Set to launch campaign for military

Iheanacho Nwosu,Abuja

The Federal Government, on Tuesday, dismissed the fuss over the tenure of Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, which is billed to lapse on January 15 saying the planned nationwide protest by Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) was unnecessary and unwarranted.

It also weighed in the raging recorded audio where Minister of Transportation and Director General of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council (APC-PC), Rotimi Amaechi, was quoted to have criticised President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Presidency said the audio was doctored by the opposition to blackmail and divide the ruling party.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated these during an interaction with newsmen equally hit out at the opposition over the controversy that has dogged the appointment of the National Commissioner in charge of Health and Welfare of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the Head of Presidential Collation Centre.

Stressing that the government was amused by the unnecessary dust that the issue of whether or not the tenure of the IGP would be extended, Mohammed accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of expending energy on non-issues.

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His words,  “When you are drowning, you grab any floating object you can find. You even grab at straws. That’s what the PDP is doing with the issue of the IGP’s tenure.

“It is the prerogative of Mr. President to extend or not extend the tenure of the Inspector General of Police or any service chief. That prerogative cannot be taken from Mr. President on the altar of paranoia by some people.”

Although he said he was not aware whether or not the tenure of IGP Idris would be extended by the President, Mohammed said that doing that would not be the first time such step would be taken by a President.

He criticised CUPP for planning nationwide protests over the matter.

He recalled, “President Obasanjo, in his time, extended the tenure of Mr. Sunday Ehindero as IGP. Was there no opposition party then? Also, in his time, President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua extended the tenure of Mr. Mike Okiro as IGP. Heavens didn’t fall.

“I have read that some opposition parties are planning a series of nationwide protests on the issue of IG’s tenure. That’s purely within their right in a democracy. And I wish them the best of luck.”

Similarly, the minister accused the PDP of making an issue over the appointment of Zakari as the head of INEC’s Presidential Collation Centre even when it knew that the commissioner would be in a position to influence the outcome of the February Presidential election .

Mohammed continued, “The opposition’s reaction to INEC’s appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari as head of the INEC Collation Centre Committee is nothing but sheer hysteria, resulting from a pathological fear of impending political doom. The truth is that the PDP knows it will lose the forthcoming elections. It is therefore looking everywhere for excuses to explain its impending defeat.”

He maintained, “INEC has explained that Mrs Zakari is NOT the returning officer for the presidential election. The Chairman of INEC is the returning officer. Her role is limited to overseeing the physical structure, that is the International Conference Centre, which is the collation centre for the presidential election. The cries of the opposition amount to red herring.”

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The minister stressed, “In targeting Mrs Zakari, the PDP has forgotten that she was appointed in their time. If she was found worthy then, what has changed now?”

He accused PDP of picking hole in virtually everything and complaining about everybody in the build-up to the forthcoming election.

“Ahead of the 2019 elections, the PDP has complained against the IGP, INEC chairman, Mrs. Amina Zakari, etc. The party is blaming everyone but itself for the sorry state in which it has found itself. PDP’s campaign has floundered.

“Very soon the PDP will call a press conference to blame its own presidential candidate for the party’s failed campaign. That’s what you get from an opposition that lacks focus or direction, an opposition that says it wants issue-based

campaign but throws mud at everyone.”

On the recent recorded audio where the former governor of Rivers State was alleged to have criticized President Buhari and attributed the economic hardship in the country to his style, Mohammed dismissed the audio as the handiwork of blackmailers.

“Again, the opposition is determined to ensure that the ongoing campaign for the 2019 elections is not based on issues but on mudslinging. What is the point in shopping around for audio clips or publications that are then maliciously edited out of context? Why do they think this will break our ranks in the ruling party?

“What advantage do they think they can get from this infantile act? Whoever wants to circulate any audio or video clip should do so in its entirety so the people can understand the context. Otherwise, let them continue wasting their time circulating an audio that is clearly designed to blackmail.”

On last Sunday’s invasion of the Daily Trust Newspaper by the military , Mohammed said issues arising from the invasion were being discussed.

He, however, pleaded with the media to apply restraint and sense of responsibility in the reportage of issues concerning the ongoing war on insurgency.

He said, “The issues that led to the short-lived military siege on Daily Trust will be resolved via dialogue. It is not helpful or advisable to aggravate matters, as some opposition parties have been doing, by latching on to the issue.

“Suffice it to say, however, that the media must strike a fine balance between the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to receive and impart information and national security.

“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the media to exercise greater restraint in their reporting on the insurgency in the North East. Lest we are misunderstood, we are not about to gag the press, and there is no clampdown as some people, seeking to feed on the issue, have claimed. But the media must exercise restraint and show more responsibility in reporting the insurgency.”

He disclosed plans to launch a campaign to elicit support for the military in the ongoing insurgency war.

“We intend to launch a massive campaign to seek support for the military . It will start in few days time”.

Asked if the government still believed that Boko Haram has been defeated with some ugly developments emerging from Borno State Governor, the minister advised against misunderstanding the current situation in the state .