakken d’Oliveira, a Human Rights Law Firm based in Amsterdam, said it had filed a criminal complaint against General Muhammadu Buhari at the ICC. Prakken d’ Oliveira, led by Prof. Sluiter, Lawyer and Partner, is said to be acting on behalf of the Nigerian Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice and two individual victims.
“Indeed, international focus is on General Buhari for the 2011 post-election violence and we hope that he is brought to justice for the blood that was shed by his supporters in the violence of 2011; and, we hope he will not precipitate another round of violence in 2015 when he loses.”
Speaking on his alleged threat to his life, Fani- Kayode who noted that nobody could take his life as he was a child of God, said: “That is not what we are here for, the other day I got a text from Idowu Ajanaku, another known minion of Ahmed Bola Tinubu, that makes two of them, Lai Mohammed and the other minion, Ajanaku is on my phone now, saying stop this attack on Bola Tinubu because we are going to deal with you.
“My name is Femi Fani–Kayode, and nobody can Funsho-Williams me. Nobody can kill me before my time. Nobody can cut me short and I habour no fear of violence and I do not take threats lightly. Neither do I fear for my life. Before anybody begins to consider because I am a man of God because I have never shed blood and I do not believe in violence, the angel of the Lord will strike that person dead before they point a gun at me in Jesus Name. Let us take the violence and the treats out of it. This is a political arena.”
Indeed, the political arena is fluid. On its part, the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation challenged the PDP and the federal government to disclose how much was paid to Chatham House to give Sambo Dasuki, retired colonel and national security adviser, the platform to call for the postponement of the general elections earlier fixed for February 14 and 28.
Reacting to allegations by the PDP that the party spent N5 billion to enable Buhari speak at Chatham House, the APCPCO said the government should tell the whole world how much it paid to the same Chatham House before it granted Dasuki audience. It was while speaking at the Chatham House, London Dasuki claimed that holding the general elections in February was not feasible because of security concerns and thereafter, service chiefs later informed the INEC that they could not guarantee security during the elections which led to a six-week postponement of the exercise.
Garba Shehu, director of media and publicity, the APC presidential campaign organisation, in a statement said that the Jonathan administration had taken propaganda to a ridiculous level of childishness, triviality and banality. He said any suggestion by the PDP that the APC bribed Chatham House to get its presidential candidate speak at the institute was a reflection of the general opinion that the ruling party had not only run out of ideas and popular goodwill.
Another bone of contention for the two major parties is the deployment of the military for the forthcoming elections. The APC is stoically opposed to it, while the ruling PDP is all for it. Hence, the debate for and against the deployment has been ferociously canvassed by the contending parties.
The APC said the proposed deployment of soldiers for the 2015 elections, would amount to a mockery of democracy because it is alien to the nation’s constitution. The APCPCO, in a statement, signed by Shehu said that while it appreciated the readiness of the military to deploy troops for the elections, democracy and the military were not complementary as subjecting the fate of a democracy to the military would be a coup against the people. Shehu said services of the military would be better utilised in other pressing areas, especially in the combat of insurgency and protection of the country’s territory integrity.
He said the position of the campaign organisation had become necessary following Jega’s assertion that the service chiefs would have to ratify the March 28 date for the presidential election in the country and the military’s expression of readiness to deploy troops for the polls. He thus argued: “The idea of placing the fate of democracy in the hands of the military is not only alien to the Nigerian Constitution, extant judicial pronouncements have clearly stipulated that the military has no duty to play in the conduct of elections.”
Indeed, a federal court of appeal last month barred the use of soldiers in the conduct of elections. But there are indications that the federal government may defy the court of appeal judgement by deploying soldiers for the March 28 and April 11 general elections. Rufa’i Alkali, special adviser to the president on Political Matters, who spoke to a national newspaper, said military troops would be deployed to protect the lives and property of Nigerians before, during and after the elections. Rufa’i said only people with sinister motive would be afraid of the deployment of soldiers for the elections. “Soldiers, as far back as when Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, was being elected, were deployed and Oshiomhole even with his radicalism swallowed his pride and came to thank the President for supporting the elections with adequate security. Now, look at what happened in Ekiti, when they lost they were crying but when the military was also deployed in Osun and they won they kept quiet.
“I challenge them to say since they didn’t want the deployment of security for elections, and soldiers were deployed for the Osun election, I thought they were going to reject the outcome of the Osun elections but they didn’t. What the APC is doing is crass opportunism,” he said.
Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, in an interview, said the party would study the judgement thoroughly before commenting on its decision. Besides, he said: “Also, we are of the opinion that any security plan being put in place by the INEC would be acceptable and enough to have peaceful elections. We would work with the electoral body to have free, fair and acceptable elections across the country.”
While acknowledging the decision of the government to deploy the military for the elections, Kayode Idowu, chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, said that the military would provide peripheral security cordon such as manning entry points into towns to check the trafficking of arms that could be used to disrupt the elections. “They are also positioned in covert readiness for rapid deployment if there is a security crisis beyond the capacity of the police to handle. The military are never near polling units,” he said to a national newspaper. In any case, he said that under the platform of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security that was created in 2011, the role of the military had been limited to providing the INEC with logistics support, including Air Force planes and Navy boats to transport election materials over hazardous or difficult terrains across the country. “As a matter of fact, all security men at the polling units are never armed. It is because malevolent people could exploit this and harm voters as well as polling officials that the armed agents are in readiness for rapid deployment,” he said.
However, Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and former chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Lagos, pointed at section 217 of the Nigerian Constitution, which gives the president powers on the deployment of the military. He insisted that the president could only deploy the military for elections by an act of the parliament. “The president would need to go to the National Assembly to ask for permission to deploy soldiers for duties normally carried out by the police. It only by act of the parliament that he can exercise such powers,” Ubani said.
But any suggestion that the altercations and controversies over issues between the two parties would end at mere exchange of words was rubbished on Tuesday, March 3 with threats and counter-threats of by the warring sides to go to court. While Yemi Osinbanjo, vice-presidential candidate of the APC, issued a seven-day ultimatum to Fani-Kayode, to apologise over his “defamatory statements” against him, Fani-Kayode, on his part, demanded a retraction from Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the APC, for what he described as a libelous statement that was published against him.
Osinbajo, a law professor and SAN, in a letter dated February 28, addressed to Fani-Kayode demanded N2 billion as damages. He also demanded an immediate retraction of the “offensive and derogatory” publication and an apology on four television channels and national newspapers.
“Be advised that if we do not receive your formal retraction and apology and damages as demanded within seven days of receipt hereof, we shall proceed with our client’s instructions to seek appropriate legal remedies for your publication and dissemination of defamatory statements,” Osinbajo wrote, through Femi Falana, SAN, his counsel.
On Friday, February 27, Fani-Kayode, a lawyer, had said at a press conference in Abuja where he alleged that the APC’s vice-presidential candidate had sworn an oath to vacate his seat should the party win the forthcoming election. According to the PDP campaign spokesman, Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the APC, had nominated Osinbajo as part of plans to get to power through the back door. “Tinubu, according to our information, has compelled Osinbajo to swear to an oath that after six months in office, he would resign as the vice-president, in the unlikely event that their party wins,” Fani-Kayode said in his press statement titled ‘APC is Selling a Dummy to the Whole World: Tinubu is the Real Candidate.’ “The wicked plot, as laid out by them, is to force Osinbajo to resign for Tinubu to be nominated by Buhari as his replacement.”
Falana said that the statement, wherein he labelled Osinbajo as Tinubu’s ‘stooge,’ hurt the APC vice-presidential candidate having been disseminated to millions of television viewers, including print and online media. “As it were, the statement has now been published and circulated to an undetermined number of people in Nigeria, and internationally,” Falana said.
“The direct meaning, imputation, purport and/or innuendo or insinuation of the false, misleading and defamatory statements is that: ‘Osinbajo is deceitful. Essentially, you alleged that his motivation and pledge to serve as Vice-President of Nigeria is inconsistent with his avowed desire to serve this nation with Buhari, and work assiduously to deliver the benefits of his commitment, party and personal promises to the people.’ Your characterisation of Osinbajo as a ‘stooge’ in context suggests that he is complicit in a fraud against the Nigerian people,” he said.
Falana further said that Fani-Kayode’s statements implied that his client lacked integrity and had engaged in a conduct incompatible with his faith and ethics as a pastor and respected lawyer.
“It is clear that the entire publication was a vicious, wicked and reckless ploy to impugn the reputation of our client and lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of the public,” Falana added.
Fani-Kayode’s allegation followed a statement Tunde Bakare, a pastor and former running mate of General Muhammadu Buhari, made in a television interview stating that he was asked to sign a resignation letter after they were elected into office. He expressed hope that Osibanjo has not fallen into the same trap they set for him which he rejected.
Nonetheless, Fani-Kayode is similarly suing Mohammed and demanding N5 billion from him as well as a retraction of the defamatory publication. Fani-Kayode, while denying the content of the report, titled: ‘We’re concerned about Fani-Kayode’s mental status’ and the innuendoes contained in it, published on March 3, by a national newspaper, said every allegation made against him in the said publication was false and defamatory of his person and character.
A letter by Ahmed Raji and company, his counsels, dated March 3, indicated that Fani-Kayode also wants Mohammed to apologise to him within seven days of the receipt of his letter. The letter signed by Whyteman Prekunomaa, said in part: “You (Lai Mohammed) are also to enter into negotiation for damages as we have firm instructions to claim five billion naira damages against you… Take notice, therefore, that it will amount to a specious gamble on your part, if you treat this letter with levity.”
Both Fani-Kayode and Mohammed were still studying their legal papers at the press time. But that there has been no stop by the two parties to outmanoeuvre each other. The APC caused more than a stir on Saturday, February 28, when it alleged that Jonathan and the PDP was planning to freeze the bank accounts of APC leaders. The party claimed that the president planned to freeze the accounts of Tinubu and Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State as part of efforts to cripple the campaigns of Buhari.
The allegation, expectedly caused tongues wagging in many quarters in the political circles. In any case, some prominent lawyers who have spoken on the matter warned that the president would be committing an illegal act. Emeka Ngige, SAN, said the action could spell doom for the nation and might actualise the prediction that Nigeria was already on the path of disintegration. He said: “My view is that such a move is unthinkable but if true is a sure road to the much predicted disintegration of Nigeria. Any clampdown on the opposition at this time because the ruling party is afraid of defeat in the coming election will spell doom for the country. Whoever is contemplating such actions should have a re-think.”
On his part, Yusuf Ali, SAN, said any plot to freeze the accounts of individuals was a matter of law and not a thing to be done arbitrarily. “If anybody has committed any offence for which you want to freeze his account, there are legal steps you must take. You cannot just wake up and say you want to freeze people’s accounts. There must be legal reasons and if anybody’s rights are trampled upon, the person knows what to do,” Ali said.
Nevertheless, neither the APC nor the members concerned have shown any concrete evidence to show the existence of such plan. While the allegation regarding the freezing of accounts of Tinubu and Amaechi is still raging, Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State, on Tuesday, March 3, dropped another bomb shell, alleging that President Jonathan was dolling out dollars to win some stakeholders in the South-West. But he warned that it would not change the president’s records of performance.
Fashola while handing over a network of nine roads in Kosofe Local Government Area, on Tuesday, March 3, urged Lagos residents “to reject politicians doling out foreign currencies and other incentives,” which he said, was being distributed by the PDP “to induce the electorates in its desperation to win the elections. “If you collect dollars, know that you have collected your security, your roads and your infrastructure. It is demeaning, degrading and insulting that anyone who has made promises to come back and offer you money. Tell them your dignity and your vote cannot be bought by naira or dollars.”
Fashola’s message is no doubt what many people would like to endorse as one that should bring about good governance if followed to the letter. But the way the political gladiators are going about their campaigns to win support leaves much to be desired. It is only a matter of another few days to know which of them is succeeding with its messages.