THE presidential campaign teams of the three major political parties – All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakr; and Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi – clashed yesterday over fake news and hate speech.
In a statement, Tinubu’s campaign Director, Media and Publicity, Mr Bayo Onanuga, accused Atiku and Obi of sponsoring fake news against Tinubu in the hope of disqualifying the former Lagos State governor, which he said would not help the duo’s presidential bid.
Instead of trying to divert attention, the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation asked Tinubu to come clean about his involvement in the alleged illicit drug-related forfeiture of $460,000 to US authorities.
Similarly, the LP’s Obi-Datti campaign asked the APC to look within its ranks for those responsible for the alleged forgery of the letter-headed paper of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue a fake statement, saying it was depressing that a party whose candidate had a history of document falsification could have the audacity to accuse innocent people of doing the same.
Tinubu, Atiku, and Obi sparred as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, urged political parties and candidates to center their campaigns on issues ahead of the 2023 general elections.
In addition, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, warned politicians that hate speech posed a serious threat to the unity and stability of a democratic society, as well as the protection of human rights and the rule of law.
Tinubu tells Atiku and Obi: “Sponsoring fake news against me will not help you.”
It warned Atiku and Obi against sponsoring fake news to smear Tinubu’s reputation, saying it would harm their ambitions.Tinubu campaign said: “The opposition Peoples Democratic Party and its subsidiary: Labour Party, having realised they have no sure path to victory in the February 2023 presidential election upped their campaign of calumny, disinformation and misinformation on Saturday by sponsoring fake news against the All Progressives Congress Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
“They did it by forging the letterhead of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the signature of its national commissioner, Festus Okoye”, said Onanuga.
The forged statement purportedly issued by INEC, according to the APC campaign team, was disseminated to deceive the gullible public that INEC was investigating allegations against Asiwaju Tinubu, which they desperately hoped would eventually lead to the disqualification of the frontline APC presidential candidate.
The ruling party also demanded that the police investigate those responsible for the false statement and bring them to justice.
“We are not in any way surprised by the antics of the sinking opposition parties. What we found shocking was how quickly some compromised media organisations gulped the falsehood, hook, line and sinker, without attempting to verify.
“We understand why they did so: the forgery and its narrative fit their mindset of throwing overboard every known virtue of ethical journalism and professionalism, as they work in cahoot with the opposition to defame Asiwaju Tinubu.
“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”, the statement added.
The APC campaign council stated that its candidate has consistently stated that he will campaign on issues that affect Nigerians’ lives and how to offer workable and long-term solutions that will improve people’s quality of life.
“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.
“While we want to stay above the fray and stand by our commitment to inspire our people and restore their faith and confidence in the immense goodness and greatness of our country, we want to serve notice to all the agents of disinformation and their collaborating media platforms, that our campaign organisation stands ready to confront and fight all libellous and defamatory publications against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“We shall no longer allow the prevailing recklessness and utter disregard for professional judgment to continue unchallenged.
“We also call on the police to investigate the circulation of the forged INEC statement and serve justice to those responsible.”
Tinubu is attempting to avoid scrutiny over the $460,000 ATKU/OKOWA CAMPAIGN.
Instead of trying to divert attention, the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, urged the APC presidential candidate to come clean about his involvement in the alleged illicit drug-related forfeiture of $460,000 to authorities in the United States.
In a phone interview with Vanguard, Ologbondiyan said the APC Presidential campaign’s claims that the PDP campaign and its Labour Party counterpart were behind a fake INEC press release indicting Tinubu were part of the APC’s diversionary strategy to divert attention away from the real issue.
He said: “We demand that Tinubu should come out boldly and defend his reported link to the whopping sum of $460,000 forfeited to the United States rather than hiding behind a finger and sending his media aides to attack other Nigerians.
“Our campaign insists that the burden before Asiwaju 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.
“Is it not absurd that rather than proving his innocence by personally telling Nigerians the truth about the forfeiture judgment, Asiwaju Tinubu is allowing his aides, who were not principal witnesses in the crime, to issue threats and vituperations on Nigerians?
“This accounts for why the campaign is singing discordant tunes on taxation while Asiwaju Tinubu himself is labouring to dismiss the case as ‘a rumour.’ This is very laughable!
“Our campaign wants Asiwaju Tinubu to know that Nigerians are still waiting for him to address the very serious issue of alleged link with narcotics for which a forfeiture judgment was imposed on him.”
The LP Presidential campaign, for its part, has asked the APC to look within its ranks for those responsible for the alleged forgery of INEC letterhead paper in order to issue a false statement.
In a phone interview with Vanguard, the opposition party expressed disappointment that a party whose candidate has a history of falsifying documents would have the audacity to accuse innocent people of doing the same.
Dr. Yunusa Tanko, the chief spokesperson of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, has warned the APC Campaign not to drag the LP into its sinking campaign with baseless allegations.
His words: “It is on record that our Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, has never falsified any record about his age, his academic credentials, or had cause to deny his place or birth or his parents.
“It is inconceivable for a presidential campaign whose candidate has been unable to come clean about his background to accuse us of conniving with another opposition party to falsify documents. Our advice to the APC is for it to face issues and stop diverting attention.”
Shettima’s insults to Obi violate the peace treaty – LP CAMPAIGN
Also, the LP Presidential Campaign condemned “the various unguarded insults and disparaging remarks directed at Obi and other candidates by the APC’s Vice Presidential Candidate, Senator Kassim Shettima.” Dr. Doyin Okupe, Director General of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign, expressed the party’s displeasure in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja.
He said: “Our political parties are all signatories to the National Peace Accord, supervised by General Abdulsalami Abubakar National Peace Committee chairman, which represents the bonafide Code of Conduct, for all corporate and individual direct participants, in the current electoral process.
“In the Peace Accord signed in Abuja, it was expressly stated, that candidates will avoid the use of abusive and offensive language, throughout the campaigns.
“It is, therefore, very unfortunate and regretful, but not exactly surprising. that in flagrant disregard for the clauses and principles of this accord ,the APC Vice Presidential Candidate, in particular, has continued, repeatedly, to play the court jester – by persistently , irresponsibly and recklessly, making all sorts of derogatory comments, totally at variance with good manners and decorum.
“We are in no doubt whatsoever, that while he has consistently abused the opportunity of public audience, by making these snide remarks about Peter Obi and other candidates, he cannot, in the least and in any way, ever measure up to these his political superiors, in integrity, character and status, not to mention vision, policies and national acceptance.
Okupe further said: “We here emphasize, that strictly in line, with the directives of our presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to keep the campaign engagement and rhetoric, civil and issue based, we have resisted his sustained diatribe, and could not bring ourselves to his dirt level, to respond to him in like manner.
“However, it must be placed on record that this does not represent a lack of capacity to publicly take him on, especially as he personally carries a huge burden of a sordid and reprehensible past.
“At this juncture, the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Organisation will like to advise the APC to rein in and restrain its Vice Presidential candidate from further uncouth and unguarded language against our candidate and all other candidates in this race.
“It can be understood that he is still basking in the euphoria of having been nominated, to the exalted position of the Vice Presidential candidate of a party, which ordinarily could never have occurred, in an environment of strict adherence to best practices and high moral and character values, where due attention is paid to pedigree, personal records and known antecedents.
Okupe noted that in more civilized societies, a presidential election is a serious process of responsibility to the people that should not be turned into a putrid arena for bad manners and verbal hooliganism.
“We will like to remind Shettima that those who make their living in glass houses should not have stone throwing as their hobby.”
According to the Media Office, Peter Obi’s statistics are unsettling the opposition.
Indeed, the Obi-Datti Media Office stated that the dimensions Obi brought to the nation’s electioneering this time around successfully threw many pundits and politicians off guard because they were unprepared for it.
According to a statement, Obi’s issue-driven campaigns, despite being the right and necessary thing to do in an ideal democratic setting, have remained alien and unfamiliar to Nigeria’s political environment, resulting in apparent dissatisfaction among his competitors and opposition political parties.
“The use of statistics and figures by Obi to buttress his points to Nigerians has helped to drive home his points, almost the same way the use of statistics and illustrations are handy in explanation of things.
“But notwithstanding all the potentials that abound in the use of statistics, the Labour Party flag bearer, Mr. Peter Obi, has remained under attack for adequately using statistics to explain the challenges of the country and the way to go about it using inferences from other countries that passed similar roads and have already scaled through.
According to the Obi-Datti Media Office, it tries to understand why Nigeria is averse to any progressive ideas, particularly in political circles, despite failing to make meaningful progress in the old ways.
“At a recent Arise Television Town Hall meeting for presidential candidates, even the organizers mobilised themselves in the name of fact-checking to ambush and embarrass Obi on his statistics but couldn’t, instead they apologized to him for their own misinformation.”
The Catholic Bishops want issue-based campaigns.
Concerned about the dangerous turn calumny is taking, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, urged political parties and candidates yesterday to focus on issue-based campaigns, urging that campaigns be free of bitterness and unhealthy rivalry.
During the 2023 general elections, the Bishops also urged the government to create an enabling environment for citizens to exercise their franchise free of violence, intimidation, vote buying, and vote selling.
These were contained in a message issued by the Bishops at the conclusion of the country’s third National Pastoral Congress of the Catholic Church, with the theme ‘Towards a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.’
The CBCN President, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji (Archbishop of Owerri), and Secretary, Most Rev. Donatus Aihmiosion Ogun, both signed the message.
“Political candidates for the election should avail citizens of their electoral manifestoes including strategies for achieving set goals and objectives.
“The practice of promising the electorate lofty objectives to be pursued by political office holders that look good on paper but only to be jettisoned after such candidates win election has become the common experience of many Nigerians,” they said.
The message recalled that at their most recent meeting in Orlu, Imo State, in September 2022, they promised that at the conclusion of the third Pastoral Congress, a prayer for free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections in our country in 2023 would be composed.
“The bishops have composed the said prayers, which should be said in all dioceses, parishes and families from now to the time of elections,” they said.
The economy is in bad shape.
The Catholic Bishops lamented that, despite several government efforts, the economy was not in good shape. As a result, they argued that redesigning the Naira alone would not provide the needed economic relief or address the problems of corruption and terrorism financing.
The clerics advised the Federal Government to seize every opportunity to establish strong institutional frameworks and laws, such as an effective policing system, tracking and timely prosecution of corrupt individuals, among other things.
“Citizens are not seeing much improvement in their daily lives but a decline in their purchasing power. The costs of staple food like rice, yam and garri have skyrocketed. Power supply is still epileptic.
“Fuel is sold at far above the official pump rates in many parts of the country. This should not be happening in a country that is the 6th largest producer of crude oil in the world. Government should devise a strategy that makes fuel and other petroleum products available, accessible and affordable.“”The new government policy of Naira redesign, aimed at curbing inflation and fighting corruption and terrorism, is a lofty idea.
“In any case, Naira redesign alone cannot provide the needed reprieve in the economy and confront the hydra-headed problems of corruption and terrorism.
“A redesigned naira must necessarily be accompanied by strong institutional frameworks and laws such as an effective policing system, tracking and timely prosecution of corrupt persons and strengthening the security agencies to properly police Nigeria’s borders to prevent the influx of armed bandits from other countries.”
Hate speech is the greatest threat to Nigeria’s unity and stability – ACF
Also cautioning against hate speech, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, in a statement titled “Hate speech and violence will be our death” by its Secretary General, Murtala Aliyu, said: “Although Nigeria is already facing severe life threatening challenges arising from lack of security and the growing economic crises, it would seem that there are many desperate political leaders and other self-appointed community champions that will not hesitate to add more fuel to the fire.
“As shamefully, most are driven by blind ambition or plain hatred. No one can fail to notice the alarming rise of tension and lawlessness as the election campaigns and contests gather pace. There are reports that some politicians are engaging thugs and violent persons to attack their opponents, spreading terror and fear everywhere.
“Of much greater concern, however, is the resort to hate speech, insults and threats of violence being issued by the political leaders including state governors. They seem to be pathetically unaware that the distance between hate speeches and violence, even genocide, is a very short one.
“Hate speech, for whatever reason, covers many forms of expression but all incite, promote or justify hatred, violence and discrimination against an individual or group of people. It poses grave danger to the unity and stability of a democratic society, protection of human rights and the rule of law. Unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale.”
Ortom’s apology for anti-Fulani remarks is a relief.
“We have to say that we were relieved to hear of Governor Samuel Ortom’s apology following his outburst in this regard. The Governor’s hostile comments on Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, dominated discussion in the country for much of last week. The Electoral Act as amended and for good reasons, prescribed heavy punishment for infractions such as this.
“The fact that hate speeches and acts of violence and aggression are rife in this campaign season can only mean that the laws are not being enforced. This hasn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that the National Assembly has so far chosen not to enact the law that will see to the birth of the Electoral Offences Tribunal.
“In the meantime, INEC has a responsibility to act and enforce the Electoral Act as amended. It should impose the harshest punishment possible on politicians, who think achieving their personal ambitions is more important than national peace and harmony. Such persons are unfit for any form of leadership at any level.
“The Arewa Consultative Forum, therefore called on leaders at whatever level to exercise restraint in their utterances to enable Nigerians have a peaceful election and transition to the next government in 2023.”
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