The raging verbal war between the Presidency and former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) over the latter’s sudden romance with the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, continued yesterday on a fiercer dimension.
In the “attrition warfare” of sort, the Presidency dismissed the recent utterances by Obasanjo that he was not neutral in the forthcoming presidential contest and would support anybody, except Buhari, as a “sign of confusion not worthy of attention.”
Last weekend, Obasanjo was quoted by a news medium (not LEADERSHIP) as saying that he would neither campaign for Buhari nor Atiku ahead of the February 16, 2019 presidential election.
But, in a swift denial, the former president said that “only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed by lack of focus, incompetency, corruption among others.”
In a statement issued on his behalf by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo warned against any form of manipulation about his stance on the 2019 presidential election. He insisted that the running of the nation’s affairs by the President Buhari-led administration was not the best for Nigerians and should be rejected at the polls.
In his reponse in Abuja, yesterday, presidential spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, told journalists that whoever Obasanjo chooses to support at the 2019 elections is irrelevant, as the former president had publicly changed his mind on the matter several times over the past few months alone.
He said: “Former President Obasanjo denounces one person today and supports that same person the next day. When it pleases him, he brings God into the matter and uses that as his excuse for whatever position he has chosen.”
Shehu said that he was not surprised that the media reported Obasanjo expressing neutrality at a weekend forum only for him to declare a completely different stance after a day or two.
The presidential spokesman continued: “We have learnt not to take his utterances seriously anymore. We know that the slightest wind can make him change his mind again. After all, this is the same man who publicly tore his party registration card barely four years ago, and he now claims to be backing the same party.”
OBJ Pushing His Luck Too Far – Sen Adamu
In a separate reaction yesterday, the senator representing Nasarawa West Senatorial District, Abdullahi Adamu, chided Obasanjo for making “indecorous” and “undignified” criticisms of Buhari.
Adamu told journalists that while he (Obasanjo) is entitled to criticise and also campaign against the re-election bid of the President, he should not resort to gutter language
According to Adamu, “Chief Obasanjo is pushing his luck too far by using indecorous language in criticising the president (Buhari); after all, what was his (Obasanjo’s) record in office when he ran this country first from February 1976 to October 1979, and subsequently from May 1999 to May 2007?
“Would there have been the desperate and notoriously corrupt bid for a third term in office that was witnessed by Nigerians, if he had a good record by then?” he queried.
Adamu said under Obasanjo’s watch, most of Nigeria’s strategic investments were sold without enough returns to the country.
Atiku Signs Peace Accord
A day after he was absent at the signing of a peace accord by presidential candidates for the 2019 poll in Abuja, Atiku, who said that he was not invited to the ceremony by the National Peace Committee (NPC) headed by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, has signed the document.
At the event held in Abuja yesterday, Atiku remarked that Buhari’s pledge to conduct a free, fair and credible election in 2019 remains doubtful until he signs the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Atiku signing of the peace pact was supervised by Abdulsalami, who did same on Tuesday when Buhari and others endorsed the peace deal.
Present at the event were the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, diplomats from the European Union (EU) and other members of the international community.
Atiku, who pledged his commitment to abide by the rules of the game, declared that has been a “democrat and not a converted democrat.”
“We are committed to free, peaceful, fair and credible elections and we have always said that and we believe in that. I am a democrat. I was never converted. I fought the military to return this country to a democracy.
“However, the best way to guarantee peace in any election or any human interaction is to ensure manifest justice to all concerned. I am delighted that President Buhari has signed this peace accord. But we want to appeal to him to also sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Mr. President needs to understand that as long as he refuses to sign this bill, we will have doubts that this government is truly committed to free, fair and credible elections,” he said.
Abdulsalami apologised to the PDP and other presidential candidates who failed to show up to sign the document on Tuesday due to communication gap.
He said: “we are here to sign the peace accord. I must apologise for the PDP for not being able to attend that ceremony. I want to counter the saying that the PDP boycotted this signing of the peace accord; I spoke to the PDP presidential candidate and party officials in order to disabuse the minds of our people and to make Nigerians aware that everybody involved in this project cares for peace and want a peaceful election. It was not only the PDP that was not there yesterday (Tuesday). One or two parties were also not there.”
The PDP chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also signed his part of the peace accord document.
Reading the terms of the peace accord, the director of Kukah Center, Fr. Atta Barkindo, underscored that political parties pledge to run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels.
It’s an afterthought – APC
In a reaction to Atku’s endorsement of the pact, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) described it as afterthought.
The party stated that the PDP standard bearer tried to avoid the agreement ahead of 2019 general elections.
Also yesterday, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) said that Atiku had no intention of signing the peace pact as he and PDP members intended to “push out fake news and hate speeches, promote violence and ultimately disrupt the 2019 elections, threats the peace pact was being signed against.”
In separate statements they signed in Abuja, both the APC and BMO said the PDP and Atiku claims of a “communication lapse” as reason for their absence was “hogwash,” adding that the peace committee duly and formally invited them like other candidates and political parties contesting the 2019 Elections.
APC said: “Again, this brings to the fore, PDP’s open declaration in August this year that the party will deploy all ‘means, schemes, shenanigans in all ramification and magnitude’ to manipulate the 2019 election.”
The BMO noted that Atiku had come under serious international pressure and chiding hence his signing of the pact, albeit reluctantly.
Call Me A Bastard If I Campaign For APC – Minister
Meanwhile, the minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, has declared that he would never campaign or support the APC governorship candidate in Oyo State.
He told Nigerians that he would be a bastard if he does that.
The minister also said the ongoing reconciliation move by the APC leadership would not work because it should have been “restitution before reconciliation.”
Shittu, who sought the APC governorship ticket in Oyo State but was disqualified by the party’s leadership, said that it won’t make sense for him to “be defrauded out of a primary process and still simply behave like a slave.”
At a press briefing in Abuja, Shittu, who was asked whether he would support governor Abiola Ajimobi’s preferred governorship candidate, said: “I think it doesn’t arise. I will be a bastard to be defrauded out of a primary process and to simply behave like a slave. It won’t make sense. I have been a founding member of the APC and I have twice aspired to be governor. In 2011, I aspired and I was defeated by the incumbent.
“In 2015, I aspired and I was defrauded from the primary at that time and I challenged that process which produced governor Ajimobi who won for a second term. I went to court; we were still in court when my appointment was announced. That made me to abandon that case and the governor, instead of him to thank his God that he was relieved of the case, started a campaign against my confirmation by the Senate,” he said.
On reconciliation, he retorted: “No. There won’t be peace without restitution. So, restitution should come before the reconciliation.”
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