FG, Obi trade accusations on treason charge

Days after being in the eye of the storm over a leaked tape conversation with Founder and Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Dr. David Oyedepo, presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, was again drawn out when the Federal Government accused him of treason, weeks after candidate of the ruling party, Bola Tinubu, won the hotly contested presidential election.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, yesterday, gave government’s position during engagements with journalists in Washington D.C., United States.

Mohammed accused Obi of inciting people to violence over the outcome of the presidential elections, saying it is treasonable.

Obi, who came third in the February 25 presidential election won by Tinubu, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who finished second, is challenging the results of the election in court. Both Obi and Atiku have publicly called on their supporters to refrain from violence while they challenge the results in court.

Mohammed is in Washington to engage with international media organisations and think-tanks on the just-concluded 2023 polls.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Minister had already engaged with the Washington Post, Voice of America, Associated Press and Foreign Policy Magazine.

During the respective interactions with the media organisations, the Minister said it was wrong for Obi to seek redress in court over the outcome of the polls and also incite people to violence.

“Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti-Ahmed, cannot be threatening Nigerians that if the President-elect, Tinubu, is sworn in on May 29, it will be the end of democracy in Nigeria.

“This is treason. You cannot be inviting insurrection, and this is what they are doing. Obi’s statement is that of a desperate person, he is not a democrat that he claimed to be. A democrat should not believe in democracy only when he wins election,” he said.

He added that in challenging the election results, there was no pathway to victory for either Obi or Atiku. According to him, the duo failed to meet the constitutional requirements to be declared as president.

“The Constitution has stringent criteria for anybody who wants to be president of the country. Not only must he have the plurality of votes cast in an election, he must also have scored one-quarter of votes cast in at least 25 states.

“Only the President-elect met the criteria by scoring 8.79 million votes and having one-quarter of all the votes cast in 29 states of the federation. Atiku came second with 6.9 million votes, but was only able to make one-quarter of the votes cast in 21 states, while Obi came third with 5.8 million votes, but won only one-quarter of the votes cast in 15 states.

“You cannot win an election in a poll where you came a distant third position and failed to meet constitutional requirements. Obi, while complaining of fraud, has not disowned his victory in Lagos,” he said.

Elaborating on his mission to the U.S., Mohammed said he was there to correct the negative narratives being promoted by naysayers and opposition to the election.

He said the opposition, having lost in the election, was alleging fraud, calling for its cancellation and constitution of an interim government.

IN a swift rebuttal, Obi said: “I have never discussed or encouraged anyone to undermine the Nigerian state; I have never sponsored or preached any action against the Nigerian state. Those initiating these actions have increasingly used their official positions and agents to make false allegations against me.

“I am on record as always, advocating peace and issue-based campaign and never campaigned based on ethnicity or religion. I am committed to due process, and presently seeking redress in the court.

“I urge those engaged in this de-marketing process to stop presenting Nigeria in such bad light. Our future generations deserve a new Nigeria, where they can live a secure and decent life like their counterparts in other climes. It is possible.”

He further indicated that the present de-marketing strategy and various campaigns of calumny directed at him by some government and political party spokespersons would present Nigeria in a very bad light.

He said: “It is most unfortunate that these consistent efforts to portray me quite contrary to what I am and my core values, is coming from such high quarters. Minister Lai accusing me of stoking insurrection is malicious and fictitious.”

Also, National Chairman of LP, Comrade Julius Abure, has called out the Minister of Information, advising him to stop misinforming the international community about the true political situation in Nigeria, adding that Muhammed should rather be admonishing spokespersons of the ruling party.

“Our presidential candidate is a peaceful and law abiding person. Despite the fact that the election was provocatively rigged, he decided to be peaceful and toe the part of justice. In spite of all pressures from our supporters to move into the street to protest the outcome of the general election and to reclaim the mandate freely given to our candidate by the people, he has decided to calm the nerves in other to give the judicial process a chance.

“The presidential candidate of LP is the only candidate whose campaign  was issue-based. In spite of all provocation, it was LP and its candidates that were attacked in Lagos, Rivers and other states, but we have continued to promote peace. Therefore, for the Minister of Information to be admonishing our presidential candidate, was done in bad fate.”

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, disagreed with Mohammed over his warning that Obi would be committing treason should he continue to dispute the so-called victory of President- elect Tinubu.

The group, in a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said such warning does not arise as a President-elect does not possess any constitutional powers, authority or functions to perform on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Chapter 4 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen of Nigeria, including Obi, the fundamental freedoms, including freedom to associate with everyone and to exercise his freedom of speech.

“We are urging Mohammed to stop overheating the polity because there is no law that says persons who feel cheated in an election should sit indoors.

“President-elect is simply someone on rehearsal and hasn’t yet been conferred with any legal powers exercisable by a sitting President. And even a citizen President can be thoroughly criticised by the people of Nigeria, who owns the sovereignty of Nigeria,” HURIWA said.

MEANWHILE, the House of Representatives has asked security agencies to be on alert to forestall possible breakdown of law and order, following intelligence report on a plot for an interim government.

The lower legislative chamber also warned “aggrieved parties to desist from heating the polity and contest the election outcome through the court.”

The green chamber passed the resolution during the plenary session yesterday following the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Unyime Idem, a lawmaker representing Ukanafun/Oruk Anam federal constituency of Akwa Ibom State.

Last week, the secret police said it had uncovered a plot to install an interim government and stop Tinubu from being inaugurated as the president on May 29. The DSS intelligence has since sparked a debate and mixed reactions, with Nigerians largely condemning the interim government plot.

While moving the motion, Idem said the interim government is unknown to the nation’s Constitution and those calling for it are enemies of the country.

“Interim government is undemocratic, unconstitutional, and unknown to our laws as a court of competent jurisdiction had in time past so declared,” he said.

“The judiciary is the only institution empowered by law to adjudicate over post-election matters.”

The lawmaker said if the plot was allowed to see the light of day, it would throw the country into anarchy “with a price many generations after us will continue to pay for.”

Speaking against the motion, Sergius Ogun, a lawmaker from Edo State, said the motion was a waste of legislative time and that security agencies should do their work.

The legislator said the security agencies were supposed to arrest and prosecute those behind the plot for an interim government rather than raising the alarm.

“I think the security agencies should do their work. If you are asking for a different government not known to law — it is a treasonable felony,” Ogun said.

“If this government is alive to its responsibilities, this should not even be an issue that we will be dissipating energy on in this house.

“Do we even have a government in this country? If the government cannot perform between now and May 28, they should resign and go. Because this is not even an issue we should be discussing here.”

Nicolas Ossai from Delta State said the DSS ought to have mentioned the names of those plotting for an interim government. He said rather than debate the motion, heads of security agencies should be invited to brief the house to enable it to take an informed resolution.

In his remarks, Idris Wase, the Deputy Speaker, who presided over the plenary, said the DSS intelligence was not speculative.

“I did not want to believe that the state security services are being speculative,” he said.

“For good reasons, understand that we are under a democratic tenet, when they are mentioning this—the situation we have found ourselves, we must talk to ourselves to ensure the right thing is being done. If they had gone ahead to make an arrest, it would have been that the government in power is being repressive.

“It is not out of order to debate this, and back the security in their action to ensure stability. Nobody should associate or give leverage to any persons—at least we are aware of the demonstrations asking for that (interim government).”