The recent statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on position of the influential Economists magazine on the candidacy of Atiku Abubakar has pitched the former vice president against the presidency. HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM writes on the issue.
Last week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in far away London in the United Kingdom rekindled the debate of the perception of the global community on the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The issue of Atiku’s inability to visit powerful and influential western countries, especially the United States has returned to the front burner of national discourse since the Adamawa politician emerged the candidate of the party against many odds. The narrative which has been further exacerbated after the endorsement of the Atiku Project by his hitherto sworn enemy and former President Olusegun Obasanjo has raised issue about the position of the western world to a likely Atiku presidency.
Although, the former vice president has challenge anybody with any corruption case against him to come out with it or shut up forever, and explained that his inability to enter the United States has nothing to do with the late senator Jefferson’s Siemen cable deal case, the perception that he is a corrupt man has refused to abate.
While efforts by many media organisations in and outside the country to the US consulate office in Nigeria to speak about the issue has yielded little result with the embassy deciding to maintain silence on the matter, the latest report has only left the nation more confused.
According to Alhaji Lai Mohammed who recently embarked on a three-day engagement with major media networks across the world and think tanks, he was questioned by international media organisations on the irony of the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption effort, with the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
Giving a wrap up of the engagements on Saturday in London, the minister said the media houses he visited raised questions as to why Abubakar could emerge as presidential candidate, considering the anti-corruption stance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The media organisations present at the function included Reuters, Aljazeera, The Economist, AP, New African, African Business and African Review Magazines among others.
The minister said: “One curious issue that kept occurring was that anytime I spoke about how we have waged war against corruption, the journalists kept asking me a question.
“They asked me: How can you claim to have succeeded in waging war against corruption, when one of the major contestants in the 2019 general elections is actually a man with stupendous wealth but cannot explain the source of his wealth?
“That baffled me a lot, because it means that we are still being perceived as a country where corruption thrives. It was difficult for me to explain to them that yes, we are fighting corruption but these are the same people who have put this country where we are today and who are also trying to come back to power”. The minister said he assured the media organisations that “this will however define the task of choice for Nigerians. “The choice for Nigerians today is either they go back to the corrupt past where our commonwealth was shared by a few elites or move forward and continue with this new trajectory where the national resources are used for the benefit of all Nigerians. I explained to them that the 2019 elections have been defined, and the choice has been made easy. We are sure that Nigerians will choose rightly”, he added.
But shortly after Lai Mohammad’s comment, The UK based magazine whose writings formed the basis upon which the minister laid his criticisms, curiously released a statement endorsing Atiku for the second time in less than three months.
According to the magazine which also endorsed Buhari ahead of the 2015 elections and famously referred to then President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP as an “ineffectual buffoon”, predicted that PMB will lose the 2019 presidential election to Atiku.
“President Muhammadu Buhari will lose power at the February 2019 elections. The next government will be led by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, although his administration will be fragile”, the paper added.
Analysing how the election will play out, the paper forecasts that “both candidates are from Northern Nigeria, where Buhari’s support base lies, presaging a fierce contest there. With the vote likely to be split in the north, Abubakar will find it easier to garner support from the country’s south, which has traditionally been a safe haven for the PDP. This gives Abubakar an edge, as well as widespread frustration over the rise in joblessness and poverty (two of the biggest voters’ concerns) on Buhari’s watch, as well as growing insecurity in central Nigeria. Nonetheless, strong incumbency advantages in Nigeria imply that it will be a very tight race. If Abubakar loses—a distinct downside risk to our forecast—there may be a rejection of the result by the PDP, which is convinced the election will be rigged. In this scenario, a state of national paralysis could arise with severe national security implications.”
Reacting to the issue, the Atiku Campaign Presidential Organisation spokesman, Segun Sowunmi accused Lai Mohammed of spreading falsehood to score political points.
According to a statement by the organisation, the endorsement of the presidential candidate of the PDP by the Economist Magazine has rendered as lies, “ridiculous claims” made by the minister adding that when the research unit of the international business magazine had predicted in September that PDP would defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 presidential election, the minister had said the prediction was based on fake premises and constituted fake news.
The Atiku’s campaign said the latest endorsement is a testimony to the achievements recorded under the watch of the PDP candidate as chairman of the National Council of Privatisation, when he was deputy of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“The latest endorsement of the presidential candidate of the PDP Atiku Abubakar, by the Economist Magazine, puts to lies the recent ridiculous claims made by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the international media is askance of the candidature of Abubakar.
“This is the second endorsement in as many months by the world’s number one economic and policy magazine. An endorsement based on the clarity of vision and the detailed policies of the PDP’s candidate when compared to the vague and empty promises of the incumbent APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“As The Economist rightly states, the issues in 2019 are “popular frustration over the rise in joblessness and poverty (two of the biggest voter concerns) on Buhari’s watch, as well as growing insecurity in central Nigeria.”
“For the past one year, Abubakar has traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria, selling his plans, vision and policies to Nigerians. Unfortunately, rather than do the same, the All Progressives Congress has focused on negative campaigning by slandering Abubakar’s past.
“We are not surprised by their actions. When a man’s future intimidates people, they focus on lying about his past because they cannot compete in the present. However, we thank The Economist for proving that no matter how far and fast falsehood has traveled, it must eventually be overtaken by truth”, the statement added.