Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, clashed over the just concluded Kogi governorship election and other national issues.
The verbal exchange took place during the unveiling of the book “The Big Interviews” written by Mr. Eric Osagie, immediate past Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing in Abuja, yesterday.
APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, set the stage for the fireworks, in his goodwill message, as he said it was good for leaders to practice what they preach.
He took on Nigerian journalists, saying like the CNN, BBC and other international media outfits, which exude fearlessness and courage, Nigerian journalists do not ask hard questions during interviews.
Oshiomhole said President Muhammadu Buhari would be the easiest person to be interviewed by Osagie as he did not wear boxing gloves, but talk in a soft tone.
He added that he watched an interview by a former Nigerian president, who he alleged was a mentor to Rivers Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who was also a guest at the book launch.
Oshiomhole said in the first part of the two separate interviews, the ex-president, while speaking on population growth in Africa, began by giving lectures as he had always done, saying the problem of Africa was due to lack of population control which he identified as the main reason for poverty in the continent.
Oshiomhole went on to say the interviewer further asked the ex-president that as leader of Africa’s most populous nation, how many children he contributed to the population growth and how many wives did he marry.
“I thought, for me, that was courageous; that leaders should not preach what they are not doing. You can’t be on record as having so many wives, both registered and unregistered, several children, some in dispute, and yet you go to the Queens land and lecture about population,” Oshiomhole said.
He also said an ex-president who is famous for writing letters, when asked a question on corruption on the BBC Hard Talk, tried to make a distinction between the president and the government.
“But the man said, but you have a responsibility to enforce law and order. You made those laws, but you did not enforce them. For me, talking about courage and professional hazards, that would be. I am trying to imagine if anybody could have in this hall, asked him such questions and then he finds his way to his Apo Village to go and sleep as if nothing has happened,” Oshiomhole said.
But Wike, who is of the opposition PDP, said Oshiomhole raised some issues which needed to be addressed. He recalled Oshiomhole’s statement that leaders should practice what they preach and not what they do not practice.
He recalled Oshiomhole’s visit to the Presidential Villa to thank a former president for ensuring one man, one vote.
“Today, do we have one man one vote? So, you see, it is very, very important. As my leader, I expected that when he had that opportunity to thank a president that said one man one vote, you should have carried it along to make sure there is one man, one vote. So, preach what you practice.”
Wike’s remarks drew thunderous applause as he further lambasted the APC-led government for its breach on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Nigerians.
He said when the APC was in opposition, they enjoyed freedom to protest. He said there was the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protest where nobody was arrested, detained, jailed or court orders disobeyed.
“Today, today, today, today! Are they practising what they are preaching? So, it is very important for us to know where we are. And we cannot be deceived by rhetoric, we cannot be deceived by what we are seeing. All of us know; we’re not progressing. Rather, we’re doing what? Retrogressing,” Wike added.
On his part, the National Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Uche Secondus, decried the violence alleged to have been perpetrated by APC at the Kogi election. He said the Certificate of Return issued Governor Yahaya Bello by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was blood-stained.
“We witnessed the (Kogi)governor received the Certificate of Return that is blood-stained. Then he took the certificate to present to the president. That is blood stained. The woman burnt alive is a symbol of democracy that has the right to vote,” Secondus said.
Returning to the podium, Oshiomhole said President Muhammadu Buhari practises what he preaches.
“Let me say to you sir, that the Buhari’s government is practising what he is preaching and that the party he represents (PDP) laid such dangerous foundation. But for people like me, I am happy that you remember one man one vote. I launched it in Benin. Whether you agree with me or not, it is on history and a lot of those who are here were present and I said one man one vote, one woman one vote,” Oshiomhole said.
Oshiomhole said if there was any state where blood rather than ink was used to thumb print, it was in Rivers.
He cited records by local and international observers in Rivers election to substantiate his allegations.
“It is on record that it is only in Rivers that election ballot papers are not distributed, guns are distributed and military officers heads are chopped off. Troops, soldiers and police chopped off. These are hard facts which show that one man, one vote had taken root in so many places. I have no more work to do in Rivers,” Oshiomhole said.
Giving insight into why he put the book together, Osagie said it was a work of a journalist who was just enjoying his job.
“But I carved a niche for myself to talk to, please pardon the word, troublesome and controversial people.”
Osagie said before his media sojourn in Abuja, he had interviewed the likes of the late Vice Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, General Oladipo Diya and Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
He, however, said on his arrival in Abuja, he found Abuja a ground where all the powerful people congregate and he questioned himself on how he could make a mark.
“For me, news is what important people have to say. The poor man making news needs an effort. The big man only needs to open his mouth if you ask him the right question and it is page one,” Osagie said.