An exchange of words ensued on Friday between the Muhammadu Buhari presidency and the campaign organisation of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the presence of two governors from Niger Republic at Buhari’s Thursday campaign rally in Kano.
Also, Southern and Middle Belt leaders described the participation of the foreign governors at Buhari’s rally as a matter of security concern to the nation.
The Atiku campaign organisation alleged that the APC had used the visit of the Nigerien governors to import miscreants into the country and accommodate them for use in an alleged violence planned ahead of the February 16 elections.
But Buhari in his sharp reaction said the PDP was just being jealous of his regional leadership while adding that the participation of the foreigners broke no law.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Friday, the National Publicity Secretary and Director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the presence of the two foreign officials as interference in Nigeria’s political affairs.
“Our security agencies must immediately investigate and lay in the public domain the circumstances leading to their presence, which more or less confirms that the APC has lost all domestic credibility and has assumed a desperate mode.
“The presence of the Niger Republic governors at President Buhari’s rally signposts a direct assault on the credibility of the presidential election. This is particularly against the backdrop of INEC’s plans to allow Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in that country to vote in our election, a situation that opens the way for aliens to infiltrate as IDPs and participate in our elections.
“Our apprehensions are accentuated by INEC’s recent mass creation of additional polling units which have not been properly designated and which may be deployed for the perpetration of monumental electoral fraud. We note how Kano State, in 2015, delivered 1.9 million votes to the APC presidential candidate in circumstances devoid of transparency and credulity,” he said.
While alleging that the APC rented a crowd for the Kano rally because it could not mobilise Nigerians, the PDP spokesman said: “President Buhari and the APC, in their desperation, have compromised our territorial integrity as a nation and this portends grave danger to our national security and the sanctity of our electoral process.
“For a nation contending with insurgency and banditry, the involvement of mercenaries from neighbouring countries in the APC rally must be condemned by all and sundry. This is particularly against the backdrop of claims by President Buhari that killer herdsmen ravaging our nation are mercenaries who are infiltrating from the Sahel region.
“Nigerians can now see the unfolding of the plots by agents the APC to use mercenaries from neighbouring countries to precipitate crisis with the aim of scuttling the 2019 general election, having realised that they cannot win in a free, fair and credible election.
“Now we understand the weight of the submission by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), when he stated recently that ‘unscrupulous elements are already mobilising merchants of violence, including armed bandits and terrorists to orchestrate violence during the elections in several states of the federation.’
“Similarly, Nigerians can also decode the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, when he stated recently that; ‘there is also an international dimension to the evil plan. Some armed mercenaries from the Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-West between now and the elections.’
“Today, Nigerians need no further evidence of those planning evil against our nation.
“Already, there are apprehensions that miscreants who came from Niger Republic to President Buhari’s rally are being offered accommodation in our country by the APC to unleash violence immediately it is clear that President Buhari is losing in the February 16 presidential election.
“On account of these, PDP demands an urgent and thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the presence of politicians and thugs from Niger Republic at the APC presidential rally in Kano on Thursday.”
He said the promise by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State to deliver five million votes to President Buhari in this year’s election was predicated on the “unfettered opening of our international borders to foreign political interests.”
Ologbodiyan said further: “What was the true purpose of the invitation of these foreigners to the APC rally in Kano on Thursday? What secret deals did APC leaders make with them at the expense of our national security?
“It begs the question how a government that vilified credible international bodies that genuinely advised on the need for a free and fair election as interfering in our elections would now be spending public resources to rent political mercenaries from neighbouring countries.
“We know that APC’s jettisoning of our territorial integrity and national security to hire crowds from Niger Republic is borne out of frustration over the recent successes and massive turnout of supporters at PDP rallies held in the North West.
“The spontaneous and mammoth turnouts of supporters and admirers of the PDP as well as the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, even in the APC’s supposed strongholds in the North West states of Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Kano has no doubt discomfited the APC and its presidential candidate.”
The PDP affirmed that that the general election is only for Nigerians, saying “there is no way our citizens will allow foreigners to participate in our electoral process.”
It, therefore, called on all Nigerians, irrespective of creed, ethnicity and political affiliations, to rise in condemnation of “this direct assault on our territorial integrity as a nation. Our citizens must henceforth be at alert and get prepared to defend the sovereignty of our nation, which President Buhari and the APC, in their desperation, are ready to trade away.”
PDP is jealous –Presidency
In his reaction, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said African political office seekers were interested in studying the Buhari phenomenon, noting that the Nigeriens’ presence at the Kano rally has not broken any law.
He said the PDP was only jealous and panicky.
Shehu stated: “What we want PDP to know, there is a Buhari phenomenon that is sweeping across the entire continent. Candidates for national leadership in each country are doing whatever they can to understand the Buhari phenomenon, to copy it, to institute it.
“That’s why people from the African continent…when they had the presidential election in Ghana, there was a candidate who branded himself the Buhari of Ghana.
“When they had the presidential election in Chad last year, there was a Buhari of Chad. They had printed posters with their pictures with Buhari side by side.
“So, Nigeria has been gifted with an honest leader, a man endowed with rare qualities and people are trying to copy that.
“So, if our neighbours from Niger come to witness how President Buhari is doing his politics, what is the problem with that? Is there any law that is broken? Or did they see anyone that will buy vote or collect PVC?
“So, it’s jealousy. They are panicky and jealous. It should worry PDP that nobody is coming across the border to understudy PDP.”