The Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, observed yesterday that, unlike in 2015, the campaigns for the 2019 general elections are rather discreet and noiseless because both the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are broke.
As a result, the minister said attention has been shifted from money politics to issue-based campaigns, adding that this is what President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘Change Agenda’ is all about.
Ogbeh who made the observation in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP noted that the implication of the two major parties in the country being broke is that money will not be available to buy people to vote for wrong options.
Stating that the president is not in a hurry to look for money for anything, he said, “The parties are hopelessly broke. This will be the quiet elections in our history and that is going to turn attention to issues, not on cash because we cannot go and buy people. We cheat the villagers; you go there and buy somebody’s card for N1000 because you must win and yet you are a glorious failure in the assignment they give you. There is no cash, both APC and PDP are broke and the president is in no hurry to go and look for money for anything.
“So, it is ‘Change’; we hope it would last long so that in future people have something to talk about, not that they have a big war chest to bribe INEC and win by all means.”
Ogbeh commended President Muhammadu Buhari on his ‘Change Agenda’, which he said is creating significant impact on the lives of farmers and other lower class citizens in the country, even as he pointed out that the change Mr. President promised Nigerians began where they least expected- the rural areas.
He stated: “Change has begun where people didn’t expect it and from the philosophical point of view, a tree is as strong as its root and the roots of any society are the lower class people. Unfortunately, over the years we, the elites, naturally really haven’t reflected much on the plight of our people in the villages. So, when they suffer nobody hears because they are not in the media.
“Now, change is happening at that level; we moved the economic wellbeing to them and they are selling more food than they did before. I went to my old secondary school, St Michael Aliade, and the principal said to me: ‘the only parents who paid school fees on the resumption date are the farmers. The civil servants write us letters asking us to be patient because their salaries have not been paid’. It is hard for the city brothers because cash is not flowing the way it is”.
Outlining the achievements of the Buhari administration, the minister said with the full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), it is now impossible for people to get loose cash and that it is almost impossible for anybody to deep his hand in the treasury and steal funds.
“You can’t, even if you want to. Now, how do you run a country where government finances are so loose that people have access to take large sums of money and walk away? TSA is now the biggest weapon against corruption in government today,” he added.
On the significance of what the Buhari campaign slogan for 2019, Next Level, entails in the agriculture sector, Ogbeh said it will reduce the cost of production, increase agriculture processing and increase export of agriculture produce to eventually replace oil.
He noted that the measures that will be necessary to reform the country’s economy are the measures Nigerians will not accept.
He continued: “The change Buhari promised is a painful process, which is actually not really acceptable because people are asking why he is making life difficult for them.
“He doesn’t like it either, I don’t like it either but if it is necessary for us to do it before we get there, why not? India did it so they can change. They shut their doors until prosperity set in because they had a big internal market. They were producing for market and not depending for outsiders to produce for them. They created their own jobs”.
Parties At Daggers Drawn Over Alleged Diversion Of Military Funds
Meanwhile, it appears the gloves were off for the APC and PDP yesterday, following allegations by the major opposition party in the country that the presidency diverted funds allocated for the procurement of military equipment to finance President Buhari’s re-election campaign.
The PDP while calling for an objective investigation into the use of the funds meant for arms’ procurement insisted that President Buhari must also personally react to allegations that members of his family acquired majority shares in telecoms giants, Etisalat Nigeria (now 9mobile) and Keystone Bank PLC.
But firing back at the opposition party, the APC described the allegations as frivolous claims made without any effort of proof, just as it advised the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to withdraw from the presidential race and retain some honour.
Casting the first stone at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the director, media and publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Kola Ologbindiyan, called for what it termed an independent and system-wide investigation by both local and foreign security agencies on the alleged links between the two funds.
The PDP also rejected the alleged planned use of past National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) members as ad-hoc staff during the elections, saying it is a ploy to deploy card-carrying members of the ruling party.
Ologbondiyan said, “The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organization, PPCO, calls for an urgent investigation into the alleged link between the reportedly diverted military funds and the N1.032 trillion said to have been used by President Muhammadu Buhari’s family members for corrupt acquisition in 9 Mobile Nigeria and Keystone Bank PLC.
“The PPCO calls for an independent and system-wide investigation by the INTERPOL, Directorate of State Services, DSS, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on the alleged links between the two funds.
“This concerted investigation has become imperative following President Buhari’s failure to directly speak out on the allegations against his family members, as well as explain how they came about the sum of N1.032 trillion for the alleged acquisition.
“We make this demand in view of public insinuations that the money may have been sourced from funds meant for the purchase of weapons for our soldiers.
“Also, the attention of the PPCO has been drawn to a vicious attempt by the APC to use diversionary tactics to dismiss allegations of corruption hanging directly on President Muhammadu Buhari. The APC is attempting to dismiss revelations that family members of President Buhari’s involvement in acquiring substantial shares in both the 9 Mobile and Keystone Bank Plc that is worth over a N1 trillion.
“More so, the Buhari-led Presidency has blatantly refused to respond to allegations that military fund is being used to finance President Buhari’s re-election campaign which even manifested in the use of military resources to produce All Progressives Congress, APC, campaign materials, including an electronic momento book by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali”.
On alleged plan by INEC to use ex- NYSC members as ad-hoc staff during the 2019 polls, PDP said it is a ploy to deploy card-carrying members of the ruling party.
It stated: “It has further come to our knowledge that the INEC Chairman is contemplating the deployment of past National Youth Service Commission, NYSC, members for the 2019 election.
“The PPCO totally rejects this ignoble intention which is a ploy to use APC card-carrying members as polls officers. It is very instructive to state that the ongoing ASUU strike has not by any measure evacuated its members from the surface of the earth.
“Therefore, if INEC sought to use the members of ASUU for the 2019 elections, the ongoing strike will not be an excuse to deploy APC members,” he added.
The opposition party also warned the electoral umpire not to toy with neutrality and professionalism in the conduct of the polls, even as it said it is not unaware of fresh pressure on the electoral body by agents of the ruling party to manipulate the electoral process.
He continued: “The PPCO cautions the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Yakubu Mahmood to immediately disentangle himself and his commission from the fresh plot by the APC and the Buhari Presidency to compromise the electoral guideline and pave the way for the alteration of the results of the 2019 general election to favour President Buhari.
“We urge Professor Yakubu to note that Nigerians are already aware of the pressure being placed on him by the Buhari-led Presidency and APC seeking to force the commission to drop the display of results at the polling units as well as the electronic transmission of polled figures to INEC server from its guidelines.
“The Buhari-led Presidency is desperate to remove these requirements because the display of results at the polling units ensures that results posted at all levels remain those originally announced at the various polling units, while the electronic transmission to INEC server ensures that the results from the polling centers are not tampered with. PDP also demands that INEC allows both local and international observers to its situation room to ensure that the final figures are not tampered with.
“This demand has become imperative in the face of allegations and public apprehensions that the INEC Chairman is being offered humongous sums of money, running into billions of naira, by agents of the APC and the cabal at the Buhari Presidency to accede to their demands.
“Information at our disposal further reveals that the INEC Chairman has been under pressure from this group said to be coordinated by President Buhari’s blood relation in INEC, who, we are surprised, Prof Yakubu still allows around himself.
“Professor Yakubu is now counseled to distance himself from these very dangerous racketeers and the commission from this very dangerous racket, as Nigerians will directly hold him responsible should these two important guidelines that guarantee transparency in the elections suddenly disappear from the INEC manual.”
The PDP further decried what it called “disturbing videos” showing Nigerians soldiers battling insurgency in the North-East in pitiable conditions owing to their “neglect” by the Buhari administration.
The party noted: “The PPCO is deeply worried by the disturbing videos of our gallant soldiers languishing and being killed by insurgents due to neglect and failure of the Buhari administration to adequately equip them in the fronts.
“The PPCO is also unhappy by similar videos, showing our soldiers protesting and threatening to retreat from the fronts, while grumbling against their neglect by the Buhari administration.
“This should not be the way to go for our nation. Our soldiers are brave and have continued to show the highest form of professionalism and unmatched patriotism in risking and laying down their lives in defence of fatherland. Therefore, any action by anybody that is capable of reducing their morale in the fronts must never be allowed” it added
On the tenure of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, which expires today, the publicity secretary urged President Buhari to demonstrate his commitment to credible elections by ensuring that the tenure is not renewed.
But hitting back at PDP, the APC noted that it would rather focus on more serious engagement than respond to frivolous allegations by the PDP without any effort of proof.
It also urged the Atiku and the PDP to apologise to Nigerians for adopting unwholesome tactics and telling tales by moonlight and opt out of the Presidential race
The director, strategic communications and official spokesperson of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo (SAN), in his reaction to the PDP spokesman also advised presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar to withdraw from the race and retain some honour.
“We have decided not to be responding to allegations without proof”, Keyamo told LEADERSHIP yesterday, noting that calls for an independent investigation into the use of funds meant for military hardware does not represent an evidence to support the allegation.
“That is not the same as saying funds have been diverted, or showing any proof. If not we shall wake up every morning to be responding to all kinds of rubbish. It doesn’t make sense,” Keyamo added.
Also, in a statement he later issued yesterday, Keyamo noted that the widely published refutal by investors in Etisalat and Keystone Bank that the family members of President Buhari have nothing to do with both companies is another indication of the fast-collapsing campaign of the presidential candidate of the PDP and its candidate.
“The result of the fact-check which was published in some news outlets, clearly shows the depth of desperation, deceit and debauchery to which the Atiku campaign has sunk,” he said.
Keyamo added that rather than address key issues of grand corruption and tax evasion raised against him, Atiku has decided to drag the world down with him as he goes down in a blaze of infamy.
He stated: “They have no moral compass, no scruples, no direction in their present attempt to smear just everyone in sight in order to run a campaign of ‘we-are-all-corrupt.’ Rather than respect the feelings of Nigerians by offering clear-cut responses to straightforward allegations of tax-evasion, grand corruption in and out of office, impending sealed indictment waiting for him in the US, Atiku Abubakar has decided to drag the world down with him as he goes down in a blaze of infamy.
“He has decided to go wild with wild, unsubstantiated allegations against the President and Vice President, throwing caution to the wind in the process. We alerted the public about this impending avalanche of fake news a few days ago.
“This is the classic hallmark of a sinking campaign boat, clutching at straws, as Nigerians have woken up to the realisation that these are deceitful people who have nothing to offer. That is how its Vice-Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi was reeling out false statistics with a straight face throughout the Vice-Presidential debate. Till today, he has not apologized to Nigerians for taking them for a ride. It is a real shame”.
Urging the former vice president and the PDP to apologise to Nigerians and opt out of the presidential race, the APC said, “We call on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP to apologise to Nigerians and especially the family of the President for adopting this unwholesome tactics and telling tales by moonlight that have clearly backfired.
“The public space is now full of jokes about President Buhari buying the whole of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the National Stadium and even the Presidential Villa. Instead of making a mockery of a serious campaign with such infantile lies, Atiku Abubakar should admit it is all over for him and the PDP, throw in the towel and endorse the candidacy of President Buhari.
“We would be sad to see that happen because democracy desires a healthy contest, a serious challenger and a competent opposition. But as it is, with nothing more to campaign about, it is the only way for him and his party to save face and still retain some modicum of honour before the Nigerian people for future engagements – that is if they survive this massive rejection by the Nigerian people as a result of their bare-faced lies”.
Also jumping into the arena, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno south) who was just appointed North East zonal director of the APC Presidential Campaign Council for the 2019 elections dismissed PDP’s allegation that the presidency is diverting funds for procurement of military equipment to finance PMB’s re-election campaign.
Ndume dared the PDP to go ahead and prove its allegation the same way and manner the Buhari administration provided evidence on how the $2.1 billion for arms purchase was stolen and shared amongst PDP members during the 2015 elections.
Ndume maintained that President Buhari is acknowledged by many Nigerians as running a transparent, credible and non-opaque government, adding that Buhari is in all material characteristic not euphemism for PDP, and that an average Nigerian knows that difference.
The PDP, he said, had for 16 years run a ‘kleptocractic’ government, which was a government by corrupt leaders exploiting the citizens just to extend their personal wealth and political powers.
Ndume noted: “This is a transparent, credible and non-opaque government whose manner and ways of operation is well read and accessible by many Nigerians.
“The PDP can go ahead and prove its allegation the same way and manner the administration of President Buhari provided evidence to show how $2.1 billion for arms purchase was stolen and shared amongst themselves during the 2015 elections.
“APC government would soon come out with evidence on those involved in the raw cash taken to South Africa, which they purportedly claimed it was for arms purchase by the erstwhile PDP government.
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