In the past few days, the APC and the PDP have been engaged in a media war over certain actions that are linked to their respective administrations. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH, in this report, attempts the role of an unbiased umpire by weighing some of the allegations raised in the brickbats on the scale of truth.
It is a general perception that a vibrant opposition is good for any government in power. This is so because it is the duty of the opposition to put the government of the day on its toes. In Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the major opposition party that fits in that role.
After promising to rule Nigeria for 60 years, fortune played a sad tune for the PDP in 2015 when it woefully lost the presidential poll. Sadly, it found itself struggling to survive as the opposition party. Just as one would have expected that the party was gradually recovering from disengagement trauma, the PDP got embroiled in a leadership crisis that almost tore the umbrella apart.
A verdict of the Supreme Court, however, saved the party from going into extinction. Since the highest court in the land delivered that landmark judgement, which marked the end of the Senator Modu Sheriff-led leadership of the party last year, the PDP has been playing the opposition role as if the life ambition of its members depend solely on it. The ongoing media war between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP attests to this.
Political observers posit that the recent media tirade is a welcome development. The thinking is that politics is not all about accentuating the weakness of your opponent but to also create vibrancy in the polity. So far, it has been a game of wits between the two parties. With less than a year to the 2019 general election, both parties have upped the ante of accusations and counter-accusations, with no sign that the media attacks will abate soon.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo last week fired the first salvo when he disclosed that two weeks before the 2015 general election, sums of a N100 billion and $295million were fretted away by a few persons in the Goodluck Jonathan administration. The occasion wasvthe 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private Sector stakeholders at State House Conference Center, (the old Banquet Hall), presidential villa, Abuja.
Citing the Strategic Alliance Contract with the NNPC and NDDC where the promoters of the companies made away with close to $3 billion, almost a tenth of the country’s reserves, Osinbajo said grand corruption was the order of the day in the last administration. He contended that there was no way a country will not have a major economic shock with the grand corruption that took place in the last administration.
He said, “I must ask again what was wrong with the Nigerian economy and what do we need to do to correct the flaws. There are several issues, many of which have already been articulated, but I want to talk about what I think is the biggest problem which for some reasons we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy.
“This is grand corruption in the public finance space. Sometimes the way we talk about the Nigerian economy it does appear as if it is the economy of say Norway or somewhere where all things are equal. Even when we refer to what has taken place in our economy we almost sound as if this is in every sense a very normal business environment, a very normal public finance environment but that is not the case.
“I do not think that any consideration about our economic development can be properly and honestly done without fully analyzing corruption, especially grand corruption in the public finance space. You see that despite record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and a record level of leakages were recorded in the past few years.
“This is the fundamental issue in our economy. Corruption affects everything. It affects even judgement as to what sort of infrastructure to put in place or whether infrastructure will ever be complete. It is so fundamental that you can’t even think of our economy without thinking of what to do about it.
“Sometimes when we talk about our economy we talk about the fact that we have relied on single commodity and that is one of the reasons why we are where we are. Yes, that’s quite true but the fact is that proceeds from that single commodity was regularly hijacked consistently by a few. That is really the problem. If we had spent the proceeds from that single commodity the way we ought to, we won’t be where we are today”.
Aware of the weight of the allegations by the VP, the PDP challenged the Osinbajo to name corrupt members of the party and provide proof of his allegations against them. Faulting the vice president’s allegations, PDP’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan argued that as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor Osinbajo ought to have substantiated his allegation by providing names.
Ologbondiyan argued that the Buhari administration which the VP is a part of should have used the evidence it had, if it actually had any, to arrest and try the members of the PDP it said were corrupt. He advised the vice president to stop blaming the party for corruption over the years.
The PDP spokesperson said, “We challenge him to stop branding figures. He should mention names of those whom he claims corrupted themselves. If he cannot mention their names, and he cannot cause their arrest and he cannot even list these people, he should keep quiet.
“Our advice to the Vice President, as a professor of law, he knows the pathway to follow when you accuse somebody of corruption. It is not enough to come to the public arena, more so as a man of God, and begin to make an allegation about corruption always.”
On the vice president’s claim that the Goodluck Jonathan administration allocated just N99 billion to three critical ministries – power, works and housing (they were separate ministries then) in 2014 when oil price range from between $100 and $114 per barrel, Ologbondiyan contended that the money in question was not released for the PDP’s use. He added that rather than continue trying to drag PDP’s name and those of its members in the mud, the APC-led federal government should tell Nigerians its achievements in the three years it has been in power.
Soon after that heated exchange, APC and the PDP traded accusations against each other over the apology tendered by the opposition party, with each party accusing the other of looting public funds. PDP had admitted that its 16 years in power was characterised by misrule and impunity and begged Nigerians for forgiveness.
But the federal government, in its reaction, told the PDP that its apology to Nigerians was not sufficient, but that it should go the whole hog by returning funds looted on its watch during its 16 years in office.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, challenged the PDP to show the genuineness of its apology through a discernible change of attitude.
He said, ‘’The PDP presided over an unprecedented looting of the public treasury, perhaps the worst of its kind in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world. Therefore, the best evidence of penitence for such a party is not just to own up and apologise, but to also return the looted funds. Anything short of that is mere deceit.
‘’Even with the paucity of funds, this administration has spent an unprecedented amount of money on infrastructural development and Social Investment Programme, among others. Returning looted funds will provide more money for these programmes and make life more meaningful for Nigerians. There is no better apology than that’’.
Mohammed also reminded the PDP of the quote, ‘’If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,’’ saying it applies to the PDP at this time. The minister told the PDP to stop sabotaging the work of the current administration in its effort to clean the filth it left behind through reckless statements and unfounded allegations.
But fuming as a result of the sting from the APC government, the PDP chided the federal government for accusing it of using looted funds to put President Buhari in power during the 2015 elections and turning a blind eye to its officials who are indicted of corruption. It asked the ruling party to end its false sanctimony and immediately return all stolen funds used to finance President Buhari’s election in 2015 to the Federation Account.
The PDP told the APC-led federal government that it could not continue to play the saint when state governors, who stole hundreds of billions of naira meant for the development of their states to fund President Buhari in 2015, are still enjoying cover as members of the Buhari kitchen cabinet, despite outrage from Nigerians.
PDP spokesman, again in a statement, asserted that there was no evidence that the PDP, as a party, looted public funds, just as he alleged that the APC and President Buhari campaigned for the 2015 presidential election with looted billions of naira meant for the provision of essential amenities for ordinary Nigerians.
According to the party, the minister of information and culture, Mohammed, misfired in his outburst that the PDP should return alleged looted funds when the only party known to have used looted funds was the APC.
The PDP statement reads in part: “It is, to say the least, despicable that the APC and its federal government, in their arrogance, would always try to play the saint when they were elected with stolen fund and have continued to reek with filth and sleaze.
“Nigerians are aware that prior to the 2015 election, President Buhari had stated that he was insolvent. He, however, took Nigerians by surprise as he enjoyed one of the most expensive presidential campaigns in the history of our nation, while turning a blind eye to reports of massive looting of funds from APC- controlled states.
“Indeed, if there is any party that should refund looted funds, it is the APC which directly used stolen money to scheme in the election of President Buhari in 2015, while known culpable persons now sit comfortably around the presidential table, still superintending over the looting of our common patrimony.”
The PDP added that even international bodies, including the Transparency International (TI), had rated the APC low on integrity, with the latest report showing that corruption and sleaze had escalated on the watch of the APC.
“This is the same government where ministers and officials indicted of corruption and looting of public funds, particularly in the oil and gas sector, which is directly under the purview of Mr. President, are shielded and condoned.”
The PDP urged the minister of information to direct his demand for return of looted funds to the presidency and the APC “as Nigerians are expecting them to refund the stolen funds they used to scheme themselves into office in 2015.”
Nigerians watched with keen interest as the ruling party and the opposition party took each other to the cleaners. On one side of the divide, political analysts called on the APC to stop bringing up the past looting of PDP, noting that that was the reason the PDP was voted out and the ruling party was brought in to clean the augean stable.
But VP Osinbajo would not any of that, as he vowed on Thursday that no matter the antics of the opposition party, the governing party will continue to talk about the corruption perpetrated under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
At the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos, to mark the 66th birthday of the former governor of Lagos State, Osinbajo said the Buhar administration was determined to change the narrative of Nigeria, known as a country where corruption is perpetrated with impunity Osinbajo, who described corruption as an existential problem for Nigeria, said, “The corruption of the previous five years destroyed the economy.”
At the same event , national Leader of the APC, Tinubu, echoed the same sentiment, saying they would continue to talk about the alleged corruption of the PDP era. He said, “I can see what the government is doing with so little resources. But the idea and the fact that they are doing it with beneficiaries and the fact that it is demonstrated in practical terms is what we need to get our country from the hook of corrupt officials.
“They even said that we should not talk about it. Seriously, what should we then talk about? After we came into office, we discovered the looting. After assuming office, we should then join you in the act and encourage such act?”
On PDP’s apology, he said, “Please forget those parties. They will not come back to power. There is no nation that is not facing challenges. Even America is facing its own. Then who are we? How many years of democracy have we practised? We did not say that Nigerians will not enjoy. But we have to report back to the millions of Nigerians that elected us into office that this is what we found when we assumed office.
“It is not an easy task at all. Dear Nigerians, do not take their apology. They lied. They falsified. They even changed figures. For 16 years, they made fake promises and gave us fake figures. And they said we should not talk about it. It is like saying after all they did wrong, do not look at me. Just steal your own.
“We will not take it off the table…no matter how twisting the mind of PDP and their supporters may be. We will continue to talk about it because you wasted our resources. You did not do what you promised Nigerians, what you said you would do when you were in office. The market gave you the maximum and production was also at maximum.”
But in a swift reaction, the PDP cautioned the APC national leader, Tinubu, to stop playing god because Nigerians have the faculty and freedom to determine the leadership that best suit their desires without anybody’s control.
The party also advised Tinubu not to allow himself to be used a second time as he still bears a gross part of the blame for the enthronement of the incompetent, divisive, nepotic and inherently corrupt administration of President Buhari, which has brought the nation to its knees in three years.
PDP national publicity secretary, Ologbondiyan, while responding to Tinubu’s speech at his 10th colloquium, said the comments of the APC chieftain ended up amplifying an admittance of the failure of President Buhari and the APC administration rather than being a damage of the PDP.
The opposition party said without listening to the prompting of any politician, Nigerians across board have taken the liberty to accept PDP’s apology, which was made patriotically in the overall interest of national healing, reconciliation, unity and cohesion.
He stated: “The PDP watched with amusement as Asiwaju Tinubu struggled with words to appease President Buhari and give him assurances that he can win a second term election in the face of mass failure both in governance and in their discredited, rejected and troubled platform.
“It was a direct admittance of failure and indictment on President Buhari’s administration, when Asiwaju pointedly told the President that the ship of the nation, under his (Buhari’s) watch, still needs to be rescued, almost three years down the line.
“It is tragic that Asiwaju had to tutor his visitor, who had no policy direction since his election in 2015, by engaging in a revision of the programmes and policies of the PDP, such as the leasing system, the mortgage and pension schemes which boosted the economy and directly impacted on the lives of Nigerians.
“More pathetic is the fact that the APC leader presented the PDP programmes as if he was introducing novel ideas in the economy. This clearly stood with our position that the APC government is incompetent and lacking in ideas of how to move the nation forward.
“While we congratulate the Lagos Governor Emeritus on his birthday, the PDP considers it needful, to forewarn him to study the current ambience of Nigerian politics as it relates to the failures of the Buhari Presidency and the fact that the citizens have since rejected this Presidency and the APC, so that Asiwaju will not find himself swimming against the tide.”
The PDP also admonished Vice President Osinbajo to stop diminishing his office and person by joining in the bandying of unverified figures and making unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against the PDP.
It said, “The PDP challenged the vice president to name any corrupt individual in the rebranded and repositioned PDP or show any proof that the PDP, as a party, had ever been charged, indicted or convicted of any act of corruption.
“The party noted that this would be a final caution to the vice president, who it also advised not to allow himself to be used by the APC as a puppet to peddle lies, falsehood and propaganda to Nigerians.”