Iheanacho Nwosu Emmanuel, Abuja
The Federal Government has boasted that President Muhammadu Buhari would win the 2019 presidential election with a margin higher than the score line he recorded in 2015 poll to beat then President Goodluck Jonathan.
It also accused the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of sponsoring insinuations that the police and other security agents were working for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated these during an interactive session with newsmen in Abuja also dismissed as untrue, claims that the implementation of 2018 budget was only within 10 percent. He upbraided some National Assembly members for disrupting last Wednesday’s budget presentation by President Buhari.
He said, “Yes, some unruly lawmakers threw away parliamentary decorum to behave like ordinary protesters or agitators. It is nothing but bad politicking.
“But the real news is that the unruly action provided the platform for our party, the APC, to assert its majority in the National Assembly.
“The plan by the opposition was to embarrass the president and prevent him from presenting the budget.
“But they were comprehensively overwhelmed by our lawmakers who are in the majority.
“That also sends a clear signal to the opposition that they lack the number to override the president’s decision not to accent to the Electoral Bill.
“I must also note that all through the sniping by some unruly lawmakers, the president remained dignified and presidential. He rose above it all to make his presentation.”
Describing next year’s election as crucial, Mohammed said everything so far points to the fact that Buhari would record a landslide victory at the polls.
He continued, “APC will win with a larger margin than it won in 2015. We have no fear in this election. We are going to win; we are going to win massively.”
The minister claimed that the performance of the government in the area of infrastructure, wealth creation, employment generation, security and diversification of the economy would gift the party victory at the polls.
He said it was wrong to say that APC was not campaigning, stressing that the party’s presidential campaign had not kicked off because it was not long the window for campaign opened.
The minister who spoke on a wide range of issues insisted that there was no truth in claims in some quarters that APC was working with the police on electoral matters accusing PDP of being behind the allegation.
Reminded that two United States of America (USA)-based groups, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), in their reports last week, made similar allegation against the police, Mohammed insisted that PDP was behind the allegation.
He said, “The opposition is only crying wolf where there is none and in view of what they did during their 16 years in power.
“They never really won a free and fair election. Their strategy was to use the security agencies to thwart the wishes of voters. They did it in Ekiti and Osun in 2014. I was a victim in Osun, so I know what I am saying.
“But the guilty are always afraid. They think what they have done to others is what will be done to them. Under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch; no security agency will play that kind of ignominious role in any election.”
On the recent hullabaloos over the report of Amnesty International on killings in Nigeria and government’s lack of or slow response, Mohammed said although there were aspects of the group’s report that were correct, it was fraught with misrepresentations.
He said, “Let me say that I have gone through the statement by the Amnesty International on this.
“One thing they got right in their report was the cause of the killings. Amnesty said the root cause of this conflict had nothing to do with religion or ethnicity; and that it was largely about land and access to grazing.
“That is correct and confirms what we have been saying that the clashes were a result of environmental factors that had made the contest for resources, especially land and water, very keen, demographic factors and, sometimes, sheer criminality.
“But they were wrong, very wrong to suggest that the government had done nothing to stem the killings. I think their report is largely outdated.
“Everyone knows that the killings resulting from the farmers-herders clashes, and indeed killings from cattle rustling and other causes, have gone down drastically.
“This didn’t happen by accident, but by a concerted and determined efforts by the Buhari administration.
“Let me list some of the actions that led to the drastic reduction in the killings: deployment of a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, and working in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
“Establishment of the Army’s 2 Battalion Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kanfanchan, Doka Village, Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State.
“Establishment of a new Area Command and two additional Divisional Police Headquarters in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
“Establishment by Nigerian Air Force of Quick Response Wings (QRW) in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, and deployment of Special Forces to these Quick Response Wings.
“The inauguration, by the Nigeria Police Force, of a new Mobile Squadron in Takum, Taraba State.
“And Operation WHIRL STROKE, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits.”
He added, “Amnesty also accused the government of lethargy, saying this has allowed impunity to flourish. Again, they got it wrong.
“Apart from taking concrete measures to end the killings, as I have stated above, there have been arrests and prosecution of offenders.”
He equally faulted the recent report of New York Times which indicted the military in the killing of Shiites members during the latter’s religious procession.
He said, “I have read the report and watched the video. First, let me say that as an administration that believes in the sanctity of life and the rule of law, the Nigerian government does not and will never condone extrajudicial killings or the willful violation of the rights of its citizens.
“This does not define who we are as a government. In this regard, the government will study the report and the video with a view to determining their authenticity and taking necessary actions.”
He submitted, “The bigger picture must not be lost on us, there seems to be a choreographed campaign to demoralise our military. This is dangerous, considering their sacrifice, gallantry, and patriotism.
“Thanks to our men and women in uniform; we sleep with our two eyes closed at night.
“We must be careful not to do anything that will kill their morale, thus hampering the fight against terror, which they have prosecuted with tremendous success since this administration assumed office
“For example, when we suffered a setback recently with the killing of our troops at Matele by Boko Haram, we didn’t see the kind of outrageous reports that we normally see when Amnesty International or a section of the foreign media writes to condemn the Nigerian military.
“There was no widespread condemnation of Boko Haram. I think the impression must not be given that our military is a target of attacks by the human rights organisations and the media, especially the foreign media.”
He tackled the former Vice President and presidential candidate of the PDP over his alleged statement that that killings would continue if President Buhari was re-elected, contending that such comment amounted to politicisation of the matter.
He said, “This amounts to politicisation of the killings and bad politicking and it is totally unacceptable.
“If it is indeed true that the former vice president said that, it must be an act of desperation due to his floundering campaign.
“It is clear to all Nigerians that the electioneering campaign of the PDP presidential candidate has failed to gain traction.
“From Sokoto to Ilorin to Ibadan to Gombe, it has been a disastrous outing for the campaign. With that magnitude of failure, anyone can say anything to stay afloat.”