The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on Monday, lashed out at President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), accusing them of failing Nigerian troops on the frontlines against the Boko Haram sect.
Mr. Abubakar was chided on Sunday by the APC for accepting a traditional title and embarking on a jamboree with discredited politicians barely a week after scores of Nigerian troops were killed by insurgents during a raid on their battalion.
Yekini Nabena, the deputy national spokesperson for the ruling party, said Mr Abubakar has shown that he has no leadership credentials and repeated longstanding allegations that the former vice-president was wanted in the United States on corruption charges.
Mr Abubakar, who had long denied ties to corruption either in the U.S., Nigeria or elsewhere, said in a Monday afternoon rebuttal to the APC’s attack that it was unfortunate that the APC could be accusing him of doing exactly what Nigerians have now established both itself and Mr Buhari are notorious at.
The APC’s insults were curious because Mr Abubakar “dedicated his birthday, not to himself, but to celebrating the 100 or so heroes of the 157 Task Force Battalion of the Nigerian Army who lost their lives to Boko Haram” in Borno State on November 18, according to the statement circulated by Mr Abubakar’s office.
Mr Abubakar, who is the main challenger to Mr Buhari in the 2019 presidential election, was turbaned on Sunday as the Wazirin Adamawa, a first-rate traditional title in his home Adamawa State. Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were amongst Mr Abubakar’s political associates at the event, which took place at the palace of Lamido of Adamawa.
“That the Waziri Adamawa asked for anyone who wished to give him birthday gifts to instead endow such on the families of the slain heroes is the opposite of selfishness,” the statement added.
The statement reminded Nigerians of how service chiefs were invited to the launching of Mr Buhari’s reelection campaign in Abuja on Sunday, the same day Boko Haram thugs raided the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, killing at least 118 soldiers with estimated 153 missing in action.
Amongst those killed was the commander of the battalion, Ibrahim Sakaba, a lieutenant-colonel.
Mr Abubakar, who condemned the massive military losses, suggested a slew of urgent solutions and proposed welfare for the families of fallen soldiers, said neither Mr Buhari nor the APC has done nearly as much as he has for the military in the wake of the incident.
“Ironically, the All Progressives Congress that is now accusing Atiku Abubakar, has not seen fit to pay tribute to these gallant men who gave their lives in order to secure the lives of others. As a party, they have not issued even one statement condoling with the slain or their families, neither have they offered any tangible support to the families of these fallen heroes. Yet, they are accusing the Waziri, who has shown commitment to honouring these heroes, of selfishness.
“As a matter of fact, we now know through Premium Times report, that these real Nigerian heroes were killed on November 18, 2018 which was the exact time that the candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, invited the service chiefs to attend the launch of the plagiarised #NextLevel launch at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa.
“The nation can only wonder if the Metele massacre could have been avoided if the APC and President Buhari had allowed the service chiefs to focus on their core duties, rather than on his ill-fated re-election campaign.
“We at the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation commend the service chiefs for beating a hasty retreat from the event as soon as they discovered that President Buhari was trying to hoodwink them.
“It took Waziri Atiku Abubakar only a few hours to respond to the incident and express support, while it took the APC’s President Buhari a whole week to express “shock”. We, therefore, wonder who is truly ‘selfish’.
“It is left to Nigerians to compare and contrast who is a leader and who is a follower based on the conduct of these two parties.
“In any case, we would like to inform the APC of Waziri Atiku Abubakar’s call for financial support from well-meaning individuals and Institutions for the survivors of the Metele massacre, and indeed for all who paid the supreme sacrifice in the frontlines for us to be safe. Seeing as the APC spent ₦100 million to buy frontpage advertorials in all the papers on that fateful day of November 18, 2018, we appeal to them to consider donating even 10% of that amount to the endowment for the families of our heroes as proposed by Atiku Abubakar.
“If they can spend ₦100 million to promote fraud, they should be able to spare at least ₦10 million to promote patriotism,” the statement said.
There have been claims online that the logo that accompanied the ‘NextLevel’ campaign of Mr Buhari’s reelection was plagiarised as unveiled at the November 18 event in Abuja.
The distributed logo, which President Buhari also shared on his Twitter handle bore strident similarities with that of the ‘NEXT LEVEL’ project of Winthrop University’s Rex Institute.
But Mr Buhari’s campaign spokesperson, Festus Keyamo, has denied the allegations, blaming elements in the opposition PDP as responsible for the disputed logo in circulation. He, however, did not clarify how the president found himself using the same plagiarised arts.