With an appeal by the presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, awaiting determination at the Supreme Court, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday intensified the fight to assert their credibility before Nigerians.
The Spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, fired the first round in a write-up dubbed “Nigeria’s opposition is missing,” where he claimed: “The opposition is close to reneging completely on the compact it holds with the voters.” This, according to Shehu, amounts to “dereliction of duty.”
He said rather than “scrutinise” the business of governance and “hold the government to account,” the opposition has busied itself with fake news and the pursuit of legal redress, which he termed “lawfare.”
Atiku and PDP recently filed a 66-ground appeal at the apex court, following the verdict by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld Buhari’s victory in the February 23 presidential poll.
“The opposition’s over-excretions are leaving a mess for the elected government to clean up,” Shehu lamented, affirming: “Last week, they opened their next salvo in lawfare by taking they are the exact same, fatally flawed case to Nigeria’s Supreme Court. We must sincerely hope the opposition has the wherewithal to appreciate they will fail once more, given the facts and the math remain the same.”
APC spokesman, Lanre Issa-Onilu, jumped into the fray, declaring: “As a party that believes in democracy and progressive politics, we cannot pretend any longer. Democracy cannot be said to be fully operational in a situation where the supposed ‘main’ opposition party, PDP, has become a joke, irresponsible and rudderless.”
Issa-Onilu, in a statement, said: “There is a lot to gain by our democracy and our country in an atmosphere of robust engagement by responsible and patriotic opposition. The political system we practise has important roles for the political parties outside of power. The system envisaged that such parties would provide alternative viewpoints and put the governing party on its toes.
“Instead, the PDP and their minions have in the name of opposition continued to distract the government and Nigerians with their post-election delusions, salacious fictions, conjured rifts in government circle and, of course, the lowest of it all, the pathetic and senseless Jubril of Sudan malicious tale, among other fake news. Tragic!”
He added: “As the current administration tackles our national challenges, and at a period we all should focus on issues of nation-building, the best PDP and its acolytes are offering is a distraction. While the PDP wallows in its obscene conduct, Nigeria under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration will continue to consolidate on its status as Africa’s largest economy.”
But the opposition party countered the accusations, maintaining: “The PDP does not contain certificate forgers. It is not the party of people who are contrivers. Our political party is relating directly with Nigerian people and we are working assiduously to make sure that democratic tenets of our nation are not only entrenched but seen to be entrenched in our nation.”
At a news conference, PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party would not have space to respond to the gimmicks of “former democrats who went around the nation and brought a despot into a democratic order,” and would, therefore, ensure “the mandate which was given to Atiku and has been stolen is restored to us.”
He said: “Neither do we have space to engage in verbal discussion with characters who are known to be pillaging and stealing directly from the patrimony of our nation. As such, we are not going to respond to the innuendos such characters are bandying.”
He said because of the emptiness of the ruling party, the PDP decided to create an alternative government, to make suggestions on how good governance should be entrenched.
“PDP has been carrying out that responsibility. As far as APC needs to know, our nation has survived dictators. We have succeeded as a people to ensure that those who seek to rule us without our consent do not succeed. And as such, it is strange and totally unacceptable that the APC and the Buhari presidency will, within its whimsical thinking, claim that Nigeria will become a one-party state.
“This country is a resilient nation and no individual no matter how highly placed in the past has succeeded in reducing us to a nation of cowards. Even today, it will be unacceptable to Nigerians to be so reduced. So, PDP will continue to play its opposition role and we will play it successfully.”
The PDP further faulted alleged moves by the government to gag the media. It warned: “This dictatorial pathway which the Buhari presidency seeks to impose if allowed, will herald the gradual emasculation of freedom of expression, repression of a free press, infringements on the rights of citizens and foisting of siege mentality on the people.”
It said the decision by Buhari to impose stringent regulations on online media and broadcast organisations, as recently announced by the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, is completely obnoxious, anti-democratic, and a direct violation of statutory rules governing media practice and freedom of expression in Nigeria