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2019: Buhari, APC unperturbed by U.S plan to restore Atiku’s visa but…- Lai Mohammed

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…describes as idiotic claims of ‘fake Buhari’
…Boasts: ‘under level playing field APC will sweep Kwara polls in 2019’

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress federal government is not perturbed over claims and counter claims that the United States of America is begging former Vice President, and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, to come and collect a new visa after many years of denial, which has prevented him from entering that country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the position of the president at a media briefing in his office, however said that in restoring Atiku’s visa, the U.S government should not give Nigeria and the international community the impression that it was tactically supporting one candidate against the other in the forthcoming election.

Mohammed stated that while Nigerians and the world at large had not forgotten various findings and conclusions reached by the U.S Congress in relation to some financial transactions involving the former vice president, which led to the banning of Atiku from entering the country, it would be necessary for the U.S to also explain to the world and Nigeria why it is currently ‘begging Atiku’ to come and collect a visa.

The minister said: “We are not panicking over the claimed plea by the U.S to the PDP presidential candidate to come and collect a U.S visa. Although the U.S has not told us what has changed since the former vice president was investigated by Congress and made some recommendations against him, we want to wish Atiku well. We ask that these issues should not just be wished away by the U.S. But let it be said also that the Nigerian government does not want to see a situation where the U.S is seen to be endorsing one candidate over the other in the 2019 elections.

“If Atiku has a visa to the U.S; since he has been intensely lobbying for it, it would not make us to lose sleep. But countries must not take any action that would tend to give the erroneous impression that they are endorsing one candidate over the other,” Mohammed warned.

The minister also reacting to claims by some persons, led by the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, that there was a ‘fake Buhari’ in the Presidential Villa, described the idea as not only absolute idiotic but also sheer bunkum, which does not require any response from any responsible government or its agencies.

Asked to comment on the recent killing of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram insurgents despite the claim that Nigeria had ‘technically degraded’ the sect, the minister insisted that the sect had been degraded to a point that it could no longer hold any territory in Nigeria as it did before Buhari came into power in 2015.

Mohammed pointed out that it was to the credit of the president administration that insurgents were driven out of Abuja and more than 10 local government areas in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, where Boko Haram not only held court but also collected taxes and hoisted their flags freely.

Describing last week’s attack at Metele as a setback, the minister vowed that the Buhari administration would certainly flush out the insurgents from Nigeria and bring an end to their deadly attacks on far-flung villages and communities in the Northeast.

Mohammed pointed out that the war being waged by the soldiers in the Northeast was complicated because of the involvement of foreign mercenaries and fighters, who cross over from the fringes of Lake Chad into Nigeria and commit atrocities and move.

On the claim that the APC government was detaining opposition figure and closing the media space against its opponents, the minister described it as untrue, pointing out that the administration had no intention to do so.

He denied claim that the government-owned NTA declined to transmit a live event on the Founders’ Day of Atiku Abubakar University in Yola last week, Mohammed made it clear that NTA never entered into any agreement with Atiku or his campaign organisation to transmit the event.

In the contrary, Mohammed explained that it was the management of the AUN, which paid for the transmission and when the NTA, which had already begun the transmission ran into a technical hitch, agreed with the management to record the event and transmit thereafter, a development, which often happens to many others including the president and other Nigerians without political insinuations.

On the arrest and prosecution of a human rights campaigner, Adejanju, the minister said that being a rights campaigner or an opposition member does not confer any immunity on anyone who flouts the laws of Nigeria.

“What Nigerians must and should know is that the law is always there to guide their conducts. So, it does not matter whether you are in government or opposition if you flout the law.

On how the APC won the by-election in Kwara last week, Mohammed disclosed that it was due to the conducive security situation provided by the government for all to cast their votes without molestation by those who had always used thugs to snatch election materials and rig elections in the state.

“We simply want to say that if given a level playing field, we will retire those who had been manipulating election results in Kwara State from politics and make them to know that the peoples power is greater than a certain individual, who uses thugs to molest and cart away election materials and declare results as they like,” the minister said.

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