The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday said there was a plan to sabotage the coming election.
Tinubu cited the lingering fuel crisis and naira redesign by the Central Bank of Nigeria as part of the plot to scuttle the poll and his expected victory.
The APC standard bearer spoke during the APC presidential campaign held at the MKO Abiola stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and oil marketers faulted the ex-Lagos state governor’s allegations.
The PDP argued that Tinubu was simply exposing the failures of the APC regime, insisting that his defeat in the election was imminent.
Speaking in Yoruba, the former Lagos State governor stated, “They don’t want this election to hold. They want to scuttle it. Will you allow them?”
He, however, encouraged Nigerians to defy the fuel scarcity to exercise their franchise, stating that the poll would be a superior revolution.
“They have started coming up with the issue of ‘no fuel’. Don’t worry, if there is no fuel, we will trek to cast the vote.
“If you like, increase the price of fuel, hide the fuel or change the ink on the naira notes, we will win the election. We will use our PVCs (permanent voter cards) to take over the government from them; if they like, let them say there is no fuel, we will trek there (polling booths).
“They are full of mischief, they want to create a fuel crisis, they have started creating a fuel crisis, but, forget about it, put your mind at rest, I’m assuring you. I, Asiwaju will end fuel scarcity.
“Let the price of fuel continue to increase, they are the ones that know where they are hoarding it. They are hoarding naira notes, they are hoarding fuel, we will vote and we will win.
“If you like, change the ink in the naira note, we will win the election, the opposition will be defeated.”
Addressing youths who thronged the rally, a former Lagos State governor promised that his administration would end the issue of strikes in the university system if elected into office in February.
He also promised student loans, pledging to ensure no student spends an extra year on any course.
He said “I’m a youth, I’m here for you and you will not be put to shame. We will take over the government from them; they are traitors that want to wrest the government from us.
“This is a revolution, this election is a revolution. They are creating artificial fuel scarcity, they are saying they want to increase fuel price to N200, but let your mind be at rest, we will end fuel scarcity, we will end fuel crisis.
“Great youths, I’m assuring you one thing: there will be student loans, nobody will drop out of the university because of school fees.
“I guarantee you that. Nobody will have to repeat class for eight years and not graduate, we are too smart, we are brilliant, we are courageous, we are sharp, we will make a four-year course a four-year course. Do you agree? Will you vote? Whether there is fuel or not, call your sisters.”
While assuring the APC standard bearer that the support from the state would be 100 per cent, the governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, added that Tinubu is the best deal for the country at this period.
Abiodun, who also called on the people of the state to go all out and claim their permanent voter cards, noted that the candidates of the APC were the best.
Our correspondent reports that the rally almost turned into an exhibition of assorted charms as hoodlums loyal to a candidate in the South-West threw caution to the wind during the programme.
The atmosphere at the stadium became tense following the show of force by the hoodlums who displayed charms.
Pandemonium later broke out when some students who were at the event clashed with the thugs who were attacking people.
During the melee, one person collapsed while two others were stabbed.
Many people took to their heels during the violence which was later brought under control.
Speaking on Tinubu’s comments on a plot to scuttle the polls, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, stated, “This is exposing the failure of the APC-led government where Tinubu is the national leader.
“Redesigning money; is it an opposition programme? They are in charge of petroleum supply, they are in charge of the CBN, and they are saying there is a fifth columnist. The fifth columnist cannot be outside and if they are, they have lost control; they have failed. So you ask him, not me.
“Tinubu is complaining about a policy of his own government where he is the national leader, how would you ask the opposition party? I am not a member of their party, I’m not a member of the fifth columnist.”
In a statement on Tinubu’s allegation, the Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation berated the APC candidate for “trying to blackmail President Muhammadu Buhari and blame the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government over his looming devastating rejection by Nigerians.’’
The Spokesperson for the Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, described Tinubu’s statement as a face-saving measure ahead of his looming electoral defeat.
He stated, “Our campaign finds it pathetic that Asiwaju Tinubu is seeking a face-saving measure ahead of his shattering electoral defeat by shedding crocodile tears and claiming that the redesigning of the naira notes and the fuel crisis under the APC administration, which he has reportedly been corruptly benefitting, were plots to scuttle the 2023 general elections
“It is unfortunate that Asiwaju Tinubu is trying to hoodwink Nigerians by seeking to exonerate himself and blame others in the Buhari led-APC administration for the biting fuel scarcity in the country, when in reality, he (Asiwaju Tinubu) is known to be behind the insensitive and anti-people policies that have brought so much calamity to our country, including the current persistent fuel scarcity.
“It indeed speaks volumes of Asiwaju Tinubu’s character, that while he is reported to be hugely involved in the corruption in the petroleum sector, which had led to the fuel crisis, he is pretending to care for the pains Nigerians are passing through just because it was beginning to affect his political life ambition.’’
Furthermore, the PCC said it was clear that Tinubu was lamenting the naira re-designing “because the policy has frustrated his boastful plots to use slush fund, which he reportedly stashed away in secret vaults, for vote buying and manipulative schemes, including alleged funding of thugs to compromise the integrity of the 2023 Presidential election through the setting up of the Jagaban Army.’’
“Of course, only politicians who have always won elections by relying on bullion vans have become troubled over the CBN monetary policy to redesign the naira,’’ the statement added.
The campaign council advised him to withdraw from the race “before the Waterloo of his loud defeat by Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.’’
It also accused Tinubu of trying to distance himself from the Buhari regime which “he told the world that he brought into office just because he wants to beguile Nigerians and take their votes.’’
The oil marketers said it was wrong for the APC candidate to allege that the current scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit was aimed at scuttling the election.
Dealers under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, and the Petroleum Retail Outlet Owners Association of Nigeria, stated that Tinubu’s claims lacked justification.
The National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, stated, “The issue of fuel scarcity has been a recurring issue during transition periods. It is not basically because of this election, no!
“During the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, I know that it took the intervention of the Senate Committee on Petroleum to sort out the arrears that were owed to marketers by the Federal Government at that time.
“And within the period of time that that issue was on the ground, there was a serious scarcity of petroleum products across the country. And even the labour unions threatened to go on strike then.
“The threat was to ensure that the outgoing government settled the money being owed to marketers. I also know that there was an intervention committee that was set up by the Federal Government to take care of that during that period.”
Also speaking, the President, PETROAN, Billy Gillis-Harry, explained that it was wrong to attribute the lingering fuel scarcity to a plot to sabotage the February election.
He said, “PETROAN says no to that. It is not correct. Petroleum product scarcity is due to the supply glitch and logistics issues that are impacting negatively on the NNPC’s efforts to flood our outlets with PMS.
“So that cannot in any way be designed to scuttle the elections for 2023. It is not correct.”
LP faults Tinubu
On his own part, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, advised the APC standard bearer ‘’to stop going to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.’’
Obi, in a statement by the Head of Media, Obi/Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Diran Onifade, stressed that things go wrong for the APC candidate whenever he visited Abeokuta.
He said, “If I were to be Tinubu’s adviser, I would have advised him to stop going to Abeokuta. In the same Abeokuta, he made the gaffe of ‘Olule’ and how President Muhammadu Buhari was crying on tv, ’emi lokan’ and all that.
“Now, he (Tinubu) is saying the fuel scarcity is meant to make the elections fail and how they are going to take over power from them. Who are they or them?
“He could have been talking to the CBN governor (Godwin Emefiele) and the Minister of Petroleum and who is the minister of petroleum in this respect? President Muhammadu Buhari. The same man that Tinubu has been campaigning that he wants to take over from and continue the good work.
“I think his advisers should advise him to stop going to Abeokuta because he gets things wrong every time he goes there.’’
The CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, did not respond to Tinubu’s allegation regarding the redesign of the naira.
He asked our correspondent to send a query to him on the Whatsapp platform, but he had yet to respond as of the time of filing this report.
The nation has been witnessing recurrent scarcity of PMS since last year. The NNPCL, the sole importer of petrol into the country, however, kept mute when contacted to speak on Tinubu’s claim on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room has raised concerns over the fuel crisis in the country which, it said, would affect the exercise if not curtailed.
The Situation Room, comprising about 80 groups, also said it was concerned about the impact it could have on transportation and logistics during the elections.
The CSOs, therefore, called on the President to meet with the oil marketers and NNPCL to proffer a lasting solution to the lingering fuel scarcity before the elections.
Nigerians, they said, had been severely affected by the persistent fuel scarcity and continuous increase in price since 2022.
The coalition said the timelines given to people who have been asked to collect their Permanent Voter Cards were unrealistic and would lead to disenfranchisement.
It called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to reconsider the January 29 deadline for PVC collection at the local government areas level to accommodate the large number of Nigerians who had yet to collect their PVCs.
The Convener of NCSSR, Ene Obi; Co-Conveners, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu, raised the observations in a statement on the state of the nation and PVC collection on Wednesday.
It read in part, “With the commission anticipating the deployment of over 100,000 vehicles including motorcycles and tricycles to ensure that personnel and materials arrive at polling units before voters on election day, Situation Room calls on INEC to ensure that this logistics arrangement is revisited to accommodate the present realities if this has not been already done as elections are fast approaching.
“Situation Room, therefore, calls on the President and Minister of Petroleum, President Muhammadu Buhari, to meet with the oil marketers and NNPCL to proffer a lasting solution to the lingering fuel scarcity before the elections.
“Going by the INEC calendar on the distribution of PVCs, the Local Government Area distribution at INEC offices is set to end on January 29 2023. Situation Room is worried that the timelines given to people who have been asked to return to collect their PVCs are unrealistic and would lead to disenfranchisement.’’
The NCSSR also expressed concern over the pockets of violence at the campaign grounds as the political parties and their candidates intensified their campaigns in different states.
It noted, “Situation Room recalls that in September 2022, at the start of party campaigns, it called on political parties and citizens to desist from fomenting violence. Section 93(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 prohibits political parties and candidates from directly or indirectly threatening anyone with force or violence during any political campaign with the intent of compelling that person to support or refrain from supporting a political party or candidate.
“Situation Room reminds political parties and candidates of the penalties for this offence as stated in section 93 (2) of the Act. The Act states that in the case of a candidate, upon conviction, the person would pay a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months. For erring political parties, a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance and N1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.
“Situation Room has also observed the use of abusive language and name-calling by some party leaders with the aim of discrediting other candidates or parties. According to section 92 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022, abusive, intemperate, slanderous, base language, insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.’’
The group noted that despite the concerns raised previously, INEC facilities were still under continuous attacks by arsonists.
In a related development, a former governor of Bayelsa state and senator representing Bayelsa West, Seriake Dickson, has said the timing of the currency redesign by the CBN is wrong.
This is as he hoped that the policy would not distract the nation from having successful elections.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, had in October 2022 announced that N200, N500, and N1000 notes would be re-designed, adding that the new design would be effective from mid-December 2022.
He, however, said the existing currencies would remain the legal tender until January 31.
But Dickson believed the CBN should have introduced the policy under a new administration.
He stated that the consequences of such an action would have been well-managed by another administration as the current was coming to an end.
The senator spoke at an interaction programme by the Rotary Club of Abuja Maitama in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said, “The timing of the policy to me is a problem no matter how well-intended. I feel this coming at the twilight of an administration of almost eight years.
“I think a major fundamental policy such as this should have been left for the next administration to manage the consequences and fine-tune. Let’s hope the citizens are not confused and agitated. Let’s hope it does not distract us from focusing on having fair and peaceful conduct of the national election.“
The senator also condemned uncivil comments made against some candidates, adding that there should be no justification for such utterances.
In another development, the Presidency has berated Kano-based elder statesman and human rights activist, Tanko Yakasai, for “questioning of the loyalties” of the President or his support for Tinubu.
This was as it said Yakasai’s recent comments about Buhari not throwing his weight behind the APC standard bearer conflicted with his recent appearances at the party campaign rallies.
Therefore, it said the President’s ‘’support for the party’s candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is unquestioned.”
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement he signed on Wednesday, titled ‘On Alhaji Tanko Yakasai’s questioning of the President’s support of APC at the forthcoming election.’
In a recent interview on Control tv, the elder statesmen expressed doubts over Buhari’s support for the presidential candidate of the APC.
Yakasai said, “What I realise is that I’m not sure if Buhari is happy with the candidature of Tinubu. That is the issue. He is APC because he is the president elected on the platform of the APC but is he committed to Tinubu’s presidency? I have my doubts.”
Asked which candidate Buhari is supporting, he said, “I don’t know but I have not seen the commitment from him of supporting the candidature of Tinubu in APC. I’m not sure if it’s APC or not but definitely, the personality of Tinubu doesn’t make him happy from my assessment of the situation.”
But the Presidency in a statement disagreed with Yakasai, noting, however, that he was entitled to his opinion.
In the statement, Shehu said, “Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is unknown to the All Progressives Congress. Everyone is entitled to their view, but what we do know is that his insight in a recent interview does not come from within the party or the President’s team.
“His support for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is welcome although it is difficult to see what value it will add. He is right to highlight his experience as a senior citizen, and a leader in government and the ability to reach out across divides are strong foundations for the highest office.
“But Yakasai’s questioning of the loyalties of President Muhammadu Buhari stands in sharp contrast to the actions of the President. Only on Monday, he was out at a rally in Bauchi supporting the flag bearer of the party.’’