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•Let fuel be scarce, change ink of naira, I will win, declares former Lagos governo

•Atiku to Tinubu: currency redesign has destroyed your bullion van plan

•Insists attacking president won’t save his failing campaign

James Sowole in Abeokuta

A new twist was yesterday added to the current fuel scarcity in the country and the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to redesign the N200, N500 and 1,000 banknotes, as the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, alleged that both events were contrived to sabotage his victory at next month’s election.

Tinubu said he would win, despite the disruptions.

But in a swift reaction to Tinubu’s comments, the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, alleged that the APC candidate was frustrated by his inability to stop the cashless policy and currency redesign of the CBN. Atiku said the monetary policies would curb vote buying and enhance the credibility of next month’s election, claiming Tinubu has begun crying over his imminent defeat due to frustration of his strongest strategies.

Adopting a cautiously belligerent tone, Tinubu told a mammoth crowd of APC members and supporters at the party’s presidential campaign rally in Abeokuta that the fuel scarcity and naira redesign project were artificially created to discourage people from voting for APC. He said the target was to deny him victory at the February 25 presidential election.

In a vague reference to those he referred to as the powers that be, Tinubu wondered why the fuel scarcity, which began in October last year, had not abated.

The rally held at the MKO Abiola International Stadium in Abeokuta was attended by APC leaders at the state and national levels.

Tinubu alleged that some powerful individuals in the country were behind the fuel crisis and scarcity of the new naira notes, saying they intend to scuttle the coming election.

However, the APC presidential candidate called on the citizens to remain resolute and resist any attempt to stop the elections. He described the forthcoming elections as “a revolution” that would usher in new government.

Tinubu stated, “We will use our PVCs to take over government from them. If they like let them create fuel crisis, even if they say there is no fuel, we will trek to vote. They are full of mischief; they could say there is no fuel. They have been scheming to create fuel crisis, but forget about it. Relax, I Asiwaju, have told you that the issue of fuel supply will be permanently addressed.

“Whoever wants to eat the honey embedded in a mountain won’t worry about the axe. Is that not so? And if you want to eat palm kernel, you would bring stone and use it to break it, then the kernel will come out.

“Let them increase the price of fuel, let them continue to hoard fuel, only them know where they have hoarded fuel, they hoarded money, they hoarded naira; we will go and vote and we will win. Even if they changed the ink on naira notes. Whatever their plans, it will come to naught. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose.”

Tinubu added, “I am homeboy, I have come here, you will not be put to shame, we will take over the government from them, the traitors who wanted to contest with us. They had no experience.

“The great Nigerian youth, the great Nigerian students, the confident Nigerian youth. This is a revolution. This election is a revolution. They are plotting, but they will fail. They said fuel price will increase and reach N200 per litre. Go and relax.

“They don’t want this election to hold, they want to scuttle it. Do you agree?

“On this one, I’m guaranteeing you one thing: there will be student loan. Nobody will drop out of the university because of school fees. I guarantee you that. Nobody will have to repeat for eight years and not graduate.

“We are too smart, we are brilliant, we are courageous, we are sharp, we will make a four years course be for four years. Do you agree?

“Will you vote whether there is fuel or not? Call your sister, we are bringing revolution. Let me say what’s on my mind. The other day, I told you. This one too, they think they can cause crisis by sabotaging fuel supply. They are sabotaging fuel supply. Whether there is fuel or not, whether there is Okada (motorcycle) or not, whether there is tricycle or not, we will go and vote and we shall win.

“This is a revolution and when I tell you, you know what I mean. You know me, we are going there to win.”

Tinubu also called on the people of Ogun State to go all out and collect their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) at the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He said they would be able to ensure his victory if they made it a duty to collect their PVCs.

Earlier in his remarks, the governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, assured the APC presidential candidate that the votes from the state would be 100 per cent for him. Abiodun said Tinubu remained the best deal for the country at this period.

The governor also called on the people to go and collect their PVCs.

But reacting to Tinubu’s comments at the Abeokuta rally, Atiku, in a statement by his Special Assistant, Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, stated that Tinubu was obviously frustrated by his inability to stop the cashless policy and CBN currency redesign project.

Quoting from the Holy Bible, in Proverbs 28:1, which says, “The wicked run when no one is chasing them, but an honest person is as brave as a lion,” (Good News Translation), to buttress his point, Shaibu stated, “Even though the CBN policy affects all 18 political parties, Tinubu is the only one frustrated because his plan to deploy bullion vans and bribe poor voters and security agents on the day of election has failed woefully.

“Recall that on the eve of the 2019 presidential election, two cash laden bullion vans were pictured entering Tinubu’s premises located on 26 Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi. Several petitions were written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but nothing was done.

“Also frustrated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s unwillingness to attend some of his insipid rallies, Tinubu launched an attack against the president, who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum.”

Responding to Tinubu’s accusation that the fuel scarcity was artificially created to sabotage his victory at the poll, Shaibu said, “It is funny that Tinubu is just commenting over the fuel scarcity, which started in different parts of the country as far back as February 2022. In Lagos, where Tinubu claims to be the landlord, the state has been witnessing fuel queues since last November.

“It is, therefore, dubious of Tinubu to try to extricate himself from the failures of his party because elections are 30 days away.

“Like his previous colourless rallies, the discombobulated APC candidate vowed that his supporters would use their PVCs to ‘chase them out of power next month’.

“Tinubu urgently needs to be on medication since he has forgotten that his party is currently in office. How can the APC defeat the APC?

“Besides, the so-called Lagos godfather, who says he will remove petrol subsidy on his first day in office, if he wins, told the people of Ogun State that he will push the price of petrol below N200 per litre. It is obvious that he has not even read his own manifesto.

“Tinubu’s paranoia is clearly getting the best of him. He has gone from attacking the leader of his own party to Igbos and northerners all because he believes they are not supporting his failed presidential ambition.

“For a man who claimed to have single-handedly made Buhari president, it is funny that he is now running from pillar to post all in a bid to save what is left of his failed campaign.

“As we stated last week, Nigeria will not recover from a Tinubu presidency. This son of Barranquilla, who has undisputed ties to drug lords in the United States, cannot be trusted with the leadership of Nigeria.

“A man, who tacitly admitted to drug trafficking by forfeiting $460,000 to American authorities, cannot be given the keys to Nigeria’s treasury.

“Having seen his imminent defeat at the polls, he is already using the fuel scarcity and naira redesign as excuses. Tinubu should throw in the towel or get ready to be disgraced on February 25, 2023. A word is enough for the wise.”

In a related development, spokesperson of Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, also berated Tinubu for trying to blackmail Buhari and blame the “APC-led federal government over his looming devastating rejection by Nigerians.”

A statement signed by Ologbondiyan said, “Our campaign finds it pathetic that Asiwaju Tinubu is seeking a face-saving measure ahead of his shattering electoral defeat by shedding crocodile tears and claiming that the redesigning of the naira notes and the fuel crisis under the APC administration, which he has reportedly been corruptly benefitting, were plots to scuttle the 2023 general election.

“It is unfortunate that Asiwaju Tinubu is trying to hoodwink Nigerians by seeking to exonerate himself and blame others in the Buhari led-APC administration from the biting fuel scarcity in the country, when in reality he (Asiwaju Tinubu) is known to be behind the insensitive and anti-people policies that have brought so much calamity to our country, including the current persistent fuel scarcity.

“It, indeed, speaks volumes of Asiwaju Tinubu’s character that while he is reported to be hugely involved in the corruption in the petroleum sector, which had led to the fuel crisis, he is pretending to care for the pains Nigerians are passing through just because it was beginning to affect his political life ambition.

“Furthermore, it is clear that Asiwaju Tinubu is lamenting over the redesigning of the naira just because the policy has frustrated his boastful plots to use slush fund, which he reportedly stashed away in secret vaults, for vote buying and manipulative schemes, including alleged funding of thugs to compromise the integrity of the 2023 presidential election through the setting up of the Jagaban Army.

“Of course, only politicians who have always won elections by relying on bullion vans have become troubled over the CBN monetary policy to redesign the naira.”

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•On character, competence, capacity he has no contest

With her appearances at the ObiDatti movement campaigns marked by trendy dance moves and crowd-moving eloquence, no one needs to be told that Aisha Yesufu means business in her quest for good governance.

As a civil rights activist, Yesufu’s support for any government, according to her, is usually based on competence with good governance as the end result. This explains her involvement in the ObiDatti campaign train. Her choice of candidate she noted, is based on the fact that she wants someone in “office who will not allow those that will use tear gas on us when we go out to protest”.

And so, for her, of all the presidential candidates contesting in this year election, “Peter Obi is the most competent of all the other ones”, she said, stressing that if Obi wasn’t, “I’ll definitely not be in his camp.”

During a time out with Charles Aniagolu on Arise TV’s Prime Time show, during the week, Yesufu declared that her focus wasn’t even about whether the person is going to win, “It’s about the most competent.

I would do whatever Nigeria needs to get out of the situation it is right now. It’s like every other thing I’ve always done. For me it’s all about what you are bringing in; you know your value. The biggest job I do very well on Peter Obi’s campaign is the fact that I criticise him and I check what he does. I’m sure that Nigerians have noticed in the past few months he has really come up. He is always learning and ready to learn and always willing to be criticised. So that’s the reason why we work so well together and we’re still working together”.

Surprisingly, she revealed that they sort of irritate each other sometimes adding however that “that’s the way it should be. I’m not there to do your excellency thing. You need to just get the work done, and that’s what I’m doing. The moment he gets into office by the grace of God, I’m on the streets making demands on him every day and if he doesn’t give us the things we need, we’ll be on the streets protesting”.

Asked whether her being in the campaign train of Peter Obi will give him votes, she said, “I hope so, and I believe so. I’ve seen a lot of people who say to me that wherever you are we’ll go. That gives them confidence but puts a lot of pressure on me. But I think I do bring a lot of value to it. Beyond that, Peter Obi is such an easy sell, honestly. It’s not really about even bringing anybody, it’s just about the fact that he is good. He is competent, he cares, he is passionate about Nigeria, he is patriotic, and he wants to serve. And those are the qualities that make him competent.”

She however pointed out that it is not possible for every Nigerian to believe Obi is competent, stressing that “the good thing is that many more Nigerians believe he is. I would say in my own opinion, 80-90% of Nigerians believe that. When it comes to issues of competence, character, capacity, there’s no contest; Peter Obi has it”.

For the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaigner, the number one campaigner for Peter Obi is President Buhari. According to her, Buhari “has given Nigeria so much bad governance that people have gotten sense. So, they know it is no longer about, ‘is he a northerner, or Muslim? But people are looking for one who is competent. We’ve had the corruption, the insecurity that has increased over time under Buhari which have ensured that people no longer look the way they would have four years ago but now focused on who would come in and make their life better.

“The beauty about the ObiDatti movement is that a lot of people who are in other parties especially the so called two major parties, who say they are  PDP or APC, when it comes to presidential candidate, they’re going with Peter Obi”.

Presently, Aisha Yesufu has been accused by people in the opposition camps of abandoning her activism and suddenly engaging in partisan politics but she explained that she has always been into partisan politics and so didn’t start with peter Obi. “I’ve always been into partisan politics right from 2015. I supported Muhammadu Buhari in February 2015 and a lot of people in his camp were happy. But that didn’t stop me from holding him accountable and criticising him and saying the fact that we had an issue, we had a government at that time that was failing: unprecedented failure. “Unfortunately for us, we brought in someone that we thought at least would do better but ended up worse.

They are actually making the last administration (President Jonathan’s) to look as if it was good; even though it’s better than this one, it was never good at that time. It’s also the reason  we are saying to Nigerians today that if they vote anyhow, it will get to a time when people would actually say Buhari’s tenure was actually good. I voted for Buhari reluctantly because I knew the two candidates, I didn’t know the other participants during the 2015 election”.

In 2019 she recalled, “I was on the campaign train of Dr Oby Ezekwesili. That’s why I’m surprised that you people are talking as if this the first time I’m into partisan politics”.

On whether her activism is only inclined towards politics, Yesufu said “I don’t have a career in activism. I’ve never been paid a dime in activism even my own NGO is self-funded. I’ve never called myself an activist and I don’t still see myself as an activist. I’m a trader and I build houses and I sell houses…so I’m an active citizen; one who got tired of just sitting down and watching the country being run by all sorts of charlatans. And we got to a place where we couldn’t even recognize our country anymore and I decided to no longer be a passive citizen.

“Just to let people know, on my 40th birthday, I realised that I was also a problem of Nigeria; my silence was a problem and I decided I would no longer be silent. I said if God gives me another 40 years, I will devote it to Nigeria and we’re on the ninth year.

“What is happening in Nigeria today is phenomenal. For the first time Nigerian youths are saying they want to be in charge. I’m so proud of what they are doing”.

Regarding the level of acceptance the ObiDatti candidacy has received from the north, she said Obi’s running mate, Sen. Yusuf Ahmed Datti has been doing a great job though not very vocal about it. She further disclosed that some Islamic groups endorsed Peter Obi during the week.

 ”We’ve reached a place where people have realised that this is not about religion but competence,” she intoned.

Reacting to the allegations of drug dealing, money laundering and corruption that the APC and PDP are levelling against each other’s presidential candidates, Yesufu said “they are saying the fact about each other, and I think Nigerians should listen to them, believe them and don’t make excuses for them”, emphasising that this is not time for us to be led by such characters.

 ”For us at the campaign, we focus on the issues; the insecurity, out-of-school children, economy, unemployment etc.

 ”There are so many issues and we don’t want to be carried away. Nigerians must never forget that where we are now is as a result of bad governance both from PDP and APC. And now, APC has thrown the country to where it is now.

 ”We have the ruling party giving us someone that Buhari is more mentally and physically fit than. That’s the insult of the highest order and Nigerians shouldn’t take that lightly. We also have APC giving us what they want to give us. Its time for us to know that this is within our power, we have the power in this country and we must be the deciders of who gets elected, not parties

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Buhari Jika, a younger brother to the governorship candidate of the New Nigeria People Party in Bauchi State, Haliru Jika, and some of his relatives have dumped the party and joined the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in support of Governor Bala Mohammed’s second term bid.

Also, the Campaign Coordinator of former Governor Mohammed Abubakar, Auwalu Ganjuwa, and the state chairman of the Aspirants’ Forum, Abbas Barde, have also joined the PDP.

They announced their defection at the re-election campaign rally of Governor Mohammed on Friday evening at Kafin Madaki, headquarters of Ganjuwa Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

They explained that they were convinced by the governor’s developmental initiatives which were geared towards transforming the state.

How We Juggled Schooling With Our Royal Duties -Ondo Female Regents

They blamed the senator representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, Halliru Jika, for not complementing the efforts of Governor Mohammed through facilitating intervention projects from the federal government to their zone.

According to the defectors, they remained resolute to mobilise support for the re-election bid of the incumbent governor to enable him consolidate on the provision of people’s oriented projects.

Receiving the defectors, Mohammed expressed appreciation on what he described as an attestation of the acceptance of his leadership style.

The PUNCH reports that the governor had, before the rally, inspected the ongoing construction of some strategic roads linking towns and villages across the local government area where he assured the people of speedy completion of the projects.

The projects include the road linking Gubi, Gidan Waya to Kamfanin Fulani as well as Soro, Ganjuwa to Miya.

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Barely a month to the presidential election, the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party is facing an uphill task to convince five of its elected governors to campaign for its flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Governors Nyesom Wike, Okezie Ikpeazu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom of Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Oyo and Benue states respectively, had renounced their membership of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in September 2022, demanding, among others, the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to pave the way for a southern successor.

Although the governors are believed to be working for two rival candidates, the intensity with which they attack the Ayu-led National Working Committee in the past few months appears to be waning.

The PUNCH gathered that the inability of the governors to agree on which particular candidate to support is partly responsible for the low spate activities in their ranks in recent times.

Our correspondent learnt that in Benue State, loyalists to the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, were busy reaching out to party faithful in their strongholds to drum up support for him.

A former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, The PUNCH gathered, has been convening a series of stakeholders’ meetings in the Benue North-East Senatorial District, urging eligible voters to pitch tent with Atiku in spite of Governor Ortom’s opposition.

An associate of the governor, who pleaded anonymity, said Suswam and playwright, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, had been doing a lot for Atiku since Ortom made his position clear that he was not going to support the PDP presidential standard bearer if Ayu failed to go.

“Suswam addressed stakeholders from Zone A recently and Iyorwuese has been talking with his kinsmen. They are doing it in such a way as not to offend Ortom. They are friends with the governor but they are also careful not to overdo things. As a result, there is a lack of statewide coordination,” he said.

He further noted that while Ortom had not openly endorsed a particular candidate, he had called on his foot soldiers to embrace Peter Obi of the Labour Party.

He continued, “Governor Ortom has already inaugurated an Obi team using his most trusted aides and allies. Former governorship aspirant, Prof Dennis Tyavyar, is chairman of the group. He was Commissioner for Education under Ortom before he stepped down to contest the governorship election.”

In Rivers State, a former PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, is leading the pro-Atiku support base. Alongside a former governor of the state, Celestine Omehia, ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, and an erstwhile federal lawmaker, Lee Maeba, Secondus is playing the good party man in defiance of Wike’s anti-Atiku’s posture.

Expectedly, Governors Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi are rooting for Obi, using their foot soldiers to avoid the wrath of the PDP for anti-party activities.

Speaking exclusively with our correspondent, the Director General of ‘House to House Campaign for Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa’ in Borno State, Mustapha Shehu, said the initiative would be replicated in the five states.

“The House to House campaign will definitely break not only the G-5 governors’ hold on their states, but will also pose a significant threat to incumbent non-PDP governors. The Borno House to House has proved to be a check on the Wike-sponsored PDP stalwarts, including some in the state Executive. It has also positioned Atiku as the candidate to beat in the state despite the APC governor and the APC presidential running mate, Kashim Shettima,” Shehu said.

Wike had promised to reveal the preferred presidential candidate of the aggrieved governors in January; a pledge that he is yet to fulfil.

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