Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe
By Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Federal Government Tuesday lashed out at the opposition parties in the country, stating that it would be political suicidal to leave the governance of the country to the opposition that offers no better alternative on how to move Nigeria forward.
But in a swift reaction to President Goodluck Jonathan’s Independence Day broadcast, the leading opposition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) – Tuesday dismissed the president’s claim that Nigeria has made progress in the fight against corruption.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said, “The opposition political parties in the country and other opposition groups are too weak and unintelligent to be left with the affairs of governance,” adding, “the opposition in Nigeria has not provided a better alternative in Nigeria.”
According to the presidential aide, “It would be reckless and preposterous to allow the opposition take over the affairs of governance because they are not prepared for power. Nigerians cannot trust an ill-prepared opposition with power.
“If the opposition continues this way, they are providing room for whoever the PDP presents as the presidential candidate in 2015 to be returned to power so easily.
“This opposition cannot run the country; they are not prepared for power. It is reckless and dangerous for the Nigerian people to trust the opposition with the destiny of the country.”
Okupe said the only stock in trade of the opposition is to abuse the president, as if in doing that, it is providing a credible alternative to governance.
He reiterated what the president’s statement in his independence speech, that he alone cannot solve the crisis in the country.
According to Okupe, “It is important to note that the president who took over the affairs of this country 16 months ago had provided the necessary leadership to tackle and solve the challenges of this country and it is not possible that the problems would be resolved over night.
“What is expected of all Nigerians is patience, as President Jonathan who is the David of our time is gradually but steadily defeating the Goliath problems of Nigeria.”
Speaking on the improvement in governance, Okupe said, “It is gratifying to note that today elections in Nigeria are now nationally and internationally acclaimed to be free and fair.
“The import of this, which may be easily taken for granted, is that under the old order, opposition candidates like Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko stood no chance of possible re-election even though they may be popular.
“The Goodluck Jonathan administration has undoubtedly reduced to the barest minimum the fear of the manipulation of electoral process in favour of the party in control at the centre.”
According to the presidential aide, “The increase in contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from non–oil sector for the month of July was N178.92 billion or 27 per cent, while from mineral resources it was N646.47 billion.”
He said that for the first time, under President Jonathan, there has been a significant contribution to GDP coming from the services, telecoms and especially agriculture sectors.
“Agriculture today is being elevated as a sector that can provide the much desired transformation through the transfer of wealth to rural communities, farmers and their families.
“At this juncture, it is necessary to add that the Federal Government’s share of the subsidy removal money is being re-invested responsibly in the areas of health care delivery, public transportation and infrastructure projects like the Benin-Shagamu Road project costing about N65 billion,” Okupe said.
On why a new unit of the guards brigade was cited at the Presidential Villa, Okupe said, “We are dealing with a serious sect. In any war situation, the Commander-in-Chief is the flag bearer and therefore needs to be protected.
“The improved security within the State House is borne out of necessity,” adding that the Federal Government had invested substantially in hi-tech security equipment for fighting crime.
“As with other sectors, some opposition politicians erroneously canvassed that the problem of Boko Haram was of such magnitude that would overwhelm the government.
“Even the Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Bisi Akande, joined the team of doubting Thomases when he recently uncharitably stated that Nigeria’s problems will overwhelm President Jonathan.
“It is now obvious that this statement is blatantly untrue and not supported by facts on the ground,” he said.
He revealed that the 2013 budget would be presented to the National Assembly when things are sorted out, describing the decision by the House of Representatives not to accept the presentation of the budget on Thursday as nothing unusual, but democracy in action.
However, Okupe’s defence of the administration coincided with reaction from the three main opposition parties yesterday, which faulted the president’s claim that Nigeria was making gains in her fight against corruption.
The president had in his independence speech last Monday made reference to the recent ratings by Transparency International, which had placed the country as the second most improved nation in the fight against corruption.
ACN said Jonathan ought to apologise to Nigerians for misleading them on the alleged improved rating given to the country by the global anti-corruption body.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, demanded an apology from the president came after it (party) saw a copy of Transparency International’s response to inquiries on the president’s claim.
ACN said Transparency International does not have a recent rating or report that places Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption.
“Transparency International has denied claims by President Jonathan, in his 52nd independence anniversary speech on Monday, that the global body had rated Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption.
“In the 2011 Corruption Perception Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, Nigeria scored 2.4 on a scale where 0 means highly corrupt and 10 means very clean. It was ranked 143 out of 183 countries,” the party said.
It said in addition to apologising to all Nigerians for the bogus claim, the president should immediately kick-start an investigation into the source of the claim that has exposed his administration and the entire country to global ridicule.
ACN said the wrong claim, which was apparently intended to showcase the “achievements” of the administration in the fight against corruption, had raised doubts over the authenticity of other claims by the president in the anniversary speech.
“Among other claims, the president had said that real GDP grew by 7.1 per cent on average; that his administration’s Investment Climate Reform Programme has helped to attract over N6.8 trillion local and foreign direct investment commitments, and that Nigeria is ranked first in the top five host economies for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa, accounting for over 20 per cent of total FDI flows into the continent.”
The party said if the president failed to act quickly to unearth the source of such a spurious claim on corruption and ensure it does not recur, he risks bigger embarrassment from officials who may want to tweak facts and figures to justify their positions.
Speaking in the same vein, the CPC National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fahakin said the president’s position was laughable. Fashakin, who spoke to THISDAY, said President Jonathan might have given a spin with his success claims.
“Aside from Bode Gorge which became PDP’s most prized asset after serving his sentence, which other conviction has the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) secured in the last two years under Jonathan-led administration?
“How can the president make such an assertion when he knows that corruption has thrived under his watch like no other time,” he asked.
On its part, ANPP saw the president’s claim as falsely manufactured to boost the ego of the administration.
The ANPP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu said in a statement that the claim of improved corruption index was spurious as it does not reflect the reality on ground.
“Our great party recalls that just a couple of months ago, the same Transparency International, in an open letter to President Jonathan, had expressed worry over the scope and speed of corruption in Nigeria this year, saying it is beyond what it has ever dealt with.
According to Eneukwu, it is surprising how this same international graft-watch outfit had made a somersault within such a short time, with no visible commitment on the part of the government to fight graft.