BY HENRY UMORU
Many monitoring Nigerian politics must be wondering about the new spirit in Olisa Metuh of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Before the crash of his party in the last Presidential election Metuh, like other PDP big shots, appeared media unfriendly if not arrogant. It was difficult to get his reactions on many issues, his position as the spokesman of his party notwithstanding. His APC counterpart, Lai Mohammed remained a reporter’s dream. But having taken the seat of the opposition Chief Olisa Metuh has, in the past few weeks, become the roaring lion, the barking dog.
The PDP has suddenly become proactive, raising issues for the ruling APC to respond to. This is contrary to when it would wait for the APC before it would respond and in some cases would refuse to comment, probably because it was the ruling party and not ready to join issues.
Only on rare occasions then that Metuh would respond and even when he did, he was very careful.
Little wonder, former President Goodluck Jonathan brought in Chief Femi Fani- Kayode as the spokesman of his Campaign organisation and funded him. Fani- Kayode became vibrant, he took on personalities, leaders of the APC, the then presidential Candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari. It was almost on a daily basis, PDP was in the news, but at the end of the day, the party lost the elections. Fani championed a seeming hate campaign that seemed to win sympathy for Buhari. PDP goofed.
PDP’s failure at the election may be attributable to many things, from impunity to arrogance, lack of effective media machinery prior to the inauguration of the Campaign Committee, just as Metuh had always complained of lack of money.
Now, the party has no choice, it must be in the news. It must react to issues. It must even be proactive. And suddenly, Metuh has woken up. He is now playing the role of the Spokesman.
Shortly after the defeat, Lai Mohammed offered to give Metuh a free, six-week crash course on his new role as the opposition party spokesman in the spirit of cooperation and for the advancement of the nation’s democracy.
Mohammed had said, Metuh will need the training to effectively carry out his new, tough task. It is now obvious that he needs to understand that for him to succeed in his new role, he must be credible, empirical, more sophisticated in language use and very passionate, in addition to being able to operate on a lean or zero budget.
Rejecting the offer to have a free crash course on speaking for an opposition party, Metuh described the offer as arrogant and self-serving.
The PDP’s response was contained a statement signed by Olisa Metuh’s spokesperson, Richard Ihediwa where he said, “Alhaji Mohammed in his usual ill-mannered and condemnable approach left the issues and dwelt on insults, disdainful comments and personal attacks,” the statement said. The attack from Metuh as a spokesperson of an Opposition party did not stop at that as he vowed that the PDP would provide a decent and credible opposition that will constructively proffer sound alternatives to the policies and programmes of the in-coming administration without recourse to insults, propaganda and deceit.
Metuh had said, “The PDP is a political party built on values, tradition and utmost respect for democratic tenets. Our manifesto and ideology center on national peace, stability and prosperity and we shall uphold this at all times. In this wise, the PDP as always, will continue to work in the general interest of the Nigerian people.
“We will not resort to insults, blackmail and lies with the aim to distract or ridicule the person or office of the President. However, we must state in very strong terms that we will not allow them to lead the nation astray. So we will firmly oppose any anti-people policy and programmes as may be introduced by the APC.
Commenting on the conduct of the April 11, 2015 governorship and state assembly elections, Metuh lamented that the process was characterized by brazen irregularities against the PDP in most states. He upbraided INEC and security agencies for the barefaced over zealousness on the part of some of their personnel to please the winners of the Presidential elections.
When former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso attacked the PDP, Metuh as a spokesperson for an opposition party lampooned the former governor and now a Senator, warning Kwankwaso to be mindful of what it termed, his incendiary utterances that were capable of destabilizing the National Assembly as well as rubbish the prevailing political tranquility in the country.
Metuh who told the former governor not to be ungrateful to the party as it was “taken aback by the venom and bitterness in the statement especially coming from a former governor, an elected senator, a highly respected former member of the PDP, who also benefited hugely from the party as minister and two-time state governor.”
When Senator Bukola Saraki and Honourable Yakubu Dogara were elected Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively and the APC planned to sanction them, Metuh described such statements as empty threats, adding that such boasts by the leadership of the party were aimed at covering APC’s naivety, inexperience and unpreparedness for governance.
According to PDP, the APC should shed what it termed, its arrogance, eat the humble pie and get more organized for governance, adding that the ruling party lacks the capacity, capability and means to sanction duly elected leaders of the National Assembly. He said, “the crass inexperience so far displayed by the APC is a pointer that it is not adequately equipped to handle the affairs of government at the center. Events would continue to prove the PDP right in this regard.
“Nothing can be more astonishing than the whining by the APC that the PDP at the last minute expressed its preference for Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively after it had earlier stated that it was not interested in the positions. This calls to question the capacity, experience and skills of APC leaders on political matters and we have no apology whatsoever for their naivety.
“The APC is merely suffering the consequences of the greed, lust for power and inordinate ambitions of their leaders. They should note that Nigerians have since moved ahead with the new leaders in the National Assembly and stop wasting their energy on propaganda and blackmails to heat up the polity.”
When President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Hajia Amina Bala Zakari as Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the PDP immediately rejected in totality such appointment, alleging that the presidency plans to use her appointment to compromise the Election Tribunals in favour of the APC.
Metuh, while addressing Journalists stressed that with her appointment, the public no longer have confidence and trust in INEC, alleging that she was made the acting INEC Chairman because of her very strong relationship with the presidency and a governor from the North West who influenced the position for her.
He said, “The PDP is particularly disturbed by the development in INEC where President Buhari, who knew all along that the immediate-past INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega would be leaving office by June 30, had to wait for him to handover to one of the national commissioners only to reverse it immediately, thereby injecting bad blood in the commission.
“The situation in INEC since the PDP government reformed and granted it operational autonomy has been peaceful, but Tuesday’s untidy overruling of Prof. Jega and the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as acting chairman which, we gathered was influenced by personal relationship with the Presidency and one of the new governors of the North West, ostensibly to pave the way for the APC at the electoral tribunals, has completely eroded public trust in the commission.
“Whereas the PDP recognizes the right and powers of the President to appoint the Chairman of INEC and the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), we reject attempts as in the case of the AGF to paint the process as transparent and objective when such was not the case, but brought to question the sincerity and commitment of the present administration to due process.
“ In INEC, the PDP states in unequivocal terms that we cannot, as critical stakeholders fold our hands and watch while the Presidency perpetuate actions that diminish the independence of the electoral commission.
“The PDP has declared the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as unacceptable and demand that President Buhari changes her immediately.
“ Our reasons include the fact that due process was not observed in the appointment and that Mrs. Zakari has shown in the last elections that she is manifestly bias in favour of the APC. Finally her appointment is a clear case of nepotism.
“ We ask, if they trusted Prof. Jega and commended him for conducting free and fair elections, why would they not trust him on who to hold forth in the commission until a substantive Chairman is appointed, rather than appointing someone who is retiring from the commission in the next three weeks?
“With the prevailing record of Mr. President on appointments, it is unlikely that a substantive INEC Chairman will be appointed in the next one year. Is there a hidden agenda? Has Mrs. Zakari been handed a script to act given that we have cases in the tribunals in addition to the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa?
Metuh who insisted that the APC was derailing, said that it was unfortunate that thirty- two days after inauguration, elected into power over three months ago on the basis of their numerous promises to the Nigerian people, strong indications have emerged that the party and President Buhari were not adequately equipped and ready to chart a direction for the enormous challenges of governance.
According to PDP, in the last one month, the APC and the government have failed to provide the change as they claim, as Nigeria was presently witnessing avoidable tension, wrangling within the ruling party, disruption of legislative activities in the National Assembly, painful economic stagnation.
Warning the APC against the pronouncement of voodoo achievements, the PDP stressed that the country was witnessing what it described as overall uncertainty in the polity all due to the apparent inability of President Buhari to provide good governance and leadership.
Metuh said, “today marks exactly thirty-two days of the inauguration of a new administration under the APC, which was elected into power over three months ago on the basis of their numerous promises to the Nigerian people.
“ Even though this government has continued to plead for patience, we are worried that indications from President Muhammadu Buhari and his party do not inspire desired confidence in the citizenry that they are adequately equipped and ready to chart a direction for the enormous challenges of governance.
“In the last one month, instead of a journey to change as they claim, all we have witnessed are avoidable tension, wrangling within the ruling party, disruption of legislative activities in our National Assembly, painful economic stagnation, pronouncement of voodoo achievements and overall uncertainty in the polity all due to the apparent inability of our respected President to provide leadership.
“ We have a President and a party that have since thirty–two days been unable to decide on rudimentary appointments such as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief of Staff to the President, ministers and his demand for 15 Special Advisers as approved by the PDP controlled Seventh Assembly since June 5, 2015.
“ Even the very little intervention made on appointments such as those of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Acting Chairman of INEC, have not shown our beloved President as an evenhanded and patriotic leader resulting in the confusion and crisis of confidence that have trailed the two appointments.
“Furthermore, the PDP finds it sycophantic, insincere and the height of deceit for the APC to continue to deceive President Buhari by parading voodoo achievements and pretending that all is well with the nation even when it is obvious that the government has not been able to locate its bearing.
“The PDP also finds unacceptable APC’s continued playing on the intelligence of the people by dishing out imaginary achievements in the media even when it is evident to all that the nation is stagnating, a clear indication that the ruling party and the President lack direction and capacity to meet the expectations of Nigerians. “It is indeed amusing that a party in power in a press conference on Tuesday claimed progress in the fight against terrorism when the effort has lost steam in the last thirty-two days with insurgents, who under the Goodluck Jonathan administration were already at the verge of surrender in the Sambisa now surging back into the country.”
Without sounding immodest, the PDP has suddenly woken up. The arrogance and impunity that made them boast that they would rule for sixty years have disappeared. It taken to serious propaganda, a tool for the opposition party if it must be heard. We watch how this would be sustained for it requires vigour, it requires prompt responses to calls, text messages, it requires additional manpower, research, listening, collaboration, respect for the media and its owners, total humility, among others.