A presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, was last week denied the use of the Eagle Square in Abuja. Kwankwaso, a serving senator, who recently defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP had to move his presidential declaration to a hotel in Abuja.
Kwankwaso, according to his campaign organisation, had paid N2.2 million to the Integrated Facility Management Services Ltd, managers of the facility, which issued a receipt dated August 17. Hence, the lawmaker had fixed his presidential declaration for Wednesday, August 29.
Unfortunately, when his campaign organisation wanted access to inspect the premises, Kwankwaso’s request was turned down by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
The facility managers had, in a letter dated August 27, told Kwankwaso and his campaign team that, “the event can no longer hold on the said date because it is a political event, and 29th August 2018 happened to be a work day, as it would disrupt the usual work flow of the federal secretariat.”
The letter was signed by one Usma Mukhtar Raji.
We find the excuses made for the denial curious. Why did it take the facility managers 10 days after receiving payment for the use of the venue and two days to Kwankwaso’s declaration to discover that Wednesday, August 29 is a working day?
Already the denial had been termed as political victimisation of the opposition by the central government.
We are aware that events have been holding at Eagle Square on both working and non-working days. For instance, the Buhari Youth Support Organisation organised a rally at the Eagle Square on Monday, July 18, 2018.
We recall that earlier this year, at the peak of the disagreement between Kwankwaso and his political associate, the Governor of Kano State, Umar Ganduje, the former Minister of Defence was also denied entry into Kano for a political event he had scheduled with his supporters.
That was months before he defected to the PDP with some other 13 senators on the floor of the Senate.
Like the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said in his condemnation of the action of the facility managers and the FCTA, we believe that the Eagle Square belongs to all Nigerians, irrespective of political leanings or beliefs. Saraki had in a statement stated that the “Eagle Square belongs to all Nigerians.”
He said: “The refusal to allow Senator Kwankwaso to utilize the Eagle Square for his presidential declaration, despite an earlier approval, sends a wrong message about our democracy, particularly the tolerance level in our politics.”
Many other Nigerians also condemned the denial of Kwankwaso of the venue.
We make bold to state that the Buhari-led government should not be seen to be afraid of the opposition by using underhand tactics to stop them. What the President and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), should be concerned about is convincing Nigerians on why Buhari should be the man to beat in the presidential election scheduled for February 16, next year.
We recall that quite recently, the Department of State Services (DSS) had blocked the National Assembly to stop lawmakers from going in, ostensibly because Saraki and few others had defected to the PDP. Had it not been that the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, acted fast and sacked the DSS boss, Lawal Daura, the action could have spiralled out of control. We recall that both the Nigerian Police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have both been used in waging wars against the opposition. The siege to the houses of Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, recently laid credence to that assertion. There is also the hounding of governors of Akwa Ibom, Benue and Rivers states with the same instruments.
We do not expect the Federal Government to be acting like some power-drunk state governors, who deny their political opponents room for operation.
We insist that for democracy to thrive, it must have the government in power and the opposition. It is an established process all over the world. Nigeria’s case cannot be different.
For how long would government agencies dissipate energy on opponents of the president? Already, the PDP has about 11 presidential aspirants, who are warming up to pick the ticket of the party to ensure that Buhari is defeated in the 2019 election. Whether it is Kwankwaso or former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto or Saraki, Sule Lamido or Ibrahim Dankwambo, the mission of the opposition remains the same – to ensure Buhari’s defeat at the polls.
There are also other presidential aspirants and candidates from other political parties.
We object to the use of various institutions of government to muzzle the opposition against the realisation of their objectives. It is therefore more logical for the APC-led government to concentrate on its game and win the election fair and square. Nigerians expect the APC to market its candidate and convince everybody on why the president deserves a second term.
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