By Peter Okhiria
ABUJAâ€”THE Presidency has dismissed claims by retired General Mohammadu Buhari, Presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoplesâ€™ Party (ANPP), in the 2007 general election, that Nigeria is on the â€œbrink of collapseâ€ as â€œalarmistâ€ and the â€œchant of an emergent democrat with questionable democratic profile.â€
At a political gathering in Abuja, last week, Gen. Buhari had said, â€œthis is a polity already thrown to the dogs. The economy is sinking while democracy is slowly being killed in its name.â€
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Political Matters), Senator Polycarp Nwite, and signed by his media adviser, Mr. Edward Dibiana-David, Buhari was chided for his views.
The Presidential aide said: â€œthe continuous tirade against this government by the former military ruler, Gen. Buhari, is at best an affront to the culture of free speech and courageous Nigerian media, both of which he did everything to emasculate during his days as a military dictator.
â€œThat the media is free today to report Buhariâ€™s many critical views about the government of the day is a pointer that the polity is robust andÂ the nation is on a steady path of re-invention and true democracy which pretender-democrats are yet to comprehend.
â€œNigerians, especially the media, will not forget in a hurry Buhariâ€™s anti-people, anti-press and anti-free speech Decrees 2 and 4 with which he tried unsuccessfully to kill the press
”These were also used to detain without charge, persons suspected of acts â€˜prejudicial to state securityâ€™ and also anybody that published any report that is critical of his government, no matter how factual, just because of his intolerance to criticisms.
â€œMany people, including two reporters, were jailed by Buhari for daring to criticise hisÂ government.â€
According to Nwite, â€œif Nigeria did not collapse during those dark days of Buhariâ€™s high-handedness, it will never collapse again, essentially now that governmentâ€™s actions are anchored on the principles of the rule of law and national reconciliation.â€
Nwite said Buhari lacked the moral right to talk about rot in the nation as, according to him, â€œBuhari is part of the rot in the nation. He was a former minister of petroleum resources, he was a military governor. He was a Head of State. He was an executive chairman of PTF.”
”So, if he has failed to effect any meaningful change in the nation while holding such sensitive public offices, it is unlikely that he will make any difference now that he has overdrawn his credits,â€ Nwite said.