As Buhari Muzzles the Opposition

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‎Last week’s arraignment of some chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party is a glaring attempt to muzzle the opposition,‎ Davidson Iriekpen writes

Last week was particularly bad for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as many of its members were arraigned at the Federal High Court across the country for money laundering offences by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They were accused of receiving various sums of money from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to prosecute the 2015 general election.

Those arraigned were former Governor of Kano State and Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Ambassador Aminu Wali and the Campaign Director of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mansur Ahmad, former Deputy Governor and Minister of Water Resources, Mukhtari Shagari, Ibrahim Gidado, a former Information Commissioner; PDP state Chairman, Ibrahim Milgoma, PDP Treasurer, Nasiru Dalhatu, as wells as the state PDP governorship candidate in the state in the 2015 election, Abdallah Wali.

Others were former governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, state party Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih; former Deputy Governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; a former member representing Esan South East and Esan North-east in the House of Representatives, Tony Azegbemi, and Mr. Efe Anthony.
On a different offence bordering on misappropriation of funds, former Governor of Plateau State and currently a senator, Jonah Jang, was arraigned in Jos and granted bail.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Governor of Kaduna State, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero would be arraigned any moment from now as he is being investigated by the anti-graft agency for equally receiving funds to prosecute the 2015 elections.
The clampdown, coming months to the general election in 2019, is already making the opposition party to feel jittery, and observers asking- why now that the general election is around the corner?

Though many observers believe that the arraignments are part of a larger plot by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to intimidate and harass the PDP, others see it as a strategy to keep them busy in order not to have time for the 2019 election. They wondered how a party which is as much guilty, be prosecuting members of the opposition in order to oppress and suppress it.

Recall that as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, part of his first directive was the investigation of campaign funds doled out by the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Alison-Madueke. This led to the arraignment of the former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, former Chairman of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ms. Jumoke Akinjide, Dele Belgore (SAN) and former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, Femi Fani-Kayode and many others

Curiously, however, nobody in the APC has been able to tell Nigerians how they raised funds for their campaign, the rumour mills are rift with news of how a South-south governor in 2014 and 2015 donated billions of naira of his state to the Buhari campaign organisation, not a word is heard from the party. So are the rumours that two South-west governors and a former governor in the region contributed million of naira to the president’s campaign funds which secured them appointments in the government.
Recently, investigations had revealed that the APC asked the 24 governors elected on its platform to contribute a total sum of N6 billion towards its congresses and national convention. The governors are to contribute N250 million each towards the congresses and national convention.

Even though the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, in a statement, described the story as misleading, he ended up lending credence to the report by saying that the directive was meant for the governors who were not up to date in payment of their dues to pay up in view of upcoming party activities.

When the news broke, many observers had condemned the party, especially against the backdrop of the fact that 23 out of the 24 governors are not up to date in the payment of their workers’ salaries. Besides, a recent study of the financial positions of states had shown that only six out of the 36 states in the country are viable. Apart from Lagos State, many of the governors are owing salaries or pensions or both for extended periods ranging between four months and several years.

This is why observers are wondering that given the fact that President Buhari is a man of lean pocket, how will he raise his campaign funds without breaking the anti-corruption code, especially when his monthly salaries and allowances might not take him far in the presidential campaign journey if he were to religiously stick to his stiff posture.
Already, there are allegations of how government agencies such as NEMA, NISTF and many others are helping the government to raise huge funds for the 2019 elections.

Recently, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) issued the 2018/2020 crude export contracts to 50 local and international oil traders. Just like in the past, many analysts believe that this was done in order for the firms to secretly contribute substantially towards the campaign funds of the incumbent government. This claim, however remains unsustantiated.

While a majority of Nigerians want President Buhari to reduce or totally eradicate corruption in the country, they demand that he faces the battle headl on no matter who is involved. They also frowned at a situation where APC members are spared and protected.
This is why a public affairs analyst, Francis Agbonta, has described what is happening to the PDP chieftains as a ploy by the APC-led federal government to ensure that they are unable to have a voice and contribute meaningfully to 2019 general election.

“As President Buhari continues to get encomium for his acclaimed fight against corruption, one critical missing link which many opponent and proponent of his administration have been silent on is, how did the APC fund his election. We remembered our able president told Nigerians he took a bank loan to pay for his form. Firstly, there is strong ethical question hanging on the action of the president to borrow money from a bank to fund his bid for presidency. I know the president merely sold that to Nigerian as part of the APC’s propaganda to Nigerians to create the impression that its candidate is truly a masses’ man.

“Away from that, the real question as Nigerians look critically into Dasukigate, we also need to ask the questions, what was the source of APC’s funding for the last presidential election? Except the president comes clean on this, there is no way he can convince right thinking Nigerians that he is incorruptible.

“This explains why most politicians in the APC fold will never be probed or punished once Buhari remains Nigeria’s president. He dare not try it and if he attempts to, the dirty linen of the president will be washed in the open.
“To me, except Buhari can come clean on this, he is deceiving himself, and very soon, the same hawks who joined arms with him and sold his candidacy to gullible Nigerians will soon come back for his jugular very soon if he fails to settle boys accordingly, when times come for them to get their returns.”

Also, the PDP has consistently been demanding that President Buhari make public the accounts of his presidential campaigns in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Doing this, the party said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, would be in tandem with the president’s claim to integrity and incorruptibility.

The PDP described the tag of looters as “hollow and laughable,” saying Buhari and the APC would have no moral standing to fight corruption unless they came clean and public with the accounts, including the donors, of their presidential campaigns. Alleging that the campaign funds were proceeds of corruption from fraudulent government officials and businessmen, the opposition party wondered how the president, who declared that he had no resources to run a presidential campaign in 2015, was able to garner billions of naira to prosecute his election campaign.

The party argued that Buhari ought to have known, particularly as a leader, that the billions of naira deployed in his campaigns were proceeds of corrupt activities of known APC governors and leaders. It said it was particularly interested in the fund allegedly provided by a South-south governor for the 2011 presidential election as well as how the cost of litigation was paid by his campaign organisation.
It said the federal government could not list names of alleged looters and attempt to shy away from the fact that the president and his party were direct beneficiaries of fund allegedly looted by APC governors.

Contending that Buhari and APC leaders had huge confessions to make on how they raked in state allegedly stolen resources to prosecute elections of 2015, the PDP declared: “If the federal government and the APC are serious about fighting corruption and not just out to persecute PDP members, they should have begun with the probe into the source of the billions of naira used for President Buhari’s 2015 presidential campaigns, particularly in the face of allegations that the fund was looted from treasuries of various APC states.
“Can President Buhari in all honesty claim ignorance of reports in the open media that a South-south governor looted several billions from his state accounts and diverted the sums into Buhari’s 2015 campaigns?

“Can the Presidency and the APC inform Nigerians what steps the federal government has taken to investigate this allegation, which has been in public domain and to clarify their roles as beneficiaries of the alleged looted funds?
“The APC and its federal government cannot continue to play the saints when state governors, who stole hundreds of billions of naira meant for the development of their states to fund President Buhari in 2015, are still enjoying cover as members of the Buhari kitchen cabinet, despite outrage from Nigerians. End false sanctimony and immediately return all stolen funds used to finance President Buhari’s election in 2015 to the Federation Account.

“The APC and President Buhari campaigned for the 2015 presidential election with looted billions of naira meant for the provision of essential amenities for ordinary Nigerians. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, misfired in his outburst that the PDP should return alleged looted funds when the only party known to have used looted funds has always been the APC.”

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The clampdown, coming months to the general election in 2019, is already making the opposition party to feel jittery, and observers asking- why now that the general election is around the corner?