The Presidency yesterday lashed out at some opposition leaders for their criticism of the government.
But, its attack sparked a furious reaction, with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) accusing the Federal Government of fraud in its $1 billion rice mills project.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, berated opposition leaders for assuming that the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration is bereft of ideas.
Okupe specifically named former Head of State Gen. Muhammed Buhari, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande and ACN National Leader Asiwjau Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the thorn in the flesh of the government.
But, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed Okupe’s claim as the cry of a desperate, sinking and terrified political party —the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) .
Mohammed said the presidential spokesman presented spurious statistics and lies to disparage opposition leaders.
Okupe berated the opposition leaders for alleged insincerity at a press conference in Lagos.
He said they have a “penchant to use every platform to denigrate this nation and its government”.
He said opposition leaders were confusing innocent members of the public “and deceptively present themselves as possessing what it takes to move Nigeria forward”.
He said the merger being put together by the opposition “is made up of PDP renegades, moribund and lack-lustre ANPP, which had existed for 13 years without any meaningful impact on the polity, and the ACN, which is a one-man owned and controlled political party with no form of any internal democratic credential whatsoever and totally devoid of any form of modern liberalism”.
He accused Tinubu and Gen. Buhari of being unfair to President Jonathan.
His words: “The present National Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande as Governor of Osun State during the same period, denied workers of a N5,500 minimum wage and eventually laid off over 9,000 workers during his four-year reign. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who was then NLC President and now Governor of Edo State, led workers on protest march in Osun State during the period but Chief Akande remained adamant. Where then is the credential of these people to talk about job creation, promotion of workers interest and democratic etiquette?
“As I speak with you, Ekiti and Osun states, which are being governed by these opposition political parties, are embroiled in one form of industrial crisis or the other as a result of the insensitive, cruel and anti-workers policies of their present governors.
“These sets of politicians who want to desperately supplant Jonathan’s administration are promoting an incongruous alliance of political weaklings and dysfunctional Lilliputians out primarily to foster their ego and psyche being repeatedly frustrated political power mongers; forgetting that one million giant ants can never muster the required strength to lift a concrete pole not to talk of a nationally entrenched pillar and structurally established institution like the PDP.”
He alleged that the ACN always outsourced its presidential candidate from the ranks of the PDP.
He added:”In 2003, their choice was Vice President Atiku Abubakar who now knows them better. In 2011, it was a protégé of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who fitted the slot, although he was later betrayed and sacrificed on the altar of self-interest.
“Presently, the debates within the factionalised alliance suggest that they will not mind fielding another PDP stalwart as its presidential flag bearer.
“It is clear that a party that consistently over a period of 12 years has been unable to find any suitable member from its own rank and file as presidential candidate has clearly exhibited its own structural and ideological weakness and its unsuitability as an organisation capable of providing national leadership and can therefore not run an efficient or competent federal government in a country like Nigeria.”
On power, he said: “We assure Nigerians that all hands are on deck to ensure delivery of uninterrupted power supply within the shortest possible time. You will recall that this administration inherited five major problems in this sector and these are: Low generating capacity due to failure to invest in the power sector for over 20 years; comatose NIPP projects; poor and inadequate gas infrastructure and supply; dysfunctional and inefficient transmision and distribution capabilities; and non achievements of the much desired privatisation agenda.
“Of all the above five, the Jonathan administration has nearly completely resolved four out of these five challenges, leaving only the fourth item to which sufficient attention is also being dedicated. It is projected that within the next 12 months, the problems affecting transmission and distribution will be substantially resolved.”
On infrastructure, Okupe said: “Nigerians are already reaping the benefits of government’s investment especially, on ongoing road rehabilitation projects, some of which are on the verge of completion. Notable of these are the Kano-Maiduguri, Port Harcourt-Enugu, and the Benin-Ore road which now takes commuters less than three hours as against 13 to 17 hours previously.
“The second Niger Bridge will be completed in the next 24 months, other things being equal.”
He added: “To ensure that Nigeria has in place industrial capacity for international quality grade milled rice that can compete with imports, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance concluded arrangements to facilitate the acquisition of 100 large scale integrated rice mills, with a total capacity of 2.1 million MT, to be located across the country, owned and operated by the private sector. This is being acquired under a low interest rate facility of $ 1 billion from the China EXIM Bank. For the first time in history, Nigeria will have the full industrial capacity to mill and replace all the rice it currently imports – and become an exporter of finished rice to other African countries.”
Reacting, Mohammed said Okupe got it all wrong. He said: “I will start with Tinubu, Buhari, Akande and ACN that he disparaged.
“If truly ACN is a one-man party and that one-man party can win six governorship seat, 20 senators, 69 members in the House of Representatives, and about 170 assembly members all over Nigeria, I will rather belong to that kind of party.
“If, as Okupe said, Gen. Buhari is a political liability like the Asiwaju and such a man could be able to win 12 million votes with such political liability, I will rather belong to the same party as that man.
“As for Chief Bisi Akande, even his detractors admit that he has the most purposeful, most transparent and most people-oriented administration and his legacy still stands today.
“On the figure Okupe is brandishing; they are fictitious, suspicious and completely misleading. How can anybody tell Nigerians that in year 2012, in which Nigeria experienced the worst flood that washed away many rice farms, that Nigeria actually recorded 140 per cent increase in rice production?
“He (Okupe) said government is taking $1 billion facility from the China Exim Bank for 100 large scale integrated rice mills with a total capacity for 2.1 million metric tonnes. In other words, each rice mill is costing $8 million. But we know that a private farmer in Jigawa State is getting a similar rice mill in higher capacity for only $1.7 million. So why the discrepancy?
“Is the Federal Government fleecing Nigerians of over $6 million on each rice mill? We will, in due course, furnish Nigerians with accurate figures and numbers in respect of the volume being imported and at what cost.”