…Accuses opposition of spreading fake news as excuse for looming defeat
…Buhari to decide whether or not to engage Atiku in Presidential debate
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
President Muhammadu Buhari will still defeat the opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, despite his endorsement and open support by former President Olusegun Obsanjo, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, boasted on Monday.
Mohammed, who briefed the media on current developments in the polity, also absolved President Buhari of any wrongdoing in rejecting the latest version of the Electoral Bill and returning it to the National Assembly, asking Nigerians to accept the reasons advanced by him for not assenting to the bill in good faith and in the national interest.
The minister pointed out that while Obasanjo was entitled to support Atiku or any other candidate of his choice, Buhari had done enough to garner the overwhelming support of Nigerians to roundly defeat Atiku in the forthcoming contest.
The minister said: “With due respect to Obasanjo, it is his fundamental right to support any candidate of his choice and we hereby encourage and urge him to go all out and campaign vigorously for Atiku Abubakar and we wish him the best of luck in his choice and political pursuit. But we assure him that his candidate will be roundly and comprehensively defeated by Buhari.
“We want to place it on record that the Buhari government has done the best for this country in virtually all facets of governance and for this reason, we believe strongly that we have enough achievements to flaunt and win the forthcoming election with ease. We have it on record that the opposition is already jittery of Buhari’s imminent victory and has consequently resorted to using fake news to blackmail the president and our party in order to give excuse for the looming defeat.
One of the fake news being propagated by the opposition, which is now very confused, is that Buhari cannot speak Fulfulde, his mother tongue and cannot open the main door to his conference room in the Presidential Villa having undergone cloning, despite having openly been made clear that there was nothing like that. This is clearly the fake news and handiwork of the opposition in serious distress and confusion.
“It is not true that Buhari has not been able to access his main office as a result of being cloned. Anybody who says so is a purveyor of fake news and should be ignored. Let this campaign be issue-based and not on sentiments, silly and idiotic fake news.
“But I want to put the media on the alert that as we approach the election, they should be more cautious as the opposition is determined to dish out more and more fake news in order to confuse them and create tension and dissonance in the system all in their desperate bid the win the election. They know they have nothing to offer the Nigerian people,” he pleaded.
On the electoral bill, Mohammed asked Nigerians to accept the reasons given by Buhari as enough justification for his rejection of the proposed amendments, but declined to say what the implications would be on the conduct of the elections.
The minister said the Presidency would await the decision on the rejected electoral bill before commenting further on the matter, adding that the constitution of Nigeria was very clear on what each arm of government is expected to do concerning the enactment or rejection of any bill.
He said, “We believe Mr. President has the prerogative to do what he has done by rejecting assent to the electoral bill. Each arm of government must guard jealously its independence. Let us wait for the National Assembly’s next line of action on the electoral bill,” Mohammed said.
Asked whether Buhari would be ready to take up the challenge of engaging his main rival, Atiku Abubakar, in a presidential debate, Mr. Mohammed declined to be specific, arguing that it was the president’s prerogative to decide if he wanted to do so or not. He said there was no law compelling the president to engage in any debate as a condition for contesting election in Nigeria.
The minister also defended the disbursement of billions of money by the Presidency to Nigerian traders under the Trademoni scheme, which the opposition has described as an indirect way of ‘vote-buying’.
The minister argued that the money being given to the traders was part of a larger policy of the administration under the Social Investment Programme, which is given to all Nigerians irrespective of political leanings.