ABUJA – Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has dismissed President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to provide the opposition a level playing ground that he was “denied in the past,” describing the statement as an indication that the President is a poor student of history.
Speaking to a delegation from the International Republican Institute, IRI, and the National Democratic Institute, NDI, on Monday, President Buhari reportedly said: “I am prepared to give the opposition the opportunities I was not given in the past.’’
But in a swift reaction, Atiku said records do not lie, arguing that as a then opposition figure, the PDP government accorded Buhari maximum protection not only as a former Head of State but also as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Paul Ibe and made available to newsmen on Tuesday, Atiku urged President to take a trip down Memory Lane and compare the past with the present.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari ran for the office of the President of Nigeria in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 under the PDP (led government). Not once during those intervening years was he arrested, molested or persecuted in any way, shape or form.
“As a matter of fact, immediately after his experience with Boko Haram terrorists in Kaduna on July 24, 2014, the then PDP administration bought Mr. Buhari a $300,000 dollar armoured and bombproof SUV for his protection. Mr. Buhari received the vehicle which helped save his life.
“Never were Muhammadu Buhari or his relative’s accounts frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, INEC, or any other government agencies under the PDP and never were his running mates, children, friends and family targeted.
“Muhammadu Buhari participated in several protests and marches, including the Occupy Nigeria movement and the 2014 All Progressives Congress, APC march in Abuja and was not arrested or persecuted by the PDP.”
The former Vice President in a veiled salvo, also called the attention of President Buhari to the manner the electoral umpire was treated under the administration of Nigeria’s Immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan.
“The PDP ensured that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was independent and appointed disinterested individuals to its board including Professor Attahiru Jega, who then President Jonathan had never met before his appointment.
“The PDP also ensured that vital government agencies like the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, were not politicised, whether or not their reports favoured the government.
“However, since coming to office, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to reciprocate the good treatment meted out to him by the PDP and has instead persecuted, harassed and attempted to intimidate his likely opponents, even before they became candidates.
“Their businesses have been affected with the government either pulling out of or attempting to pull out of commercial contractual agreements freely entered into between government agencies and businesses owned or partly owned by perceived presidential opponents.
“Also, in a bid to intimidate the Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar’s plane was invaded by a crack combined military team on November 11, 2018. That was unprecedented in Nigeria’s history and never occurred even under military rule.
“Opposition presidential candidates who participated in peaceful marches have been arrested and are currently facing trial. Others were set up by government agencies including the Code of Conduct Tribunal and were tried until the government’s case collapsed at the Supreme Court.
“The account of the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP (Peter Obi) was frozen even as opposition Presidential candidates were falsely accused of involvement in armed robbery and when the government’s case was falling apart, their main suspect suspiciously and suddenly died in police custody.
“An opposition candidate on the verge of winning an election was strangely charged for examinations malpractices and his win was overturned.”
Bemoaning a statement made by Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu earlier in the week that the Director General of the NBS had been tasked to review the statistics on the economy to capture “revolution” in the rice sub-sector, Atiku noted that the move may not be unconnected with the closeness to the elections.
“Sadly, on Monday the 17th of December 2018, in a Freudian slip during a live TV interview, Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesman, revealed that President Buhari had ordered the National Bureau of Statistics to fudge the latest unemployment numbers seeing as they do not favour the government so close to an election.
“This is even as the President has refused to sign the amended Electoral Act knowing that the Act would prevent the government from rigging the elections.
“But the most telling action by the President was his attempt to foist his own biological niece as the Chairman of INEC but for the uproar of the opposition backed by the international community.
“These and other actions completely contradict President Muhammadu Buhari’s assurances and we thus urge the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute not to be hoodwinked by the President’s deceptive words, but to focus on what cannot lie – the evidence,” he added.