For the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar, the gloves are now definitely off in their ongoing credibility battle ahead of the 2023 presidential poll.
The duo engaged themselves more fiercely and aggressively on Sunday over the purported indictment of Tinubu and subjection to criminal forfeiture judgement to the tune of $460,000 for an alleged narcotic offence by a United States court in Northern Illinois.
The PDP standard bearer fired the first salvo when he alleged that Tinubu was no longer eligible to contest the 2023 election on account of his indictment.
Speaking through the PDP national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba, during a press conference in Abuja, Atiku asked Tinubu to withdraw from the race, saying he stands disqualified according to the provisions of Section 137 (1) (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
But the APC presidential candidate hit back hard at Atiku, saying by the grace of God he is unstoppable in the contest for the 2023 presidential election, adding that he would “retire Atiku to Dubai and finally stop him from perennially chasing the elusive presidential trophy.”
Speaking through the director, Media and Publicity of the APC presidential campaign council, Bayo Onanuga, Tinubu noted that the opposition party cannot win the forthcoming election with the sponsoring of fake news.
Onanuga lambasted the opposition parties, saying they are purveyors of fake news who are bent on making the election cycle more about muckraking and mudslinging.
He called on the police “to investigate the circulation of the forged INEC statement and serve justice to those responsible.”
Relying on section 137 (1) (d) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), Atiku stated that it was no longer news that Tinubu “is irredeemably and hopelessly ineligible to contest the February 2023 Presidential election having been reportedly indicted and subjected to criminal forfeiture judgement for a narcotic related offence by a United States Court in Northern Illinois.”
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the PDP national spokesman, Ologunagba, said, “The APC must note that its schemes, denials, threats and resort to violence cannot help Asiwaju Tinubu. By the provision of Section 137 (1) (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) Asiwaju Tinubu is not eligible to contest the Presidential election in Nigeria.
“Nigerians are however appalled by the lame attempt by the APC Presidential Campaign which, after admitting that there was a $460,000 drug money criminal forfeiture judgment against accounts traced to the APC Presidential Candidate, is now desperately trying to pull a wool over the eyes of the Nigerians people and our democracy institutions.
“Seeing that it is technically out of the Presidential contest and further distraught because it cannot also field candidates at all levels in the 2023 general elections due to its illegal and unconstitutional congresses, the APC has resorted to unleashing hoodlums to attack PDP Presidential Campaign rallies and other innocent Nigerians going about their legitimate endeavors as witnessed in Kaduna and Borno States, in a bid to trigger crisis and scuttle the elections.”
He added: “It is instructive to note that trafficking in narcotics is an international crime to which all nations are obliged and mandated to apprehend, prosecute and enforce any judgment or Court Order imposed on the offender. Nigeria being a signatory to international convention on trafficking in narcotics is obliged to enforce any Order or judgement imposed on any offender by a competent court ANYWHERE in the world.
He further alleged that the APC is behind attacks against PDP presidential campaign teams in Kano and Borno.
Ologunagba, who also accused the APC of sponsoring the attacks on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices in Ogun and Osun, said the ruling party resorted to use of violence, having realised that its candidate can no longer participate in the election.
“The plan of the APC is to instill fear in the citizenry, disorganised and weaken other political parties, frighten, hamstring and immobilize INEC from conducting the 2023 general elections,” he stated.
The PDP flagbearer further called on INEC not to succumb to what it called APC’s blackmail.
He urged the commission to be focused and carry out its duties in accordance with the Constitution and the Electoral Act so as to engender confidence in the citizens with respect to the integrity of those seeking public office in the country.
Similarly, The Atiku/Okowa presidential campaign organisation asked Tinubu to come out boldly and defend his reported link to the $460,000 he forfeited to the United States rather than hiding behind a finger and sending his media aides to attack other Nigerians.
A spokesman of the campaign team, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the burden before Tinubu is to cleanse himself of being linked to illicit funds by a court in the United States rather than searching for scapegoats and pointing index finger on others whereas the remaining are pointing to his direction.
But firing back, the APC presidential candidate scolded PDP and its candidate, describing them as jokers who are acting a comedy script.
His spokesman, Onanuga, wrote in a post on his Facebook, “The fragmented and emasculated PDP turned itself into an accuser, prosecutor and judge today, asking Asiwaju Tinubu to quit the presidential race.
“The PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, quoted an ill-digested section 137 of the 1999 constitution and decreed that Asiwaju should step down. He claimed that by the provision, Tinubu is not eligible to contest the Presidential election in Nigeria.
“His call followed the release of the 30 year-old US document its agents and media lapdogs have been spreading. Now at least we know that the party and their candidate, are behind the shameful campaign of calumny.
“Mr. Ologunagba, stop dreaming!. Your party can go to court, if it likes. But what we know is that Asiwaju is unstoppable, by the grace of God. He will contest the election, win it, retire Atiku to Dubai and finally stop him from perennially chasing the elusive presidential trophy.”
Onanuga further regretted that the opposition party had been embarking on sponsorship of fake news.
He said having realised that it has no sure path to victory in the February 2023 presidential election, PDP has upped its campaign of calumny, disinformation and misinformation by sponsoring fake news against Tinubu.
Onanuga noted in statement he issued on Sunday: “This inglorious path has been taken before since 2003 and in the run-up to the primaries of the ruling APC that produced Asiwaju Tinubu as the presidential torch bearer. Those who took this damned path of infamy lost their bet because Asiwaju Tinubu stands rock solid and indestructible.
“Our candidate has consistently said he will make this campaign about issues that affect the lives of Nigerians and how to proffer workable and enduring solutions that will improve quality of life of our people who are looking for leaders at all levels to improve their lives and sow them seeds of prosperity in our country.
“He has demonstrated this resolve by publishing an 80-page manifesto tagged Action Plan for a Better Nigeria, which he has been selling to strategic sectoral groups in the country.
“We had hoped anyone aspiring to lead our country at this time will be a natural subscriber to this noble and higher goal.
“It is clear the opposition parties and purveyors of fake news have other negative ideas: they want to make this election cycle more about muckraking and mudslinging.
“We shall no longer allow the prevailing recklessness and utter disregard for professional judgment to continue unchallenged.
First published in Leadership