The Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were at the weekend locked in a war of words over the opposition party’s directive to its members to shut down the affairs of the Federal Government.
The Presidency vowed that appropriate sanctions by security agents would be applied to any effort to derail the normal working of government, even as APC House members vowed to heed the party’s directive.
The APC in a sharp rebuttal to criticisms over the directive issued last Thursday vowed to press on with the directive, saying that the weekend success of the pro-APC rally in Rivers State was an indicator of the success of the directive. The party, however, alleged that the impunity it is fighting in Rivers State has also spread to Gombe State where it claimed its posters and banners were being brought down by government agents.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Ahmed Gulak while flaying the APC resolution said it was a recipe for anarchy and vowed that whatever actions were made towards self-help, particularly in Rivers State would be matched with appropriate reaction by security agencies.
Gulak in a statement said that “The Federal Government has directed the law enforcement agencies to take seriously all statements aimed at inciting violence and disturbing the peace.”
He said no responsible administration would fold its arms and watch politicians incite their supporters to take up arms or resort to extra-judicial means to resolve disputes when there are legally established channels for conflict resolution in the country.
Gulak noted that the Federal Government has a responsibility to protect all Nigerians and ensure that every Nigerian is free to pursue his business and happiness in an atmosphere of concord and tranquility.
“The Federal Government fully recognises the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, we regard such enshrined constitutional guarantees of basic rights of Nigerians as the pillars of democratic governance; we know that the full enjoyment of such rights come with personal and civic responsibilities on individuals and groups, it is therefore regrettable and unfortunate, that APC which prides itself as a progressive party, should go all out to incite its supporters to resort to self help to redress their grievances”.
According to Gulak, “this is a display of desperation and crass opportunism by a political party that wants to win at all cost. There are rules of engagement and we expect all parties to abide by such rules rather than fomenting trouble in order to gain media attention.
Howeever, in a sharp reaction the APC described critics of its directive to its National Assembly members to shut down the Federal Government as those who are either ignorant of the workings of democracy or those who have chosen to play to the gallery for pecuniary gains.
According to a statement by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the directive was already having a positive effect on the situation in Rivers State, noting that the members of the Save Rivers Movement (SRM) were able to, for the first time, stage a peaceful rally last Saturday.
“This is exactly what we are saying, that Nigerians, irrespective of their party leaning, who wish to stage a peaceful protest anywhere in the country must be able to do so without the police looking away while hired goons attack them. It is all about justice, fairness and equity, without which democracy will not thrive. We will be watching to see if what happened on Saturday represents a paradigm shift in Rivers or it is just a flash in the pan,” the party said.
APC said there is nothing anti-democratic, anti-people or inciting about the directive, which is aimed at ending the reign of impunity in Rivers State before it spreads to other parts of the country and truncates the nation’s democracy, wondering why it is so difficult for the President to act, for almost a year, as a part of the country he was elected to govern goes up in flames.
“We hereby reiterate the directive, which is a product of deep thinking and robust debate within our party’s NEC to save our democracy, and we commend our members in the National Assembly for their unequivocal support for our stand, and for understanding that filibustering or legislative non-cooperation are veritable tools of democracy,” it said.
The party said already, copy cat attacks and intimidation of APC members have been launched by the government and the police in Gombe, because they have been watching the impunity being committed in Rivers.
“All over Gombe, our party flags, billboards and posters are being vandalized by hoodlums aided and abetted by the police. Our youth supporters are being arrested while our members are being threatened by the police and the state government officials.
“They say the non-approval of the 2014 budget will pauperize Nigerians, as if the yearly ritual of budget passing since 1999 has benefited anyone but the fat cats. In any case, of what use is a budget when the lives of citizens are at stake? Are budgets not made for the people? Do they understand that even the budgets are based largely on earnings from oil, which we cannot even produce if the violence in Rivers escalates and spreads to other oil-producing states?