The Controversial posters or President Goodluck Jonathan
Chuks Okocha, Muhammad Bello and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The presidency has ordered security agents to fish out the sponsors of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign posters, THISDAY learnt Thursday.
The president has already dissociated himself from the posters, which were pasted in many public places in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Tuesday.
According to a source in the presidency, the suspicion is that the posters were put up to embarrass the president, thus the need for security agents to unravel those behind the mischief.
Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, speaking in the same vein, said Jonathan need not pointedly order security agencies to fish out those behind the posters as they have their duty cut out for them by guarding against anything that could threaten national security as well as law and order.
It was further gathered that the Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, has been directed to ensure that the campaign posters littering some strategic streets of Abuja are cleaned up.
Accordingly, the Abuja Environmental and Protection Board (AEPB) has been directed to remove all the posters from the streets.
But as the controversy over the posters deepens, opposition parties appear to be indifferent over the matter, with some of them saying that the posters are not a game changer in the contest for the 2015 elections.
The presidency source said: “The intention of the masterminds of the posters is to embarrass the president and present him as someone that cannot be trusted because he has placed an embargo on campaign activities, especially within his party.
“To therefore start coming up with his campaign posters for an election he said he would make his position known in 2014, is aimed at embarrassing him and presenting him as someone that cannot be trusted.”
It was on the basis of this suspicion that the action was intended to embarrass the president that security agencies were directed to track down the masterminds and also ensure that similar actions in the future are forestalled.
“We have our hunch as to where some of these campaign posters came from and the motive, but let’s allow the security officials to do their investigations to avoid pre-empting anyone.
“However, I am assured that the presidency will get to the root of the matter and why the sponsors are doing what they are doing,” the source said.
He alleged preliminary findings had shown that a Northern presidential aspirant was behind the Jonathan 2015 campaign posters.
According to him, “His aim is to present the president as overambitious and as someone that cannot be trusted. But this level of desperation will not make the president break his word on the embargo on presidential campaigns within the PDP.
“Every right thinking Nigerian will certainly know that the president is not behind the posters. It is the handiwork of mischievous persons who are trying to embarrass the president.”
However, Abati maintained that the president does not need to tell security agencies what to do in such a situation, adding that it was their duty to ascertain whether the pasting of the posters poses a threat to national security and the welfare of the citizenry.
The presidential spokesman told State House correspondents that the president occupies an office that “is so important that he cannot behave in a cowardly manner. This is a man who is honest and has the reputation of being honest.
“Those who are bent on distracting this government have brought out the posters. I repeat that President Jonathan knows nothing about it.”
On why the security agencies were yet to take a cue from the presidency’s statement on Wednesday distancing Jonathan from the posters, Abati explained: "The security agencies have their jobs cut out for them. If they feel there is anything that is likely to disturb the polity, that is likely to affect the integrity of the state or they feel something has happened and they need information that needs to be investigated, then of course, they will do their job.
“They don’t even need to wait for a presidential directive. It is part of their normal duty to find out what is happening in the environment, particularly if what has happened is a matter of public interest.
“The president does not need to give any order. People whose job it is to ensure that nothing goes wrong within the Nigerian state will do their job. They will make their own assessment; they will do their own investigation.
“If they feel that there is any threat whatsoever to public peace, to rule of law and order, they will make sure that that is not allowed.”
Speaking on the same issue, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metu, appealed to elected officials of the party to desist from campaigning for the 2015 elections, stating that it will affect the party’s ability to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people.
“PDP is happy that the presidency has disassociated itself from the campaign posters. It is in line with the directive of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP that there would be no campaigns until 2014.
“I hereby reiterate the position of the party that the ban on campaigns for the 2015 election is still in place. Politicians should therefore ceasefire,” he said.
For the opposition parties, the pasting of the campaign posters was of no consequence.
But the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) saw the action as a definite sign that Jonathan had perfected plans to run in 2015, while the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) said they were not bothered.
The National Publicity Secretary of ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday, said the party was indifferent about the campaign posters of Jonathan springing up in Abuja.
“Let them battle themselves over that; we are not bothered about it, we have more important issues to respond to than the campaign posters,” he said.
His ANPP counterpart, Chief Emma Eneukwu, welcomed the move, saying any second term bid by the president will make things easier for the opposition.
Eneukwu told THISDAY that his party was not losing any sleep over the emergence of the campaign posters in Abuja, as Nigerians were already getting ready to sack the PDP in 2015.
However, CPC considered one of the inscriptions on the posters that read: “No vacancy in Aso Rock in 2015" as a threat to democracy.
The party's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said in a statement that the expression used in posters had raised pertinent issues with regard to how free and fair the electoral process will be.
He said: “If Dr Jonathan is interested in contesting the presidency in 2015, we say, ‘why not?’ However, what is of grave concern is the potency of the poster, ‘No vacancy in Aso-rock in 2015’.
“In light of the foregoing statement, we are compelled to ask some pertinent questions: Is this the language of democratic practice? Is there not a fundamental defect in our political system where supposed leaders transform into monsters?”