The Federal Government has reacted to the claim by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that he will support his former deputy, Atiku Abubakar, in the 2019 presidential election.
The Federal Government said the former President “has every right to support anyone he likes,” adding that such a right “is constitutional.”
However, it said the support would not save Atiku and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, from defeat.
It said Atiku, who is the candidate of Obasanjo, would be “roundly and comprehensively” defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated these at a media briefing in Abuja on Monday.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had done well since he assumed office in 2015, regretting that Obasanjo might have been reading what he called “wrong reports about the activities of the Buhari government” (that made him to take the decision to support Atiku.)
Mohammed said,“ If Obasanjo said we are not doing well, it is probably he is not reading the right reports. Everyone has the right to decide who to support. Three and a half years is too short for any government to do everything for everybody.
“I’m always sceptical to respond to former heads of state, especially somebody like former President Obasanjo. On corruption, this government has done a lot to combat it.
“We have put in place many ways to stop corruption. We were not the one that initiated the Treasury Single Account, but we have the political will to implement it.”
He said the Federal Government had recovered billions of naira from allegedly corrupt individuals and also seized about 295 vehicles and 407 mansions.
The Federal Government, he said, had also saved about N17bn from travels and gifts that could have been given out to people by government officials.
Mohammed said the former President should know ‘the number of megawatts of electricity he left while leaving office compared to more than 7,000 (megawatts) that “we have now.”
He also accused the opposition of manufacturing fake news to discredit the Buhari Presidency. For example, he said three items of fake news had been ascribed to him of recent.
According to him, one of such was that he said Nigeria would attack Israel with missiles if the country would not deport the wanted leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Mr Nnamdi Kanu.
He said it was also alleged that Buhari could no longer speak Fulfude as a result of the surgery the President had while on a sick bed in the United Kingdom.
The minister said, “We have it on record that the opposition is already jittery of Buhari’s imminent victory and has consequently resorted to using fake news to blackmail the President and our party in order to give excuse for the looming defeat.
“One of the items of the fake news being propagated by the opposition, which is now very confused, is that Buhari cannot speak Fulfulde, his mother tongue and cannot open the main door to his conference room in the Presidential Villa, having undergone cloning, despite having openly been made clear that there was nothing like that.
“This is clearly the fake news and the handiwork of the opposition in serious distress and confusion.”
The minister also said that it would be wrong to blame the President for refusing to sign the amended Electoral Bill.
He, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to accept the reasons given by the President for not assenting to the bill, adding that the President took the action in the interest of the nation.
He said the President would wait for the action to be taken by the National Assembly on the rejected bill, but said that the reason why President did not sign was not because of fear that he could be defeated.
The minister said, “The Presidency would await the decision on the bill before commenting further.
“We believe Mr President has the prerogative to do what he has done by rejecting assent to the electoral bill. Each arm of government must guard jealously its independence.
“Let us wait for the National Assembly’s next line of action on the electoral bill, but it is not correct to say the President refused to sign for fear of being defeated as being alleged by the opposition.”
On whether Nigerians should look ahead to see the President engaging Atiku in a presidential debate, the minister said that only the President could decide whether he would take part in a debate or not.
Nevertheless, he said there was no law that compelled the President to take part in debates, saying his ministers had already been doing that for him and his government.
“He (President Buhari ) has a cabinet, and every member of the cabinet goes out to tell Nigerians what has been done under this government. That is debate. I do that often and that is what I’m doing now,” he added.
The minister also defended the disbursement of billions of naira by the Federal Government to Nigerian traders under the Trademoni scheme, which the main opposition party, the PDP, had described as “advance vote-buying.”
The minister insisted that the money being given to the traders was part of a larger policy of the administration under the Social Investment Programme, which is given to all Nigerians irrespective of political leanings.
He said, “It didn’t start today. We have N-Power, under which we have employed more than one million people; we feed about nine million pupils and we also have cash transfers to about 297, 000 poor families .
“What we are doing is not vote-buying but poverty alleviation. It wasn’t meant to buy votes. The PDP is already jittery and preparing grounds and reasons for its defeat.”
Buhari regretting Obasanjo’s desertion – PDP
In its reaction, the PDP said it was apparent that the President and the APC were already regretting that Obasanjo had withdrawn his support for them.
It said both Buhari and his party were full of praises for the former President when he was leading their campaign in 2015.
National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the President and the APC in 2015 described Obasanjo as their navigator.
He said, “This is what we have been saying. This is a government of use and dump. They have no memories. When they put on their uniforms and went to beg Baba at Abeokuta shortly before the last election, they were happy to have his support.
“Now that they have disappointed the former President and the majority of Nigerians, they don’t care about his support anymore.
“This is a government that doesn’t rely on the vote of the people. They want to rig, but Nigerians will reject them.”
Secondus also said that the PDP during its campaigns, would expose the method which he alleged the ruling party was relying on to win the elections.
On his part, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, said the 2019 general election would be a battle for Nigeria’s soul.
Okechukwu spoke while receiving members of the Buhari National Student Support Group in his office, on Monday.
In response to allegations of incompetence levelled against the Buhari All Progressives Congress administration by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the VON DG said, “It is because there has not been an investigation into how Obasanjo suddenly became wealthy.
“If questions were asked about how a man who in 1998 was brought out of prison and asked to contest the Presidency and he said he didn’t have money and today, he is the owner of several business concerns, including Bells University, perhaps, Nigeria would be the better for it.”
Buhari can’t match Atiku in character, integrity, PDP tells APC
The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation on Monday told the All Progressives Congress that President Muhammadu Buhari could not be a match to its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in character, integrity, competence and public acceptance.
The campaign council was reacting to a claim by the APC that the presidential campaign could be based on the character and integrity of the two main contenders for the 2019 presidential election.
Recall that the APC said that it would flaunt the purported integrity of the President which it described as unblemished.
However, the PDP Secretary, who is also the spokesperson for the presidential campaign council, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, stated that the APC, in raising the issue of personal character of candidates, had unwittingly sunk President Buhari’s campaign by opening a flank that ultimately exposed him to public opprobrium.
He said, “Inasmuch as the PDP is committed to issue-based campaign and finding solutions to the myriad of problems the incompetent, divisive and extremely corrupt Buhari administration has plunged our nation into, our party is ready and will not hesitate to take on the APC, any time, any day on issues of personal character and integrity, which President Buhari is in clear deficit before Atiku.
‘’It is on record that nothing incriminatory has ever been found on Atiku, despite being the most investigated politician in our country, particularly by the Buhari Presidency; but can such be said of President Buhari, who has been jittery over Atiku’s soaring popularity and acceptance across the board, ahead of the 2019 general election?”
He added, “In the interim, between President Buhari and Atiku, Nigerians know the leader, who is bugged by integrity issues and under whose watch our Presidency became ‘fantastically corrupt’, with issues of certificate forgery and allegations of sundry frauds in which family members and close relatives are being mentioned.
“Nigerians are aware of the leader under whose direct watch, over N11tn has been stolen from our petroleum sector and billons of naira frittered away from our National Health Insurance Fund and other revenue agencies in the last three and a half years.
“They are aware of the leader who has reneged in all his campaign promises; who stays aloof always to the plight of the people and only parades as pro-poor, just to win their votes.”
On the issue of achievement, Ologbondiyan said,”The world knows the Nigerian leader whose corrupt administration plunged the nation into economic recession and who cannot point to any development project he initiated and completed in any part of the country or any personal contribution he has made to the development of our nation, either in office or as a private citizen.