Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that the Federal Government, under President Muhammadu Buhari, was in no way distracted by the politics of 2019.
Instead, Mohammed said the 2019was putting pressure on the Federal Government to do more for the people of Nigeria, saying that the government’s performance would speak for it come 2019.
Speaking in a chance meeting with some journalists, in Abuja, on Monday evening, the government’s spokesman also noted that Governor Willie Obiano’s re-election in an All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government was a further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to free, fair and credible election.
Recalling the swift manner President Buhari ordered that the governor’s security aides, earlier withdrawn by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, be restored, the minister noted that the Federal Government’s action before and during the election show that the APC-led government was interested in making votes count.
He further said the successful conduct of the election has also demonstrated to the world that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are no longer in existence and do not represent the people of the South East.
In the words of the minister, “So, it is not true that his visit to the South East is to market 2019. It is not by visiting a particular place that you show that you are running for 2019. What will determine your campaign in 2019 is your performance while in office and I can say as a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that we are very careful that projects are spread equally across the country and that the interest of every zone is taken into considerations so that nobody can say ‘I have been marginalised or shortchanged’.
“And the large turnout witnessed during the election has sounded the death knell on IPOB.
“I think what that proved really is that IPOB does not represent the good people of Anambra or any state in the South East. If truly they represented the people, the IPOB propaganda about the election really showed that they are not on ground.
“Anywhere you see a sign that says ‘No Thoroughfare’, it means there is a road. So, the fact that they were saying that they are going to disrupt the election, the federal government has decided to sew IPOB uniforms for people and those people will now kill and give the impression that IPOB members are responsible shows that they have lost the game.
“The people of Anambra have shown that there is no alternative to democracy and that they believe in one Nigeria and federal system of government. If there are issues to be resolved, let us resolve it. But terrorism and separatism is not the answer.
“I think the Anambra election has sounded the death knell on IPOB because they said election will never hold. The election has come and gone, the turnout was quite reasonable. Every party competed very competitively and at the end of the day, the people of Anambra have decided who is going to be their governor” he said.
When asked why Nigerians have moved from the habit of ballot-snatching to vote-buying as witnessed in the election, the minister again said, “Frankly speaking, I didn’t follow the Anambra election. So, I cannot really talk about vote buying or ballot snatching. What I know that I can speak on is that number one, the Muhammadu Buhari administration provided a level playing field for all and he showed that from the manner he restored the security aides of Governor Obiano.
“For whatever reason, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) felt that going by experience, it will not be proper to leave the security aides. So, he posted out the Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the governor and other key security officials. But the president felt that it is not enough to be honest, you must also appear honest and whatever the reasons the IGP might have is about perception. He said the right thing to do is to restore the governor’s aides and design a manner to ensure that nobody will abuse the constitution.
“This has never happened in the history of Nigeria. I know that the practice before was that a few days before election, Commissioners of police will be posted out even sometimes, INEC officials or DG SSS will be posted out. But for Mr. President, the message is clear: Let the people make their decisions.
“If the people now decide to sell their votes, there is nothing the government at the centre can do but we will continue to drum it and let them understand that vote is the single most powerful weapon they have and once they sell it, they can’t come round again until the next four years to complain about the kind of leaders they have.
“But what I believe is that for us in APC as a government, we want the people of Nigeria to decide the outcome of every elections. It is not about who is at the centre but we did not follow the temptation to use our muscle. It was quite tempting because we Just have one governor in the South East but we felt it is only fair for the people to decide their own fate,” the minister said.