By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Henry Umoru
LAGOS — The All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were yesterday locked in a war of words over alleged plans to use religion to promote each other’s political campaign.
The APC was the first to raise alarm over what it claimed was a plan by some “desperate politicians” to incite religious sensibilities through the circulation of provocative leaflets in mosques and churches purportedly “asking Muslims to only vote for Muslims in the forthcoming elections.”
Though the party did not cite any political party, it nevertheless made references to earlier claims by Vice President Namadi Sambo that the PDP was more of a Muslim party and that the running mate of the APC candidate is a Christian pastor who has more than 5,000 churches.
The PDP in its response pointedly accused the APC of crying wolf when, according to it, it had been caught in its own devices. The ruling party alleged that the APC’s cry was the result of the leakage of its own plans.
In a statement issued by the APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said: “They are hoping that by further inflaming passion with the highly emotive issue of religion, they can revive their shrivelling political fortunes. That is why they have devised the latest strategy of pitching Christians against Muslims through the circulation of satanic leaflets. Nigerians should not be taken in by this cheap plot.”
Noting past utterances by Sambo during the PDP campaigns in the Northern Muslim heartland, that the PDP has more Muslims than the APC, and that the APC Vice Presidential candidate is a pastor who runs 5,000 churches, the APC said: “It must baffle every right-thinking Nigerian what the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stands to gain by his resort to base instincts. It is more baffling against the background of the fact that it was his party, the PDP, that first labelled our party, the APC, as a Muslim party.
“Not even when the APC elected a Christian as its National Chairman, supported by many party officials who are also Christians, did they back off from their incautious claim. It did not occur to them that our party is more religiously diverse than they have sought to portray it to Nigerians.
“We ask Nigerians to disregard anyone peddling religion as a tool for securing votes in any part of the country.”
APC crying foul —PDP
Responding a few hours later, yesterday, the PDP, through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said the APC was crying foul after its devices unintentionally leaked out.
It said: “Here is the APC running with the hares by pretending to be an ally of the people while ravenously hunting with the hounds by harvesting from the fissures on our fault lines, all in an attempt to sell the unmarketable in its presidential candidate.
“Such a barefaced, thoughtless statement from a political party notorious for false alarms, deceit and pernicious propaganda is another auspicious window into the warped mindset of the party that flaunts messianic wherewithal.
“It is tangential for Nigerians to judge who gains from such an irresponsible political conduct. And the truth is that it is the APC whose actions, utterances and body language have been anything but unifying. It is the APC who the provincial and religious irredentism of its leaders is defying the overnight coat of nationalism forced on them by million dollar-backed foreign consultants.
“The PDP needs neither religious nor ethnic cleavages to campaign and win the 2015 presidential elections. Our history of consistency in form, structure and core values as well as track record of delivery, which have endeared us over the years to Nigerians have not changed.”