It was gratifying to read that Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in this year’s presidential elections is demanding an apology from a presidential aide who claimed that the former vice president is on a security watch list in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
A very good decision as this column had called out the particular aide in question last year especially for her uncouth way of speaking and defending President Muhammadu Buhari even when she is earning her pay from our commonwealth. Let’s all hope that Abubakar followed the demand to a logical conclusion and end in court if he did not get an apology. This brings us to a rather serious allegation that other officials of this government have levied against Abubakar and his party. By the way, the PDP had responded on the allegations and so this is not defending the party but just drawing attention to the gravity of those statements.
Last week, our ever-voluble information minister, Lai Mohammed, declared boldly after the weekly executive council meeting that Abubakar and PDP were planning to topple the government because they lost the last presidential election. He repeated this over the weekend too in his home state of Kwara. A day earlier, the Defence Headquarters had issued a statement signed by Muhammed Wabi, a navy captain and Deputy Director of Defence Information accusing a group, Nigeria Continuity and Progress (NCP) as being behind a document calling for the overthrow of the Buhari government. Cleverly, DHQ issued its release via the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) giving it maximum visibility. Wabi alleged further that the document called for an interim government in place of the elected government.
It was this same information that the Department of State Security (DSS) repeated adding that “aggrieved politicians” were behind the scheme and also planning to instigate violence and force Buhari out of office. Till date, there has been no arrest of Abubakar or any PDP member over these weighty allegations. Perhaps in attempts at justifying their otherwise not remarkable appointments, officials of the government appear to be in an overdrive to outdo themselves and seek retention in the new cabinet. But while some are going about theirs subtly without making terrible allegations against political opponents, at least we’ve seen a minister claiming that four years are too short for a works minister to design and supervise roads’ construction, others don’t care as long as they get their wish.
Originally, an information minister is anachronistic in a democratic government as it is a relic of military dictatorship; we have not had pleasant experience with most of those who occupied the office since 1999. Brazen lying and fudging issues have been the hallmark of Mr. Muhammed so much that he has the dubious honour of the most criticized person by this column but he seems not in a hurry to change. The same government that claimed it had evidence of those who were planning to topple it has not made any arrest till date but allowing those would-be plotters walk free. The soldiers among the accusers have clearly forgotten the appellation “an officer and gentleman” that such lies do not seem serious to make them think twice before parroting them.
We must, however, condemn attempts at taking us back to the Sani Abacha era as we remember too well that it was under the maximum dictator that some Nigerians – soldiers and civilians – were arrested, including journalists who were evidently framed for what they knew nothing about. Good enough that the PDP had decided to pursue its case at the election petition tribunal and it’s up to the tribunal to determine the veracity of the party’s claim, but intimidation and bullying using government machinery must be condemned. A serious government with credible evidence should have arrested those accused of planning to overthrow an elected government and save the country from a needless putsch. Let’s assume that Abubakar and the PDP top apparatchiks are so powerful and cannot be arrested, what about the soldiers allegedly involved in the plan? At least they can be court-martialed and tried as soldiers without courting the ire of PDP supporters if that’s what the government was afraid of.
It shows also the way we treat public office in our country and how our leaders don’t weigh their words clearly before uttering them. The same minister was quick in condemning former President Olusegun Obasanjo who warned against Islamization of the African continent and asked our government to seek help from outsiders in waging war against it. One is, however, not surprised as he condemned the proscription of Boko Haram in June 2013 in a statement he issued as a spokesperson of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria claiming that ‘the proscription stifles the press and tampers with the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.” So, what has changed? By the way, did the minister read about the Facebook accounts shut down about two weeks ago that were accused of spreading false information about Atiku Abubakar in the last presidential election?