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Sunday, 24 December 2017

2019: Fresh panic grips opposition

2019: Fresh panic grips opposition

…as Presidency revisits graft cases

There is palpable fear among leaders of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that many of them might be guests of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the New Year, given what has happened to some of them in recent weeks.

National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, further heightened this fear when he alleged at a two-day retreat for newly elected members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and state chairmen last week, of a plan by the Federal Government to arrest some of their members.

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According Secondus, the APC has declared war against PDP and its leaders.

“We learnt they are coming after our members in January. Let them continue. How many people will they put in jail?” Secondus asked.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have launched a brutal crackdown on the main opposition, PDP, beginning with the arrest and detention of prominent chieftains of the party.

The clandestine agenda of the ruling party, Sunday Telegraph learnt, is designed to arrest and detain as many leaders of the opposition as possible on corruption charges in order to cripple their investments, confiscate their assets and whittle down their capability to cause any upset in the 2019 elections.

Buhari had subtly indicated interest in the 2019 presidential race last month, when he addressed the Nigerian community in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital, during his visit to that country.

His perceived interest in seeking a fresh mandate appears to have set the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies against the president’s perceived political enemies.

In Abidjan, the president told his audience that the presence of Governors Udom Emmanuel and Mohammed Abubakar of Akwa Ibom and Bauchi respectively, as members of his entourage would enhance his success in future elections.

“When we are going to meet you, (and) when you are going to meet the rest of Nigerians, if you tell them that their governors were in the accompany of the president, I think that will be another vote for me in future. I’m very pleased that they were able to turn up,” he said.

Similarly, Buhari, while on a state visit to Kano State, told a crowd of supporters who came to welcome him that he was confident he would win their votes if another election were to be held there and then.

“I’m overwhelmed by the sea of heads I see, and by what I see today, if elections are contested, I have no doubt I will win it,” he said.
Since these subtle declarations, some key members of the PDP have been arrested by the anti-corruption agency. Those arrested included two former Presidents of the Senate, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim and Senator David Mark.

Anyim was arrested on November 17, while it was the turn of Mark on December 15, shortly after the PDP’s December 9 National Convention.
The EFCC said Anyim was arrested in connection with the Centenary City project as well as N396 billion ecological funds.

On the other hand, Mark was quizzed over allegations that the PDP paid the sum of N2billion into one of the bank accounts of the National Assembly and shared among legislators when he was President of the Senate in 2010. He was also accused of illegal acquisition of his current residence at the Legislators’ Quarters, located in Apo, Abuja.

The main opposition party believes that the renewed onslaught against its members by the Federal Government using the EFCC as an attack dog, was because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019.

Secondus noted that there was nowhere in the world where former presiding officers of the parliament were being harassed like the situation in Nigeria.

“APC should stop intimidating our leaders. We will no longer take it; enough is enough. They don’t need to attack us; they should fulfill what they promised us,” Secondus said.

Former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, had about a fortnight ago alleged that 50 PDP leaders had been penciled down for arrest by the EFCC as a means of emasculating the opposition party.

Two members of the party – Anyim and Mark, were arrested since the alarm was raised, in addition to the four others arrested earlier.
Those who had been guests of the anti-corruption agency in recent times were former governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, former acting governor of Taraba State, Sani Danladi, Senator Grace Bent and Adamu Wakil.

Former Jigawa, Niger and Benue State governors have been off and on in EFCC detention and courtroom since Buhari became president.
Other leaders of the party have been arrested and charged to court on alleged corrupt charges since 2015. It was also alleged that some PDP leaders were penciled down for arrest before the National Convention.

Just before the last national concention, PDP had on its official twitter page, raised the alarm that the ruling party had concluded plans to embarrass the party by using the anti graft agency, the EFCC to arrest and detain key members of the party before the Convention held on Saturday December 9, 2017.

“This is totally unacceptable and another plan of the APC-led administration to create a one-party state in the country. The only reason the APC is afraid of a strong opposition in Nigeria is due to the non-performance and abysmal failures of the party at all levels.

“We therefore call on all well meaning Nigerians and lovers of democracy worldwide to resist such uncanny attempt to destabilise our hard earned democracy. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we must not allow a few people destroy this great country,” the PDP said.

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Sunday Telegraph also gathered that as the 2019 presidential race gets hotter, the president is likely to go after members of his party suspected to be nursing presidential ambitions.

President of Senate, Bukola Saraki whose earlier acquittal on charges of false assets declaration by the Court of Appeal early this month is believed to be a target of the looming clampdown on perceived political enemies and possible contenders for the APC presidential ticket.

Though Saraki has not indicated interest in the president’s job, the defection of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to PDP has been causing a stir in the president’s camp and Saraki is seen as Atiku’s acolyte.

Even Atiku had his own fair share of the harassment and intimidation when a long standing contract between his company, Intels Logistics and Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) was terminated by the Federal Government over allegations of non-compliance with the Treasury Signal Account (TSA).

Political analysts believe that Nigerians are likely to see more hounding of the opposition as the 2019 presidential election draws closer.

The PDP has also blamed the emergence of a splinter group, Fresh-PDP as the handiwork of the ruling party, wondering how such group of unknown faces secured a party secretariat in the highbrow Asokoro District within a short time.

Deputy National Chairman of the PDP (South-West), Dr. Eddy Olafeso told Sunday Telegraph that he won’t dignify the splinter group with a response.

He said the party will soon petition the Inspector-General of Police to arrest them for using PDP’s name.

However, another leader of the PDP who chose to remain anonymous, said the ruling party had gone for broke by using state aparathus against the opposition in the country.

“We have it on good authority that the APC led government is going to descend heavily on our leaders. This is part of their grand plan to whittle down our performance in the 2019 elections. But we shall remain resolute as we continue to rebuild public confidence in our party,” he said.

Responding, APC spokesman, Bolaji Abdulahi said the party is not a law enforcement agency, he asked PDP members who have graft cases to face the music.

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