In what appears like a frontal attack meant to puncture the accusations of weakness and cluelessness leveled against his administration, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday at the commencement of the presidential campaign in Lagos, challenged his principal opponent, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major General Muhammadu Buahri (rtd) to explain to Nigerians how he spent his Defence budget while he served as the nation’s Head of State.
President Jonathan who was addressing a crowd of party supporters at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos noted that the fight against terrorism is dragging on because of lack of equipment owing to the fact that previous governments including that of Gen Buhari failed to equip the Nigerian soldiers.
“He did not buy a single rifle”, he announced, referring to Gen Buhari while he served as a military Head State, lamenting that Nigeria “had great soldiers but who had no arms”.
Chiding Buhari who said he will fight insecurity, Jonathan said: “Ask him, when he was the head of government, did he buy one rifle for the Nigerian military? They refused to equip the military. Ask them what they did with their defence budget that they did not equip the military.
“No country equips its armed forces overnight, because what they use are quite expensive. Armed forces are built over the years, because even if you spend ten billion dollars today, you cannot equip the air force, navy and army. The capacity is built over a period of time. They refused to build the capacity, they instigated crisis and now they are telling us that they will fight insecurity. Ask them how and they will answer.”
He further accused the former Head of State of paying no attention to women while he was the Head of State. According to President Jonathan, Buhari did not appoint a “single woman” in his cabinet, adding that a vote for Buhari will send women back to the kitchen where they will stay and die.
Seeking to appeal to the sentiments of the Nigerian youths, President Goodluck Jonathan spent considerable time speaking about the youths and the future of the nation, saying the 2015 general elections is providing them the opportunity to exercise their voting rights and decide on how they want the country to move forward.
Jonathan then charged the young ones to take advantage of the election, declaring that the older generation was spent and should be allowed to go.
“I want to address Nigerians who would probably be voting for the first time this year. The old ones are already spent, and so the 2015 elections is about you. Either you vote to be relevant as young ones, or you vote to be irrelevant and be treated as nonsense. I have asked INEC to ensure that everyone who is of voting age gets his or her PVC, and I mean it.”
In obvious counter to some of the criticisms that have trailed his administration, President Jonathan reeled out some of his achievements in the education sector.
He said: “When I came on board as president, I noticed that on paper there was a policy to have at least one university each in all of the 36 states. But this was on paper because 12 states were still without a federal university. We created universities for these 12 states and they are growing. We created an education programme for the Almajiri’s and out of school children.
“Now some people have employed social media critics to lie that we are not doing anything. Ask them how many nursery schools they built when they were in power. They built prisons, I built schools.”
Chiding the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) for trying to deceive Nigerians, Jonathan said that the APC was a party that speaks from both sides of the mouth concerning issues.
“Once the party said that they will not jail corrupt politicians because they want to add more people to their party. Days later their candidate went to Port Harcourt and said he will throw corrupt politicians into Kirikiri. Can someone who speaks from both sides of the mouth be trusted?”
He said that it was a lie that his administration was not fighting corruption. “I addressed the corruption agencies that people are deceiving young Nigerians and that they must tell Nigerians what they are doing. We have arrested more people and done more convictions within this period…
“I will not fight corruption by catching people and throwing them into jail, and saying that they should be locked up for 300 years in prison. I will not fight corruption like that. We must set up institutions, strengthen them to fight corruption and that’s what we are working on.
“Arresting people and parading them on television, while claiming to be fighting corruption, does not stop corruption. We are shooting armed robbers, but has that stopped armed robbery?”
On the issue of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) endorsing Buhari, Jonathan said that he did not expect MEND whose leader is Henry Okah to support his re-election as president.
“I read in the paper that MEND dumps Jonathan. Leader of MEND is one Okah who is in South African prison. Why is he there? South Africa is not Nigeria before someone will say the president manipulated it.
“On October 2010, when we were to celebrate independence, Okah was procured by some Nigerians to assassinate me. Okah bombed Abuja while attempting to assassinate me. Intelligence report from South Africa and Nigeria roped him in and foiled his plan.
“Now he is in South Africa prison. Okah that wanted to assassinate Jonathan, will he support me? And I am sure that this same Okah who tried to assassinate me is supporting some people.”
Held at the Tafawa Balewa Square, the rally had all the governors of the PDP including that of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko; serving federal ministers; PDP governorship candidates in all the 36 States of the federation; leaders of the party, and several stakeholders in attendance.
First to speak among the governors present was Mimiko who took a swipe at the presidential candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, saying, “We will not settle for a president with less than a university degree.”
Continuing, Mimiko said that, “Those who want a robot instead of a president, will continue to be disappointed.”
Describing Jonathan as remaining “cool and calm as cucumber”, in the face of the many criticisms from the opposition, Mimiko said Jonathan was a “progressive president, democrat and a believer in the rule of law.” He maintained that despite the barrage of criticisms, the president has “refused to rollout any law with the semblance of Decree 2 of 1984.”
On his part, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, said that Jonathan’s return was “inevitable”. According to him, “We don’t want a president that is in the pocket of an individual. We want an independent president and not one controlled by an individual.”
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio said that the governors that were not present at the rally, were those who, “because they wanted the seat of the president, and because they didn’t get it, joined the Aggrieved Peoples Congress.”
Also taking a swipe at Buhari, Akpabio asked, “Can a leopard change its skin? We cannot give power to someone who does not respect democracy.” Continuing he asked, “Will you vote hooligans, who because they know they will lose, have threatened to form a parallel government when they lose the election?”
On the state of the economy and the allegation by a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, that the external reserve had depleted and money missing from the ECA, Akpabio said that, “some are talking about missing money which was shared among the three tiers of government.”
Jonathan asked that the electorate vote in the PDP massively at all levels, especially into the National Assembly so that, the recommendation of the 2014 National Conference can be passed into law.
“Because of the crisis in the assembly, we know that if we bring the national conference document they will dump it. So we want to present it to the next lawmakers. If you vote for PDP massively into the national assembly and presidency, we will adopt that document so that this country can move forward.”
Don’t Rely on MEND’s Support
In separate statements earlier, the president’s and PDP spokesmen, Dr Rueben Abati and Olisa Metuh had dismissed the saidn endorsement of Buhari by MEND.
Abati’s statement advised Gen Buhari not to rely on the purported endorsement of MEND of his candidature, saying the zone as well as Nigerians were behind President Jonathan’s re-election bid.
The statement said “we have noted with amusement, the vituperations against President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the renegade faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) headed by the convicted terrorist, Henry Okah in a statement issued to endorse the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
“While we thank all people of the Niger Delta, including the former militants whom MEND claims to represent who have already disassociated themselves from the statement issued by the faceless Jomo Gbomo and reaffirmed their unflinching support for President Jonathan’s re-election, we will like to state that the latest assault on the president by Henry Okah and his stooges did not come as a surprise to us at all.
“It was very much to be expected, coming as it did from an individual and group who have never hidden their vengeful personal animosity against the President and who have even gone to the extent of launching murderous assaults on venues at which the president was present on two occasions.
“It is most regrettable indeed that rather than show remorse for the terrorist acts against his fatherland for which he is now rightly serving a term of imprisonment in South Africa, Henry Okah continues to pursue a pointless personal vendetta against President Jonathan who continues to advance and protect the interests of the people of the Niger Delta which Okah and his group threatened with their misguided actions.
“It is well known that President Jonathan played a significant role in ending the militancy and insurgency in the Niger Delta.
“Under his watch, the destruction of oil facilities and the incessant kidnapping and killing of expatriates in the Niger Delta waterways have become a thing of the past.
“The attempt by Jomo Gbomo’s MEND to rewrite history by tarnishing the person of President Jonathan for selfish, pecuniary and political gains will amount to an exercise in futility.
“The President therefore advises General Buhari not to place any stock on his purported endorsement by the renegade faction of MEND which is led by a convicted and unrepentant terrorist with whom no leader who truly means well for Nigeria should be associated.”
In the same vein, former militants in the Niger Delta have described the recent endorsement of Buhari as a hoax.
The ex-militants, under the aegis of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (an umbrella body of all leading members of MEND who abandoned militancy in the creeks and accepted amnesty) said they owned and controlled the activities of MEND and could not have endorsed Buhari as their candidate.
President of the group, Reuben Wilson, said in a statement titled; Re: The Hoax Called Buhari’s Endorsement by MEND and issued in Port Harcourt yesterday the group was not responsible for the statement credited to MEND.
The statement reads, “We have read and heard of reports in the mass media on the purported endorsement of the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari and have decided to inform the public that we, the former leaders of militant camps who owned and controlled the activities of MEND did not and could not have endorsed Buhari as our candidate.
“We are aware that the APC and their presidential candidate are desperate for power and are ready to do anything to mislead the public as part of their desperate efforts to take over power in 2015. But it is criminal to use the name of MEND to score a cheap point and deceive the public.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let us put it clearly that we owned MEND and we never endorsed Buhari. Neither Buhari nor MEND can shave our head in our absence. The people behind it must have been the APC and Buhari agents.
“Let us also state that the name Jomo Gbomo was a pseudonym of a non-existent person. We have all left the creeks and there is no Jomo Gbomo or MEND any longer.
He re-iterated the support of the former militants for President Goodluck Jonathan and said APC should not take the purported endorsement serious.
“Buhari and the APC should stop basking in the euphoria of a dream support. That support is a hoax. It remains wishful thinking. It is fake and from fake people. We are determined more than ever, to secure victory for Goodluck Jonathan because he deserves to be re -elected. We urge members of the public to discountenance the statement”, Wilson said.
But not done with the refutals, the leadership of the PDP said it has not only wondered why such a violent group should endorse General Buhari, but that it has also reinforced its resolve to stand by President Jonathan.
In a statement by PDP spokesman, Olisa Metuh, the party said, “We invite well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians to note the endorsement and support for General Buhari by all kinds of violent groups.
“The peace and unity of our great country remain paramount in the policies and programmes of our great party. Finally, we stand by the statement of our leader and President of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan on this matter.”