Tuesday, January 27, 2015 10:02 am
Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party splatters Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress with mud in a desperate bid to stop the growing popularity of the former Head of State ahead of the 14 February presidential elections
With the emergence of a new pan Nigeria opposition platform, the All Progressives Congress, APC, the campaigns for 2015 general elections, as was anticipated, is turning out to be extremely keen as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party struggle tooth and nail to maintain the position it has occupied as the dominant player in the country’s political space since 1999. Few weeks to the first in the series of the polls, which is the presidential election, huge crowds have been welcoming Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) the APC presidential candidate even in places considered to be the strongholds of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. As this magazine gathered last week, jitters in the camp of PDP has reached an all time high. Though many of their leaders will not openly admit it, there is a general fear among party members that the PDP may not be able to retain the presidency for the first time since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, but the party may morph into the opposition at the end of the 2015 elections.
The PDP is unarguably in a desperate position and is literarily fighting the battle of its life in the 2015 elections even as the popularity of the opposition APC and its presidential candidate seems to be on the ascent by the day. And the PDP is obviously not ready to take the risk of just relying on its 16 years or the incumbent President’s six years record in office to convince Nigerians to entrust it again with their destinies for the next four years. As it has demonstrated even before the official kick off of the campaign period by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC the ruling party is ready to throw anything in, including mudslinging and abandoning all forms of decency in its bid to retain power.
The rambunctious Ayo Fayose and his death wish advert caught many unawares, as it was not expected that the rascally Governor of Ekiti State would emerge as a poster boy of PDP efforts to mudsling the opposition and its presidential candidate. For one, Fayose who is barely four months in office will not be due for re-election until 2018 and thus, should be free of the jitter of being part the probable mass rejection of PDP at the polls. His state, Ekiti is certainly not one of those states with much free money to throw around, especially with the continuous dwindling allocation from the federal purse. The fact however is that Fayose who now fancies himself as one of the leaders of South west Nigeria has consistently affirmed his readiness to do everything possible to ensure that President Jonathan is returned to power in 2015 elections.
Totally lacking in scruples, Fayose has demonstrated over time, just like in the case of his ‘death wish’ controversial wrap around advertorials last Monday that there is no depth too low to descend to achieve anything he sets his mind on. The advertorial in which the Ekiti State Governor insinuated that Buhari may die in office was actually a culmination of what seemed his determination to throw the health status of the retired General into the mix of factors PDP has unrelentingly tried to sell to Nigerians as reasons to reject the former Head of State’s bid for the presidency.
Fayose had in a statement issued on Thursday 15 January, warned Nigerians that the presidential candidate of APC has health problems and that his election may return Nigeria to the situation the country found itself under late President Umaru Yar’Adau. Like an amateur filmmaker, the Ekiti State Governor had in the two advertorials build up a scenario of events that will follow Buhari’s death in office, farming out the major role to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State governor and national leader of APC. Obviously relying on nothing else but his imagination, Fayose had asserted that Tinubu’s plan for supporting the emergence of Yemi Osinbajo, his loyalist as Buhari’s VP was part of the plot designed by the former Governor to become Nigeria’s President by stealth in case of the death of the presidential candidate: “God forbid, if APC wins, Tinubu’s agenda is to first get the APC presidential candidate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to resign within six months for him (Tinubu) to take over as vice-president, hoping that the task of governing the country will overwhelm Buhari and aggravate his sickness, thereby paving way for Tinubu to take over as president.”
The APC Presidential Campaign Organisation had also linked a report purportedly from Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, ABUTH in which Buhari was allegedly diagnosed of cancer to aides of Fayose. The sponsors of the report which was well circulated on the internet at the weekend had claimed that the APC presidential candidate will be travelling to the United States of America for treatment on the basis of the diagnosis.
It has since emerged that Buhari is travelling to the United States on the invitation of Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS. In a letter signed by Jennifer Cooke, its Director of African Programme, CSIS indicated that it is inviting Buhari to the organisation’s headquarters in Washington DC “to give a major public address on Nigeria’s future as it stands on the edge of a pivotal national election.”
Fayose’s death wish for Buhari provoked outrage. If the Governor was however expecting a pat on the back from the presidency and the PDP over the advertorials, he did not get it, at least publicly. Indeed, as resentments built up against the advertorials, Nigerians had called on President Jonathan to disown it. “What I can tell you on our part is that it does not represent the opinion of the Presidential Campaign Organisation or indeed the President. It is his (Fayose’s) opinion, which he is entitled to and he is somebody that we have immense respect for,” Femi Fani Kayode, Director of Media and Publicity of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation told journalists in Abuja last Tuesday. “It is important that we recognise the fact that age is not an indication of how long somebody will live. We believe strongly that we must continue to show immense respect to the person of General Buhari,” he added. The APC which regarded the adverts as part of the sinister scheme of the ruling party against its presidential candidate is however not convinced. APC said PDP cannot dissociate itself from the death threat to Buhari made by one of its sitting governor of the PDP who is also a high ranking member of the PDP Presidential Campaign Committee.
While calling on the security agencies to investigate the motives behind the adverts, the opposition party further dismissed the denial by the PDP as “merely a case of a master dissociating himself from the errand boy after the message had backfired.” The adverts have provoked outrage across the country beyond party lines. Abubakar Baraje, a former acting national chairman of PDP, now a member of Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation, described the advert as “high sense of irresponsibility and an insensible act.” According to him, the advertisement was “not only reckless, uncalled for, but a type that can cause anarchy and crisis in the country.”
But the Ekiti State Governor seemed unfazed by the torrent of criticisms. Indeed, Fayose speaking through Idowu Adelusi, his media aide said last Wednesday that he has no regret over the advertorial as it contained truths, affirming that the APC presidential candidate is too old and sick to be president of Nigeria. “I wish to draw attention to the lead story in the Sunday Tribune of January 18, 2015, entitled, ‘Buhari’s Planned Visit to US Causes Furore.’ The story revealed that arrangement had been concluded to fly Buhari to US for a medical checkup. That Buhari has been stressed from effects of the rigours of presidential campaigns across the country and he is definitely in need of medical attention, adding that age was a factor as rigours of the campaign was getting at him,” the Ekiti State Governor asserted while neglecting the fact that the newspaper story had already been discredited.