The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria and the federal government were locked in a war of words Sunday after the ACN accused the government of plotting to scuttle the 2015 elections and plunge the country into chaos.
The allegation unsettled Aso Rock and the Peoples Democratic Party which quickly rushed out counter statements accusing the ACN and its spokesperson of a well-organised campaign to mislead the public, discredit the person and office of President Goodluck Jonathan, and cause disaffection within the polity.
The ACN spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, triggered the controversy when he alleged, at a press conference in Lagos, that that the PDP and the federal government had hatched a plot to destabilize the country, make it ungovernable and make the environment unconducive for election in 2015.
Mr. Mohammed said that way, Mr. Jonathan would be able to resort to extra constitutional way to extend his tenure.
The ACN spokesperson said, “It is no longer a secret that the PDP-led Federal Government has failed the nation in all ramifications.To make matters worse, the party itself is imploding as a result of its own failings. Against this background, the PDP is keenly aware that it has totally lost the confidence of all Nigerians.
“It (PDP) has now realised that if indeed the 2015 elections are free and fair and conducted in a conducive environment, there will be no chance for the party.
“What is the way out for the PDP? The party has decided to go for the broke: either there will be no elections in 2015 or the polls will be conducted in an atmosphere of chaos, thereby paving the way for the PDP to do what it knows best – rig elections.
“Also being considered is a plan under which emergency rule will be imposed on most parts of the country, following which elections will be put in abeyance, paving the way for tenure elongation. Instigation of violence in hitherto peaceful parts of the country is one of the means to achieve this plan.
“We make bold to say that the stand of the PDP is that having seen the handwriting on the wall, it realises it cannot win any free and fair elections in 2015.”
The party also alleged that the government was masterminding the destabilization of part of the country yet unaffected by the deadly Boko Haram insurgency.
Mr. Mohammed said, “But now, the areas that have been largely peaceful are being targeted by those who will only be happy when the whole country is in turmoil.
“A multi-billion naira contract has suddenly been awarded for the protection of oil pipelines in the region.
“The main beneficiary of the contract has suddenly realised that the Unity Party of Nigeria, formed by the respected statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, is no longer in existence, and has thus decided to revive it.
“Just about the same time, suspected Boko Haram members have been arrested in Lagos, specifically at a house belonging to the government of Bayelsa State.
“ We ask ‘What is the real intention of the Federal Government in awarding this oil pipeline protection contract? Is it a mere coincidence that the main beneficiary of the multi-billion naira oil pipeline protection contract is also the same fellow who is promoting the revival of UPN?
“Could the huge contract have been meant to provide the seed money for the promoters of this party? Is it true, as it is being alleged in certain quarters, that the essence of the contract is to recruit 30,000 youths who will ostensibly protect the pipelines, but in the real sense are ready hands to foment violence on demand in the South-West?
“Is it true that the so-called revival of the UPN is to provide a platform for anarchists and end-gamers in the South-West to infiltrate the ranks of the progressives and throw the region into chaos?
“Why is it that suddenly, Boko Haram suspects are popping up in Lagos, and some of those who have been arrested were residing in a building owned by the Bayelsa State Government?”
But shortly after the ACN concluded its press conference, the president circulated a statement refuting the allegations and saying the opposition party was merely trying to misinform Nigerians and make the administration look bad before the citizens.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, described Mr. Mohammed’s comments as deliberate mis-information tactics.
Mr. Abati said the allegation was a “well organised campaign by the opposition designed to mislead the public, discredit the person and office of President Goodluck Jonathan and cause disaffection within the polity’’.
He said that the opposition was trying to exploit real challenges confronting the nation by using unrelated events and hoping to use such patterns and trends to build a “conspiratorial case”.
“Like all conspiracies, the case made fell quickly like a pack of cards when confronted with the facts.
“It is a fact that President Goodluck Jonathan has presided over major elections since his assumption of office.”
He cited the 2011 general elections, the 2012 state governorship elections in Edo, Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Cross River and Bayelsa as well as other elections in different parts of the country.
According to Mr. Abati, the elections are all adjudged by local and international observers as free, fair and peaceful.
“President Jonathan’s commitment to electoral reforms which is founded on the ‘one-man-one vote’ ethos, underscores the administration’s belief and commitment to an emerging political culture that is inclusive, participatory and transparent.
“The integrity of elections is without doubt one of the major achievements of this administration; it remains a legacy issue for President Jonathan.’’
Mr. Abati also refuted the claim by the ACN that the Federal Government had awarded an oil pipeline protection contract to serve as a smokescreen to fund activities that would create chaos in the South-West.
“The more alarming aspect of the disingenuous press conference was the deliberate attempt to exploit religious and ethnic differences among citizens to create a state of siege and fear ahead of the 2015 elections.
Mr. Abati said the allegations were false and grossly misleading.
The presidency’s statement came shortly after the PDP spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, had in a separate statement tore at Mr. Mohammed and the ACN.
In the statement, Mr. Metuh said Mr. Mohammed’s claims represented yet another attempt to heat up the system and cause chaos in the country.
The PDP statement said, “The statement is replete with tissues of lies and propaganda and once again portrays the ACN as a party that lacks direction and given to noise making.
“It is on record that President Goodluck Jonathan has fully empowered security agencies to effectively tackle the Boko Haram insurgency and his decision to set up an Amnesty Committee on the issue shows his dedication and total commitment in his regard.
“We challenge the opposition to come out with their solution to the problems instead of always trying to heat up the system for selfish reasons.
“We decry the emphasis on Lagos and South West and enjoin the ACN to go beyond their regional approach to issues concerning the country.”
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