THE recent statement by the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) condemning Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this year’s presidential election, would be hilarious if it were not so fundamentally misguided and politically sinister. In the statement, signed by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC took Mr. Abubakar to task for daring to issue statements to the media in his capacity as an individual and as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The APC’s statement is a veritable exemplar of bad judgment, poor reasoning and constitutional illiteracy. Per the statement, the APC apparently resents the fact that “Atiku Abubakar has now made it a pastime to make public statements on issues which constitutionally should be reserved for the duly elected head of government or his designees.” One would have expected the statement to then go ahead and itemise those issues around which the laws of the land has thrown a presidential cordon sanitaire. But the statement doesn’t, and couldn’t, because there are no such issues. In fact, not only are there no such issues, the president, in a democratic system, does not have the final word on any issues because what matters in the end is not the authority of his office but the weight of his opinion.
When President Muhammadu Buhari was in the opposition, he weighed in freely on burning issues of the day, whether in the Nigerian press, various international fora, or the BBC Hausa service, on which he was interviewed on numerous occasions. In doing so, President Buhari spoke freely in his capacity as a citizen of the country, and no one ever suggested that he withhold his counsel even when his interventions were controversial. Why would the APC seek to deny the very rights that President Buhari enjoyed to Mr. Abubakar now that the shoe is on the other foot?
The APC statement also suggests that Alhaji Abubakar’s interventions amount to a posturing as “an alternative president of this country and with a clear intention to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC-led government.” However, if there is anyone posturing here, it is the APC and the government for which it is acting as a crass megaphone. The APC should explain how commenting on a matter of public interest makes the commenter “an alternative president,” for if that is true, then the country, where a robust commentariat constitutes the spine of civil society, is creeping with thousands of “alternative presidents.” Furthermore, if commenting on an issue of concern is all you need to undermine the President Buhari and the APC-led government, perhaps the administration should look itself in the mirror. To the best of our knowledge, the only thing that is undermining this government is its own insecurity (as witnessed by the statement in question) and its inability to articulate a cogent raison d’etre for itself.
Lastly, the APC ought to be ashamed of itself for threatening Alhaji Abubakar with a felony charge. Yes, “There can only be one democratically elected and legitimate government at a time in this country.” And yes,“That clearly is the administration of Buhari.” No one disputes that. Certainly not Alhaji Abubakar, which is why, as a law-abiding citizen, he has submitted his grievances regarding the last presidential election to a lawfully constituted tribunal.
But having done that, he is not bound to an oath of silence, and there is nothing in the country’s statutes that says that those who have a case pending in court should remain mute. Alhaji Abubakar has broken no laws, and to threaten to throw the books at him is the height of political tawdriness. The APC should desist from threatening members of the opposition and focus instead on helping the Buhari administration to grapple with the real problems facing the country.
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