by on April 16, 2019 Read Time: 7 minutes, 14 seconds

Deputy Editor, LEON USIGBE, writes on the ongoing altercation between the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the one hand and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)s presidential standard-bearers recent outbursts over the February 23 presidential election.

Last week, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, stopped short of accusing former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of committing treason for allegedly trying to recreate the Venezuelan option in the Nigerian political space. This was a reference to the crisis in the South American country where the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, is said to be creating internal civil unrest and mobilising the international community, led by the United States of America (USA) against the government of Nicolas Maduro in a bid to oust him. The Venezuelan opposition leader has succeeded to some extent as he is now recognised as the interim president of Venezuela by some countries, including the US, even without winning an election.

Muhammed cited the reported pressure being mounted on the US by Atiku as well as the sudden reappearance of his campaign posters in parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as indicative of the extent Atiku is willing to go to rock the boat.

Relying on media reports, the information minister alleged that the former vice president has hired US lobbyists to pressurise the Donald Trump administration to withhold its recognition of President Muhammadu Buharis recent re-election until the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidates petition at the tribunal is dispensed with.

Even though Atiku had denied both claims, Lai Muhammed was of the view that the posters and the hiring of US lobbyists have triggered questions about what the former vice president is up to.

He said: Is he starting a fresh campaign after the elections have been won and lost? Has he rescinded his decision to challenge the results of the presidential election in court, perhaps after realising that the results he claimed to have obtained from the INEC back server are cooked? Is he now going for self-help? What really is Atikus motive?

The Federal Governments spokesman believes that Atikus denial of these claims was an afterthought having realised the grave implications of his action.

He further argued: If the media reports are right, it means that the former vice president has suddenly realised the grave implication of his actions, hence has decided to beat a quick retreat before it is too late. As a self-avowed democrat, he should realise that the only lawful channel for challenging the result of an election is through the courts.

Resorting to self-help, as he seems to be doing now, is an act of desperation and the consequences are dire. There is no doubt that the PDP presidential candidate, out of desperation, is thinking of replicating the Venezuelan model right here in Nigeria. But he should realise that Nigeria is not Venezuela and that the situations in both countries are not the same.

However, Atiku saw the claim of hiring US lobbyists as a fabrication against him, perpetuated by the President Buhari administration, just as he reasoned that he had no need to circulate new posters since the election was over. He averred that the allegation that he paid US lobbyists $30,000 was the latest dirty propaganda against him and didnt come as a surprise to us because lying has so far become their only bragging rights of competence.

Atikus media adviser, Paul Ibe, pointed out that lying has become a culture to the APC administration and therefore, we are not surprised by their latest diversionary allegations.

The Waziri Adamawas media handlers sensed an attempt to blackmail the PDP presidential flag-bearer over his ambition.

Since Atiku resisted pressure not to go to court, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been behaving like a cat on hot bricks because the outcome of the 2019 elections has exposed and shattered the facade of their dubious integrity, they said.

Ibe said in a statement: For a party that has broken the worst record in election rigging, the APC doesnt have any iota of integrity to be taken seriously by anybody.

Beyond that, Atikus camp is convinced that his petition at the Presidential Election Tribunal has become the biggest burden to the APC because it exposes their integrity as a sham; and instead of defending their stolen mandate in court, they are now using fake news to divert public attention from the historic electoral heist they have committed against Nigerians.

However, Atiku has vowed not be distracted from reclaiming his mandate at the tribunal as he believes this is exactly what the APC has set out to achieve. But what is coming out from the tribunal at the moment, rather than give him succour has the potential to compound his woes. President Buhari is hoping to capitalise on Atikus alleged defective citizenship to knock his case out at the tribunal.

In its response to the PDP flag-bearers claim in his petition against the outcome of the just-concluded presidential election, the ruling APC averred that Atiku is not a Nigerian and therefore is not qualified to have stood for the election.

According to the APC, the former vice president is a Cameroonian and as such, his petition against President Buhari, should be dismissed for lacking in merit.

The ruling party pointed out that Atiku was born on November 25, 1946 in Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon and is therefore a citizen of Cameroon and not a Nigerian by birth.

For the APC, contrary to the Atikus assertion in his petition, he had no right to be voted for as a candidate in the election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on February 23, 2019. Therefore, since Atiku was not qualified to contest the election, all votes purportedly cast for him and the PDP in the election are wasted votes.

But Atiku has dismissed this dispute of his Nigerian citizenship as a vindication of his position that the result announced after the presidential election does not reflect the will of the Nigerian people. Through Ibe, Atiku reiterated that he has verifiable and incontrovertible evidence to show that the presidential election was fraudulent, not credible and did not reflect the will of the Nigerian people.

The former vice president maintained that he based his case on facts and statistical evidence and challenged both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC, to disprove his factual submissions.

Atikus media adviser declared that the fact that the APC chose to base its defence on the ridiculous assertion that the Waziri Adamawa is not a Nigerian should show to Nigerians the type of characters in the APC and its government, whose legitimacy runs out on May 29, 2019, adding: The position of the APC is so pedestrian and shows such straw-clutching desperation on their part, that I shall not dignify it with an answer.

Our lawyers will, of course, do the needful in court. But the point I want to draw the attention of Nigerians to is that both the APC and its candidate have by this infantile logic admitted to the fact that they trampled on the will of Nigerians and that their only defence is to attempt an unconstitutional redefinition of the term Nigerian. I am, however, confident in the Nigerian judiciary, as well as in the Nigerian people. I trust that the tribunal will treat such a claim with the contempt it deserves.

We must maintain our fidelity to the rule of law and to our fountain of origin, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). Atiku Abubakar has served our nation diligently in various capacities, from the civil service, where he rose, through merit, to the top of his chosen field, to public service, where, by the grace of God, he was the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Moreover, he has committed his assets and talents to developing our nation through the provision of tens of thousands of direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs. I make bold to state that those who have made Nigeria the world headquarters for extreme poverty are the very people whose Nigerianness should be in doubt, and not a man who worked with President Olusegun Obasanjo to double the per capita Income of our nation in less than eight years.

The minister of information has dismissed suggestions that governments claim against Atiku is an attempt to blackmail him into abandoning his ambition insisting rather that it is Atiku who is blackmailing government.

Observers expect the brickbats between both sides to intensify as more facts become manifest in the course of the adjudication of Atikus challenge against President Buharis electoral victory at Presidential Election Tribunal.