By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge that his administration would provide a level playing ground in the 2019 elections, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has urged the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) not to be carried away by what he described as the president’s deceitful words, but to focus on evidence.
While speaking to a delegation from the IRI and NDI, the president had said: “I am prepared to give the opposition the opportunities I was not given in the past.’’
But, the former vice president, in a statement Tuesday by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, said that Buhari participated in several protests and marches, including the ‘occupy Nigeria’ movement and the 2014 All Progressives Congress (APC) march in Abuja and was neither arrested nor persecuted by the then ruling PDP government.
He recalled that the president ran for the office of the President of Nigeria in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 under the PDP administration, adding that not once during those intervening years was he arrested, molested or persecuted in any way, shape or form.
Atiku said, “As a matter of fact, immediately after his experience with Boko Haram terrorists in Kaduna on July 24, 2014, the then PDP administration bought Buhari a $300,000 armoured and bombproof SUV for his protection,” adding that “Buhari received the vehicle which helped save his life.”
According to him, “Never were Muhammadu Buhari or his relatives’ accounts frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or any other government agencies under the PDP and never were his running mates, children, friends and family targeted.”
The former vice president added that the PDP ensured that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was independent and appointed disinterested individuals to its board, including Prof. Attahiru Jega, who the then President Goodluck Jonathan had never met before his appointment.
He added that PDP also ensured that vital government agencies like the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) were not politicised, whether or not their reports favoured the government.
Atiku lamented that since his emergence, Buhari has refused to reciprocate the good treatment meted out to him by the PDP and has instead persecuted, harassed and attempted to intimidate his likely opponents, even before they became candidates.
“Their businesses have been affected with the government either pulling out of or attempting to pull out of commercial contractual agreements freely entered into between government agencies and businesses owned or partly owned by perceived presidential opponents.
“Also, in a bid to intimidate the Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar’s plane was invaded by a crack combined military team on November 11, 2018. That was unprecedented in Nigeria’s history and never occurred even under military rule.
“Opposition presidential candidates who participated in peaceful marches have been arrested and are currently facing trial. Others were set up by government, agencies including the Code of Conduct Tribunal and were tried until the government’s case collapsed at the Supreme Court.
“The account of the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP was frozen even as opposition presidential candidates were falsely accused of involvement in armed robbery and when the government’s case was falling apart, their main suspect suspiciously and suddenly died in police custody,” Atiku said.
He added that an opposition candidate on the verge of winning an election was strangely charged with examination malpractice and his win was overturned.
He alleged that sadly, on December 17, 2018, in a ‘Freudian Slip’ during a live television interview, a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, had revealed that Buhari had ordered the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to fudge the latest unemployment numbers because they do not favour the government so close to an election.
The PDP flagbearer also stated that the president has refused to sign the amended Electoral Act knowing that the Act would prevent the government from rigging the elections.
The most telling action by the president, he said, was his attempt to foist his own biological niece as the Chairman of INEC but for the uproar of the opposition backed by the international community.
“These and other actions completely contradict President Muhammadu Buhari’s assurances and we thus urge the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute not to be hoodwinked by the president’s deceptive words, but to focus on what cannot lie – the evidence,” he stated.