By Tunde Oguntola, Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, and Chibuzo Ukaibe |
The federal government has turned down the offer of assistance from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying the party is merely playing politics with serious national issues.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said if the PDP had done its homework properly, it would have known that most of its recommendations were already contained in the outcome of the federal government’s Town Hall Meeting on National Security, which was held in Kaduna on April 8, 2021.
On Monday, the opposition party had extended help to the All Progressives Congress-led federal government, saying it was ready to support the ruling party in finding solutions to the country’s mounting security challenges.
The PDP had asked the federal government to consider state police, set up a National Borders Protection Force and employ the use of technology as well as recruit more security personnel as part of measures to contain banditry and terrorism in the country.
It also said the ruling party’s failure to manage the country’s diversity was part of the country problems, adding that it was ready work with the administration to save the country.
But the APC-federal government, through the information minister, has responded to the PDP’s offer in strong terms, saying the opposition party played ‘cheap politics while playing the ostrich.’
Mohammed said: “Unfortunately, the recommendations by the PDP have exposed the opposition party’s gimmickry, and the fact that it was merely playing politics with serious national issues, especially security.”
Reacting to the PDP’s accusation that the federal government was running a government of exclusion, he flayed the party for forgetting, conveniently, that the current administration had consistently engaged Nigerians on topical national issues, including security, the fight against corruption, terrorism, infrastructure and farmer-herder conflict.
He said the Town Hall Meeting series, launched in 2016, had so far been held 18 times across Nigeria.
Mohammed said it’s always a no-holds-barred opportunity for the government to engage with critical stakeholders, briefing them on government policies and programmes and getting their feedback, thus ensuring inclusion and deepening of democracy.
He also read the 10-point recommendations from the Town Hall Meetings, saying Nigerians should judge for themselves which of the two parties is ahead of the other.
“With the theme: “Setting Benchmarks for enhanced Security and National Unity in Nigeria”, the Town Hall Meetings reached the following resolutions:
“That the governance of human society should be based on Law rather than the whims and caprices of human beings and must be obeyed by all as all persons are equal before the law including the lawgivers.
“That there is an urgent need for political restructuring and not separation.
“That the Judiciary be decentralized and reformed through Constitutional Amendment to remove the unitary control of the Superior Courts.
“That governments at all levels should ensure free, qualitative and compulsory Primary Education for all children of school age.
“That the military, police and other security agencies should be expanded in number, retrained, provided with modern equipment and technology to cope with emerging security challenges.
“That both religious and traditional leaders should encourage and promote inter-marriages for unity as contained in the 1999 Constitution as amended, Article 15, 3(c) which prescribes inter-marriages among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic, or linguistic association or ties.
“That the establishment of state police should be supported by the National and State Houses of Assembly to enable State Governments to have firm control in addressing security issues.
“That traditional rulers should be given their age-long role of maintaining peace and security within their domain.
“The Local Government Autonomy be actualised to enable them to have control of their areas including the ungoverned spaces in tackling security challenges.
“And finally that the farmers/herders clashes be addressed by establishment of ranches, grazing reserves with modern amenities to check the trans-humans of the herders.”
He said the recommendations are more encompassing and more far-reaching than the political gimmickry which the PDP embarked upon yesterday.
He said the PDP did not acknowledge this national engagement that featured panelists from academia and civil society.
Mohammed said: “The lead presenter was Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, and the four discussants were Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the erstwhile chairperson of the First Bank; Prof. Saka Nuru, a renowned veterinary surgeon; Prof Chudi Uwazuruike, an academic and a former member of the House of Representatives, and Prof Kokunre Eghafona, also from the academia.
“The stakeholders who attended included all the service chiefs, members of the legislative and executive arms of government, civil society organisations, traditional and religious leaders, women and youth groups as well as labour. There can be no better engagement than this.
“Now, we have gone a step further. We have taken those resolutions to the National Economic Council, chaired by the Vice president and which also includes all the state governors. As a prelude to adopting the recommendations, the NEC has directed all state governors to organise state-wide consultations on them, and then revert to the Council in its next meeting.
“You can now see that the PDP was more interested in playing politics with national challenges than helping to find solutions to them. They presented as original thinking some of the same resolutions that we are already been working to implement, without a single reference to those same recommendations that emanated from our Town Hall Meeting of April 8, 2021.
“Finally, I want to comment on one other issue raised by the PDP at its play-to-the-gallery press conference. The PDP alleged that kidnappers and bandits are not being brought to justice. This is apparently aimed at the federal government. It is shocking that a party that ruled this nation for all of 16 years does not know that kidnapping and banditry are not federal offences. The PDP should therefore call out the states, including those being controlled by it, to ensure a rigorous prosecution of arrested kidnappers and bandits.
He berated the PDP for not acknowledging that that the federal government had successfully prosecuted thousands of Boko Haram members in an ongoing exercise.
“We are now seeking the cooperation of the judiciary to continue with the trial of arrested terrorists,” he said.
The minister acknowledged the challenges facing the nation, saying the government is doing everything possible to tackle them.
“We call on all Nigerians to support the efforts of the federal government to tackle the challenges. We advise those bent on playing cheap politics with the challenges to have a rethink. This is no time for politics,” he concluded..
Presidency Alleges Plot To Overthrow Buhari’s Government
Meanwhile, the presidency has alleged that there is a plot to remove the Buhari administration from power through illegal means.
It also said those calling for another national conference over the country’s security challenges have a plot in place to use the avenue to pass a vote of no confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the opposition PDP has laughed off the coup report, saying the present administration was using it to hide their embarrassing failure as a government.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement confirmed the Department of State Services’ (DSS) report that some persons are planning to destabilise the federal government.
Adesina said disgruntled persons are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians round the country.
He said, “The DSS on Sunday alerted on sinister moves by misguided elements to wreak havoc on the government, sovereignty and corporate existence of the country.
“Championed by some disgruntled religious and past political leaders, the intention is to eventually throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership.
“Further unimpeachable evidence shows that these disruptive elements are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians round the country, with the intention of convening some sort of conference where a vote of no confidence would be passed on the President, thus throwing the land into further turmoil.”
According to him, the loud noises from such elements are meant to prepare the grounds adequately for them to execute their ignoble intentions designed to cause further grief for the country.
The presidential spokesman further said the agent provocateurs hope to achieve through trickery what they failed to do through the ballot box in the 2019 elections.
He said Nigerians have opted for democratic rule, and the only accepted way to change a democratically elected government is through periodic elections.
Stating that any other way is patently illegal, and even treasonable, he noted that such would attract the necessary consequences.
“These discredited individuals and groups are also in cahoots with external forces to cause maximum damage in their own country.
“But the Presidency, already vested with mandate and authority by Nigerians till 2023, pledges to keep the country together, even if some unruly feathers would be ruffled in the process,” he stated.
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the above allegation by the Buhari Presidency – that some Nigerians were plotting a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership – as a resort to blackmail in the face of failure.
The PDP said rather than live up to the responsibilities of office by taking charge and securing the nation, the Presidency is busy engaging in frivolous allegations against Nigerians.
The national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it is however imperative to state that the Buhari Presidency and the APC are being haunted by their own shadows as Nigerians know the persons as well as the political party with the history and penchant to scuttle democratically elected government.
Ologbondiyan said, “Perhaps, the Presidency has forgotten that in 1983, Brigadier Muhammadu Buhari, as he was then known, led a military coup to truncate a democratically elected government, thereby causing our nation a huge drawback on democratic governance.
“Also, in 2015, the APC, which was hurriedly formulated, made itself available as a vehicle of brigandage to disrupt our political process by beguiling Nigerians and taking power through violence, propaganda and falsehood.
“Even in 2019, Nigerians will be quick to remember how the APC imported bandits, vandals and thugs from neighboring countries, as political mercenaries, to unleash violence, disrupt our voting processes and muscle itself to power.”
The PDP counseled the Buhari Presidency and the APC to look inwards as all fingers toward any possible plots to upturn the nation’s democracy point to them.
“Our party believes that the statement by the Buhari Presidency is an attempt by the APC to heighten political tension in our country ahead of the 2023 election, having realized that they cannot face the people at the polls.
“The PDP, however, advises the APC to know that such blackmail against Nigerians cannot help their cause.
“For us in the PDP, our party will remain undeterred, alongside other patriotic Nigerians, in our commitment towards the sustenance and stability of our democracy as well as the unity and corporate existence of our country, Nigeria,” PDP added.
Atiku Wants Retired Military Officers Recalled To Fight Terrorists
A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has called on the Nigerian government to consider recalling all ex-servicemen, who are willing to return to service, to help in tackling the insurgency and other criminalities in the nation.
Atiku also called for decisive leadership in the fight against terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping until they are rolled back and defeated.
The former vice president, who made this call on his Twitter handle yesterday, said as a former vice chairman of the National Security Council, he is aware that Nigeria has a sizeable population of military veterans, who are alive, and were trained locally and internationally.
Atiku in his tweet entitled: “The Time For A Total War on Terror is Now” said it serves no purpose to allow these valuable national assets to lie fallow when there is an existential threat to the nation.
Atiku said the security situation in Nigeria is deteriorating rapidly and ordinary Nigerians are living in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
He, however, urged the federal government to call the ex-servicemen immediately and mobilise them to the field.
He stressed that the time has come for us to put in all our effort and stamp out this menace from our nation.
“Nowhere seems to be safe. Farms, markets, schools, homes, mosques, churches, and urban areas are all affected.
“Terrorists are spreading their areas of operation beyond the Northeast, into far-flung areas as far as Niger State in the North-Central. That is merely hours from our Federal Capital.
“The men and women of Nigeria’s armed forces, whether serving or retired, who restored peace to Lebanon, Liberia, Sierra Leone and São Tomé and Príncipe can, and should be used to do the same in the motherland,” he said.
Reiterating that they need for adequate supply of arms and ammunition, he said it is incumbent on the federal government to develop a more efficient means of sourcing for weapons and delivering them to the troops at the battlefront.
“A situation where terrorists and criminals are better armed than our troops on the battlefront is intolerable.
“We need to urgently improve the conditions of service of the men and women of our armed forces. And not just the government.
“The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, working in concert with primary mortgage institutions, ought to offer the men and women of our armed forces special concessionary mortgage loans so they can own homes.
The private sector should also be encouraged to offer discounted services to them in appreciation of their services,” he said.
Atiku said there is no sacrifice greater than to lay down one’s life for the motherland.
“When our military is properly rewarded, they will fight more valiantly and gallantly.
“A nation that rewards courage is one that avoids outrage,” he added.