By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – MINISTER of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, Monday told former President Olusegun Obasanjo that he lacked the moral right to advise President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019, saying that the former President always take pride in sensationalism.
The Minister also took swipe at South West leaders including some members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, that appeared to be opposing President Buhari’s second bid ambition, accusing them of clannishness and religious bigotry.
He said, “The people making the most noise about the supposed non performance of this government are people who ordinarily should shut their mouth in view of the fact that they customized corruption, they customized ineptitude, they customized everything that was unworthy of governance in Nigeria.”
The Minister who briefed State House correspondents at the Council Chamber of Presidential Villa, Abuja, said nobody has the right to advice the President not to seek re-election.
According to him, “I consider it a matter of patriotic duty to interact with you on a number of issues that have been trending, particularly in the south west and generally in the country. As somebody who has been in this government for almost two years, I believe am in a position to know what the achievements of this government are.
“Ironically it looks like we have not been talking because we believe in modesty, we do not believe in propaganda. Unfortunately enemies of this government, particularly people who perhaps feel they have lost out in the new dispensation have been churning out false information, blackmail and all kinds of baseless accusations, particularly of non-performance of the government.
“I am talking here not as the spokes person of the government but as an individual, a leader of APC from Oyo State who also is a member of this government haven been minister of communications. I believe as an active participant in political and governmental affairs, I have a duty to the government and to myself and I believe to all Nigerians that we have to correct a lot of misinformation and blackmail that is out there by people who ordinarily deserve respect but who for reason of clannishness, for reason of tribalism, for reasons of religious bigotry and intolerance have decided to see and not to ask questions about what is going on in the country.
“I have always challenged everybody who cares to listen that what this government has done in a number of areas, particularly in the agricultural sector, in works, housing and power sectors, the PDP government never achieved that in the 16 years of their reign.”
Although many notable South West leaders in the APC had stayed away from the launch of Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation championed by Shittu who is also aspiring to contest the governorship election in Oyo State, he said that even without the presence of governors in the zone and other party stalwarts, the launch was a huge success.
He said, “That meeting I can tell you on record was attended by almost two thousand adult Nigerians who are of voting age. And people came from the six South Western states of Nigeria.”
Reacting specifically on President Obasanjo’s statement that President Buhari should retire after the four year tenure over alleged abysmal performance, he said Obasanjo, has no right to short change Nigerians by asking President Buhari, to forget seeking re-election in 2019.
He said Obasanjo lacked the power to decide for the generality of Nigerians who they should vote for.
Shittu said, “Obasanjo as a patriotic Nigerian has the right to hold opinions. If Obasanjo holds an opinion that Mr. President has performed less than what it should be, those of us who are in the position to know better have a right to also state the other side which perhaps Obasanjo is ignorant of.
“You see, there are some people who enjoy engaging in sensationalism. With due respect to General Obasanjo, if you take his history over the last 30 years, there is hardly any regime other than his own that he did not criticize except Sani Abacha, who didn’t wait for Obasanjo to criticize him before he was sent to the gulag.
“So to many Nigerians, they know that Obasanjo enjoys this type of sensationalisation. In any case, no matter what impression you have of me, do you have a right to tell me not to contest an election? I mean we should talk as people who are educated, who know our left from the right.
“There are procedures for elections. President Buhari is a member of the APC and the APC has its rules and regulations as to how candidates will emerge, if members of the party feel strongly that the president has not performed well enough, it is for them to show that during the primary election. It is not for anybody to short change Nigerians and prevent people from offering themselves for an election.
“In any case, since Obasanjo is no more a member of our party, with due respect to him it doesn’t lie in his mouth to tell us who among our party members or leaders to contest or not to contest. I think Nigerians should concede this privilege to we the members of APC to decide the fate of Mr. President when the next round of primaries come.”
Also fielding question if he had not contravened the Electoral Act by campaign for President Buhari when the law stipulated that campaigns should start 90 days before the elections. Shittu who said he was not guilty of breaking any law by distributing campaign materials to the Federal Executive Council meeting last week.
He explained that all he did was a pronouncement of an intention.
He said, “It is true that the constitution and the electoral law talk of campaigns starting 90 days before elections, but there is no law stopping announcing intentions. There is a difference between campaigns and intentions.
“So, I plead not guilty to the issue of starting campaign before time. The best thing we could say is that it has been a pronouncement of an intention.
“The man himself has not declared but we are saying we will persuade him to declare his intention at the appropriate time and we are going to support him.”
Recall that the branded caps he brought to the Federal Executive Council meeting to be distributed to cabinet members was withdrawn on the orders of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, but he said that the caps were mere samples.
“I believe there is no enemy from within in the Federal Executive Council, it is a matter of timing when they will be distributed and I think the Secretary to the Federal Government will decide. He is the secretariat and the brain box of the Federal Executive Council and he will do the needful,” he said.