Abuja, April 11, 2019
The Federal Government of Nigeria on Thursday admonished the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to stop overheating the polity with purported self help moves after losing the February presidential elections.
The government issued the warning in Abuja at a press conference addressed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Alhaji Garba Shehu.
The minister was reacting to the posters bearing the picture of Atiku with the inscription: ”THE PUKKA, H.E. ATIKU ABUBAKAR, THE REAL AND THE RIGHT”, pasted across major streets in Abuja.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has, however, disowned the posters.
Mohammed said the appearance of the posters coincided with the media report that Atiku had hired a US lobbying firm to convince the US not to recognise the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari until the Supreme Court has ruled on the suit by the PDP presidential candidate.
Mohammed said that the purported actions by the former Vice President was an attempt to win by subterfuge or through the back door the election he lost.
The minister said the government was not unaware that Atiku had denied the allegations, and dissociated himself from the posters, however, the response was imperative because of the weighty implications of the actions.
Specifically, the minister said the purported actions meant that, Atiku, “out of desperation, is thinking of replicating the Venezuelan model right here in Nigeria.
“But he should realize that Nigeria is not Venezuela, and that the situations in both countries are not the same”.
The minister said: “The posters and the hiring of US lobbyists, the latest of such by the PDP candidate, have triggered questions about what Alhaji Abubakar is up to.
“Is Atiku 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“Has he rescinded his decision to challenge the results of the presidential election in court, perhaps after realising that the results he claimed to have obtained from the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?
“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,” Mohammed said.
The minister reaffirmed that Buhari won the Feb. 23 presidential elections fair and square, with a margin of 3,928,869 votes and that the election’s credibility was attested to by local and foreign observers.
He said the President’s victory was well deserved and represented the triumph of the ordinary Nigerians over the elite.
“The election is a direct contest between ordinary Nigerians and the elite, most of whom are rent seekers. Of course, the ordinary Nigerians have won.
“This is not a surprise, considering the pro-poor policy of the administration.
“Despite the antics of the naysayers, Nigerians demonstrated that they appreciate the giant strides that have been made by the administration, whether in the areas of economy, fight against corruption or in tackling insecurity.
“This is a government that has done so much with less in restoring decency and integrity to governance,” he said.
Also quoting the New York Times, the minister said the “re-election of President Buhari is a referendum on honesty”.
He added that the policies of the Administration endeared Buhari to the ordinary Nigerians.
The minister noted that, though, Atiku had the right to do whatever is lawful to challenge the outcome of the election, but he must not go through the back door.
” If he believes hiring a foreign lobbying firm will advance his quest, we wish him the best of luck.
“But seeking US recognition as the winner of an election that he lost by almost 4 million votes is unconscionable.”
The minister recalled that after the result of the presidential election was announced, the U.S. joined other countries to congratulate President Buhari.
He said that in a statement by its Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, the US reiterated it’s commitment to “working together with Nigeria to achieve greater peace and prosperity for both our nations.”
The minister therefore advised Atiku to realise that losing an election is not the end of the world.
He added that having challenged the result of the election in court, he should not give the impression that he does not have confidence in the judicial process.
Mohammed stressed that Atiku should stop overheating the polity and quit trying to instigate a political crisis in the country.
Atiku posters in FCT
Meanwhile, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has disowned campaign posters titled “The Pukka’’ that festooned some of the major streets of the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.
Atiku disowned the posters in a statement issued by his media adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, on Wednesday.
Pukka, an Hindi word, means “authentic, genuine, sure, solid and excellent”.
The posters boldly carry Abubakar’s portrait and the message, ‘HE Atiku Abubakar GCON, The Real and The Right’, with a web address www.deservation.org, which the News Agency of Nigeria found belongs to a group of the same name based in Magaji/Sanda ward in Yola.
NAN correspondent in Yola also confirmed that the posters have also appeared on some streets in the capital of Adamawa, Atiku’s home state.
A Bill board bearing Atiku Pukka campaign
Dr.Sani Adamu, the director-general of the Atiku Deservation Group, an Atiku Abubakar campaign group, claimed the group was not waging a political campaign or breaching the campaign rules of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Atiku posters in FCT
“Our attention has been drawn to posters of Abubakar, Presidential candidate of PDP in the 2019 election being circulated in Abuja”, said Paul Ibe in a statement.
“We disassociate the former Vice President of Nigeria from the said posters in circulation. The campaign season is over. The tainted electoral victory by the incumbent is being challenged in court.
“We refuse to be distracted, which is exactly the objective of our opponents, but to remain focused on diligently pursuing our election petition with a view to retrieving the stolen mandate.’’
Ibe earlier in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said that the posters had nothing to do with the just concluded elections and the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization had no connection with it.
“I have not seen the posters. I am just hearing it from you. We are not aware of it. Whatever it is it not connected to the PDP campaign organisation.
“The campaign season has long been over but following the electoral hype by the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abubakar, as a democrat has submitted himself to the electoral tribunal to decide on matters arising from the concluded election.’’
A search on the web address (www.deservation.org) shows Atiku Deservation Movement (Project 774 for Atiku 2019) with RC 1167591 with the contact Magaji/Sanda Ward Yola South Adamawa State as well as phone number and a mail address.
The boldness of the campaign and the meaning it connotes have triggered questions whether the group behind it has not breached the electoral law. The campaign for presidential election began on 19 November 2018 and officially ended 48 hours to the election initially scheduled for 16 February, 2019.
Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 1999 as amended states that every political party shall commence campaigns 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.
Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in an interview with NAN, said that the posters could not be considered as campaign materials.
Oyekanmi, who said he had not seen any of the posters said if a poster has no party logo or name, the commission does not consider it to be campaign materials.
“Is there anything like party name or logo on it? If a poster does not contain any of these or ‘vote for a person’ the commission does not see it as campaign.The election is over and I wonder if anybody will be campaigning for an election that had been concluded,’’ Oyekanmi said.
Dr. Sani Adamu, the Executive Director of the Deservation group in a telephone interview with NAN, justified the poster’s PUKKA theme. He claimed that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the PDP in the just concluded presidential election is Nigeria’s authentic president.
Reminded that Abubakar already has a case before the presidential election petition tribunal, Adamu expressed confidence that Abubakar would get justice at the tribunal.
He insisted that the posters in circulation were not for campaign, adding that they did not carry the logo of any political party.
He also explained that the posters did not carry ‘vote’ Abubakar, insisting that it was not for campaign.
He said that the group was established to galvanise support for credible candidates that can make Nigeria great.
“We support only candidates and not political parties,” he said.
Abubakar was also recently reported to have hired two American lawyers, close to President Donald Trump, to lobby Trump’s inner circle and the Congress, so that the United States can delay recognising President Muhammadu Buhari as the elected President of Nigeria. He also wanted to be recognised ‘as the authentic President’ of Nigeria, going by the claims he has made at the tribunal.