The All Progressives Congress has accused the Presidency of violating the Independent National Electoral Commission’s rule which bars political parties and aspirants from campaigning for the 2015 elections.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this in a statement on Sunday, referred to the women’s rally organised in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience on Thursday.
The APC asked the Presidency to tell Nigerians why it had defied INEC rules by continuing to campaign for the 2015 elections contrary to INEC’s directive.
It urged the commission to sanction anyone responsible for the rally.
But the Presidency said the rally was organised by the National Council of Women Societies in conjunction with the President’s wife’s office and that it would be unpatriotic of anybody to view the rally as a campaign for 2015 elections.
The APC said that Patience, at the rally, campaigned for her husband’s 2015 ambition.
The APC stance was in reaction to the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe’s criticisms of its leaders, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and Lagos State former Governor, Bola Tinubu.
The opposition party’s statement read in part, ‘’While one of the PDP gong-bearers, Okupe, was telling Nigerians that President Jonathan has not informed anyone that he will contest in 2015, his wife was coercing hundreds of hapless women, including those in uniform, into a show of shame tagged a “peace rally’’, but in essence, a campaign for President Jonathan ahead of 2015.
“Defying INEC, this brazen campaign featured women clad in specially-made ‘ankara’ that bore the picture of President Jonathan and reminds one of the disgraceful days of the late despot Mobutu Sese Seko of former Zaire, and the late clownish leader of Uganda, Idi Amin. What a company to keep in the 21st century!
“In what must rank as the first of its kind in Nigeria, women drawn from various security agencies – the same that will be expected to provide security for the 2015 elections – were coerced into a march of shame, as organisers of the campaign, masquerading as a peace rally ,blocked traffic and prevented citizens from earning their daily bread.”
The party called on “INEC to mete out appropriate sanctions to anyone, who has violated its ban on early campaigns for the 2015 elections, in view of the First Lady-driven phantom peace rally that is actually a facade for electioneering campaign, if the electoral umpire’s ban on such campaigns is to be taken seriously.”
The APC challenged the Presidency’s image- makers to tell Nigerians why the Peoples Democratic Party had failed to lift the country in the past 14 years.
Reacting to APC’s allegations on Sunday, Okupe said, “The first lady never organised a campaign. That (the rally) was not a campaign. There was nothing PDP in that programme. That programme was organised by the National Council of Women Societies.
Another aide of Jonathan, the President’s Special Adviser on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, told one of our correspondents that the women’s rally was to promote peace, describing opposition to the rally as unpatriotic.
Gulak said, “It is wrong to say that the rally was for 2015 elections. The rally was for peace. This country needs peace and anybody or group who is against peace is unpatriotic, especially with the security challenges in parts of the country.
“On the use of the President’s photographs on their clothes, President Jonathan is the leader of the country and that is the reason. That does not mean that they were campaigning for the President.”