•They’re security threats —PDP
•Opposition is jealous of me —Buhari
•Southern, Middle Belt leaders call for probe
Ahot exchange of words ensued on Friday between the Muhammadu Buhari presidency and the campaign organisation of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the presence of two governors from Niger Republic at Buhari’s Thursday campaign rally in Kano.
Also, Southern and Middle Belt leaders described the participation of the foreign governors at Buhari’s rally as a matter of security concern to the nation.
The Atiku campaign organisation alleged that the APC had used the visit of the Nigerien governors to import miscreants into the country and accommodate them for use in an alleged violence planned ahead of the February 16 elections.
But Buhari in his sharp reaction said the PDP was just being jealous of his regional leadership while adding that the participation of the foreigners broke no law.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Friday, the National Publicity Secretary and Director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the presence of the two foreign officials as interference in Nigeria’s political affairs.
“Our security agencies must immediately investigate and lay in the public domain the circumstances leading to their presence, which more or less confirms that the APC has lost all domestic credibility and has assumed a desperate mode.
“The presence of the Niger Republic governors at President Buhari’s rally signposts a direct assault on the credibility of the presidential election. This is particularly against the backdrop of INEC’s plans to allow Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in that country to vote in our election, a situation that opens the way for aliens to infiltrate as IDPs and participate in our elections.
“Our apprehensions are accentuated by INEC’s recent mass creation of additional polling units which have not been properly designated and which may be deployed for the perpetration of monumental electoral fraud. We note how Kano State, in 2015, delivered 1.9 million votes to the APC presidential candidate in circumstances devoid of transparency and credulity,” he said.
While alleging that the APC rented a crowd for the Kano rally because it could not mobilise Nigerians, the PDP spokesman said: “President Buhari and the APC, in their desperation, have compromised our territorial integrity as a nation and this portends grave danger to our national security and the sanctity of our electoral process.
“For a nation contending with insurgency and banditry, the involvement of mercenaries from neighbouring countries in the APC rally must be condemned by all and sundry. This is particularly against the backdrop of claims by President Buhari that killer herdsmen ravaging our nation are mercenaries who are infiltrating from the Sahel region.
“Nigerians can now see the unfolding of the plots by agents the APC to use mercenaries from neighbouring countries to precipitate crisis with the aim of scuttling the 2019 general election, having realised that they cannot win in a free, fair and credible election.
“Now we understand the weight of the submission by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), when he stated recently that ‘unscrupulous elements are already mobilising merchants of violence, including armed bandits and terrorists to orchestrate violence during the elections in several states of the federation.’
“Similarly, Nigerians can also decode the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, when he stated recently that; ‘there is also an international dimension to the evil plan. Some armed mercenaries from the Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-West between now and the elections.’
“Today, Nigerians need no further evidence of those planning evil against our nation.
“Already, there are apprehensions that miscreants who came from Niger Republic to President Buhari’s rally are being offered accommodation in our country by the APC to unleash violence immediately it is clear that President Buhari is losing in the February 16 presidential election.
“On account of these, PDP demands an urgent and thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the presence of politicians and thugs from Niger Republic at the APC presidential rally in Kano on Thursday.”
He said the promise by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State to deliver five million votes to President Buhari in this year’s election was predicated on the “unfettered opening of our international borders to foreign political interests.”
Ologbodiyan said further: “What was the true purpose of the invitation of these foreigners to the APC rally in Kano on Thursday? What secret deals did APC leaders make with them at the expense of our national security?
“It begs the question how a government that vilified credible international bodies that genuinely advised on the need for a free and fair election as interfering in our elections would now be spending public resources to rent political mercenaries from neighbouring countries.
“We know that APC’s jettisoning of our territorial integrity and national security to hire crowds from Niger Republic is borne out of frustration over the recent successes and massive turnout of supporters at PDP rallies held in the North West.
“The spontaneous and mammoth turnouts of supporters and admirers of the PDP as well as the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, even in the APC’s supposed strongholds in the North West states of Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Kano has no doubt discomfited the APC and its presidential candidate.”
The PDP affirmed that that the general election is only for Nigerians, saying “there is no way our citizens will allow foreigners to participate in our electoral process.”
It, therefore, called on all Nigerians, irrespective of creed, ethnicity and political affiliations, to rise in condemnation of “this direct assault on our territorial integrity as a nation. Our citizens must henceforth be at alert and get prepared to defend the sovereignty of our nation, which President Buhari and the APC, in their desperation, are ready to trade away.”
PDP is jealous –Presidency
In his reaction, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said African political office seekers were interested in studying the Buhari phenomenon, noting that the Nigeriens’ presence at the Kano rally has not broken any law.
He said the PDP was only jealous and panicky.
Shehu stated: “What we want PDP to know, there is a Buhari phenomenon that is sweeping across the entire continent. Candidates for national leadership in each country are doing whatever they can to understand the Buhari phenomenon, to copy it, to institute it.
“That’s why people from the African continent…when they had the presidential election in Ghana, there was a candidate who branded himself the Buhari of Ghana.
“When they had the presidential election in Chad last year, there was a Buhari of Chad. They had printed posters with their pictures with Buhari side by side.
“So, Nigeria has been gifted with an honest leader, a man endowed with rare qualities and people are trying to copy that.
“So, if our neighbours from Niger come to witness how President Buhari is doing his politics, what is the problem with that? Is there any law that is broken? Or did they see anyone that will buy vote or collect PVC?
“So, it’s jealousy. They are panicky and jealous. It should worry PDP that nobody is coming across the border to understudy PDP.”
Southern, M/Belt leaders react
In the same vein, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has accused President Buhari and APC of undermining national security and sanctity of the electoral process with the involvement of the two serving governors from the Republic of Niger at the ruling party’s presidential campaign rally in Kano.
A statement by the SMBLF on Friday, signed by Yinka Odumakin (South West), Professor Chigozie Ogbu (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South) and Dr Isuwa Doguwa (Middle Belt), said coming barely days to the presidential election, “the singular action validates the wholesale desperation of the APC to deploy every untoward scheme to impugn the integrity of the forthcoming election, in a macabre re-enactment of some evil aspects of the 2015 election. This is an affront to our national sovereignty and a gross abuse of diplomatic relations.”
The statement added: “For an administration which recently lampooned Western diplomatic powers and bodies for criticising the unconstitutional purported suspension of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen from office, this is the height of duplicity and doublespeak.
“Never in our political history has our national security been so endangered in the name of politics and politicking, a situation which calls for immediate investigation by relevant security agencies. The National Intelligence Agency, NIA; the Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA and the Department of State Services, DSS, must move to interrogate this development and report their findings to us Nigerians whose best interests they swore to serve.
“In a country which has been in the vice grip of accentuated terrorism, herdsmen killings, banditry and kidnapping in parts of the country, especially since the advent of the Buhari administration, the kind of unholy philandering between Buhari and foreign interests from regional neighbours suspected of complicity in our internal security challenges calls for introspection and inquest.
“Only last year, President Buhari prioritised the construction of a rail line from Kano to Maradi in Niger, at a time several aspects of our national infrastructure were and are still begging for attention. Maradi, the third largest city in Niger Republic and Zinder are two prefectures in the country which are predominantly populated by Fulanis with consanguineal relationship with Daura emirate, Buhari’s birthplace.
“As military head of state in 1985, Buhari purportedly favoured Ide Oumarou, a diplomat from Niger, over and above Nigeria’s own Peter Onu in the race for the position of Secretary-General of the African Union, AU, to underscore his consanguineous relationship and sentiments with and for the Nigerien Oumarou.”
The statement recalled that during the 2015 general election, there were reports of thousands of people, many of them underage voters, crossing from Niger Republic into Kano through “our extremely porous borders” to vote in Nigeria’s elections for a particular candidate.
“Unfortunately, the illegality was acquiesced to by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,” the statement alleged.
According to the forum, there have been recent reports of seamless human movements between our national neighbours, notably Chad and Niger, into parts of Nigeria of people in open top vehicles to different parts of the country.
The SMBLF, therefore, called for increased vigilance among Nigerians “as we approach the critical last two weeks to the presidential election” and drew the attention of the international community to “the impairment of our territorial integrity and fragile national security by the uncanny desperation of the Buhari-led APC to undermine the electoral process, even at the risk of exacerbating our already simmering political situation.
“Nigerians must collectively resist any plot to further imperil and destabilise the polity in a desperate bid by some to win the forthcoming election at all costs and by all means possible.”
But a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has justified the presence of the two governors from the neighbouring West African country at the APC campaign rally in Kano.
Speaking with newsmen on Friday at a one-day workshop organised by the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Ribadu, who incidentally is one of the party’s field directors, said there was nothing wrong in the presence of the two top citizens of Niger Republic at the rally.
The former EFCC chairman declared that it was their constitutional right to be present at such an event since they would not be entitled to exercise their franchise on the day of the presidential election.
“For your information, it is a free world and it is the constitutional right of everyone to be where he wants to be. You have no right to curtail anybody from doing what he wants to do. People from West Africa are free to move into Nigeria.
“We have a protocol or agreement that they don’t need a visa to come into this country. I know for sure that they don’t have the vote but as free West African citizens who believe that someone has done extremely very well, and decided to identify themselves with what they believe in, I don’t think there is anything wrong and I don’t think there is any crime committed.
“You cannot and you have no right as a Nigerian to stop them from exercising their fundamental right to identify with their friends.
“Their presence may or may not have any impact on the re-election but they are entitled to it. We have to guarantee their freedom because their presence is within the law and we don’t have right to stop them,” he said.
Crisis: Buhari calls off Zamfara rally
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, abruptly called off the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign rally scheduled for Sunday in Zamfara ostensibly because of the internal wrangling within the state chapter of the ruling party.
The advance team of the president, which had already been dispatched to the state, was recalled to Abuja on Friday.
The rally has now been rescheduled for Sunday, February 10, by which time frayed tempers are expected to have calmed.
The crisis has caused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to decline the lists of candidates from the party in the state.
One of the major actors in the Zamfara APC crisis, Senator Kabiru Marafa, representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, told State House correspondents in Abuja on Friday that they did not want the president to come to the state for any campaign rally.
He said President Buhari did not need to worry as individual political groups would organise different rallies on his behalf in the state
Marafa said he did not want the state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, to claim credit for any rally in which the president might participate.
He said: “I just submitted a proposal which I think will serve the interest of our party, the president and our people.