Insecurity: Presidency Cautions Opposition over Planned Protest

Garba Shehu

  • Stop the blackmail, PDP fires back

Chuks Okocha and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

An alleged plan to stage public protests tomorrow on the state of insecurity in the country has drawn a swift condemnation from the presidency. The protest is also said to be aimed against the continued retention of service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari. This is causing concerns about the politicisation of the military and command appointments, with the president’s spokesman accusing the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of sponsoring the march. 

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, claimed in a statement yesterday that the Presidency received reports that the opposition had hired 2,000 men and women to embarrass the Buhari government through street protests on Monday, February 17.

But PDP fired back last night, saying the government should face its self-inflicted ordeal. It advised the administration to address the collective concerns of Nigerians over its poor handling of security issues, instead of seeking to blackmail the opposition and the media.

However, contending that the protests were meant to mislead and incite the public against the service chiefs, Shehu said PDP had planned a repeat of its recent protest march against the government and the Supreme Court at foreign embassies. He said the plan was to create the impression that Nigerians supported the idea that the opposition sought to promote.

The statement read, “The Presidency wishes to caution a section of the political class against misleading the public and inciting protests against the heads of military institutions. This has become necessary in view of received reports that about 2, 000 men and women have been hired to demonstrate against Nigeria’s service chiefs on Monday.

“This imminent gathering is the latest in a series of demonstrations orchestrated by the opposition to embarrass the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. As part of this overall scheme, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with its belligerent politics, has been marching from one embassy to the other in protest against the Buhari administration and the nation’s highest court of justice, the Supreme Court.

“They are keen to give the impression that Nigerians are in support of them as they take to the streets, and they will go to any length to promote this false narrative.”

He also alleged that the booing of the president in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Wednesday by residents, when Buhari made a stopover in the city to commiserate with the government and people of the state over the killing of 30 travellers in Auno, near Maiduguri, was part of the agenda.

Shehu alleged that those who booed Buhari in the town on Wednesday were hired by members of the opposition, whom he accused of promoting the news with the intention of embarrassing the president.

He further alleged that some politicians, who had benefitted from Boko Haram insurgency were mobilising people financially to be part of the protests.

The statement said regarding the protest, “The recent incident in Maiduguri, Borno State, where an overwhelmingly cheering crowd gathered to welcome President Buhari, while a handful were recorded booing him, is a part of this elaborate scheme. It is misleading, as some analysts have tried to do, to read this as verdict against President Buhari, who emerged winner with 94 per cent of the votes cast in the presidential election in the state in February last year.

“This was clearly a hired few, but the news was promoted by the opposition, who had, of course, positioned themselves to record the booing – all just to embarrass the President. We urge the media to remain unbiased and discerning in their reporting, instead of becoming unwitting tools in the hands of the opposition.

“A group of politicians and beneficiaries of the Boko Haram insurgency are right now paying for people to join their planned protest against our country’s service chiefs, and they will no doubt seek the media’s collaboration on this as usual.

“But there is news and there is promoted content – two very different things – one of which should never make the headlines as these recent fake protests have done.”

But PDP warned the Presidency to desist from blackmailing the opposition and the media. It said threats and allegations by the Buhari government that the opposition was behind the looming protest were derisory, self-indicting, diversionary, and showed the confusion that pervaded the Buhari Presidency in the face of discontentment by Nigerians.

A statement by National Publicity Secretary of PDP Kola Ologbondiyan said the Buhari Presidency was only trying to divert attention by blackmailing the media and opposition. It said the government had lost the capacity to face Nigerians because of its failure to deal with those behind acts of insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and escalated violence under its watch.

PDP stated, “It is clear to all, including even the Buhari Presidency, that Nigerians, across board, have been in protest against the Buhari-led APC administration and needed nobody to mobilise them to publicly exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights any day to register their discontentment against a failed administration that has continued to live on propaganda, excuses and denials.”

The opposition party reiterated its demand that the security high command should be rejigged to inject new blood that would help to effectively tackle the security challenges. Many, including the two chambers of the National Assembly, have canvassed this position.

PDP said, “Accusing the opposition and threatening the media are, therefore, diversionary and apparently aimed to validate alleged plots by agents of governments to clamp down on innocent Nigerians, the media, and members of the civil society to suppress and foist a siege mentality on Nigerians.”

The party said the accusation was part of a ploy by the Buhari Presidency to intimidate PDP into abandoning its demand that the Buhari administration should be alive to its responsibility of securing the country or step aside for more competent hands.

“Our party holds that instead of resorting to fabrications, blackmail and threats, a responsive and concerned administration should rather listen to the people, stop its blackmail, propaganda, denials and excuses; take urgent steps to rejig its security architecture and end the escalated bloodletting under its watch,” PDP maintained.