Presidency, opposition trade words over planned protest against service chiefs

February 15, 2020
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The presidency on Saturday accused the opposition of hiring thousands of people to demonstrate against the continued retention of service chiefs in the office to embarrass President Muhammadu Buhari.

But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has charged the presidency to face its ordeal and refrain from blackmailing the media and the opposition.

A statement issued in Abuja by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), berated the PDP for already organising protest marches to foreign embassies against the Buhari administration and the Supreme Court over its verdict on the Imo state gubernatorial election.

The presidency asserted that the opposition was also responsible for hiring some individuals who booed President Buhari during his recent sympathy visit to Maiduguri over Boko Haram attack in Auno.

The statement admonished the media not to be an unwitting tool in the hands of the opposition.

The statement read: “The Presidency wishes to caution a section of the political class against misleading the public and inciting protests against the heads of military institutions.

“This has become necessary in view of received reports that about two thousand men and women have been hired to demonstrate against Nigeria’s service chiefs on Monday.

“This imminent gathering is the latest in a series of demonstrations orchestrated by the opposition to embarrass the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“As part of this overall scheme, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with its belligerent politics, has been marching from one embassy to the other in protest against the Buhari administration and the nation’s highest court of justice, the Supreme Court. They are keen to give the impression that Nigerians are in support of them as they take to the streets, and they will go to any length to promote this false narrative.

“The recent incident in Maiduguri, Borno State, where an overwhelmingly cheering crowd gathered to welcome President Buhari, while a handful were recorded booing him, is a part of this elaborate scheme. It is misleading, as some analysts have tried to do, to read this as a verdict against President Buhari, who emerged winner with 94 per cent of the votes cast in the Presidential election in the state in February last year.

“This was clearly a hired few, but the news was promoted by the opposition who had, of course, positioned themselves to record the booing – all just to embarrass the President.

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“We urge the media to remain unbiased and discerning in their reporting, instead of becoming unwitting tools in the hands of the opposition.

“A group of politicians and beneficiaries of the Boko Haram insurgency is right now paying for people to join their planned protest against our country’s service chiefs, and they will no doubt seek the media’s collaboration on this as usual.

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“But there is the news and there is promoted content – two very different things, one of which should never make the headlines as these recent fake protests have done.”

In its response to the claims, the PDP charged the Buhari Presidency to face its self-inflicted ordeal and address the consensus concern of Nigerians over its poor handling of security issues instead of seeking to blame the opposition and the media.

In a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its National Publicity Secretary, the main opposition party described threats and allegations by the Buhari Presidency, that the opposition was sponsoring a protest against the heads of military institutions, “as derisory, self-indicting, diversionary and further shows the confusion that pervades the Buhari Presidency in the face of discontentment by Nigerians.”

The party alerted that the Buhari Presidency was now trying to divert attention by blackmailing the media and opposition because it could no longer face Nigerians, over its manifest failure to deal with those behind acts of insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and escalated violence under its watch.

The statement added: “It is clear to all, including even the Buhari Presidency, that Nigerians across board, have been in protest against the Buhari-led APC administration and need nobody to mobilise them to publicly exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights any day to register their discontentment against a failed administration that has continued to live on propaganda, excuses and denials.”

Moreover, the PDP restated that its demand that the security high command should be rejigged to inject new blood to effectively tackle the nation’s security challenges; a position that has become a consensus opinion of all other patriotic individuals and groups, including the two chambers of the National Assembly, was well known within and outside our country.

The party stated: “Accusing the opposition and threatening the media are therefore diversionary and apparently aimed to validate alleged plots by agents of governments to clamp down on innocent Nigerians, the media and members of the civil society to suppress and foist a siege mentality on Nigerians.

“Moreover, the PDP is aware that the accusation is part of the ploy by the Buhari Presidency to intimidate our party to abandon its demands for the Buhari administration to be alive to its responsibility to secure the nation or step aside for more competent hands to manage the affairs of our nation.

“Our party holds that instead of resorting to fabrications, blackmail and threats, a responsive and concerned administration should rather listen to the people, stop its blackmail, propaganda, denials and excuses; take urgent steps to rejig its security architecture and end the escalated bloodletting under its watch.”

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