President Goodluck Jonathan’s scheduled visit to Lagos today has sparked a war of words between the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Presidency.
But the ACN said on Wednesday that the visit was primarily aimed at scuttling its national convention today at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos. The Presidency however described the allegation as baseless and another in the series of “wolf crying” that has become the ACN trait.Jonathan is expected to arrive in Lagos on Thursday (today) en route to Ibafo in Ogun State where he will inaugurate WEMPCO’s Cold Roll Steel Plant.
The party, in a letter to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), said Jonathan’s visit might lead to the closure of roads in the city, thus preventing its supporters across the country from coming for the convention.
In the letter by its National Publicity Secretary and member of its national convention planning committee, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN said the convention was meant to afford its members the opportunity to discuss the merger plan by opposition parties.
It said it feared that inability of its members to access the venue of the convention could lead to “a breach of the peace, the consequences of which no one will be able to fathom.”
The party therefore urged Fashola to advise Jonathan to either reschedule his visit or use a mode of intra-city transport, like a helicopter if he must go ahead with the visit.
The ACN letter reads, “We are concerned that based on precedent, the visit of the President may lead to the closures of key arterial roads in the city, which could prevent thousands of our supporters coming to Lagos from all parts of the federation from making it to the venue of the convention.
“In particular, the timing of the President’s visit and the attendant disruption of traffic in Lagos may be seen as a continuation of perceived attempts by the Peoples Democratic Party -led Federal Government to frustrate the merger of our party with other progressive parties, which is a key item on the agenda of our national convention on Thursday.
“We are, therefore, appealing to your Excellency (Fashola) to use your good offices to advise the President to either reschedule his visit or use a mode of intra-city transportation, like a helicopter, that will not engender closure of roads on a very busy day in the city.”
The party said that the President would not want to subject Nigerians to “avoidable suffering just because of a visit that can either be rescheduled or carried out in an unobstructive manner on a gridlock-prone city.”
But the Presidency faulted the ACN claim, saying that Jonathan’s visit which was scheduled long ago would have no effect on the ACN convention.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said a courteous check from the appropriate Presidency officials would have revealed to the ACN that the President was not visiting Lagos.
Abati explained in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, that his boss would only touch down at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja, transit to Ibafo by a chopper and return to the airport the same way for his flight back to Abuja.
He said, “We find it hard to believe that any patriotic and right-thinking Nigerian would have written the kind of publicly circulated letter reportedly sent to the governor of Lagos State by Alhaji Mohammed in which he attempts to dictate President Jonathan’s itinerary, mode of transportation within Lagos, and motive, and even suggests that the President’s visit could have been designed to frustrate a planned ACN convention and merger with some other political parties.
“The allegation is not only baseless, but another in the series of ‘wolf crying’ that has become the sole strategy and pre-occupation of the ACN. It is clearly a deliberate, further attempt to undermine, ridicule and debase the office of the President.
“It is certain that Governor Fashola was already aware of President Jonathan’s itinerary in Lagos tomorrow(today) since in keeping with protocol, the Presidency always briefs state governments well ahead of time on all Presidential movements to their states. Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s letter was therefore pointless and serves no purpose other than distasteful muck-raking.
“Furthermore, the Presidency completely rejects the insinuation in the deliberately leaked letter that the President’s visits to Lagos are always disruptive. The paranoia displayed by the ACN in its plea to Governor Fashola concerning an imaginary plan to scuttle a political merger is beneath the politics of inclusiveness this administration has encouraged in its interaction with the state, as with all other states.
“We have no doubts whatsoever therefore that Governor Fashola will prove to be much wiser and more mature than the ACN spokesman, and consign his letter to the dustbin.”
Also, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, carpeted Muhammed, saying he did not have the least understanding of the workings of government.
“I find it difficult to explain how Alhaji Mohammed expects Gov. Fashola to control or obstruct the movement of the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The insult contained in his letter to Gov. Fashola is a product of a confused politician.
“We know for a fact that Gov. Fashola is of a different and higher breed with proper upbringing. Nigerians must now know Alhaji Mohammed for what he truly is—a scare-monger .”