The campaign council of President Muhammadu Buhari has said the comment made by Mr Buhari in Zamfara State was a “joke”.
The opposition had condemned the president’s comments as an incitement.
Mr Buhari, while concluding his remarks in Hausa at a campaign rally in Gusau, Zamfara State on Sunday, said he was happy that the nation had two rainy seasons that enabled farmers to make good yield.
He then prayed for another fruitful rainy season. “What I actually want is for everyone to feed well and as for those who want to continue with their “fitna”, (they) can go ahead”.
The word “fitna” in Hausa literally mean “crisis” and because Zamfara state is experiencing insecurity as a result of the activities of bandits who daily kill and kidnap citizens of the state, many interpret his comments as a call to continued violence.
The candidate of the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Monday, said the comments by Mr Buhari was “unpresidential”.
In a statement on Tuesday, the spokesperson of the Buhari campaign organisation, Festus Keyamo, said typical of the Atiku campaign, “they have continued in their favourite pastime of peddling falsehood, scaremongering and misinformation”.
Mr Keyamo said the comment by Mr Abubakar accusing the president of promoting violence was false.
“The Hausa word the President used in Zamfara, which has been taken out of context, is “fitna”.
“Incidentally all our Hausa language scholars have said the word means different things: it means distress, trial, affliction or temptation. It can also be used to describe rebellion or uprising.
“In this case, President Buhari was actually weighing in on the joke told very often of recent in the North that due to the rice boom, farmers have embarked on pilgrimage and the marrying of more wives.
“So, what the President meant was actually a joke deliberately taken out of context: he simply told the crowd to ensure they eat very well because of the rice boom before they can contemplate giving in to those temptations,” Mr Keyamo said.
The campaign spokesperson said even in some private meetings with the campaign team, Mr Buhari has always commented on this joke.
“Sadly, out of desperation, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has decided to peddle falsehood.
“We urge Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to realize that it is God Almighty that gives power and takes power. He should not use his palpable desperation to return to power (in order to sell Nigeria to his “friends” and to make them rich) to set this nation ablaze by outright falsehood,” Mr Keyamo said.