Iheanacho Nwosu & Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that the Federal Government has uncovered plots by the opposition to unleash largescale violence on some states to scuttle the general elections.
He said prominent government officials including governors in the South-West were penciled down for attacks.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Mohammed stated that key states being targeted for the violence included Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara even as he alleged that Benue State-based Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as Gana-led group has been engaged to strike soft targets in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba states.
The minister said: “As you are aware, Nigeria goes to the polls just 27 days from now. However, the Federal Government is in possession of credible intelligence to the effect that widespread violence being orchestrated by the opposition is threatening the 2019 general elections.
“You have definitely seen the massive and warm reception that President Muhammadu Buhari has been receiving across the country, compared to the thinning crowds that have been attending the opposition rallies.
“Having realized that their fortunes have dwindled badly ahead of the polls, the desperate opposition is orchestrating widespread violence with a view to truncating the elections, thus triggering a constitutional crisis that could snowball into the establishment of an interim government.”
As a way of substantiating his claims, the minister submitted: “Before you accuse the government of crying wolf, let me tell you, gentlemen, that we have credible intelligence that armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilized to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.
“The Benue-based armed criminal group, led by Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana, has been commissioned to strike soft targets in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba states.
“In Kano State, a group of notorious miscreants have been mobilized by some prominent opposition leaders to provoke massive chaos before, during and after the elections.
“There is also an international dimension to the evil plan. Some armed mercenaries from Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-West between now and the elections.”
Asked if government has taken steps to arrest the alleged planners of the violence, Mohammed answered in the negative. He, however, said the government would not leave any stone unturned in countering the plots:
“The Federal Government is taking every possible measure to counter these evil plans by unpatriotic anarchists and ensure the success of the 2019 general elections. The administration’s commitment to a credible, free, fair and peaceful elections is unshaken.
“After all, according to the online encyclopedia – Wikipedia – elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century.”
He appealed “to all Nigerians to be vigilant in the days ahead. We also appeal to the media to help in sensitizing members of the public on these observed threats, which are capable of disrupting the elections.
“The punch line of our long running campaign on security – if you see something, say something – remains relevant, perhaps even more, at this time.
“All the relevant agencies under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will work together to ensure that Nigerians are alerted to the dangers posed to the forthcoming elections by unscrupulous, unpatriotic and desperate characters who will not hesitate to destabilize the country if they cannot achieve their inordinate ambition.”
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), insisted that its only plan “is to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari at the polls.” PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated this at a press briefing, yesterday, in Abuja, while reacting to allegations by Mohammed that the opposition was planning to cause mayhem before, during and after the polls, so as to create a constitutional crisis.
He said such plans existed only in the mind of the minister, noting that no member of the opposition anywhere was planning anything other than the defeat of Buhari in the presidential poll.
The opposition spoke man, while thanking Mohammed for letting Nigerians into the thinking of the government and the All Progressives Congress (APC), stated that the PDP would not accept anything short of a credible, free and transparent poll.
Ologbondiyan said: “That is absolute falsehood. There is no member of the opposition anywhere that is planning anything outside the defeat of President Muhammadu Buhari on February 16.
“They are aware that Nigerians have reached a consensus that a President that will take the flag meant for a gubernatorial candidate and say he is handing over to a presidential candidate is not fit to come back.
“All the allegations of planning mayhem exist only in the mind of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the plan of an interim government, having realised that they cannot win.
“The plan of causing mayhem across the nation, having discovered that they cannot win the presidential election. I want to assure you that the PDP will not accept anything short of credible elections.
“It is imperative to state that the PDP finds the claims of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, irresponsible and ludicrous. It is just a measure for building the ground for framing up and arrest of leading members of the opposition as he has just confirmed our concerns.
“Severally, we have alerted the nation that the APC and the Buhari Presidency, having come to the reality of their imminent and disgraceful loss at the polls have embarked on a strategy to foment crisis in our dear nation and blame the opposition.”
Ologbondiyan added that in view of desperation allegedly being displayed by the APC in the run-up to the general elections, Nigerians should hold President Buhari directly responsible for any escalation of violence during the polls.
He stated that unlike the APC whose primary elections and campaigns have been marred by violence, the PDP has conducted its rallies across the country peacefully.
Similarly, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) said claims by the minister that the opposition was plotting cause crisis during the general elections was laughable. The coalition challenged the government to produce evidence to back up its claims.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday, the spokesman of the CUPP, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the government was only seeking to frame up opposition leaders:
“The opposition did not and will not engage in the act of supporting bandits or terror related activities aimed at disrupting an election that we are destined to win landslide.
“The fear of defeat has now made Buhari government to be running from pillar to post and throwing baseless allegations with no facts to substantiate, all in a bid to frame the opposition.
“Let it be known that the opposition coalition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will crack Buhari like crackers biscuits come February 16 and no amount of fake news or stupid accusation of sponsoring bandits can stop that.
“From Bank PHB allegation to sponsoring bandits, it is obvious the government has run out of ideas and is suffering from mental disorientation.”